Fallout 3 EP23: It’s the End of the World as We Know It…

 By Shamus Mar 18, 2013 125 comments

OH MY GOSH. This final briefing goes on forever. Almost seven and a half minutes of the player being rooted in place, listening to NPC’s talk to each other. And then when it gives you a bit of dialog, it’s insultingly simple, railroad-y, and inconsequential.


Link (YouTube)

Co. Autumn is fighting to turn the purifier on, even though there’s nothing in it for the Enclave. The capital wasteland has no valuable resources and nothing the Enclave could possibly want. Even if the Enclave wants to control the populace, they already have the power to do so by simply pointing their guns at people. Even if their guns aren’t enough, the purifier doesn’t help them control people since it spews out free water for everyone. And even if the Enclave worked out how to keep all the water to themselves, it wouldn’t help control people because people seem to be doing well enough with the water they’ve got.

The Brotherhood is trying to stop this, even though letting Autumn succeed would just give everybody free water. They’re doing it in a hurry because… ? Because they want you to be the one to push the button to turn the machine on?

President Evil wants you to put MacGuffin juice in the water purifier when you turn it on, because it will kill basically every single person and he wants them all dead for no reason. You have no reason to go along with this, since you would ALSO die from the MacGuffin juice.

The purifier is irradiated to the point where it will kill anyone who tries to use the controls, but apparently that doesn’t stop it from removing radiation from the water anyway. However, someone needs to push the button. So even thought EVERYONE is fighting to push the button, the duty falls to you anyway, even though it will kill you. And Fawkes won’t push the button for you, even though you freed him from an eternal maddening prison and he owes you basically everything and he could save your life at no cost or risk to himself and he’s supposedly a good guy.

It doesn’t matter, because after the battle (assuming you have Broken Steel) you awaken from your fatal irradiation after… sleeping it off?

The MacGuffin juice didn’t matter because it just seems to make people sick, which means they probably wouldn’t drink it and the wasteland would simply stay as it was before. Meaning going with President Evil’s plan is basically a way to render your entire struggle pointless.

Every single faction or major actor in the game – Brotherhood, Dad, Enclave, Lone Wanderer, Regulators, Supermutants, Talon Company, Tenpenny, and Vault 101 – ALL are fundamentally broken. They either have no goals, or their goals make no sense, or their actions run counter to the goals. I’m pretty sure this is the worst game plot I’ve ever played. Everything is wrong. Nothing in the story works. Nothing in the setting works.

Fallout 3 fails as a story. It fails to match to tone of dark comedy of the original. It fails to remain true to the given setting and fails whenever it tries to expand on it. Even if you’re ignoring the previous continuity, it still fails as a self-contained setting. It fails to properly convey its theme of “sacrifice”. Its morality system is sideways and broken, even by the standards of videogame morality systems. It fails artistically and visually, giving us a monotonous wall of grey-green rubble to stare at for hour after hour. It fails mechanically, giving us a broken leveling system, unbalanced weapons, a borked economy, and a small number of useful perks in a sea of useless ones. It fails as software, giving us a bug-riddled mess of glitches. It fails as a product, giving us Games for Windows Live on top of Steam.

I know sandbox games are hard to make, but damn if this isn’t a complete mess. Some games I grow to love after repeated exposure. But every time I’ve experienced Fallout 3 I’ve come to hate it more.

Still, I guess it was fun scavenging in the subway tunnels. So the game has that going for it.


A Hundred!205There are 125 comments here. I really hope you like reading.


  1. Knut says:

    And still not a single negative review according to metacritic. I feel the game reviewing system is more and more broken.

    • JPH says:

      Or that a lot of us really liked the game.

      • Knut says:

        I enjoyed the game as well, but I feel it’s strange that it’s so universally praised given that the story is so weak, and the story is quite important for this kind of game.

        • Trix2000 says:

          I’d argue it actually isn’t that important for a game like this, but probably should be if we want the best experience.

        • Jake says:

          I’d agree with you, but only for the main storyline.

          Being able to wander into various vignettes is what made this game for me – the skeleton in the bathtub with the toaster, the comic book hero and villain, the room full of plungers – the entire sense of discovery.

          This is not a game to be played for the main story. It’s the discovery of these other stories that really drive the player’s interest.

          If you want to narrow your field of vision to only the main story path, sure, this game sucks. But if you broaden your perception to look at the entire world full of things to discover, you will be amazed at how rich and detailed it can be.

          • Sleeping Dragon says:

            And this, to me, is the second great failing of the story (the first being its outright stupidity): the side content and the main storyline do not compliment each other very well. The balance is obviously shifted in favour of those self-contained episodes of whatever ideas the writers felt were cool, and it sort of works because even if you don’t like a particular idea very much it is episodic enough that you are done with it pretty quickly and can move on, at the same time the main plot tries to push for this tearful story of sacrifice and hope in the shadow of a bible quote.

            So on the one hand the resources that could have gone into stuff like fleshing out the Enclave or setting up how serious the whole water thing is went into stuff like Republic of Dave or the AntAgonizer and the Mechanist. On the other hand the attempts to set up a serious tone in the main quest undermine a world with stuff like people blowing up towns because they spoil their view.

        • Conversely, it’s strange that people think story is quite important to this kind of game, considering how universally praised it was.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        Impossible. I mean, Shamus said at the end of his diatribe, that this game fails on all levels. So how could anyone possibly like it? Surely you are talking nonsense…

        (Or, it’s just that I think it doesn’t fail as a self-contained setting, it doesn’t fail mechanically, it doesn’t fail artistically, it doesn’t exclusively have a theme of ‘sacrifice’.)

        • Shamus says:

          Both of you seem to be operating under the assumption that just because you liked something it wasn’t broken. Or that fixing it would spoil the game for you. Do you hate stories that have some basic coherence? Would the game be ruined if the weapon classes were roughly in the same ballpark, performance-wise?

