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So I've put a lot of time into Fallout 3 now, I'm probably about half way content complete on the story, so I feel it's time to put forward my full opinion of the game.
Firstly, I hear a lot of reviewers and gamers argue about whether the game is Fallout or isn't Fallout or whatnot.  In my opinion, it's mostly Fallout. There's no way to shake the Oblivion feel off of the game, there's just too much it owes engine wise to its predecessor.  However, the game has a lot more going for it than Oblivion does, at least in my opinion. While they didn't get the Fallout universe 100% correct, they got it close enough for me.  I'd say that this game is closer in the overall Fallout feel than say, Fallout Tactics, which was actually an official Fallout game back when Interplay still was listed on the stock exchange.  
Now, there is the question of whether or not this game is good.  Yeah, it's good, very good.  It's fun, it has good story, good graphics and a huge amount of content.  That said, I have a lot of complaints about Fallout 3, though very few of them would ever have been leveled at it had I not been comparing it to its illustrious predecessors.  I've found judging this game on its own merits a hard thing to do.  Sure, as a stand alone game this is one heck of a piece of software, but this isn't just some random release, this is Fallout, this thing as a freaking pedegree.  So, yeah, on its own, this is a great game.  As a sequel to Fallout, it's taken steps back in almost every area.  A lot of the rabid original Fallout fans wonder at how all these great reviews can come out proclaiming  Fallout 3 a 9 out of 10 and then go on to list their gripes and frustrations with the game, especially in comparison to the originals, but I can see and perfectly understand how that would occur.  This game is like the Godfather 3, sure it's weak compared to its predecessors, but it's still better than most movies that come out, still got an oscar nom, and is a solid movie as long as you can ignore Sofia Coppola's acting.  So, to conclude things, I'm just going to list my unreasonable gripes....

