Fallout 3 EP14: The Long March

 By Shamus Feb 17, 2013 71 comments

Link (YouTube)

My favorite part of the episode is where we had to kill a guy to open a door to get a slave outfit so we could pretend to be a slave but the guy’s body vanished so we couldn’t open the door but it was okay because you can just jump the fence.

I’d forgotten this episode entirely. When we got to the bit where we were going to skip over the long march, I got excited thinking we were going to get a travel montage. I was very disappointed when it was a hard cut. Boo.

2020201171 comments. (Seventy-one is the largest supersingular prime!)

  1. MrGuy says:

    Which, as it turns out, is entirely pointless. You don’t actually need the slave outfit. You can just go in shooting and kill the gate guards.

    Then you walk through the door and have a stupid railroady cutscene where they beat you up and put you in the slave outfit anyways, but hey.

  2. MrGuy says:

    Also, I love Dad’s argument to Dr. Li. “Improving the lives of everyone in the wasteland. What could be more worthy?”

    Yeah, but dude. We HAVE water. We have NO FOOD. And what the scientists are Rivet City are working on is growing food using hydroponics (which seems like the only way to grow food because apparently the soil can’t support growing things or it would already be overgrown because reasons.)

    I guess no one said the plot needed to make sense, but we’re taking a talented scientist away from making “the thing we desperately need” to help us make “that stuff we already have, but could use more of I guess.”

    • Antti says:

      Tell me how you’re going to farm with hydroponics without lots and lots of clean water. A basinful would go a long way to jump start that process, and in the long run to clean up the soil all around it. I don’t see how using a GECK to support only a single small community (they’re designed for survivors of a single vault, after all) is better than providing clean water, the basis of life on Earth, to the whole region.

      But let us pretend a couple of bottles of drinking water will provide for the human kind at large.

      To the idea of how destroying the newly developed eco system with clean water is eventual, I’d figure if the eco system can handle radioactive water, then it can also handle clean water.

      • Klay F. says:

        The only problem is that we ALREADY KNOW how to purify irradiated water. The only advantage to the purifier is that it supposedly purifies a large amount at once. Except that is a shitty price to pay for sacrificing a GECK (a.k.a. the Christ Machine)

        • Yeah. The GECK doesn’t just support a single farming community, it is a device that LITERALLY transforms barren wastelands into fertile, pure, and habitable land.

          And as previously stated, filtering radiation out of water is child’s play. You don’t actually remove radiation from water because water cannot be irradiated. It’s the particulates in water that get irradiated and they can easily be filtered out.

          • Raygereio says:

            And as previously stated, filtering radiation out of water is child’s play. You don’t actually remove radiation from water because water cannot be irradiated. It’s the particulates in water that get irradiated and they can easily be filtered out.

            People keep bringing this up.
            The fallout universe is not the real world. It’s a fictional setting that does not have to operate under the rules of everyday life. Just like it’s fine for Star Trek to say “we can transport from matter from one location to another”, it’s fine for Fallout to say that water is hard to purify.

            Having made-up science and having your setting work under fantasy rules is okay. That in and of itself is not a plothole or any sort of bad writing.
            What can create bad writing is how these new rules are implemented: you have to consistant and have mapped out the logical consequences of these new rules.

            Water being hard to purify is not the problem of Fallout 3′s plot.
            The problem is that the lack of clean water is apperently an issue in this setting, but beyond one token thirsty NPC the player never sees this. The problem is that you get a robot with your house that pumps out clean water. The problem is that Dad’s purification method already works and the game gives no reason at all beyond “because” for why we need the GECK.

            • True. If irradiated water is too unrealistic, so are the apparent stable mutations that radiation causes across the wasteland, even with the addition of FEV (which is also magical in nature). Even if you take into account that many monsters are apparently the products of SCIENCE! in a New Vegas DLC, the Brahmin, bloatflies, geckos, lake/mirelurks, yao guai, and bighorners all appear to have come about from radioactive mutation and become fruitful species with little variation in quite a short period of time.