          Of course not. Being able to enjoy something in spite of its flaws does not mean it doesn’t have flaws. It’s fine that you enjoyed the game. I did too, or parts of it. But that doesn’t change the fact that these problems existed.

          And by “fails on all levels” I mean “every level of the game has some kind of problem” not “nothing in the game is good”. I think this is a pretty reasonable position.

          • Adam says:

            I think saying “every aspect of this game is fundamentally flawed” would have been better, then. As written it sounds like you’re trashing the whole game. (A worthy sentiment, I admit.) For my part, I got to Vault 87 having mostly bought into the game’s main story. I mostly ignored Mr Burke so that early bit of cartoonish villainy passed me by, so the first time the game REALLY got on my nerves was Lamplight. I hoped the later sections would get back to the more serious tone I had been expecting (this being my first experience with the franchise, I had no idea the Fallout series was supposed to be funny, and Little Lamplight struck me as wrong-headed in a game that was all about Serious Business like Noble Sacrifice For The Good of All) When I ended up captured in a cutscene, I got frustrated and dropped the game for a while. And then I saw your site was doing an LP, and I never looked back…

          • JPH says:

            I do not have the attitude that a game does not have flaws if I enjoyed it. I’ve never had that attitude. I was specifically contesting Knut’s idea that the fact that the game got positive reviews means that the review system is broken.

    • Tvtim says:

      that or all the reviewers ignored the story and only went with the gameplay and side-mission aspects of it.

    • Despite what I and many other of TS often say, story isn’t always the biggest thing in a game. This is especially so in a Bethesda game. So while I agree that the story is shit, the story isn’t why I bought Fallout 3 in the first place.

      I bought it for the sandbox gameplay. As a result, I enjoyed it much more than Shamus and co. did. Then I bought New Vegas and enjoyed it even more, albeit for different reasons. (It’s was one of the first games I played aside from Alpha Protocol where I had the option to screw everyone over.)

      Then I got Fallout 1 free off GoG, leading me to purchase Fallout 2 later. You guys might not have liked the game, but it honestly is the reason I took the chance and enjoyed the Fallout franchise.

      • mixmastermind says:

        But shouldn’t RPGs have good stories, more so than other genres?

        • krellen says:

          Games with stories should have good stories, irrespective of genre. Presenting a story as flawed and broken as the one represented in Fallout 3 is worse than no story at all – it’s a waste of the developer’s time and money, and the player’s time (and sometimes money). If you can’t be arsed to take the time to make a coherent story (it doesn’t have to be particularly well-crafted or beautiful – Saint’s Row the Third (or even Saint’s Row 2) proves that trash is perfectly acceptable – but basic coherence should be a fundamental requirement) why should players be arsed to play it (or buy it)?

          RPGs don’t necessarily need to have stories, and Fallout 3 may have been an infinitely better game had they simply removed the story and presented it as nothing but a sandbox world with vignettes to explore.

          • AEG says:

            And it’s not like there aren’t plenty of amazing, cheap writers out there who can modularize a great story in terms of character progression and beats, adjusting it to development like Amy Hennig or Chris Avellone. But there aren’t a lot of opportunities for writers to cut their teeth in the field and get noticed (aside from self-publishing games), and companies are rightly nervous about putting something that can affect player experience as much as story in the hands of an inexperienced writing crew. So… then this happens.

            On the other hand, I would love to see a writing jam of people, in one afternoon, sitting down with a not-so-loved MMO and cranking a set of Rashomon style subquests around a particular event, or a mystery story in which the truth is revealed only when the separate players put what they’ve learned together after a series of subquests. Screw around and distort the medium to find what works – we aren’t putting the R&D into stories and writing in games like we are for the graphics, A.I., toolsets, etc.

            • Ofermod says:

              Yeah, there’s really no such thing as an entry level/internship for creative writing. Actually, that’s pretty true for most kinds of writing these days.

    • bloodsquirrel says:

      Fallout 3, like all Bethesda games before Skyrim, was fun despite being largely broken (Skyrim is actually functional and logical on some levels, breaking the trend).

      Oblivion was the same way. I put a lot of time into the game, but I don’t think that there’s a single aspect of it that wasn’t screwed up in some way. I’ll actually go on record as saying that its story is even worse than Fallout 3′s. It wasn’t as stupid an illogical, but it was incredibly unengaging, centered mostly around a dumb NPC who I didn’t like or care about, and ended with him doing something with an amulet or something that saved the day.

      • Ciennas says:

        Worse than that, really.

        You literally had to haul ass all over creation, were THE driving force behind the Blades efforts to secure anything, singlehandedly brought down a crazy cult of destruction, all alone you avenge the Emporer’s murder, etc, etc.

        Nothing happened in the plot unless you stepped up for it.

        And then Martin comes along and in five minutes outshines everybody else, and you’re left static clinged to the floor.

        It was a lot like that scene in Galaxy Quest.

        That was the big issue for me. Dude, where’s my respect, with a hint of did you really need me here to see your awesome NPC triumph over the awesome bad guy?

        Even better, they acknowledge that nobody remembers the Champion of Cyrodil in Skyrim. Totally worth sinking money into, in retrospect.

        • Jeff says:

          Which scene in Galaxy Quest? I rather liked that movie.

          • Maybe just the premise of “We need you to save us all!”? But yeah, I’m not following the reference either.

            • Ciennas says:

              Huh? Oh, sorry. It just felt like saying which scene was clunky and unwieldy, so I removed it.

              The one towards the end, where Alan Rickman’s character saves the Thermian Crew from being vented into space- and they thank Tim Allen for it.

              I felt similar to Rickman, is all.

              “He saved us! Martin Septim has saaaved us!”
              “Ahem.”
              “Oh, and that other guy. Long may he be remembered as that guy who was closest to the cool thing when it happened.”
              “Son of a…”

              If it would have been acknowledged by the base game after you finish, Knights of the Nine would have been an appropriate step in the right direction as recompense.

