Monday, September 18, 2023


Somehow I managed to live away from the Fallout series… until now. At some point I tried Fallout 1 (the one with the top-down camera) on Steam and died almost right away, then abandoned it. Not sure how, I got a copy of Fallout 3 (the first one in 3D, I believe). I tried it 2-3 times and barely made it beyond the tutorial zone. Again, I let it rot on a shelf. It was only a month ago when I decided to give closure to this and finish it. And somehow ended up loving it

To be clear, the main issue I had with the start of the game is the training on a series of numeric UI features that have little impact in what you´re doing at the time. The UX onboarding is improvable, and the game lacks leading: You´re basically left to find your own challenges early on, when you need handholding the most

Aside from that, the menus are simplistic (bordering programmer art), and the game is plagued with bugs, some tolerable some not – It crashed no less than 4 times, forcing me to reboot the console. And the main campaign feels rushed, it´s about 12 not-particularly-long quests. There is A LOT of content in the game only available linked to specific conditions, you wander around, or you are at a particular point in time at a particular location. It´s fairly easy to miss stuff. Also, the game has not “watercooler” content aside from 2-3 moments. However, most of the quests and challenges are low-quality/template-based so you´re probably not missing much. Even worse, most weapons are unsatisfactory, and the inventory management can be as frustrating as in any pure RPG (which is A LOT)

On the plus side, I haven´t been obsessed with a game in years, and Fallout 3 definitively got me there. I am an overly-anal player when it comes to RPGs, and I try to be 100% ready for any circumstance at any given time. That means I spent a lot of time curating my inventory, analysing my stats and saving every 100 meters just in case. The game mechanics promote slow progression: Lots of pickup options, micro-exploration, inventory management and cryptic world traversing – which means you´re constantly checking the pipboy map. My gameplay experience was overwhelmingly pivoting between the UI menu and the save/load options

All in all, a perfect environment for obsessive players. I did a platinum run, meaning I played for the trophies, only doing what it was needed to get them all. I succeeded but got a feeling I didn´t explore the world at my own pace, nor I made the decisions I would´ve normally done if free of that approach

I really appreciated some details that made the game feel fresh: NPCs can be permanently killed and your future options will change based on that. You can even nuke a whole town full of quests, and they will be moved to other locations (most of them). If an NPC tells you “I´m going to another city” they don´t just de-spawn and show up in that city next time you go there: They actually go walking to the new place, and you can accompany them all the way if you want

I also liked very much characters and factions: They were interesting fabulations of what type of peoples would populate a post-atomic Washington. It was worth just to make NPCs talk and find out their motivations and backgrounds. Some of them even have fixed routes around the world, and you can find them on the road while “doing their chores”. Vendors have a fixed budget for buying stuff from you, like they had a real internal economy

Leaving aside the green tint – which was ubiquitous some years ago – there is also some praising for the world visuals, as well as the cartoony pipboy elements and the melancholic music. The world makes sense, and you get to discover why it came to be and endless secrets while playing

One interesting thing of the game is a number of risky decisions they made, which are normally avoided by designers since some players *might* not like: Your team mates can die permanently (my dog was killed by scavengers!), weapons decay with use, NPCs have a daily calendar and can be unavailable depending on the time, or simply the fact that when you do the final mission… the game literally ends! If you missed something you need to either load a savegame or start a new one. Traversing is often frustrating because there is no easy way to get where you want - Most destinations are part of an map puzzle, and sometimes you need to check internet guides to find out how to get there. These are things Ubisoft games will never do, because research shows a percentage of players don´t like them. But betting on them gives your game a unique feeling, a special sauce that market-driven companies will never have

All these decisions create a unique experience. Fallout is not a great game by its individual elements – which are often questionable – but because the whole they create. And that makes it special