              I’d either just go with magical radiation (like 1st edition Gamma World) or assume that radiation is a catch-all for “all the stuff that war and time are constantly depositing in the water from various sources, making it hazardous to consume or stand in.”

              • Klay F. says:

                Except the game never even TRIES to handwaves this away. No where does it state why traditional radiation purifying methods don’t work. Actually, they don’t even state THAT the usual methods don’t work. So I’m led to believe that the only reason they haven’t actually tried is because they are stupid.

                • Does it have to? Again, radiation is already doing stuff in the game that actual radiation doesn’t do. Nobody has said “yeah, it sure is weird that the whole two-headed cow thing worked out like it did, funny how that shouldn’t have happened like that, huh?” I only mention the above explanation for player comfort, not as a cover for what the designers intended.

                  If anything, Dad is guilty of, as has been stated above, wasting a huge macguffin that could have solved a lot more problems than the one he was proposing to fix, which is, indeed, stupid. This leads me to another thing to consider: Try looking at the game where just about everyone in authority of any kind is crazy. It makes a lot more sense that way.

                  • Klay F. says:

                    Yes. Yes, the game DOES have to answer this question. Why? Because the MAIN QUEST of all things is centered around purifying water. Answering (handwaving) why you couldn’t do so the simple way would be among the first things a competent writer would do.

                    The difference between brahmin and water is that brahmin don’t have anything to do with the plot.

                    • Sleeping Dragon says:

                      I somewhat disagree but I think this may be something that depends on the person. Simply put it I didn’t have this kind of knowledge when playing for the first time so “waitaminute, water is really easy to purify!” never really came up to break my immersion, I was only told about it quite some time after I’ve played the game and I could probably figure it out without googling if I thought about it really hard but didn’t really feel the need to check physics in a setting with mutants and space guns. For comparison, I have a friend who gets really annoyed with Battlestar Galactica because, quote “there is no detailed, scientific explanation of the principles of faster than light drive works within the series.”

                    • Klay F. says:

                      Your example doesn’t bother me because the plot (generally) doesn’t center around FTL. Then again Ron Moore (usually) isn’t dumb enough to make an entire episode about the use of an impossible device Brannon Braga. FTL is never the focus, whereas in FO3 purifying water is the entire main quest.

                    • MrGuy says:

                      Sleeping Dragon’s example is actually a pretty good example for me of why FO3′s focus on irradiated water is so broken.

                      I could totally buy counter-to-physics irradiation of water being a working thing in-universe, even if it has no “real world” physics-based reason for being. That’s how immersion works – you accept the world on its own terms, even if those terms don’t make sense to you.

                      That’s the central contract between a good writer (ANY writer) and their audience. Suspension of disbelief.

                      But the writer needs to keep up their end of the contract. In exchange for the audience suspending disbelief about the world, they need to provide a consistent world for their characters to live in. They can design any world they want, no matter how crazy, but then they need to live in it.

                      FO3′s world doesn’t do that. Water is relatively easy to purify. Purification methods that work in our world (notably, condensation) ALSO work in the FO3 world. Megaton can purify water on a town scale. But SPECIFICALLY for purposes of the main plot (and for NO OTHER in game purposes), purification is hard and can only be done by a magic maguffin.

                      That’s breaking the contract. You’re not entitled to my suspended disbelief if you don’t hold up your end. It’s lazy writing. It’s bad writing.

                    • So let me get this straight: The reason the main plot is stupid is because the writers didn’t figure out how water purification/radiation/whatever works, but that also doesn’t extend to their decision to let robots give you purified water?

                      You don’t think that same oversight was just “we need the robots to give the player a little something other than jokes whenever they ask” and didn’t ponder the greater ramifications?

                    • Klay F. says:

                      If you are going to write a story about water purifying, I expect you to do some basic, cursory research into the proper topics. If for some reason you decide that the normal methods don’t work in your story, you’d better at least handwave them away, don’t just refuse to address them and hope people won’t notice.

                      The problem MrGuy mentioned is just one problem on the ever expanding mountain of problems the main quest, indeed the entire game has.

