Fallout 3: When a Post Apocalyptic Masterpiece gets a Drastic Overhaul

We heard you like open worlds. How about an Open Capital Wasteland?

Fallout 3 marks the end of Black Isle’s work (so far) in the Fallout universe and the beginning of Bethesda’s. Bethesda is known for its sprawling open world games, and brings that bounty of knowledge to the world of Fallout in a huge way.

If you’ve been following these reviews, you’ll know that I (like many) feel like Fallout 2 was the apex of the series. Its simplistic but deep gameplay and lore make diving into the game time and again a fulfilling time sink. That said, Fallout 3 is fantastic in its own right (despite wasting the vocal talents of Liam Neeson on what largely amounts to a bit part). Bethesda took Black Isle’s idea and universe, and opened it up in a huge new way.

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The Pip Boy shown here allows players to navigate their inventory and check their health and stats. There’s also a world map and local map to peruse for points of interest.

That starts with, well, pretty much everything. Gone are the hex-based tiles and turn based combat. Instead, we are given an open world and first person shooting (or V.A.T.S., more on that later). Gone (for now) is the West Coast area, as Fallout 3 takes place in and around what remains of Washington D.C. Bethesda started its efforts in the Fallout universe in an entirely new area to distance itself from Black Isle’s work while still diving into its lore and mythos.

That lore and mythos are greatly expanded in Fallout 3. There are all kinds of little places, hidden items and accessible things that allow Bethesda to take the world that Black Isle built and have it explode outward. And being a fully realized 3D open world, players get to see what the horrors of nuclear fallout bring up close and personal. While the story is fairly straightforward (find Liam Neeson, aka Dad), it has many a twist and turn to get there and also has an immense number of side things to find and do, if you so choose. (Editors Note: Operation Anchorage is the worst ever, and Mothership Zeta is not canon.)

VATS allows those who don’t excel at FPS games to still get to enjoy the Fallout world

Combat in Fallout 3 comes in two forms. Traditional first person shooting or a system called V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System). V.A.T.S. is Bethesda’s nod to Fallout’s roots, as it utilizes action points and boils combat back to its numbers bases. How you leveled up your character matters more in V.A.T.S. than first person mode, since the weapon type you are using and how it is scored in your character sheet provide the V.A.T.S. system with the information it needs to determine success or failure in combat.

Bethesda, by and large, stuck with Black Isle’s view on the world. If you are strong enough to get away with it, go ahead and do it. Karma plays a bigger role in this game, however, as people will hear of your atrocities and act accordingly, but that sometimes works both ways, as there are places that don’t like goody two-shoes as well as places that aren’t fond of genocidal maniacs. Oh, and they won’t let you kill kids in this game (without an unofficial mod, that is).

Overall, Fallout 3 is an excellent toe in the water for Bethesda into the Fallout universe, and helped propel the series back into the spotlight after a lengthy hiatus. Old time fans and newcomers alike are sure to find plenty to enjoy in this game.

Justin enjoys most games. He is currently learning the ins and outs of competitive modern Magic while enjoying all sorts of other gaming mediums, assuming he can find the spare time.

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