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Fallout 3

Monday, January 25, 2010
This story starts, for me, back in 1990, when my family got their first PC. (For the record, it was a Compaq Deskpro 286e.) Being the middle-schooler that I was at the time, I used it not just for homework but to play games as well. One of my favorites was a game called Wasteland, a "post-nuclear" role-playing game. I played the game for more hours than I can remember.

Fast forward to 2001 or so. I remember being at Fry's Electronics and someone there recommending that I check out this aging game that was in the bargain bin called Fallout. I loaded it up, stared playing it, and loved it. It was full of dark humor and contained many references to the game Wasteland. I can't say enough good things about the game. (I was really enjoying Fallout 2, which I purchased not long after completing the first one, until game-stopping glitches forced me to abandon the game. Despite finding a patch, my saved games were still broken and I never got around to re-playing it.)

Fast forward many years and imagine, then, my excitement at the release of Fallout 3 in 2008. This excitement was short-lived, however, as I lacked any sort of system on which to play the game. Fast forward to the very last days of 2009, though, and, with a PC that can play the game well, I made the decision to purchase the Fallout 3 Game of the Year edition (which included the original game plus five add-on packs.)

Fallout 3 poster

Fallout 3 is definitely a successor to the first two games but makes many dramatic changes from the delivery of the game. The biggest change, for me, was the move to a first-person (or third-person) three dimensional world, versus the two dimensional third-person isometric format of the prior games. The combat became mostly real-time, versus the prior turn-based format. And, while the tone of the game was darker and grittier, the picture of this future was largely the same and, indeed, carried a much larger sense of immersion, aided in part by the beautiful visual representation of a world in decay.

Fallout 3 Scenery

While prior games have focused on the west coast (moving eastward), this game takes place in the Capitol Wasteland that was once Washington, D.C. A couple centuries after the bombs fall, a young vault-dweller emerges into the radioactive expanse to find his (or her) father and embark on an adventure of radiation, pure water, shadow governments, and super-mutants. I'd be embarassed to admit as to how many hours I've spent, in the last month, playing this game and enjoying it!

The game, of course, is far from perfect. It crashed on me more times than I can count, and there were lots of things that broke that immersive feeling. For instance, despite the fact that I leveled up, became a stronger player, and gathered impressive equipment, none of this was acknowledged. I mean, look at the picture below and tell me if YOU would treat the two characters shown (one in a standard vault tunic, one in advanced power armor) the same way in a random encounter!

Can YOU spot the differences between the two characters?

Also, while the game did a great job of making me feel like I wasn't the sole character in the universe (for instance, occasionally I'd see other non-player characters get attacked by random wild creatures), there were things that didn't quite work. To pick an example, most of the random enemies I'd encounter would be scaled in difficulty so as to not overpower me at the beginning of the game but not simply fall down in front of me towards the end. While this is a normal tactic, the non-player characters did NOT scale in strength, so important characters could occasionally be kiiled when they shouldn't have been. It's all minor stuff, but worth mentioning.

Anyway, at the end of the day I've had fantastic fun playing this game, and highly recommend it to all. It certainly appealed to me, though my taste in fictional video games has always leaned more towards "gatling laser" than "magic fireball".


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