In October of 2008, in my opinion, one of the best American RPGs of all time was released: Fallout 3. With an outstanding world, a voice cast who tend to deliver their lines with flying colors, and gameplay to the likes of which my eyes had, at the time of first play through, never seen. But does it hold up? Let’s find out.
Let’s get into the story first. You live in an underground society in Washington, known as Vault 101, built to withstand a nuclear apocalypse, which, wouldn’t you know it, happens. Your character finds out that their dad, James (played by Liam Neeson himself) has run out of the vault to give clean water to the the wasteland. All in all, a pretty cool guy. He dies at the hands of the Enclave, or more specifically, Col. Autumn (the game’s villains), you have to avenge him, clean the water, and bring prosperity to hell on Earth. Easy enough.
I’ll get back into the story later, as some hermit will complain about spoilers if I don’t, so let’s get into gameplay: V.A.T.S is where the game really shines. For a game that acts as a post-apocalyptic RPG, with guns, melee weapons, and launchers, the shooting doesn’t seem to want to work outside of V.A.T.S. The V.A.T.S system adds somewhat of a turn-based element to the game, that one could argue is a nod to the earlier Fallout games, and even Wasteland. The Karma system is also a nice touch, as it has an actual effect on future situations, as well as giving you different companions. Thankfully, it doesn’t go the route of other action RPGs, and use a dialogue wheel, a la Mass Effect. Looking at you, Fallout 4. The S.P.E.C.I.A.L system comes off as useless at times, with it’s stats never really affecting me in the long run. Most of the characters (and in one case, their faction) you meet are pretty cool as well, with the Brotherhood of Steel being the main standout, as they’re fighting the Enclave too, and are, for all intents and purposes, really cool people, who give you armor and a companion in Sarah Lyons. The side quests were amazing, with none of them really feeling tacked on. The graphics were kinda meh, but considering the engine, it’s par for the course.
Let’s talk in a bit more spoilery terms about the story. After the death of your father, you search for this thing called the G.E.C.K, which is a device that can help revitalize areas of the DC area. Unfortunately, only one vault has it, and the entrance is irradiated. Solution? You go to Little Lamplight, where we meet some rather… obnoxious characters. You finish their quests, take the shortcut towards the vault, and meet Fawkes, a supermutant, who helps you get the G.E.C.K from an irradiated area in the vaul. He gets it for you, and it looks like you’re home free, but then, out of nowhere the Enclave arrive, put you in this prison, you escape, kill a computer president, blow it to kingdom come, meet Fawkes again on the way, hightail it on over to purify the water and… Autumn again. Yay. Autumn comes in, gives you an easy kill, and now, you purify the water, sacrificing you, or Sarah Lyons of the Brotherhood to the radiation in the process, in perhaps one of the most anti-climactic endings to a video game this side of Mass Effect 3.
Thankfully, the DLC ‘Broken Steel’ fixes all that. You awaken 3 weeks later, and it turns out, you’re all fine and dandy! And Sarah is too, which is also pretty cool, but hey! You’re still alive! As a tradeoff though, you have to do some missions for the Brotherhood, where you kill off some more remnants of the Enclave. With your first mission, you meet Liberty Prime, this cool robot that throws mini nukes like footballs, and hates communism, thus making it the best robot Prime in media, and the most American thing ever simultaneously. Unfortunately, in a sad turn of events, Liberty Prime gets taken down, and you have to finish the mission. Shortly thereafter, you board a flight with the Brotherhood to an old Air Force base, and kill more Enclave soldiers. Kill them, send in some missiles, the end. The entire DLC just feels like a ‘we’re sorry for the shitty ending’ thing, and ultimately, I accept the apology. It gave us some really cool moments, and it feels like a proper continuation. The airfield battle was really good as well, with sort of a non-stop action feel to it.
There is more DLC, however. The first one to come to mind is, where you head to Maryland for ‘Point Lookout’, easily the worst DLC in the game. In this, you find a girl who has fled to the eponymous Point Lookout to be with some Tribals, who are pretty cool… until they ask you to get some flower, where they promptly lobotomize you as an attempt to join their cult, and thankfully, fail. You meet this guy named Lockheart, who has a grudge with the Tribals. You help him kill them as they raid the joint, and you garner a lot of loot in the process. Unfortunately, the man has a bone to pick with the Tribals leader, Calvert, who turns out to be a brain in a jar. Calvert kills him, you kill Calvert, DLC over. The enemies on this DLC are incredibly hard to kill, and for no particular reason. There are some irradiated hill-billies that take way too much damage, and so do the Tribals. Lobotomy or not, there’s no excuse for how much damage they take.
The Pitt has a more interesting story. You’re taken into this place called ‘The Pitt’, which is what we know today as Pittsburgh. The Pitt is an absolute hellhole, with sort of a chain gang thing going on at times. The people are dying, and it’s your job to save them. The Pitt is a great DLC that I don’t want to spoil too much of, but there is an interesting moral choice which is probably the best in the series. There is one quest I have a bone to pick with, though. In order to progress through the map at a certain stage, you have to gather 10 steel ingots from a certain area of the map. Easy enough, right? Wrong. Trogs are all over the place, and will kill you as soon as they possibly can, and with what amounts to maybe a few buildings, there’s not much breathing room. Not to mention that the ingots are spread around to places you would have never thought to search…
The next DLC I’m going to talk about is ‘Mothership Zeta’. You get abducted by aliens with an assorted group of characters (The cowboy and the samurai are the first that come to mind), kill aliens, go home, and that’s it. The end. My main gripes are that the Aliens are hard to kill, even early on, and that the group of characters are ultimately forgettable. I couldn’t even think of cute nicknames to give them while I played! I at least got to call Calvert ‘Krang’! Very forgettable DLC, only good things were the final battle and the weapons.
The final DLC I’m going to talk about is ‘Operation: Anchorage’. This DLC is where the game shines. Basic story here: You get put into an old military simulation, where China invades Alaska. Think ‘Homefront’, except it’s China, icy Alaska, and actually good. You have to stop em, you do, sim complete. Pretty simple. The gunplay and skills are put in full force here. There were moments where I actually ENJOYED combat, which is more than I can say for most of the DLC. The enemies are pretty cool, too, with several enemies using stealth suits to fight against you, and hiding shortly after. It’s a test of skill and strategy, and something that’s actually new, something I can’t say for say, Fallout 4.
All in all, looking back at Fallout 3 has been a great experience, with great gameplay, role playing elements, and even a RTS feel. At the time, it was something I hadn’t seen in a video game, and honesty, the original feeling of playing cannot be replicated.
I give Fallout 3 a solid 9/10.