  2. Lord Nyax says:

    Every time you post a rant about the main story it just makes me glad that I never finished it. The farthest I ever got was finding Dad and setting him up at the Jefferson Memorial. I’ll just leave him there, and pretend that he’s working on productive things.

    I always had fun playing the game as a sandbox. The little missions can be fun, and exploring is always a blast, I love finding little things I’ve never noticed before. I loved it when I found the Lovecraftian little not-quest down at the Dunwich Building. It just flowed naturally because it was, well, not a quest. I really enjoyed Fallout 3, and I think it was because I ignored the main quest. Heck, I even liked Little Lamplight. You know why? Because I chose to go there on my own, instead of being forced to go there. Because I just stumbled across it without knowing. It was a neat little surprise! Look, a society of kids living in an underground theme park! How fun! Because I didn’t have to be there I never bothered to start nitpicking because, hey, if I didn’t like it I could leave, right?

    They could have saved themselves a lot of time if they just didn’t make the main quest and made ten little stumble-upon quests instead.

    • Trix2000 says:

      Personally I like the idea of a main quest because it can give the game direction and progression. Without it things are almost too open, at least from my viewpoint (obv everyone will have their own preferences there).

      Fallout 3 really didn’t deliver on this much though. It kinda made for some forward movement in terms of where to go next, but beyond that I really had no attachment to it. Main quests were my excuse to decide where I needed to travel next, and little more.

      Ultimately it’s probably why I like New Vegas a heck of a lot more – the story both had direction and made some sense. I actually felt like it was meaningful to do, rather than to exploit as a tool to finding other things to do.

      • wheals says:

        Of course, that’s why Shamus said he like to pretend Moira’s Wasteland Guide is the ACTUAL main quest.

        I guess a game were you have to pretend the main quest doesn’t exist has some serious writing problems, though.

  3. Amstrad says:

    I managed to enjoy this game when I first played it, but it was primarily via ignoring the plot and just exploring everything. I have a feeling I largely just shut my brain off and wandered around discovering locations and experiencing each one to its fullest before moving to the next. I did eventually complete the main plotline, but that was /after/ I’d completely explored the map.

    I haven’t gone back to the the game since.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    And yet,despite all of that,it succeeded both critically and financially.Plus,it gave way for new vegas,so it succeeds as a starting point for that as well.

    • Trix2000 says:

      To be fair, the game was fun in terms of gameplay which I imagine is what most people focused on anyways.

      • Indeed. The sidequests were fun, seeing the ruins of Washington was cool, making the cars explode (sometimes on purpose) on that clogged highway was a good time, etc.

        I’ll admit that I haven’t replayed F3 nearly as much as New Vegas, mostly because I’ve seen everything, which was most of F3′s appeal: To go and gander at this post-apocalyptic area and see the dark stuff (i.e. the robot that tells a poem from a classic sci-fi short story to the beds of long-dead children) and what’s left of the vaults.

        Given the flaws of the story, the fact that it’s still fun to play speaks volumes of the talents that were involved.

  5. “So even thought EVERYONE is fighting to push the button, the duty falls to you anyway, even though it will kill you.”

    Remove that last “t”.

    Also, I will note than if the player drinks enough of the tainted water, he will die. You can even witness many other people die when they drink.

  6. Primogenitor says:

    If I remember correctly, President Evil’s MacGuffin juice (great name BTW – coming to a store near you soon!) only killed ghouls & super-mutants? So the choice is free water for all vs free water for humans & death for everyone else. That could just be my memory retconning in some sanity – I agree it is a stupid, poorly written, badly designed plot overall.

    • McNutcase says:

      You don’t remember correctly. If you don’t put the MacGuffin Juice in, you have more access to (essentially) Purified Water; if you DO, you get water which will kill you. According to the wiki, four bottles of the stuff doped with MacGuffin Juice is fatal to a player character.

    • Incunabulum says:

      Its inteded to kill mutants and since basically *everyone* in the wasteland has been affected by radiation they are all effectively mutants.

      • That’s totally in line with the Enclave in Fallout 2. Those guys treat anyone who isn’t a pure-bred human (as in, someone who has lived in the wastes and been somewhat mutate by just living in that wasteland) as a threat to them.

        • krellen says:

          Though given the ending of Fallout 2, the mere existence of the Enclave any time after it doesn’t make much sense.

          • Grudgeal says:

            The New Vegas cameo kind of made sense… If we ignore the secret underground lair. I always wondered how they built that given they’d pretty much outright stated to have stayed on that oil rig until the events of Fallout 2. Maybe if it had been a re-purposed pre-war/brotherhood bunker.

            • Jeff says:

              They had forward bases to support their fleet of vertibirds. That’s pretty much what Navarro was. This one was on a smaller scale, just seems to be a concealed maintenance/refueling hanger really.

  7. Wolverine says:

    On the subject of perks, why doesn’t Josh take Bloody Mess?

  8. Incunabulum says:

    “I know sandbox games are hard to make, but damn if this isn’t a complete mess. Some games I grow to love after repeated exposure. But every time I’ve experienced Fallout 3 I’ve come to hate it more.”

    Now, now go play New Vegas.

  9. Taellosse says:

    And yet, didn’t you say at one point that you sank something on the order of 100 hours into this game?

    I’m not arguing with your statement that you dislike the game now, or even that the plot and characters are badly written. I just find it interesting that the game apparently compelled you to keep playing, despite all this stuff driving you crazy.

