Fallout 3 is fun, but before I get anymore on topic I’ll make a quick detour – I’ll make the prediction that GTA5 will be a long way off, if I were a Houser brother I’d be looking at Fallout 3 as the perfect illustration of how much fun can be had designing an open world. Imagine if Rockstar’s next sandbox isn’t some boring old city – these guys have great imagination, and I’d love to see a game where the world and rules are created by them. I’d imagine they feel the same way.
But enough about Rockstar and their future wares, I’m here to talk about Bethesda’s latest effort.
Fallout 3 is fun and brims with possibility – I don’t think I have ever been exposed to a game that is just so open. Open, of course, in the sense that you can trek it to any part of the landscape, where you go is completely your decision – but the ‘openness’ that I refer to and that impressed me so much was that of how the game interacts with the player. Put simply, it doesn’t.
During a battle where I paired with a bunch of Brotherhood of Steel dudes (and dudettes) against a super super mutant, I found myself scavenging from the bodies of the fallen instead of focusing on the battle at hand. Why was I doing this? Well it wasn’t because I needed health, ammo or whatever other resource – in that regard, collecting from those bodies certainly could have waited until after the battle.
The reason I went out of my way during combat was because of some hard-coded assumption I was making subconsciously about the game – I was collecting the wares before the boss died and triggered an event, possibly propelling me into a new area. Well I should have known better, F3 doesn’t roll like that – the game never takes over, you’re always in control and never locked down. It’s cool, and when paired with geographical ‘openness’, it works to great effect. At anytime you can go anywhere in Fallout 3 – if I wasn’t compelled to progress through the door that ending the boss opened, I didn’t have to.
As a casual player of the original titles, I’d best describe Fallout 3 as most everything I remember, in first person. Don’t flame me, I know that isn’t a truly accurate description, but it’s a good place to start. I emphasize ‘remember’ because if you were to go and play the earlier games they’d certainly feel different – VATS, for example, isn’t an exact translation of the old turn based combat system, but it has the familiar feel.
Resting, healing, gearing up and finally setting out for a long journey into an unknown corner of wasteland America is satisfying. Much like early mainstream RPGs, leaving the safety of a town feels dangerous, and with the constant threat of finding yourself in an area overrun with radscorpion, followed by mercenaries or just bumping shoulders with local raiders, your health and ammo really feel like the timer to how long you can sustain yourself away from safety. The easy availability of water sources means that you’ll be hard pressed to legitimately run out of health – if you are willing to pay the price of increased radiation exposure. It’s a good mechanism that really works, and adds to that feeling of living off the land.
I must admit there is one issue that occupies my idle thoughts – the low level cap. Currently I’m at level 10, and with the cap being only twice that, I’m approaching it faster than I would like. Maybe I’m more upset at myself, I feel as though I’ve wasted two perks by selecting two levels of swift learner, a perk that boosts all experience gained by 20%. I kick myself to think I could have spent those pumping my intelligence and luck by a point each, via Intense Training. But the low level cap isn’t really what has my concern – it’s the overall scope and size of Fallout 3, and the restriction the level cap places on it.
There are far more perks than levels – no character can collect all perks.
There are far more weapons than can be carried by one character – no character can make use of all weapons.
There are more skills than the available skill points can service – no character can max all stats.
But I guess that’s the idea of Fallout, it’s an adventure that can and should be replayed after completion. The point isn’t to max out stats to create the ultimate character, it is to specialise one who can survive the wasteland. I guess writing stuff down really does help bring it into perspective.
Fallout 3 does have it’s flaws, but when you look at the ambition this game has it’s unreasonable to expect every aspect to have polish. But having said that, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done, it just hasn’t been done here.
I hope that Fallout 3 garners the recognition and sales it deserves and Bethesda continue the franchise. If Bethesda learn from their mistakes, bring GTA style production values and COD4 polish, Fallout 4 will be GOTY 2011. Well unless Rockstar’s free roaming space/jungle/pirate murder simulator drops that same year.