In the aftermath of E3, when people were still nursing their post-convention hangovers and writing about how E3 was destined to be the BEST GAEM EVAR, I was a big mean spoilsport and fired off a few questions in the general direction of Bethesda.
Now I’ve sunk a weekend into the game and had a nice deep draught from the well of first-hand experience. So I want to go back and answer those questions with the help of my newfound knowledge.
Here are the original questions, along with my take on how well it turned out in the final product:
1. Will this game run properly on the computers available on this planet?
This turned out pretty well. The game looks good and runs on high-ish settings on my decidedly ordinary mid-range machine. I’ve been watching, and I haven’t seen any Oldblivion-level problems. Apparently the game runs well enough on mid-range hardware, and the minimum system specs are nonfiction.
I could go on my usual rant about how the latest graphics advancements aren’t really worth the price we’re paying for them, but that’s not the point. The game runs on machines it claims it will, and it doesn’t have absurd Crysis-level specs.
2. Is the game going to be infected with auto-leveling foes?
Rumor has it that there is some area-based leveling going on, but on the macro scale the game works the way you would expect: There are places where a newbie can get himself into deadly trouble, and there are places where a built-up character can steamroll foes.
I might nitpick the leveling in a later post, but still: No auto-leveling. Yay.
3. What kind of DRM are we talking here?
The DRM was nothing new. Just a CD check. Whatever. Thank you for not making things worse, I suppose.
4. Do you have any plans on playtesting the game this time around?
While far better than the software jalopy that is Oblivion, Fallout 3 follows in the Bethesda tradition of games that feel like they’re held together with masking tape and hope. The problems cover the full spectrum, from amusing flukes to show-stopping crashes. Some of them are humorous. Some are aggravating. Here is a sample of them to give you an idea:
- A super mutant was having a scripted conversation with a victim he was about to eat. From the shadows, I dropped him with couple of sniper rounds to his ugly green dome. He was dead on the floor, but his conversation with the captured NPC continued on for several more lines.
- The interface is a mess for anyone who doesn’t use the default inputs. I can’t imagine that a singe playtester tried re-mapping the keys. One example of the key-mapping problems: You can re-map the “pip-boy” key (something you’ll be pressing a lot) from TAB to something else. But you still have to press TAB to close the pip-boy, and there is nothing you can do to re-map that behavior. Lots of things work like this. Some functionality can’t be re-assigned at all. Some can be “partly” re-assigned. It’s a mess.
- I rescued a couple of guys in downtown DC. As a reward, they pledged to “protect” me while I was in the area. Eventually I left and forgot all about them. Hours and hours later, after many quests and level-ups, I found one of them in my house in the city of Megaton.
- The game seems to crash about 1 in 3 times when I exit. There are also random crashes when roaming around outside.
- In Megaton, citizens keep coming up to me and offering me gifts for “all I’ve done for them”. This has happened a dozen times, despite the fact that I’ve only done one quest related to the town, ages ago. What the heck are these people going on about?
- If you are unfortunate enough to have an NPC follow you around, you’ll discover that they are horrifyingly stupid in combat. They will run right into your line of fire and will think nothing of hitting you if you get in their way. The brotherhood guys I mentioned before were a horrible curse because I was trying to engage foes at close range and one of my “friends” kept using a rocket launcher, which was more likely to kill me than my foe. Just appalling stupidity. Having actors immune to damage from allies wouldn’t fix the shortcomings in the AI, but it would at least stop punishing the player for it.
- I entered someone’s open room in Rivet City. They came in and went to sleep for the night, locking me inside with them. I didn’t have the lockpicking skill to escape the room. I woke them up and talked to them, but there wasn’t any option for “please let me out of your house”.
5. Will you be supporting the game after release?
A patch is out to address some of the crashes. I’d really, really, like to see a fix for the key-mapping problems, since the current state of things is a constant irritation.
Time will tell.
I’m happy to see that things have turned out well for Fallout 3. (Aside from the bugs.) It runs, the DRM doesn’t get in the way, and the underlying mechanics don’t have any egregious flaws. We can argue all day about how this compares to its 2D grandsire, but at least we’re having that conversation from within the game, not standing outside with our noses pressed against the glass, bitching about DRM.
I’ll be even happier if they knuckle down and take care of some of these rough edges.
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