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Fallout 3 Mixed Feelings
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Synonamess Botch
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January 5, 2012 - 12:52 pm
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I just recently finished Fallout 3 and as the topic states, my feelings are mixed.  There are a few spoilers here so be warned.

First, to give you some idea of where I'm coming from, I feel compelled to state my Fallout pedigree as it were.  I played both Black Isle games around the times of their releases and enjoyed them immensely, although I understand that nostalgia has glossed over some of their rough spots (clunky interface, infuriating NPCs, etc.).  They were, despite their flaws, truly great computer role-playing games.  I'll take one step further back and mention Wasteland, to which the Fallout games were spiritual successors, and one of my favorite CRPGs of all time (oh C64, the times we had...).  That game did so many things right and should be required playing for any CRPG developer.

Although I never aligned myself (before or after actually playing the game) with those folks who savaged Bethesda with claims of treason against the great spirit of Fallout, I do sympathize somewhat on two levels.  First, when one is passionate about something, it's difficult to restrain emotions when one perceives that something may be handled without proper respect and love.  Sometimes no amount of proof or persuasion will suffice to assuage those feelings.  For me, it was a vague sense that they may not be able to capture or preserve the magic, and for a long time I avoided the game for fear of having those great memories trampled on.  Was it silly of me?  Probably.  Second, after playing the game and experiencing the differences, I don't care for some of them.

Now I don't mean changes such as going from an isometric view to a first-person view.  That one is just ridiculous.  while I do prefer third-person in general (I like to see my character!) and don't subscribe to the notion that first-person is somehow more immersive, I understand that such a change did not fundamentally alter the character of the game.  And I think we're past the days of using iso view to hide cool stuff.  Yes?

What I do mean, or to start with the one example that sticks out in my mind, is the fiddling with SPECIAL.  To those of you who don't know, it's the character development system of the Fallout games.  If I remember correctly, Black Isle had originally wanted to use GURPS, but Steve Jackson, not liking the tone of the game, refused.  So they came up with SPECIAL (for strength, perception, endurance, charisma, agility, luck), a truly elegant system that allowed for a myriad of (legitimate) play styles.

What they did, in my opinion, was to simplify the skills (derived abilities for things such as weapon proficiency and bartering skill) too much.  They did get rid of some that were arguably useless.  But for things such as lock-picking, they turned a 100-point scale into a 4-point scale.  And why did I have to immediately assign all of the skill points I received when reaching a higher level?  Am I picking nits?  Probably, but what I'm not articulating well is that I thought the character system didn't fit the game as well as it did in the other Fallouts.

They also made it such that radiation poisoning was never truly a concern.  There was absolutely no penalty for taking radiation-curing drugs.  Not so in the originals.

And arguably the biggest complaint from the passionate was the abandonment of turn-based combat.  This one I'm on the fence about.  I like turn-based and always have and tend to prefer it in CRPGs.  But I can enjoy other styles too if they're not too twitchy (I don't consider Demon's Souls twitchy, or Mass Effect 2).  Their implementation of the semi-realtime combat was a bit clunky.  So while I have action points I can shoot these guys in the head, but when I run out...I can still shoot them but in a shoddily-implemented FPS style?  Uhh, OK.  It didn't break the game for me, but it could have been better.

Some things, such as changing the tone of the Brotherhood of Steel, were explained (to my satisfaction anyway) in the game.

Oh and one thing I thought all the Fallout games missed was the importance of survival, in the sense of having adequate potable water and supplies for trekking across a hostile landscape.  I think they could have done it in a way that wasn't tedious.

Now to the actual game.  Fallout 3 is one of the only RPGs I've ever played that made me just want to go off and explore.  The world that Bethesda realized was fascinating in its decayed immensity.  That alone was a grand achievement.  I find the post-apocalyptic setting very compelling in general (for the most part), so maybe that's just me.  And when I think of all the work it took to populate that world with so much...stuff, I can scarcely get my mind around it.  Bethesda must have an army of level designers.  Oh, I should also note that this is the first Bethesda CRPG I've ever played, so although I'm aware this is just "what they do", I'm still blown away.

I derived much enjoyment from just traveling around, playing the wasteland hero to the down-trodden (I always play the good guy.  Being an in-game jerk gives me no pleasure.  I'm jerky enough as it is).  The main plot was serviceable, up to the point where your Dad sacrifices himself at least.  After that it was just OK.

And that brings me to my last point.  Fallout 3 has a level-cap of 20.  Once you reach that level (barring DLC) your character does not improve.  When I reached level 20, there was still a good deal of unexplored world out there for me.  But by that time, what was the point?  I had lost interest.  So I finished the final quest and called it a day.  Before that critical moment, I was looking to purchase New Vegas and/or the Fallout 3 GOTY edition for the DLC.  But now, I think I may be done.

What started out as such a wonderful game ended with a whimper.  Fallout 3 is a true Fallout, at least in tone and setting.  But the game underneath just wasn't put together that well.

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xtal
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January 5, 2012 - 6:45 pm
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If it's any consolation, Sir Botch, New Vegas is much more akin to the Black Isle games. At least in its writing and subtle commentaries.

It's also, as you obviously know, back in the west where you can take comfort in the fact that the Brotherhood are once again assholes. Oh, and the main story line is a thousand times better.

If being wrong's a crime I'm serving forever

Scout
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January 5, 2012 - 7:30 pm
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I agree with xtal, New Vegas felt more "fallouty" to me than Fallout 3, if that makes any sense. I played the first two Fallout games several years after their release so I guess I never acquired that nostalgic attachment to them many gamers have. In fact I used to dream of a fallout game in 3D instead of the iso view. That said, my still fave game of all time is Planescape: Torment so I have a pair of rosy glasses lying around here somewhere.