    • Hargrimm says:

      Like Shamus, I’ve also sunk a substantial amount of hours into it, despite the numerous flaws.
      The reason for that, in my mind, is that the game is very good at one particular thing: creating a Skinner Box.
      The game panders to our natural hoarding instinct through it’s inventory, repair system and economy. The more junk you collect (no matter what it is, since everything has a value), the more money/stims/ammo you can acquire and the more likely you are to succeed.
      Everytime you kill an enemy/hack a terminal/pick a lock etc. a meter pops up showing you how close you are to your next level and how much closer you just got. Level ups are fairly frequent and offer, at least in terms of numbers, substantial rewards, even if they don’t have much of an impact on the game at all.
      Every location you visit, no matter how far away, how unlikely or nonsensical it is, will offer rewards in loot, money or experience (mostly in the form of enemies), guaranteeing that aimless wandering and our natural curiosity is always rewarded in some capacity.
      While the levels you can gain are capped, the amount of money, ammo, stims and other useful items items is not, because they are weightless. This ensures that even after you hit the level cap, dungeon crawling continues to be rewarded with numbers going up.
      It’s essentially a singleplayer korean MMO.

  10. Sciencegar says:

    ….I never had to use GfWL on my Steam copy of FO3. Heck, after I found the launcher .exe in the data folder and made a shortcut to it, I didn’t have to use Steam either. Most of my first playthrough was done during a period where I had bad net and couldn’t connect to Steam. Then I installed Fallout Mod Manager, which is a non-DRM launcher that lets me handle all my mods for my second playthrough easily.

    I haven’t installed GfWL on my PC and I haven’t had any trouble, although it’s kinda annoying that I can’t do anything with these copies of Arkham Asylum and Iron Brigade people gifted to me.

    • Yeah, this has been covered before. You don’t need GFWL to play Fallout: GOTY on Steam. From this forum thread:

      GFWL does not manage all Fallout 3 saves (this is a myth I keep seeing pop up in threads). If GFWL is enabled (and logged in) then it will ride on top of Fallout 3′s save system and redirect it to look in My Documents/My Games/Fallout 3/Saves/[GFWL Profile Name].

      Save games are not stored online. GFWL is not needed in order to play Fallout 3 or save games. (I play with it disabled to use more advanced mods).

      Since the OP is now running Fallout 3 w/ GFWL installed and (apparently) logging in, the save games need to be copied from the default save location to the location that GFWL expects them to be [in other words, they have to be copied from My Documents/My Games/Fallout 3/Saves to My Documents/My Games/Fallout 3/Saves/[GFWL Profile Name]]

      So GFWL is no longer an issue with Fallout 3, unless the GFWL game is the one you bought. And if that’s really annoying you, F3 and all the DLC are regularly on sale on Steam for under ten bucks.

    • Scampi says:

      Actually, I ONLY used GfWL (offline only) since I don’t use Steam. Thought, if I use a MS Product anyways in Windows, I guess, they wouldn’t have trouble snooping around my HD one way or another. I wish more games came with the choice between GfWL or Steam, so I might have a little more choice of games to play.

      w/e: Point is: I use no Steam, only GfW, so apparently it’s not required to run both, and I never even needed to register FO3, so I feel very positive about GfWL now.

      • modus0 says:

        As Scampi said; you don’t need Steam for Fallout 3. I got the GOTY physical copy and it only requires GFWL, and then only for tracking achievements.

        Also, there’s a trivial-to-install mod that removes the GFWL entirely.

        Though I kind of wonder, am I one of those uniquely blessed people who haven’t had any major problems with GFWL? The only issues I can think of were the inability to fully download and install a free arcade game, and it pitching a fit over Gears of War having had a file authorization (stupidly) expired.

        Fable 3, Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Fuel, all using both Steam and GFWL, and the only issues I have are results of the game engine itself, not either Steam or GFWL.

        And as buggy as Fallout 3 may have been, New Vegas is much, much worse for me.

        • I found New Vegas less buggy than F3, but I think that might have more to do with when one plays these games. It’s a sad fact that games are being released before they’re fully tested, and the bugs take a while to patch. That said, the only F3 bug I ran into was in Big Town when I chose to repair some robots, and the robots weren’t there.

        • Scampi says:

          Wait…Arkham Asylum required Steam? Damn, I didn’t know…I wonder, if THAT was the reason it destroyed my HD-which I subsequently was forced to replace…and I really mean it. If so, I’m not sure if I shouldn’t hate Steam even more than I already do…

          Sorry for off topic btw, but that one I have to know, since I couldn’t find any signs of that on the packaging. ;)

          • Hold up. You’re saying a game destroyed your hard drive?

            I’ll bite: How?

          • Jeff says:

            Arkham Asylum was not a Steamworks game.

          • Sciencegar says:

            No, Arkham Asylum requires Games for Windows Live, which is just extra hassle I don’t want to deal with when I have so many other games to try. I’d wager that GfWL might be the source of your problems, given the general opinion of people on it.

            I’ve never had a problem with Steam except for the way offline mode requires setup. I really like Steam and use it happily as my main source of games. I don’t see how you could dislike it, but then, I have heard of people having issues with it and having things go horribly. But that to me feels like hearing about something bad happening in another country, something that sounds bad but I can’t imagine happening to me.

            • Scampi says:

              To answer the question about how: I don’t know, but I was able to reproduce the problems it would cause:
              after first installing it on my previous system configuration I was no longer able to rely on it. First I thought it might have been the gpu, since the monitor randomly turned to a single solid color(often) and highly graphics intensive games would cause stuttering crashes. I replaced my gpu and nothing changed. I suspected it might be the screen, but nothing happened. When I completely reinstalled my system, the problems would stop. For MONTHS. I thought it had been a software conflict of a kind, so I later tried reinstalling AA. With the same results: the whitescreens reappeared, the system would suddenly freeze, even in the middle of writing MS Word documents. So it was not the graphics (replaced it again…to find out-good thing about it: 2nd GPU came free of charge…). Some time later I found out AA seemingly caused some strange problems which apparently physically damaged the HD (I seriously don’t have ANY idea HOW it could do that) which I then also had to exchange, since it was not able to support any OS installation afterwards, being impossible to be formatted. Ever since installing a new HD and NOT AA, it’s running formidably again.
              I want to emphasize that I have no clue what exactly happened there, but I suppose it had to do with the faulty installation and some of the additional software AA wants to install without telling me, what it is.