                  • Klay F. says:

                    Can’t edit this into the last comment for some reason:

                    Radiation is not some magical plot glue. Treating it as such is another reason why so much of the Star Wars Expanded Universe and the prequels are absolutely terrible.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Sure,but if the game itself shows you that its easy to do(like with the robot that the guys mentioned a few episodes back),thats when everything falls apart.The game does not have to be consistent with the real world,but it has to be internally consistent,and it is not.

            • Eric says:

              I’d say Dad is a moron because he put his gigantic water purification station in a river basin, and because he was too dumb to just make portable water filtration units, which he can already do and would probably be more useful. It’s like Bethesda was trying to come up with the worst plot device character ever, one whose purpose in the plot is undermined by his own actions at every turn.

        • Lame Duck says:

          And we haven’t even found the GECK yet! Dr. Li was persuaded to abandon a project that she’s having at least some success with (as evidenced by the table of food that Josh stole from) to work on a project that maybe we can make work if we find a piece of technology that maybe one of the Vaults in the area had and hopefully it hasn’t been damaged or looted or used in the last 200 years.

          • Jace911 says:

            Caveat: she’s been working with food for the past twenty years so she should know that if a box of cookies can last two hundred years without going stale or being looted then a piece of advanced technology should be fine.

        • LunaticFringe says:

          Not to mention that the game constantly dumps Rad-Away on you, and most medical vendors always have plenty of it. So why are we worried about radiation in the drinking water when we have magical radiation removal medicine that is at least somewhat commonplace?

      • Keeshhound says:

        Actually, you don’t need that much water for hydroponics; the water stays in the system, so you only need as much as you needed on day one. The real problem is that Rivet City experimenting with hydrophonics implies that they already have water purification, so project purity is at best redundant, and at worst unnecessary.

    • Vect says:

      Funny thing. In New Vegas, with a survival skill of 50 you can produce Mass Purified water at a campfire.

      • Keeshhound says:

        Yeah, but that’s out west. Here on the east coast, things are… different. Stranger. It’s a place where logic has no meaning, and time meanders drunkenly instead of moving in a straight line. Don’t stay too long, or it’ll start seeming normal. Best get out while you still can.

  3. MrGuy says:

    I dunno, man. You hear the words “Covered Bridges” and you just go into a trance.

    Ooh! Covered bridges!

    Hi, Mumbles!

  4. baseless research says:

    Shamus, I’m playing through System Shock 2 again (thanks to GOG). I never realised that you’re the one who made the Free Radical novel. Good job man.


  5. Lame Duck says:

    I think the stick beating is probably one of the worst examples of video game story-telling I have ever witnessed. If ever there was evidence that Bethesda either don’t know the first thing about writing a story for a game or they just don’t care in the slightest, it’s right there.

    Edit: Whoops, should have been a reply to MrGuy’s comment…erm, MrGuy’s first comment.

    • Yeah. It’s not even like those raiders pose a threat either. They could have easily been dispatched if not for CUTSCENE!!! And later on, you can just mow through legions of these guys no problem. It’s kinda pathetic.

      There’s a similar problem in Vault 87, but we’ll get to that later.

      • Ciennas says:

        I dunno. This is a real paradox; you want your player characters depowered to struggle, and you also don’t want to piss off your audience too much. It would have been alleviated if they’d actually let you choose from the start how you’d enter the city: run the arena thing first. But, to avoid the stupidity of killing losers, make everyone wield foam bats or something (with a sneak option to bring in a lethal holdout weapon,) and make the encounter fixed level: your opponents will be tough for a low level character, and surpassable for a high level one.

        The winner gets to be a guard; the loser gets to be a slave.

        Boom! That was easy. If you’re determined to force people, make it obvious that you’re cheating within the engine: you are forced to wear low tier gear, while your opponents are wielding Talon Mercenary armor and similar.

        I think that therein lies the heart of our discontent; By removing our control of the scene, they inspire wrath. Portal 2 did this all the time, but it was consistent with the rules presented; all custcenes were in real time, and there was no other choice, but it was done smoothly and well.

