WARNING: Huge storyline spoilers ahead!
Many good things have been said of Bethesda's latest gem amongst RPGs, Fallout 3
, and indeed the game delivers with an immersive world, an improved character growth system and the well-implemented VATS. After thirty hours of saving innocents and solving problems across the Capital Wastelands, I finally reached the end of my wonderful (and first) journey in the Fallout universe. As much as I enjoyed playing through this outstanding piece of art, I have been very frustrated by a few key elements towards the end of the game. Scenario slips are often considered unimportant in many other games (such as the much-praised Gears of War
series), but I think that it splashes mud on my gaming experience when we're talking about any kind of serious RPG. I make the following rants because as a fan of RPGs since Final Fantasy IV
on the Super NES and an occasionnal D&D dungeon master, I believe every scenarist in a role-playing game should stay clear of the following mistakes:
Deus Ex Machina'ed Ending
Until the last moments of the game, the player has pretty much total freedom in his actions, having choice between a good, evil or neutral behaviour in any given situation, which in turn brings a reciprocal consequence. The ending, however, is vastly different. The purification machine that the player must activate in order to cleanse all the water around Washington D.C. has suffered heavy damage and must be activated immediately, or it might not work later on. The catch is, the computer that starts the machine is inside an irradiated sealed room, and while you can easily open the hatch to reach it, for some reason you cannot be let out of the contaminated room once you enter it, even if someone is there by the switch outside. Why? Is it because radiation would spread inside an abandoned place? So what if all the water's clean!
The real joke is, shortly before that last chapter, you meet a character named Fawkes who is incidentally highly resistant to radioactivity and walks willingly in a place that inflicts over 40 rads/sec, which is many times as much as the radiation in the cleansing device room!
You may choose to recruit Fawkes as your sidekick (he is very powerful I might add), and you even get the conversation option that asks him to head into the toxic room in your stead (he did it once before, after all). He answers something along the lines that he wants you to be the hero. What?! You'd rather ask your friend to commit suicide than go yourself and not be affected by the radiation at all, just for the (false?) modesty of not wanting to be a hero? Fawkes, you're such a mean jerk!
So what's Fallout 3's moral of the story? In order to be a hero, you HAVE to be dead.
It doesn't matter if you have 85% radiation resistance, or if a radiation-immune friendly super mutant is next to you, you HAVE to get in there and NO, you can't get out because... the hatch can only open once *cough*. I am frustrated by this outcome (I guess it shows), because I feel totally robbed of my victory since I had to die even if it didn't make any sense at all. I guess I should've played an evil character, because that one is probably going to walk away just fine from the adventure (rich and famous, too!). Onto my second point of frustration:
Shallow, invisible sidekicks
A moment ago I mentionned Fawkes, your friendly neighbourhood super-mutant which accompanies you if you have good karma. Immediately after you recruit him, you may head back to the headquarters of a group that has been in a war with super-mutants to continue the main quest. Guess what, nobody notices the eight foot monstruosity that follows you around like a dog in there. He isn't shot at, you don't have to stop by the gates to explain his presence or defend his existence, nobody cares at all.
Now I understand that having a sidekick in Bethesda's free-roaming single-player RPGs is a new thing, but it's something they should have thought throughly! If the player character is accompanied by NPCs, they gotta also have their own impact on the world, it's how the player gets attached to them (or hates them - see Yuffie). In Fallout 3, it feels like they're just some kind of disposable automaton with a health bar and swappable weapons, none of them having any sidequest related to their own past or personnal objectives, which is truely a shame because some of them seem to have a nice personality set for them through their few introductory dialogues.
In conclusion, I believe those two points are something Bethesda should work on for their next RPG hit. Those flaws do nothing to alter the countless qualities this game has, and I enjoyed playing Fallout 3 as much as anyone else did, but I felt that these issues needed to be mentionned to balance out the "automatic game of the year! it's from bethesda!" opinions. They may be kings of the free-roaming roleplaying games, but roleplaying games consist of more than freedom in choices...
This is my first blog article, thank you dearly for reading it, I will gladly accept any civil criticism!