              The problems are, as I know, not GfWL based, since I use it for FO3 with ‘great success’ (which means: ‘it gives me no trouble and works properly’). AA was in both cases the 2nd game using GfWL, and in both cases the game causing the problems. It also would always interrupt during the installation process(as mentioned before), not finish and need lots of manual fussing to be able to run it afterwards. When I installed AA for the 1st time (ever) I was able playing it for about 30min, when it suddenly crashed and would never again run for more than 1 minute (intro vid) before crashing the system. Deinstallation also was highly error prone.
              Facts: the problems were caused by AA, not by GfWL; they caused the HD to somehow attain critical damage which was enough to make it all around useless.

              Oh, and Jeff? There is ONE pro: I use a MS OS anyways-so if anyone wants to snoop around my system, it might as well be the guys who created it. If they wanted to do that, they might as well have hidden it inside some OS updates, and why wouldn’t they?
              I’m very old fashioned about this stuff, as you may see: I buy physical copies of games which I may still be able to play after the company who created it leaves the building. No offense to any of you guys, but I wish the industry just left me the choice of not connecting to the servers/fussing with additional software.

          • modus0 says:

            If you buy it through Steam it does, they even recently added Steam achievements (though they don’t seem to be obtainable at the moment).

        • Jeff says:

          Nobody likes these programs that run in addition to the things we want to run (our games).

          We like Steam because it gives us cheap stuff. GFWL does not, so there is no “pro” to offset the “con” of its very existence.

    • Aezart says:

      Yeah, I have what I think is a launch day disc version of the game, and it never had GFWL or Steam functionality. Then one day my friend was playing it and he decided to update it so he could install mods without asking me, and suddenly it had GFWL.

    • Klay F. says:

      I only have the GOTY version on a disc. When I installed the game, GfWL installed automatically, I had no say. I only found out how to divorce GfWL from the game itself after trawling the Steam forums at random one day.

  11. Okay how about this. The “Water Purifier” is actually a secret weapon. It turns ordinary “polluted water” into pure weapons grade plutonium through the use of intense neutron bombardment. That is why everyone wants to control it. That is why it’s so radioactive.
    They just feed the PC the line about pure water to get him to go along with it because they know he’s a madman and a sociopath.
    There you go! Makes much more sense now! Let me know if you need any other plot-lines ret-conned into submission. I’ll be around.

    On a completely different note “30 comments. (A twenty-sided die has 30 edges.)” is true, but a 12 sided die has 30 edges as well. I guess “twelve sided tale” doesn’t scan very well. But “tale of twelve sides” works well, and has literary overtones as well!

  12. DGM says:

    >> “Still, I guess it was fun scavenging in the subway tunnels. So the game has that going for it.”

    I read that, and for some reason I had the sudden image of you singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” while nailed to a cross.

    Thanks for suffering for our enjoyment, I guess. :)

  13. Thomas says:

    Now that is a good rant. From now on whenever I see a FO3 vs New Vegas thread, I’m going to just link people here

    • JPH says:

      Do you really think anyone is going to read this and say, “Oh shit, I guess I was wrong to like Fallout 3 more than New Vegas!”?

      Fallout 3 vs New Vegas threads are stupid anyway. X vs Y threads in general are stupid. All I can say is, “Yeah, it is reasonable for you to dislike Y for those reasons, but I liked it.”

      In fact: Shamus, it’s reasonable for you to dislike Fallout 3 for those reasons, but I had a lot of fun with it. More fun than I had with New Vegas, in fact.

      And no, I would rather not fight about it.

      • Keeshhound says:

        If you’d rather not fight about it then don’t comment on it in the first place. You don’t have to try to get the last word in on everything, and even if you do it doesn’t make you more “right.” It just makes you look like an ass.

        • Thomas says:

          That’s a bit harsh, besides it is reasonable for him to dislike X vs Y threads for those reasons but I like them :p

          • Keeshhound says:

            It’s also unfair to accuse NewDarkCloud of trying to persuade people to one view or another when all the article he linked was doing was examining the creative philosophies behind Fallout 3 and New Vegas. No judgement as to which was superior was made, and the accusation that he had done so rankled me more than a bit. That having been said, I agree that my response was unnecessarily harsh, so I do want to apologize for that.

            JPH, I overreacted to your response and I apologize for doing so, and for calling you an ass. It was uncalled for.

            • JPH says:

              I wasn’t talking about Newdarkcloud’s article. I hadn’t even seen his comment yet. He beat me to the first reply, but I didn’t see his until after I posted mine.

              Apology accepted. Sorry if I was being overly abrasive.

        • JPH says:

          I wasn’t trying to get “the last word,” I was expressing the fact that I don’t want to start a flamewar. I take issue with the idea that a rant like Shamus’s can be posted in a thread as an end-all “this game is better than that because this guy said so.” If that makes me an ass, so be it.

  14. Decius says:

    >Does radiation even work that way?

    Nope. Not even remotely like any of the radiation mechanics used here, although the treatment of radiation is equally as realistic as the treatment of broken bones; inject some chemicals or take a nap, and your leg is fine.

    • JPH says:

      But this is sci-fi! Which means you can have magical bone-healing and radiation-removing chemical injector doohickeymajiggers. Because science.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        Sci-fi like that does make me a bit sad, though… I mean, in the sense that it’s not actually explained beyond “lol science craycray”. Though I guess hard SF is better expressed in books, not games/movies.

    • This is “Gamma World” radiation, which is basically magic with a bent on mutating things.

