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Falling For Fallout 3

Lives, loves and deaths as the bombs fell.

I first played Fallout 3 when it came out in October 2008. I played it for all of about 25 hours before it got put to one side in favour of playing through Bioshock again with its PS3 release and a sack full of other titles that released during the same fortnight like LittleBigPlanet, Motorstorm: Pacific Rift, Resistance 2 and Gears of War 2.

Fallout 3 fell by the wayside as I just did not find myself engaging with the story or with the character of The Lone Wanderer.  That it got dropped in favour of Bioshock, which I had already played through twice before on the 360, because of that game’s compelling story-telling, led to Fallout 3 getting filed in the also-rans section of my gaming subconscious.

That’s where it stayed until this September.  I became somewhat disillusioned with games this year and especially the pace with which we seem to need to consume them.  So this year I have played fewer games than I have the last couple of years but I have tended to spend more time with them.

I have documented here before the, frankly, ridiculous number of hours I have put into Dragon Age: Origins this year.  While Borderlands has been my online game of choice leading to me spending a significant number of hours on Pandora.

As what passes for Summer in the UK faded into Autumn and my daily commutes to and from work became conducted outside the hours of daylight, I scoured my game collection looking for something meaty to get my teeth into.

I settled on Fallout 3 and decided to give it another try, not because of the Cannibalism perk, but because it was a game that ticks all the right boxes for me.  It is an RPG (tick) that like Borderlands is also kind of an FPS (tick) and it is set in a post-apocalyptic irradiated wasteland that sounds a lot like Judge Dredd’s Cursed Earth (BIG TICK).  Of course, all the New Vegas publicity had helped Fallout bubble back to the top of my subconscious too.

So I started playing again, with a new character, and about 20-25 hours in (I tend to play quite slowly, exploring and talking, so at this point I had just completed the Power of the Atom quest and had not yet visited the DC Ruins) I was starting to feel like stopping again for the same reasons; I just was not ‘getting into’ the game.

This time I decided to persevere though, and boy am I glad I did.  I am now around 100 hours in according to the save file, though actual playing is higher due to deaths, bugs, etc.  I have not kept playing because I ‘like’ my character any more this time around or because I am enjoying the story more.

I do not find the Capital Wasteland particularly compelling as a setting.  To me it feels like a fairly generic post-apocalyptic world and not necessarily our world.  Swap the raiders for bandits, the yao guai for skags, the rad-scorpions for spiderants and you may as well be on Pandora.  I am sure I would feel different if I were familiar with the DC area, but I am not.

Nor is it that the game’s mechanics are particularly appealing beyond the RPG-trait of always striving to achieve the next level.  I do quite like the VATS system though, which makes those all important head shots and sneak attack criticals easier to achieve, and places Fallout 3 combat somewhere to the left of Valkyria Chronicles on the line that runs from FPS (Borderlands) to turn-based (Final Fantasy).

What has kept me playing is stumbling across the human stories in the game that fall outside of the quests and contemporary story.  These are the stories of those who were alive around the time the bombs started falling.  Often they are not explicitly told.

For example, the first one I remember finding was in one of the houses in Minefield.  While turning the place upside-down looking for loot, both usable and fence-able, I entered one of the bedrooms to find a pair of skeletons on the bed.

Now Fallout 3 is not exactly short of skeletons but this pair seemed to be a man and woman and appeared to be holding hands.  Beside them on the bed was an empty bottle of pills and immediately I started wondering what their story was.

Had they seen that war was inevitable and decided to end things on their own terms rather than die in the coming nuclear holocaust?  Had they survived the bombs, Minefield is relatively intact after all, and not been able to face life in the blasted wasteland that remained?

Perhaps they had become ill from radiation sickness and decided a quick death was better than a lingering, painful one?  Or following the death of their loved one had the other not been able to go on?  All these possibilities and more sprung to mind just from that one little vignette.

Others have included a couple sat on the bonnet (hood, for our American cousins) of a car on a rocky outcrop overlooking DC, surrounded by empty whiskey bottles.  Presuming death was inevitable had they driven up their to watch the nuclear fireworks over Washington and spend their last few moments with the one they loved?

Then there are the audio logs that can be found such as those made by the trouble Keller family.  In an attempt to get the family together different members are given a single digit of the code needed to get into a bunker.

Their, ultimately tragic, story begins before the bombs fall and continues, for at least a short while, afterwards.  It also includes on of the very few (at least that I have found so far) eye witness records of the nuclear armageddon:

Oh my God, it’s really happening. I can see the cloud… it’s so big… Mom, I’m so scared.

When exploring the wasteland I also make a bee-line for any radio towers I spot as they often combine audio and a ‘physical’ story if you hunt around their location.  The most heartfelt one so far being a looped transmission from a father who has taken shelter with his wife and son in a nearby drainage chamber.

They clearly survived the original nuclear onslaught and the radio message is his plea for help from anyone who might hear as his son has become seriously ill and they need help.  On finding their shelter it contains two adult skeletons but no sign of the son, leaving open the question of what became of him.

If it was radiation sickness he became ill with, was it severe enough that he became a ghoul?  Was the illness fatal and he was simply buried somewhere outside by his parents?  Within the shelter there is also some great contextual placement of in-game items, such as a medical textbook beside the radio set.

It is all these little touching, thought-provoking snapshots of humanity that for me have turned Fallout 3 from being just a fairly uninspiring RPG with FPS tendencies into a game I am willing and eager to sink tens of hours of my free time into.