        (Also, an editor sitting down and writing the overall world-plot and making things cohesive would have done them a world of good. For Bethesda, that is. Portal 2 was great.)

        • LunaticFringe says:

          Alternatively, if you want to keep the ‘you have to become a slave’ railroad going, there are WAY better ways to do this too. You could have the player forced into a situation where they end up near death at the start of the DLC (just spitballing here but the typical tropes work well, explosions, vehicle accidents, large things falling on you from high places, etc.). The player can then be found by raiders in a semi-conscious state, have their equipment stripped, and end up a slave in the Pitt. It’s still a railroad, but at least it’s a railroad that isn’t completely undermined by giving the player a scenario they know they can easily win then forcing them to lose.

          • Ciennas says:

            Except they know that the gear the player has getting destroyed would really, really piss off the players. Say I go into the Pitt with Lincoln’s Repeater, and the plot dictates I get into an offscreen car crash or similar, and all my gear’s gone for good.

            Boom, people reload an earlier save, bitching about bad railroading.

            They needed a way to take the gear from the player and give it back when they felt comfortable opening the world space up a bit.

            (The best take on this that they’ve done was in Skyrim- the embassy infiltration- a friendly NPC agrees to smuggle in a limited selection of gear. Wish they’d thought of it sooner then Skyrim.)

            • LunaticFringe says:

              Easy fix. When the raiders are talking after finding you in injured, have them say something like “hey he/she’s got some nice gear” then start squabbling about dividing it up amongst themselves. The head raider then says that they’ll just take the player’s gear to Ashur and he’ll decide what to do with it. Then you can acquire it later at his tower.

        • MrGuy says:

          Yeah. There’s an even easier way to fix this. Change the mechanics. Make the only way in REALLY BE to be a slave. Rather than allowing you to traipse up to the manned gate by your lonesome, guns blazing, make that not work. There’s no door you can shoot your way into.

          Instead, have Werner sneak you into a slave holding pen near the door (with some other slaves). Have WERNER take your gear – “Trust me – if they see you packing anything at all, they’ll know you’re not who you seem.” And hey, since we meet Werner again on the inside, HE can be the one who returns our gear.

          I don’t mind being railroaded into being weakened for plot purposes. It doesn’t make sense for them to allow a slave to pack the gear you pack. But the method is so ham handed – I have defeated mobs way worse than 5 guys with stun sticks.

          Also, if the guards beat you to take your stuff, guess what? They already KNOW you’re “no ordinary slave.” If I’m a remotely competent slave keeper, I keep my eye on that one. I need to break them. I need them supervised. They’re up to something. I can’t just let them merrily wander around doing what they please. I chain this one (remember chains?) to a machine and work them until they accept being a slave. See, because I’m a SLAVER and I know a little somethin’ ’bout how this works.

          The beating scene with no appreciable follow-up consequences other than “we put all your stuff in this locker” is a terrible immersion breaker.

      • Keeshhound says:

        If by “later on” you mean “as soon as the cutscene ends, then yes. The first time I played this DLC I was already level 30; after the equipment strip I immediately set to work killing the “bosses,” and using that gear to kill the other “bosses” and loot them. By the time I had to go searching for ingots I was already decked out in mid-level gear and the trogs were even less of a threat.

        Really now Bethesda, if you’re going to force a loss and strip the player in a desperate attempt to make them weak again, the least you could do is make the guards immortal. You’ve already shattered any suspension of disbelief I had.

        • Ciennas says:

          Fixed. To quote Shamus, players stay on the rails better if you plant obvious landmines on either side.

          Make it so that you can fight the raiders and kill and loot your way. Have them respond similar to how the Boomers do: you’re not going to win in the long run. They lock the main gate, forcing the player to go into a specially made room. A room stacked with mini nukes or landmines.

          Or, missile launcher wielding goons with salvaged military doombots patrolling the perimeter. Who become uncannily accurate. Still hateful, but it would make a lot more sense than this.

          Quicksave just before you’d expect fighting to start, and reset the player there. Sorta like how Portal 2 handled these things.

