At first glance, the Fallout games seem like any other first-person shooter: get your weapon, build your XP, kill stuff, don’t die. And yes, that is a great majority of the game, however there is much more to Fallout than meets the eye.
The world itself is enticing: post-apocalypse America. A world everyone wants to experience, but not for real. Well, the Fallout series is the best way to do so without actually having a full-blown nuclear apocalypse.
One way that Fallout 3 is different from other first-person shooter games is in the training intro for new games. The game as a whole is generally slow-paced, which has been a big turn-off for some Fallout fans. But the intro is even slower. You start the game literally being born into this post-apocalyptic world, in Vault 101 — then your mom dies during childbirth. Next, your name and your appearance. The game transitions a year into the future, and you are now a toddler walking around, exploring the area. Boring as this is, it is a great way to help new players get used to the action buttons in a quick manner. You learn to open up doors, pick up objects, etc.
The next transition is to your 10th birthday, where you learn about important dialogue menus and V.A.T.S. Finally, the game picks up, and the story starts to get interesting: your player is generated in the vault, which is amidst a state of utter chaos and you don’t know why. You do know that your father has escaped, people are dead, and the Vault is all but deserted. Here is where you learn to kill your first enemies — large roaches (annoying as f**k). This is a smart way to pick up the pace and break the dull of training sequences. By leaving the players in the dark, you pique their interests enough for them to want to know what is going to happen next.
And here is what happens next:
You exit the vault. And then all of the boredom of the beginning suddenly dissolves, and you the player, are filled with an overwhelming curiosity. Much like the game Skyrim, the Fallout series is an open-world. There is a main story line, but there are (roughly) hundreds of other mini-stories within it that the player can follow instead. This makes for literally hundreds of hours of gameplay. Which equals hundreds of thousands of dollars for the developers. And so on and so forth.
Because you just went through that training sequence, the commands for combat and basic function are fresh in your mind, so you have the confidence to go out and explore. Do you follow your dad’s footsteps? Or do you travel and wander aimlessly, looking for new creatures, new items and weapons and towns? It is totally up to the player, and that is one of the best aspects of the entire game. If I get bored or frustrated with a particular mission, I can simply choose to attempt a different one, at any point in the game.
Watch out though, because Fallout does a tricky thing with its games. You can kill just about anything (except for children, because that would be deranged and sick) and depending on where you are, you will either get away with it, or the entire town will attempt to fillet your skin off for dinner. Here is the catch– you have to make sure you don’t kill a mission character. If you do this, and that character is required to proceed further into that particular mission, you have just screwed yourself from ever finishing that mission.
Yes, you can actually become addicted to substances in the game. The developers really put some detail into this, mimicking hard street drugs like methamphetamines with drugs called Jet and Psycho. There are even missions where you can bring drugs to an addict who is too weak to find them on their own. Taking these drugs in the game will give your character nothing beneficial as far as I can tell. Furthermore, the character will experience withdrawal if you cannot feed their addiction. When this happens, you lose health and stats, and your combat skills become hindered. One can treat addiction at a medical tent, and by simply not taking the drug and waiting it out for a few days.
Another interesting part of the game is the way the game differentiates soft skills and hard skills. Hard skills are stuff like your combat, ability to handle large/heavy weapons, stamina, lockpicking, etc. Soft skills are people skills and in the Fallout series, people skills will sometimes get you further than being able to wield a weapon. These soft skills will contribute to having a good or bad reputation. Having a good reputation will bring obviously good things to your character — the other characters may give you gifts. Having a bad reputation could result in being shot on sight. The more evil choices you make, the lower your karma and the worse your reputation is. The more good choices you make, the higher your karma, and thus higher reputation.
One nice thing about this is that you can always get your karma back by committing acts of goodness. Sometimes though, acts of evil are necessary for a particular mission or part of a mission.
And let’s not forget about Dogmeat.
Dogmeat is a character in the game that you can choose to take along with you on your murder quest for justice and closure. You can find Dogmeat at a junkyard, and you must convince him to join you (this is not that hard to do). While you can take human helpers, I prefer Dogmeat because dogs are better than humans, real or gamelike. Dogmeat knows commands, and he will stay, follow, or attack on que. In Fallout 4, you can also suit up Dogmeat for battle, making him the most adorable killing machine you’ve ever laid eyes on:
Warning: Dogmeat can die. His death will result in great sadness and anger, and you will most likely restart the mission to a point where Dogmeat is alive and well, because how dare those Supermutants kill my best and only true friend in this wasteland, you ugly green beasts. Prepare to die.
I noticed that I would entirely avoid some missions because I knew I could not save Dogmeat from absolute death. On the plus side, his impending doom results in you playing smarter, because you want to make sure you are doing everything to save your pupper. (Fallout 4 gets rid of Dogmeat’s mortality).
With all of these elements combined, Fallout 3 creates a unique and “real” experience for the gamer. Just like in the mundane human world, your actions have direct consequences (or benefits), so you must play the game with that concept in mind. The way the game ends is entirely up to the choices you make throughout, be it good or evil.