 

I agree that the level cap in FO3 was just nuts and the ending more nuts but Bethesda doesn't really end their games. They sort of just abandon them. I guess I like them because they just give me a huge slab of a game and then leave me alone to play unsupervised.

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Synonamess Botch
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January 6, 2012 - 10:04 am
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Thanks for the tip on New Vegas everyone, and thanks for wading through that wall of text, yikes.  I'll probably just skip the Fallout 3 DLC.

It's funny, I find the Brotherhood much more interesting when they're depicted as self-serving and inscrutable.  Makes them more mysterious.  I'm the wasteland hero and I don't need any help there thank you very much.

I love Torment, but to my shame I've never finished it.  I had more fun with it when I played it as an adventure game and not a CRPG.  I really dislike the D&D 2 (or whatever it uses) rule set.

Did anyone actually keep playing after reaching lvl 20?

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xtal
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January 6, 2012 - 10:25 am
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Like you, I reached the cap of 20 way before I completed the game. It was annoying for sure.

If you were to give just one DLC a shot, consider Point Lookout. I was in the middle of that when Skyrim came out, and I've not gone back to it yet, but it was a great change of pace from the rest of Fallout 3.

 

I think after all the DLC in New Vegas the level cap must now be 50, am I wrong? I've only bought "Old World Blues" so far and I think that pushed the cap to 35, so my assumption is that each pack gives you another five levels?

If being wrong's a crime I'm serving forever

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Steerpike
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January 6, 2012 - 11:06 am
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Those are great arguments, Botch. I personally drifted away from Fallout 3 - I would play for like 20 minutes and kind of start thinking about other things I wanted to do. In the end I put... I dunno, ten hours in maybe. I just lost interest, though I could never articulate quite why.

New Vegas, as my fellows here say, was great. I loved it. I didn't drift. I played and played. Part of it is doubtless the fact that most of the Black Isle core team is Obsidian Entertainment; part of it is that hard-to-identify something that makes a game one you stay with versus one you drift from. New Vegas is fantastic - I third Scout and xtal's recommendation that you skip F3 DLC and head straight to Sin City.

I think there are two kinds of RPGers, and Bethesda's better at catering to one kind - the kind that loves worlds and can overlook mechanical shortcomings. Obsidian's actually the same way, but they hit the mark with New Vegas where Bethesda missed (in my opinion) with Fallout 3. Proving that if there's a formula for getting it exactly right every time, no one's figured it out yet.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

Scout
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January 6, 2012 - 12:56 pm
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I hit level 20 about halfway through my Fallout 3 play. It was annoying for a while, watching the level bar fill up and the number stay at 20 but I was so into exploring I never paid it much attention after a while.

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Ernest
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January 28, 2012 - 6:02 pm
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I'm really glad to read all of the above because I haven't come close to finishing FO3.  In fact I've never come close to finishing *any* Bethesda game.  Hasn't stopped me from buying them of course.

The Uncharted games have made me realize that I like narrative; I play games for story.  This could be because of the limited amount of time I have.  The days where I could spend weeks mapping out every city, like I did in Ultima 4, are long gone.

I think maybe I'll skip the rest of FO3 and install New Vegas and see if I like it better.  Then I suppose at some point I'll have to install Skyrim finally.

It's weird to keep buying games I don't actually enjoy.

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Synonamess Botch
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February 9, 2012 - 1:33 pm
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The New Vegas Ultimate Edition just came out.  I'll likely get it at some point.  I'm curious to see how it differs from Bethesda's work.

Ernest, I can easily identify with what you're saying.  I remember playing Bard's Tale (and others) with my best friend on the C64.  One of us would "drive" and the other would draw dungeon maps on graph paper.  For me it's simply about getting older and not having the time anymore as well.  I can still slog through a long CRPG, but it loses something when you have to draw the adventure out over weeks or months.

After FO3, my enthusiasm for acquiring a copy of Skyrim has diminished slightly.

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kaythomas
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February 11, 2012 - 9:59 pm
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Earnest and Synon B,  

New Vegas is a terrific game.   Much better than Fallout 3.   Give it a try.   And Skyrim (at least for me) is much more like being back to Morrowind  (my favorite game of all times) than Oblivion.  

Synon B,  I don't think FO3 is any predictor of Skyrim.   I am loving it.   Give it a try.

That's my opinion and I always have one.

Kay

Imagine life with no hypothetical situations. 

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Steerpike
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February 12, 2012 - 1:31 am
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Couldn't agree with Kay more if I tried, at least about New Vegas. I can't put my finger on what made it different from Fallout 3, but it held me for a good 50+ hours, when F3 had lost me after 10. Worth your money. I hope you enjoy!

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Synonamess Botch
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February 12, 2012 - 4:49 pm
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OK so New Vegas is definitely on my list, especially after all the ringing endorsements.

 

Kay your Skyrim comment is interesting.  I never played Oblivion because it never seemed like my kind of game.  I didn't like the scaling difficulty for one.  I know you could mod that out but my likely platform would have been console.  I will likely pick up Skyrim but the only thing holding me back right now is the fact that my current platform of choice is the PS3 (I'm kind of miffed at Microsoft and their crappy hardware at the moment).  Bethesda and PS3 seem like oil and water and I'm waiting for them to clean up their act.  Maybe I should stay away from PS3 New Vegas as well.

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kaythomas
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February 29, 2012 - 8:30 pm
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Synon,   I can't compare platforms since I only play on a PC.  So when I say positive things about a game,  it generally is about the story and how the game sucked me in so I wanted to keep playing.   Secondarily,  it is about the complexity of the world in the game.   I love games that have many different places to go that are very different graphically. That makes me want to explore more.    But that's just me.

Kay 

Imagine life with no hypothetical situations. 

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