Something has been nagging at me ever since I completed Fallout 3. I recommend it to people all the time and yet I often question what it is that compels me to do so. I completed the game and every single side-quest it had to offer. I was suitably disappointed at the notoriously lame ending after all that I had endured. I was excited at the prospect of DLC. But despite my supposed attachment to Fallout 3 I cannot help but wonder why I do not have fonder memories of actually playing it. Sure, I like it...I guess. I've read the countless rave reviews, I know it's supposed to be amazing. So why can't I honestly declare my love for it?
Being an RPG devotee Fallout 3 certainly has all the elements of a game I should love. A vast world to explore, moral choices with differing consequences, detailed character customization. However, after deciding to completely void my thoughts of all outside opinions (no small feat for someone who religiously checks Metacritic) I have begun to determine the reasons behind my innate dissatisfaction.
Post-apocalyptic Washington DC is...well...boring as hell. I am aware that it is meant to be a barren wasteland devoid of life, but c'mon. Give me something exciting to discover. Upon escaping Vault 101 one is confronted with what is meant to be an overwhelming sense of freedom; a glaring vision of a wasteland that is completely foreign to our innocent/corrupt vault-boy/girl. But I just stood there for a moment, taking in the bleak landscape before pondering which pile of rubble I should approach first. I later hoped that far-away locations like Canterbury Commons, Rivet City and The Citadel would be as exciting as the Megaton locals had me believe - because Megaton sure wasn't much chop.
But after relentless encounters with Radscorpions, Raiders, Super Mutants and frag mines - not to mention monotonous treks through identical metro tunnels - one isn't even rewarded with anything remotely worthwhile. The "trader town" of Canterbury Commons is one street with a couple of tumble weeds and some traders who you can run into pretty much anywhere in the Wasteland. Rivet City is a hunk of uninspired metal with five rooms of significance. And don't even get me started on The Citadel. Admittedly Bethesda were probably just trying to maintain an oppressingly bleak atmosphere with their Capital Wasteland...because if the world were decimated by nuclear warfare there probably wouldn't be anything interesting left. But even Mad Max had the Thunderdome...
And then there's the character customization. Despite seeming incredibly detailed, Fallout 3's levelling system inevitably resulted in a class-less "jack-of-all-trades" type. Perks and bobble heads meant that even if your character was lacking in a particular area one could easly make up for any shortcomings by around level 15. Maybe I'm just too much of a traditional D&D nerd, but I'm of the mind that if one decides on a particular class or even identity for their character that certain attributes should then become unattainable. This in turn results in a far more replayable game - maybe there were doors you couldn't unlock with your strength-based character, or perhaps there were enemies you couldn't beat with your agility-based character. Perhaps Bethesda were trying to make any situation do-able despite one's attributes - which is appreciated. But in the end, there is nothing that cannot be achieved in one play through. And regardless of whether or not you could create a class in Fallout 3, NPCs react to you in exactly the same way. After being spoiled with Factions in the Elder Scrolls series I guess I was kinda hoping Bethesda might include something a little similar (yes, I understand they were trying to stay true to the original Fallout titles...but still....)
So maybe a whole lot of people love this game, and maybe I like it too. But I just know it won't conjure up nostalgic images in a couple of years time like my favourite games do, because it just never inspired awe. Nup, no awe inspired. Perhaps it was the locations...or the douchey forgettable characters (who I didn't even mention here because that would have been a whole other paragraph...) Ahh Fallout 3...like it, can't love it. It has been nice to finally address those points that have been subconsciously tainting my opinion of the game for the better part of the year.