      And I mean first edition Gamma World, which was a lot like Fallout, as opposed to later editions which shoe-horned just about every possible sci-fi trope into the thing to try and cover for the fact that radiation doesn’t result in two-headed psionic talking animals in real life. I can’t speak to the mechanics, because they’d already uncoupled the fun from the game for me.

  15. Brainbosh says:

    I was actually able to get Fawkes to turn on the purifier for me.
    “Cool, I can get this Super Mutant who is IMMUNE TO RADIATION to turn this on so NO ONE DIES turning on this machine.”
    Silly me, of course. NOT being a martyr for this insane plan meant that I was a coward. I was insulted on the final monologue, with the same dialogue as if I had sent someone NOT IMMUNE TO RADIATION.

    Yeah, the only way to enjoy this game is to ignore the main questline, almost everything else is gold.

  16. Thomas says:

    This ending is so hilarious it stands by itself even if it didn’t have commentary.

    Quick we have to stop them turning on the water purifier! has taken over from ‘Quick we need to find a library!’ in The Da Vinci Code for my favourite forced conflcit

  17. Orophor says:

    Galaxy News Radio was the only part of Fallout 3 I liked better than New Vegas.

    • Hitchmeister says:

      I’ll take Mr. New Vegas over Three Dog any day. And not just because Mr. New Vegas never sent me on a dangerous quest by lying to me about the reward he was offering.

    • Jeff says:

      Three Dog was your creepy stalker “uncle” who paid way too much attention to what you were doing.

      I like how Borderlands 2 lampshades that sort of stalking.

      “Hey, side question, is it weird when I notice the moment you pick something up? Did you know I can see you in the bathroom? Wait, was that weird? I meant it like a spying on you in the bathroom out of friendship thing.”

  18. Humanoid says:

    While I don’t dispute the stupidity of the game’s plot, it’s only something I can dislike the game for in hindsight via viewings of Spoiler Warning – I had quit the game long before encountering the bulk of it.

    Ironically perhaps, it may have been Shamus’ beloved subway tunnels which drove me off. I think the last thing I did in the game was begin the vampires quest, wandering the tunnels. I didn’t even find them, the tedium of crawling through monster-infested tunnels just to get from point A to point B had me put the game down for good. In all I don’t think I even notched up double digit hours into it (no verification since I played a non-Steam version), whereas I’m well into the triple digits in New Vegas.

    To be fair though, I’ve been an anti-dungeon player dating all the way back to the first CRPGs I’d played, some two decades ago. I’m not claustrophobic or anything like that, but there’s just nothing I find fun in dungeon crawling. Either I get by them as quickly as possible, often with the assistance of a walkthrough, or I avoid them altogether.

  19. microwaviblerabbit says:

    What bothered me about the purifier is that it dumps all the water into the river/purifies it. This is weird, water purification generally purifies water from a reservoir, and then sends it into sterile containers. The purifier doesn’t do this. In broken steel the brotherhood complains about this, how they have to fill bottles by hand using the river. It seems like something the scientists should have considered, how to actually distribute the water.

    Watching this, I am happy New Vegas didn’t do this. The final battle is player led, no matter which faction you choose. You get to be Liberty Prime, instead of just following him, plus you get to see the results of your efforts, with the Khans, Boomers, and Enclave all showing up. Plus if you help the Legion make their howitzer operation, they actually use it as they planned, killing the NCR snipers to make the attack easier. Everything comes together, and the Dam makes sense as something to fight over.

  20. StashAugustine says:

    The last battle was a complete letdown, the only good part was one-hitting Autumn with Lincoln’s Repeater right after he finished his evil speech. This kind of ties into my biggest problem with FO3- everyone defends it as “the gameplay was good.” Problem is, the leveling system is broken, the shooting is unsatisfying, the weapon choice limited, and any bleak, post-apocalyptic atmosphere goes out the window by the time you’re running around in power armor and a minigun. I didn’t even like the gameplay, so there’s really nothing for me here.

    • krellen says:

      When people say “gameplay”, they mean “exploring the world, seeing the sights and finding neat little locations”. They don’t mean shooting things and levelling.

      • Trix2000 says:

        Personally I liked the shooting… for a while at least. Certainly it got a bit old since I didn’t have much incentive to change weapons later on.

        But ultimately I think it was the focus on exploration that eventually made me stop – I do like seeing and exploring new ground, but I’m very bad at deciding what to do/where to go given little or no direction. Once caps and exp lost their big draw, I couldn’t find it in myself to spend time looking for more.

      • Jeff says:

        The thing is, “exploring the world, seeing the sights and finding neat little locations” is basically “exploring”. Gameplay consists not just of exploration but also player progression and combat.

        Personally, I liked the gameplay, but the story eventually drove me off. I have literally everything in FO3 done other than the main story, where I was supposed to go past Little Lamplight.

        • Responding to this whole comment-chain (not just you Jeff):
          If we want to have helpful discussions, recalling that none of us are the representative-of all-things is a great place to start.

          We may be running into the “speak for yourself” cliff here. We (as a community) can’t even agree on what a game is, let alone what “gameplay” means. Without that understanding, it’s very difficult to discuss merits, criteria, etc.

          In general, terms under debate are difficult to discuss. So (for now at least) it would be helpful to phrase it as “When I say gameplay” instead of “When people say gameplay”. Keith Bergun may be an elitist, but at least he clarifies he’s defining a personal nomenclature, not representing the universal semantic rubric.

      • Adam says:

        I’m having a hard time reconciling that, because ludically (Campster is rubbing off on me) the game has four primary ways to interact with its world: talking, shooting, exploring/looting, (I count them as one element because they both lead into/follow from one of the three others) and crafting.

        We’ve gone into detail on why the first one doesn’t work, the crafting system is almost superfluous except as a way to get more loot, the shooting is anemic and the guns seem to lack impact in a way I can’t articulate; the people who like this game must then lean entirely on the third branch of this game’s interface, or else have lower standards for the other three.