  1. BIGAL-1992
    Since: Jan 2009

    Fallout 3 has many of these hidden stories in the game. I remember going into an abandoned vault, only to discover that the people in there had been continually poisoned by the overseer that drove them insane. Another one that springs to mind was when I was
    in Andale. Seemed an alright place, there were two families there, one had a boy, the other a girl along with an old widower, but they were acting a bit strange and the old man told me to get out of there. Turns out they were cannibles and, in a blind rage, I killed the parents. That’s the interesting thing about Fallout 3; there’s so many stories in it, you’d be continually surprised by what it churns out.

    Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 15:09.
    • gideon1451
      Since: Nov 2009

      It’s the same for Oblivion. Read any of the books in the game & they’re full of backstory, often relative to the area.

      It’s the small things that count, even in games.

      Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 19:55.
  2. G_The_Enemy14
    Since: Jan 2009

    I’m thinking of picking this up after getting the free dlc off the store, it’s only a tenner too. And it might ‘inspire’ me to buy new vegas.

    Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 15:20.
    • BIGAL-1992
      Since: Jan 2009

      Or it’ll inspire you to burn the disk, depending on your tolerance to bugs and glitches.

      Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 15:35.
      • Grey_Ghost13
        Since: Aug 2009

        Agree, one of the buggiest games ever! Should never have been released in the state it was, an we never got a true patch on the PS3 to fix the issues. And now New Vegas comes out just as bad! No excuses Bethesda! Besides that, and the main reason why I’m so bitter, is the game is genuinely good, when you do get to play it, it is fantastic, I’ve spent hours just roaming the wastelands and not completing the story exploring and finding stuff!

        Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 15:47.
      • plutoniumdragon
        Since: Dec 2008

        New Vegas was just as buggy on my PC, but fortunately a copied dll and some settings tweaks and it’s now fine.
        Can’t do that on the PS3 :(
        But surely that’s the point – PCs are not all the same, but PS3s are so no excuse at all for releasing it in such a buggy state.

        Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 16:03.
    • XisTG
      Since: May 2010

      i ended up buying the GOTY edition because the DLC did not play well with my original copy of Fallout3.
      The GOTY edition also had tons of bugs like the original, but it froze very few times and only crashed the PS3 once.
      Best of luck to you though, it’s one of my favorite games :)

      Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 15:49.
      • G_The_Enemy14
        Since: Jan 2009

        I’ve heard about the bugs. I’ll try and fight through them though ;)

        Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 22:04.
  3. moshi
    Since: Jun 2009

    I shall be returning to Fall Out 3 once I have wandered around Vegas and tried to find every nook and cranny . Some games just re ignite the love of a previous game all the more sometimes.

    Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 15:36.
  4. Origami Killer
    Since: May 2010

    i need fallout 3 now, thanks plus for that, where can u get it cheap?

    Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 16:06.
    • BIGAL-1992
      Since: Jan 2009

      Try ebay, or any website, like amazon.

      Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 16:14.
    • solidsteven
      Never heard of him.
      Since: May 2010

      any where aas it is very cheap now.

      Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 16:35.
      • Origami Killer
        Since: May 2010

        £13 is still a bit lol, got too many games atm, 43 actually, need to trade a few in but its an 18 so cant buy it myself :(

        ebay it is

        Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 16:42.
  5. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    I hated F3 with a vengence when I first got it. I ended up loving it despite the huge amount of bugs and waded through all the DLC for TSA reviews.

    Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 16:14.
  6. solidsteven
    Never heard of him.
    Since: May 2010

    fallout 3 p**** me off when it crashed and corrupted a save that had 98 ingots and i knew were the last two was. it cost me a trophy other then that it is a good game.

    Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 17:18.
  7. hully666
    Since: Sep 2010

    I fell in love with Fallout 3 on release day, Besides from the story crippling bugs, the game has always motivated me to continue piling hours of game time into it.

    The aspect that really hooks me is the fact that game has such an epic backstory told from so many different viewpoints, that it creates the sense that the wasteland is a living breathing world and that the lone wanderer is just another person striving to get by.

    Its very humbling which ticks the right box for me :)

    Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 17:28.
  8. TheShepanator
    Since: Nov 2009

    Have most of the catastrophic freezing and crashing glithces been patched? I always wanted to get it but never really got around to it.

    Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 17:48.
    • Tuffcub
      On the naughty step.
      Since: Dec 2008

      Er no. They patched it once but it hardly fixed anything.

      Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 18:15.
      • Watchful
        Team TSA: Writer
        Since: Oct 2008

        Well in my current 100-odd hour playthrough I’ve had one crash and got stuck on scenery once. So the disclaimer “player’s experience may vary” applies. It may be worth noting though that I have not yet installed the DLC as I’m enjoying not having many crashes and the DLC does reportedly make it worse.

        Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 18:18.
      • tobo_56
        Since: May 2009

        I’ve installed all the dlc and I’m still going strong with no glitches at all! Maybe it varies, either way I love it great game with such a good story.

        Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 19:32.
    • Grey_Ghost13
      Since: Aug 2009

      My GOTY edition is a bit more stable than the original, but it does seem to vary from console to console to the level of glitchyness.

      Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 19:27.
    • TheShepanator
      Since: Nov 2009

      I think I might just grab a cheap copy & the free DLC then..?

      Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 22:05.
  9. Peco
    Since: Oct 2010

    Liam Neeson brought me into the world of Fallout 3, and I never wanted to leave!

    Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 19:26.
  10. Gamoc
    Since: Forever

    I do the same thing – I just wander around and discover places. Choose a direction, keep walking until I see something interesting – I’ve started the game on 4 seperate occassions and discovered different places each time. Excellent stuff.

    Shame about the bugs, but they never really affected me anyway, I’ve had a few freezes and that’s it (across 4 different versions of the game – PS3, 360, 360 GOTY and PC).

    Comment posted on 24/10/2010 at 19:40.