When it was announced that developers of the stunning RPG Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion were working on the latest in the Fallout series, interests with immediately piqued. Though quite dated (visually at least) isometric RPGs, the first two Fallout titles were praised for their freedom, fantastic humour, and incredible atmosphere.
Fallout 3, utilising the same engine as the aforementioned Oblivion, is still as stunningly large scale as its predecessors. This time you start the game right at the very beginning of life, with a swift rush through your character’s first 18 years helping to introduce you to the game's intelligent dialogue trees and levelling up system.
Your pleasant life stuck in the vault is suddenly changed with your father’s sudden rush outside without so much as a goodbye. And so begins, after a swift escape, your journey into the post apocalyptic wasteland of Fallout 3.
It’s a bit of a cliché, and something that many games promise and fail to deliver, but once you’re out of Vault 101 you can truly do and be whoever you want. There’s a storyline packed with missions and tasks to complete as you trail your father, but simply taking in those delights, like Oblivion before it, is completely missing out on a large part of what makes Fallout 3 such a fantastic game.
Where exploration in Oblivion usually brought about little more than identikit dungeons to explore, here you can stumble across a wide range of places and people. Abandoned derelict homes, underground vaults, and even entire societies are just waiting to be enjoyed and experienced.
Your options are wide ranging, with every decision having a unique impact. Get caught devouring human flesh when you’re desperate for a health boost and people will look upon you with a supremely dirty look. You can even, if the mood takes you, destroy entire cities and suffer/enjoy the consequences afterwards.
The area in Fallout 3 might not be quite as large as Oblivion - though it’s certainly a huge game world - but that doesn’t prevent it from being beautiful and varied. Well, as beautiful as a post apocalyptic wasteland could be. Simply wandering the desolate landscape packs the kind of atmosphere, helped by the period advertisements, that most games can only dream of. And though the visuals might be mainly dull greys and browns, that doesn’t stop it from being very pleasing on the eye.
Quests and missions can be picked up almost everywhere, from in a local tavern, through to ransacking a corpse in the middle of nowhere. Though there aren’t quite as huge a number of unique tasks in Fallout 3 when compared to Oblivion, each is usually packed with ways to complete them, choices to make, and many twists and turns before you finally complete the mission.
Whether you want to be good or bad is completely down to you too. One early mission gives you the opportunity to blow up an entire city in exchange for a mass of goodies. For each “bad choice” you make, your karma will drop a point, with good boosting it in the opposite way. Your karma can completely change the dialogue options you have with certain characters, turning some missions on the head completely. Whether you want to be a goodie two shoes or the devil incarnate, Fallout 3 will let you be whatever you wish to be.
And that’s helped by the levelling up system. While you allocate points to the usual sets of stats, from weapon proficiency through to hacking skills and lock picking, you can also attain “perks”. These are special abilities that can affect the game in massive ways. And there are so many options to choose from that it will take multiple play throughs to experience all that Fallout 3 has to offer.
Though it may look like an FPS, don’t head into Fallout expecting Call of Duty style action. It’s staunch RPG fare, proven by the fact that characters can survive multiple headshots. The VATS system, which allows you to specifically target body parts on an enemy and fire just like an old school RPG, is quite fantastic. Each body part is rated accordingly to how likely a hit truly is, and you can tactically take down enemies. Find yourself against a huge foe packing some serious hardware, and target their gun or arms to force them to drop their weaponry or affect their targeting. Or, if an adversary is intent on simply rushing forward and head-butting you, blast away at their legs and they’ll struggle to make a dent in your armour.
There’s so much more to consider too. Your weapons degenerate over time, meaning frequent repairs are required. You can create your own weaponry and items if you have the knowledge and found the right equipment. You can even persuade certain characters to fight alongside you.
There are, obviously, a few flaws. That good old Fallout humour has all but been lost entirely, meaning Fallout 3 is almost universally quite a serious world. Since you’ve so much freedom too, you can easily find yourself trapped in a situation where you’re up against enemies that can easily overpower you. Neither are major minus points, in fact the latter has been clamoured for after the scaling system of Oblivion, so don’t put too much weight on these two minor failings.
As far as large scale RPG’s packed with atmosphere go, Fallout 3 is the current next generation king. There’s simply so much to do and see that this one could keep you easily hooked over the holidays.
Remember this is an RPG and not an FPS, and there’s no way that anyone could be disappointed with what’s offered here. One to buy, enjoy, and visit time and time again.