        The gameplay of these titles is a hard thing to pin down.

        Compare this to New Vegas, where the talking is much improved by most people’s consensus, the shooting is at least a little better, the looting is about the same (save how difficult it is to find a decent automatic rifle without DLC) the crafting is as a whole more integral, but the exploration is admittedly diminished.

        • Klay F. says:

          One of the things that pissed me off enough that I got a mod to fix it was the removal of the Chinese Assault Rifle. To this day I don’t understand why they removed it.

          • StashAugustine says:

            I think Sawyer posted something saying that its role was redundant given the other weapons in the game. I don’t remember what replaced it, though.

  21. Emperor Ervinmar says:

    The first time I beat this game I was much less jaded and it was the first RPG I’d ever played. I reached lvl 20 just before I left the Pentagon and had my radio on, so I got Three-Dog’s “Last, best hope for humanity” speech to go with the spectacle of Liberty Prime. It was maaaaaaagic.
    Conversely, I bought the original Fallout and the graphics were screwy and I couldn’t figure it out mechanically.

    • StashAugustine says:

      Fallout 1 had a lot of things going for it, but the mechanics aren’t very good. Only thing it had on RPG’s of the time was a wide variety of builds, and a lot of modern games have done better, the 3D Fallouts among them.

      • Klay F. says:

        What types of problems are you talking about? Its been awhile, but I don’t really remember any issues with the mechanics. Maybe my “oldschool gamer” is showing? My issues was always the interface, a common problem back then, now that I think about it. Every time I went back to it, the interface always seems to get worse.

        • Humanoid says:

          Few things that come to mind are:

          - Late game, the Damage Threshold/Damage Reduction system tended to turn into either attacks doing no damage or one-shotting you when it bypassed armour.

          - The relatively low granularity of action points (compared to say, X-COM or Jagged Alliance) had a part in enabling the infinite punch-and-run ‘kiting’ of melee-based foes. Could also argue that the relative strength of action points, and therefore agility, narrowed your options a fair bit: I think common advice is 8 AGI minimum to get the 9AP.

          - Sheer overpoweredness of the Gifted trait

          - Ian

          • Klay F. says:

            Ahh okay.

            -I always took the 2 ranks Toughness perk. I do remember being pretty much unkillable by anything other than Super Mutants, though I still don’t recall anything ever one shotting me. I take your word for it though, because I definitely remember Ian getting one shotted by said Mutants.

            -I never went with a melee build in the original, so I wouldn’t know anything about that. Again, I’ll take your word for it.

            -Huh, I’d always heard Gifted was almost worthless, that’s a big part of why I nearly always chose Skilled instead.

            -One thing I always did on subsequent playthroughs, now that I think about it, was get my gambling skill as high as possible, then when I got to the Hub, just gamble until I made an obscene amount of caps, then I went to the library and spent it all on skill books.

          • StashAugustine says:

            The three major problems: Skills and perks were badly unbalanced, it was not only obtuse about its objectives but then threw a time limit on top of it, and the combat was uninteresting- no cover or abilities, restricted movement, OP armor meaning you’re invincible until someone rolls an instant-death crit. (Still liked it because writing and atmosphere, but gameplay kinda sucked.)

          • Jeff says:

            FO2 had better mechanics than FO1, even if the story in FO1 was more interesting/fresh.

            Also in FO2 you don’t have “party members” unloading an SMG into your back, so there is that.

    • It’s often a very unforgiving game. A lot of older games are a bit starker when it comes to features, though often this is emphasized in the manuals which emphasized things you’d be best to look out for (for example, when playing Fallout 1 I thumbed through the instructions and was reminded of a box where you can type in words to see if an NPC had any info on the subject). I also had to look up how to properly enter VATS so I could target, as it’s less than intuitive after all this time, and using objects like flares wasn’t immediately apparent.

      Don’t get me wrong, this was amazing at the time, but it is almost becoming like reading Ye Olde Englishe if what you’ve played are mostly modern games that have had the benefit of years of development as a product.

      Though speaking of the original Fallout, there’s a kind of unofficial sequel to F1 and/or F2 called Mutants Rising, but it’s been in the works for years and I’m not sure how close to completion they are. The art assets look nice.

  22. Dragmire says:

    “Every single faction or major actor in the game – Brotherhood, Dad, Enclave, Lone Wanderer, Regulators, Supermutants, Talon Company, Tenpenny, and Vault 101 – ALL are fundamentally broken. They either have no goals, or their goals make no sense, or their actions run counter to the goals. I’m pretty sure this is the worst game plot I’ve ever played. Everything is wrong. Nothing in the story works. Nothing in the setting works. ”

    Kind of impressive, in a way…

    Well Shamus, I blame you for my dwindling wallet. First Deus Ex and now (The Original) Fallout *drink*. Haven’t played them yet due to college (currently trying to wrap my head around C++ inheritance) but I’m looking forward to them this summer.

  23. I did think of a reason to get the purifier back from the Enclave. As some notice who travel farther afield than this playthrough shows, the Enclave has this thing for trying to harness Deathclaws into some kind of slave/soldier.

    Given the way SCIENCE works in this universe, the Jefferson Memorial under Enclave control would eventually start spewing out water filled with Deathclaws.

  24. Klay F. says:

    Your bit in the video about not being the “main” character got me thinking. I also like videogame stories where you aren’t the center of the story, as it makes the setting more immersive, or coherent, or “pick your buzzword”. The problem comes when devs like Bethsoft (among others) either subject players to what feels like their own personal wank material, or treat the player as nothing more than an errand boy, Oblivion, Fallout 3, and Skyrim have both of those problems to differing degrees, and all three have to audacity to outright flaunt said problems right in the player’s face depending on the quests you do. The sandbox nature of these games only serves to further highlight these issues. As such you get blatant railroading in games specifically designed to grant freedom, and as a result you get freedom only of the most shallow sort.