 1. SPECIAL doesn't work with this system, or at least not as well as it did in the original games.  Firstly, they took away the entire 1-200% system from the original and changed it to a simple 1-100, which makes sense when you realize they removed the skill based modified rolls to hack and lockpick.  Instead of having a 150% modifier being used to roll on a chart to see ifyou can hack a computer, now you simply have a number that decides whether or not you even get to ATTEMPT to hack a computer.  A hard computer will require you to have 75 in science to even make the attempt.  Then what happens when you try?  You get a minigame, all oblivion style, and in the case of hacking, pretty hard.  Leveling in weapons does tend to give you a tangible bonus in combat, but because of the new system you will be at 100 in Small Guns and or Energy Weapons in no time.  Also, the structure of the game demands that you have high scores in almost every area, or at least in one weapon area, lockpick, science and repair.  In the original you were lucky if you could specialize in just two of those areas.  In this game you not only can specialize in all of those disciplines, but you must.  In the originals a jack of all trades was a master of none, in this game unless you are a master of all trades the game is going to be a lot harder.  The developers weren't as good with giving you muliple ways around a problem as the original games had done, so take my advice and don't specialize. 
2. In fallout 3 my clothes are magic and they boost my stats.  This is a holdover from the whole fantasy game mentality that Bethesda must have gotten themselves into from doing Elder Scrolls so long.  As you are well aware, in the original games very few items of clothing boosted stats, and the ones that did made sense.  Power Armor gave you strenght, Mirrored Shades gave you Charisma.  Beyond that, there wasn't much in the way of a stat boost.  In Fallout 3, I find myself whipping off my +1 luck +10 AP +10 Small Guns Ranger Armor to slip into a lab coat to hack a terminal, because boy I feel oh so smart in that lab coat.  This isn't an awful game mechanic and it makes the loot more interesting, but it's not very Fallout.  In Fallout you built your character to deal with things, and if he couldn't you found an alternate route.  In this game I'm literally running around in a 18th Century powdered wig and leopard spot pajamas to talk to people because that outfit combined gives me +15 Speech.  
3. Fallout 3's combat is pretty good, but the entire special system is meant for a turn based system.  VATS, the hybrid compromise, doesn't suck, but also isn't the end all be all answer.  I'd like to see a lot more emphasis on VATS and a lot more difficulty with using it.  As it is, at close range you have a 95% to hit at very close range in VATS, even on a head shot, it's just that you won't do enough damage to matter.  In the originial games, calling targeted shots was something you only got really good at once you built your character for it, in Fallout 3 you get better in VATS, but you are never really bad to begin with.  To be fair though, I haven't found VATS to be the instant you win button some people claim it is.  There hasn't been anything in Fallout 3 as overpowered as a character from the original game with 200% energy weapons, Action Boy, 9 perception and all the accuracy perks witha Turbo Plasma Rifle.  By half way through Fallout 2 my opponents never got a turn.  
4. You level too fast and too early.  I'm probably about half way through, maybe less than that, and my character is in Powered Armor with the best Plasma Rifle in the game and I'm 2/3 of the way to the max level. 
5. This game a lot more random than the originals.  In the first two, you had an overall storyline quest that you weren't always on, but it led you through the wasteland to all these interesting places and you met interesting people and did things for them while you still on your main search.  In this game, there's a wasteland, go explore it.  If you go on the main quest, expect to finish it before you see 90% of the game.  This is actually very Oblivion like, where you never had to do all the side quests and could even miss them if you didn't go and seek them out.  In Fallout 3 it pays to be a wanderer without purpose, and while there's some good to that, I prefer the overarching narritave to be leading me along.  It worked better in the originals, and you never really missed anything.  There are also a lot of pure "challenge dungeons" in Fallout 3 and I hate that.  Why make all that content without a quest to go along with it?  I run across this big Fortress or abandoned Vault and I'm afraid to go into it lest I mess up a quest for it later, and then after I read up on it I find out it's just there for me to loot and explore.  
6. Random encounters aren't.  In the original you always fast traveled and you'd hit random encounters.  This made Luck a very important stat, because those encounters would decide whether or not you'd see the Doctor heading off in his TARDIS, got to drink with the extras from Fallout 1 at the Cafe of Broken Dreams or get attacked by exploding cows.  In this game there's a big wide persistant world, which is cool, but it leaves out those random encounters.  Oh, they're still out there, but they're always in the same place, and you can find them if your Luck is 1 or 10.  Getting Dogmeat and finding the old crashed alien ship from the original games (complete with alien blaster) are two "random" encounters that I just happened across.  They're in the same places every time so on my next playthrough, I can just go there at level 1 and get those right away, and that time I won't waste a Luck of 7 on a character. 
7. Factions are gone from the game.  Karma remained, but faction was a big and intricate part of the originals.  You could be a saint in one town and a pariah in another.  This time if you shoot someone in the head in a town, they'll be pissed for a few days and then forget it.  I also haven't been able to really and truly join any group except the Regulators, and it took a perk to do that.  In the old games it was fun getting high Ranger, NCR or Brotherhood Faction and actually joining those groups with real perks, benifits and quests to go along with it.  
8. In the originals, your actions seemed to mean more to more people.  Not that in Fallout 3 you don't have actions with consequences, it's just that they seemed to be a lot more limited in who reacts to your actions this time around.  On one quest I was sent to deliver a letter to a girl's brother, only to find her parents dead.  When I went back, I couldn't inform her of her parents untimely demises, so she goes about her buisness oblivious.  My in game Dad gives me a hard time for leaving the saftey of the Vault to go after him, but I have no option to tell him "uh, they were trying to murder me down there". There are a few other little things like that, characters who I meet in different cities who know each other and sometimes even want me to deliver messages and do interplay between them, but I can't.  It's a small gripe, especially since there are a lot of instances where I CAN do those things, but it seems like Bethesda didn't put as much work into their non-main characters.  I will give props though to them on two big surprises.  There were two quests where I did the right thing, the gain karma, namby pamby aww I'm a good guy thing.  The results of my actions however ended up getting a lot of good people killed, just for following the right path.  That is AWESOME because sometimes the goody path isn't the best in a harsh world. As a caveat, one of the quests where that occurs delivers what could be construed as a pretty offensive message about setting aside bigotry and racism.  I haven't heard anyone getting upset about it yet, but I imagine someone will think about that story and figure out that it's got a pretty raw undercurrent.  When you think even more deeply about it, the message is more one of warning than one of thinly veiled support of bigotry, but I promise people will get angry eventually.  

So, there you have it, those are my gripes, or at least my major ones.  I still reccomend this game, and I actually look forward to seeing what Bethesda will do with a Fallout 4, this time hopefully with its own engines and with a few lessons learned.  With the colossal sales of F3 busting the $300 million mark in one week, I think a sequel is guaranteed.  Hopefully the series has no where to go but forward.

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sirandrew

April 2009

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