  6. Weimer says:

    Wait, Isn’t this a major entrance to the city itself? A slave city with a lot of slaver traffic?

    Why are there shitton of mines on an important bridge, which would be a bitch to rebuild in a case it collapsed?

    Or this entrance is… not as trafficious or important? Hm.

  7. Deadpool says:

    17:40 is the funniest part of this episode.

    “What about the genophage?” cracks me up in hindsight…

  8. StashAugustine says:

    I do like the hand cart- very Metro 2033.

  9. Viktor says:

    Handcarts are indeed perfectly reasonable, they’re probably the best way of non-powered long-range transport we have. It’s not our fault Looney Toons made them slightly more ridiculous than anvils and black paint.

    • silver Harloe says:

      Perhaps that WE have, but I would think that in an apocalypse, the rail lines would eventually be harvested for their valuable metals (heck, even the railroad ties are pretty useful as regularly sized wood blocks)

      maybe not in the first couple years, but probably by 200 years later. though FO3 seems to ignore the ’200 years’ part pretty extremely.

      • Ciennas says:

        Yeah. Unless there was a deathclaw nest in there until recently.

        The 200 years thing bugs me, too. The Enclave are the only innovators out there, it seems. Why hasn’t this world gotten back on its feet and blown well past the Old World?

        The first century, I can give them some slack. Two centuries is just pushing well past the entitled card.

        Honestly, any apocalypse that doesn’t outright kill everything should be little more than a footnote within thirty years.

        (The answer is of course, but then we wouldn’t have anywhere to play around, to which I say fie! The megaman series always has a point in its history where they can plunk you down for some adventure.)

        Zombies, nanite plague, return of magical super bears, whatever. If it hasn’t killed you, we should be reasonably back on our feet within a generation.

        • Klay F. says:

          I think you give humankind too much credit.

          Its funny that you mention the Enclave, because even they have somehow regressed technologically since FO2. They somehow lost the specs to the original Mark 2 power armor, and had to make do with the rusty pieces of crap we see in Fallout 3.

          • Keeshhound says:

            I’d say you’re not giving us nearly enough credit

            The Bubonic plague killed almost 3/4ths of Europe, and not only did people manage to pick up the pieces almost immediately after it ended, the massive reduction in population was a contributing factor to kick-starting the Renaissance.

            Humans are like cockroaches; we like sugary foods and scatter when the lights are turned on.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              And even if we look just the games themselves,and not the real world,look how much the humans managed to do in fallouts 1 and 2.Making whole cities from scratch,inventing new tech and drugs.The 200 year thing was just stupid.

              • That’s ultimately the problem. If this game was completely divorced from the previous two Fallout games (and NV later on), then a case could be made for no progress in 200 years.

                However, we see that this is simply NOT the case. Even Fallout 1, where it was only 80 or so years after the bombing, California had advanced quite a bit technologically was in the throws of rebuilding, which accelerated in the interim b/t Fallout 1 and Fallout 2.
                And while that was going on, apparently all the talented individuals from the East Coast were dithering about.

            • Klay F. says:

              The only difference is that hardly any actual KNOWLEDGE was lost during the Black Death. Its heaviest cost was in human lives. Compare to, say, the library fire at Alexandria.

              • Keeshhound says:

                The library’s still there. It’s not even difficult to get there, and it’s easy enough to sweet talk the brotherhood meatheads there into letting you copy the entire library archives. Literally the only thing stalling recovery in the Capitol Wasteland is that it’s inhabitants are lazy. And suicidally belligerent.

                • wheals says:

                  Are you talking about the Library at Alexandria and the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Library of Congress and the Brotherhood of Steel?

                  Probably the latter but your comment was so wonderfully ambiguous…

            • The Black Death also wasn’t a weapon of war. You didn’t have loads of bombs, guns, and explosives lying around, nor did you have a lot of people who decided to then don bonnets and run around blowing everything up.

  10. Jokerman says:

    Did anyone hear the Karma dispenser bite it when Josh fast traveled to the bridge? I wonder what killed him….

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