    Compare this to any game to care to think of (regardless of genre) where you are also nothing but an errand boy/girl.

    That’s my two cents anyway.

    • Scampi says:

      That’s a point I tend to bring up to explain people, why I never have the feel of a real world in sandbox games. The feeling of having a quest of high importance, where nobody except the PC is even willing to lift their butt out of their armchair to do something makes me sick to my stomach. It’s as if the conversation went something like this: “You know: the fate of the world depends on accomplishing this specific task, and somebody has to do this right now. It’s REALLY REALLY urgent.”
      “Wow, that’s awful, since I’m totally the wrong kind of person to do that-see, this task requires a lot of knowledge of computers and hacking and, you see, I’m more of a muscle for hire. I can barehandedly fight off monsters the size of an oilrig but…”
      “No problem. You learn hacking and come back later.”
      “But you told me it’s urgent. Why don’t YOU do it instead? You have the required skills. You can accompany me. I can protect you, while you do the hacking.”
      “I think it’s not THAT important. We can wait until you’re ready and up to the task.”
      “But…”
      “Making toast!”
      What kind of asshole am I working for in that environment? It becomes worse, when I realize that every harmful event is directly linked to me trying to fulfil my BS destiny, huh…the programmer’s railroad plot. If I were not doing anything, there wouldn’t be a problem.
      I loved the old “the dark eye”-games (I don’t know whether any of them got translated for the US market), where you’d have to try and oppose an orcish invasion, which had a kind of “ingame time limit”, where you’d at a certain point during your investigation get to know your time to accomplish the main quest would be date x, and whether you were ready then or not: the invasion would start not earlier or later. I liked the feel it gave me to know that the world would not wait for me to finish task x but have a kind of a life of its own.
      Both FO3 and Oblivion suffered from this, where the world would wait for me to do all the work instead of saying: “If you spend too much time screwing around, the world will change significantly. Actually, you ARE important and your quest is REALLY urgent.”

      • Jeff says:

        Reminds me of how I run D&D games. I actually have a timeline of stuff happening in the background, and my overly-detailed overly-prepared campaigns always went over well with the gaming group.

        When they were off doing something, the other NPCs were doing their own thing. There was a multi-faction conspiracy/war that sprung and the players were able to intuitively know who was doing what simply because the NPCs were consistent in their behavior and had demonstrated agency. I considered that my greatest success. :)

        • Yeah, the FF games are really guilty of this crime as well. When anything is tied to a pre-scripted, inflexible story, you don’t have much choice. Chuck player agency in the bin folks, the story has arrived!

          And yes, running a living world that goes on with or without the players is awesome. So fun! I run my campaigns like this too, as does Tarol Hunt of Goblins fame. The players really need to prove themselves if they want to be the “hero” of the story. Ideally, they should be competing against other (NPC, fallible, non-sue) characters to fulfill goals and meet needs.

          Have you published your campaign anywhere? I’d like to hear how it went.

          • Klay F. says:

            Just look at Half Life 2 for an example of what I’m talking about. I mean, Gordon Freeman is nothing more than an errand boy, so he isn’t really the main character, but most of us are willing to overlook that. Sure, most of this is due to the linear nature of the game, (Linearity enables the game to be more focused on delivering a single experience, etc., etc.), but I’d like to think that it is also due to characters that don’t take advantage of their plot armor to aggravate you, along with the game giving the impression that the characters are actually doing things when you aren’t around.

            I don’t really have a point to all this, now that I think about it, I’m just rambling.

  25. Lovecrafter says:

    Episode 23: In which Josh finds a Heavy Incinerator, and future people clutch their chests for a brief moment.

  26. GrinOfMadness says:

    Considering how the story falls apart the closer you get to the ending, I’d like to think that everything after Megaton is just a result of dementia brought upon by incessant drug use, radiation, and the mind shattering fear that you would fall up into the sky without the Vault roof over your head (kind of like the Dragon Age dwarves).

  27. Giantevilhead says:

    Well, it does seem like they just wanted to focus on the cool, weird, and nostalgia factors rather than focusing on building a logically consistent world or story.

    When you think about it, Fallout 3′s setting makes a lot less sense than FO1 and 2. There’s basically no civilization and the area is infested with raiders, slavers, and super mutants, but somehow these little poorly protected towns are able to get by fine even though they don’t even have clean water. Heck, they even have access to power and some advanced technology. It doesn’t make much sense why they weren’t all wiped out by all the dangers of the wasteland or taken over by the Enclave. It would have made way more sense if all the people in FO3 were nomads who had just recently arrived there a few years ago rather than people who had been living there for 200 years.

    With FO1 and 2, people were actually trying to rebuild civilization. They had agriculture, government, trade, industry, and even some scientific research. It made sense how they were able to survive despite the harsh conditions of the wasteland.

  28. coffin says:

    I freakin loved Fallout 3 for it’s dark gritty atmosphere and tone.
    And definetly for that -Where the fuck am i?” running amok in some
    dark tunnels feel the panic creeps up. This is when the games was first released, now it may be a different matter with aging graphics,
    Man..did Fallout3 rule, and New Vegas sucked so much i couldn’t even play through it. my girlfriend played through it.
    I couldn’t stand the character story, the god-awful clowny colour palette
    western sitcom style. too much talking, New vegas had million more bugs then Fallout3. sure the story sucked in fallout3 , but man it did suck
    billion times more in new vegas. -Im a courier shot in the desert, i wake up and a old cowboy heals me. wow… that must bee the worst story ever made ever in the world of games. and nothing left for the imagination to run free, couse new vegas was all story driven to the point of no wandering off, couse you couldn-t jump up the mountainsides, it was a invincible walls even in the middle of the game. fallout3 had such a cool visual artistic style.

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