Fallout 3 is a game that is both hailed by critics as being an inventive, enjoyable title that pushed the boundaries of what games could do through its interactivity and player influence and looked down upon for limiting player choice and obscuring choices of morality through a Good/Evil filter. Countless blogs have been written discussing the combat, story, glitches, and ending of the game. Hopefully this blog will help to flesh out an underappreciated aspect of Fallout 3.
About a week ago I began my first playthrough of Fallout 3. I had no prior knowledge of the Fallout universe and I was expecting the game to play like a revamped Oblivion set on a post apocalyptic Earth. That assumption proved to be false after several hours of play. The game had a much slower pace to it than Oblivion did. The world itself had more personality. Already I was immersed and hungering for more, thinking about the game while I was busy working or writing.
The ending to Fallout 3 had already been spoiled to me by numerous episodes of Podtoid and Reverend Anthony's most recent Rev Rant. Originally, I was disappointed that a game with so much potential was failing to live up to it. Now that I've spent more time with Fallout 3, I think that the transgressions committed thanks to bad writing and simple storytelling are forgivable.
There is a depth and complexity to Fallout 3's world that isn't presented in an obvious way. Instead of being force fed to the player, as we've become so accustomed to our video games doing, stories are told through implied visuals and hidden meanings. Every time I entered a new empty home I was left to wonder what had happened to the family that lived there. I'd see a skeleton lying in a bathtub and flashes of suicide would run through my mind. A prevailing sense of hopelessness and despair seeps out of every corner of every room in Fallout 3.
Another layer of complexity to the atmosphere of Fallout 3 is found in the people who inhabit it. The fake happiness and sincerity over being trapped in the iron prison that is Megaton or the desperate bid for survival each of the Brotherhood Outcasts displays. The people of Fallout 3 are too afraid to move on from the way the world was before the war. Too afraid to give up on the one thing that will forever be beautiful to them. Most don't know what the world was like before the apocalypse, and from the looks of it, most don't seem to care. Just imagining a world where violence does not reign supreme, where death does not lurk around the corner for every man and woman, is enough for those who inhabit the Wasteland.
I'm likely reading into this game too much, and I think it's unfortunate that Bethesda couldn't come up with a better title than Fallout 3. I was getting really damned tired of typing that out.