on Mar 18, 2013
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.
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.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.