Last week I proved how much I love Fallout 3. It is definitely one of the best games I have ever played and while I may have spent way too much time playing it, I’m still grateful for the time I had. Regardless of the love I have for Fallout 3, it took three tries before I was able to finally overcome some of the issues I experienced and actually enjoy playing the game for an extended period of time. I simply got bored of it during the first two times and gave up.
I could be incredibly critical of a few minor things, but I decided that I would stick with my top three issues with the game which will highlight how some of the greatest aspects of Fallout 3 can suddenly fall apart, forcing gameplay to feel like a chore.
How did I solve this problem? It’s actually quite amazing and almost made it onto the list of why I love Fallout 3. Before starting my third attempt at the Capital Wasteland, I was looking online to try and find out how to build my character’s abilities. I had thought that maybe my first two attempts were being held back by poor customization choices I had unintentionally made. I came across a build that was intended to make the gameplay just like a first-person-shooter. I know this was a great moment of discovery because my mind immediately started playing “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin. Between the Perks, Skills, and S.P.E.C.I.A.L., I crafted an experience in the Wasteland devoid of the annoying V.A.T.S. and I was suddenly thrilled to wander through the desolation, immersed in the constant awareness that was necessary to ensure I didn’t walk into a deathclaw or giant radscorpion. My first two playthroughs simply required me to be prepared to turn on V.A.T.S. at any moment, but without V.A.T.S. to rely on, the Wasteland was a constant threat. I know that the folks at Bethesda intentionally made this an option for players like me and I’m grateful, I only wish I had been aware of it during my first attempt and not been made to feel like V.A.T.S. was my only option.
I know many people have said it before, but the second thing I hated about Fallout 3 was the bugs and glitches. I lost hours of gameplay, because of glitches that deeply changed my game. While I enjoyed The Pitt, I was not happy about having to replay it immediately after completing it, because of some random glitch that made all of my followers disappear except Dogmeat. That really annoyed me. It was also incredibly odd to wake up in my house to find one of the Brotherhood of Steel watching me while I slept, then stealing weapons and running away. After I noticed that he took one of my tri-beam laser rifles I got a little mad. I eventually had to follow him around the Wasteland until he picked a fight with a giant radscorpion and got himself killed.
One a separate glitch, I spent much of the game assuming that Charon had died somewhere when all of a sudden I got a message that said “Charon has arrived at the Underworld”. I was stunned to find him sitting at his table in the Seventh Circle after over 100 hours of gameplay with him absent.
During another playthrough as a villain, I lost Jericho and learned about something called the “Megaton Void” where random NPCs will congregate. That took some time to perfectly make the jumps necessary to venture into the void to retrieve him and the actual “void” is far less interesting than it sounds. Fallout 3 has some glitch issues and every time I was forced to replay sections, a little bit more of me wanted to quit playing and give up. This abundance of glitches encouraged me to save frequently and I’m sure that I have several hundred save files on my Xbox chronicling my entire career as The Lone Wanderer.
The last aspect of Fallout 3 that I hated was Mothership Zeta. While exploring the Wasteland I came across the alien crash site and was abducted. At first I thought it was cool, but the novelty quickly wore off. Mothership Zeta has its moments of fun, but I really was abducted and didn’t make a conscious choice about when to do the quest like the other DLCs. On top of that, there was no way to leave once you are abducted, so I couldn’t do it in pieces or anything. Most of the ship is the same alien corridor populated by the same aliens using the same weapons. It really needed to be shorter, especially after leaving the engine core to take the bridge. That’s when it became a long challenge to stay engaged.
Mothership Zeta completely fails when it comes to exploration and you have to remember that exploration is my favorite aspect of the game. The DLC is linear, with very little choice in what to do or how to accomplish your goals. Ammo for my Wasteland weapons was scarce and the aliens had a great deal of health, which made for a series of prolonged firefights where I used the same alien disruptor over and over again. When it came time for the the finale of Mothership Zeta involving ship-to-ship combat, I was less interested in what was going on than I was interested in leaving so I explore once again back on Earth. While the other DLC may have some of these elements, they manage to stay interesting by excelling at a few other aspects. Mothership Zeta has too few good elements that are scattered throughout too long a period of sameness.
I love Fallout 3, but this kind of analysis highlights what made me enjoy it for so long. These examples are what happened when the core elements of the game broke. My freedom of expression and immersion were quickly destroyed by V.A.T.S. and any glitches that occurred. My sense of exploration was curtailed when I was forced to wander around Mothership Zeta. Ultimately, what I’m talking about was probably around 20 hours of uninspired gameplay dispersed into about 400 excellent hours and that’s not a bad ratio. Fallout 3 is still one of the best games I’ve ever played and highlighting its flaws only makes its triumphs shine brighter.
Dan Hoyt has been an avid gamer his entire life. When he’s not playing games, he’s working out by walking his dog, hiking and doing martial arts. He likes to try new kinds of alcohol and discuss politics. He’s a graduate of The University of Kansas and has spent years as a journalist.