Anything Goes – A Fallout 3 Commentary

Rarely does a game come out that not just interests me, but pushes the envelope of gametypes that I can honestly say that I have enjoyed.  Fallout 3 not only does that, but has done it in such a way that makes me wish for more.

I’m not sure what I thought Fallout 3 was going to be.  Perhaps I thought it was going to be a standard-fare run-and-gun FPS, or perhaps I thought that it was going to be a linear, story-driven shooter, but I could not have been more wrong.

In this post, I want to talk about a few of the aspects of Fallout 3 which have taken me out of my gaming “comfort zone” and affected me in the most overwhelmingly positive way.

Let’s start with an introduction (Warning, this post contains spoilers for early sections of Fallout 3):

Fallout 3 is the third official iteration of a post-apocalyptic (think “Mad Max 2”) roleplaying game by Bethesda Game Studios.  It pits the player, one of many people who survived the apocalyptic war inside a giant fallout-shelter style “Vault”, against the larger world in order to survive.

I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire

One of the first game mechanics that suprised me was that of the combat “V.A.T.S”, or “Vault-Tec Assisted Targetting System”.  On request, this system pulls control of your character out of your hands and attacks selected targets with a level of skill.  Whether you succeed at combat or not is based on the character you have created, and you can keep going until you run out of “Action Points” at which point all control is manual until you can regenerate enough points to use V.A.T.S. again.  While selecting targets, time is paused, and when the action is set running again it runs at a bullet-time pace, often with visceral results.

headshot

I never thought that I would use V.A.T.S., seeing it as a “cheat”, forgoing my own skill to that of a dice roll.  As it turns out, however, not only do I often prefer the use of this system in order to target specific parts of an enemy, but since my ability with the weapons in this game is off-set by the player-character’s in-game numbers-based “skills” even when manually aiming, I tend to get less annoyed if the game misses instead of me.

Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall

Generally, when I play games which have a choice, it only affects the end of the game.  This means that I can play through the game, then make an end-game decision that affects it one way or another.  Early on in Fallout 3, however, you come across a choice that dramatically affects gameplay throughout the rest of the game.

Megaton, the closest settlement to the Vault you leave at the start of the game, was build around an old nuclear weapon.  This weapon is still there, and you are given a choice to either disarm it yourself and be a protector of the town, or you are offered an opportunity to blow up the city, gaining favour with a corrupt group opposing Megaton, and being allowed to watch a very pretty light show.

megatonboom

Now, I have not as of yet seen this light show in anything more than static images.  This is because I tried something very strange to me in a game environment, I accepted the consequences of my actions.  I saved Megaton and became its hero, and I did not reload the game to “try again”.  This has given me more of an appreciation for the choice that I made and in-fact made it an important choice in what became my quest to help people throughout the wastelands of the game.

This philosophy of accepting what has happened has not just extended to choices, but also mistakes that I have made.  During a quest in which I was supposed to save a citizen of a small settlement from some of the nasties of the game, I failed and the woman who I was escorting died while we tried to save someone else in the same area.  I could have reloaded the game, saved her, and continued, but instead I returned to report that, unfortunately, I had not saved the lady, but I had saved her companion.  I was rewarded, but not fully, the quest was deemed a failure and ended there instead of continuing to a longer quest chain.  I truly felt like I had failed this community, which was made more apparent when I realised that both I and the settlement would have had a great deal to gain from the citizen’s continued life.

Let’s Go Sunning

Fallout 3 is big.

Really big.

No, you don’t understand, Fallout 3 is really REALLY big.

I have been playing this game for approximately 15 hours, and I have only uncovered around 20% of the game’s wilderness surface area.  That is not even including anything below ground, such as additional Vaults, railway tunnels, buildings, and so forth.  This has introduced an interesting concept of me simply going one way, while people such as my real-life boss have gone entirely another way and had a completely different adventure.  I have started the main quest, whereas he has ignored it in order to focus on side-quests.  In-fact, our differences have become so apparent that we have started marking on a work white-board our progress in-game in order to understand where we are and keep track of what we can talk about.

fallout3progress

In no other game have I needed to do this, and it’s akin to talking about a person’s real-life experiences and what they have done differently.  It has made me more excited to go into work as I get to talk about “that awesome thing that happened just yesterday” and, in reference to Megaton, he could well have exploded that bomb, conferring on him a completely different game experience that would have been just as exciting to talk about and listen to.

Way Back Home

I really hate playing sequels before the originals.  This is because I feel like I don’t understand enough of the backstory, or won’t get the same appreciation for what I am experiencing as someone else who has played the rest of the games.  This peeve extends to movies, books, or any form of story-based media.

What I really love, though, is when people make it so that you do not need to understand the backstory, or do not need to know what happened in the previous version.  Fallout 3 does this very well.  While Fallout 2’s protagonist was a direct descendant of the character in the first Fallout, Fallout 3’s character is an entirely new person, in an entirely new area, with an entirely new problem. (The first two games had you searching for something for the Vault’s inhabitants as a reason for leaving, this game instead has you leave on your own for entirely different reasons)

This game is basically a “reboot” of the Fallout franchise for the generation who never played the first two games, and likely never will.  The trouble is that it HAS made me interested in the first two games, and after completing this one I fully intend to install Fallout and Fallout 2, then try to get to grips with them.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a wasteland to explore.

080721fallout2

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