Monday, November 03, 2008

My Fallout 3 Review (Xbox 360)

After spending some quality time outside the vault with Fallout 3 over the weekend, I’m prepared to say it’s a really engrossing game, in part despite the barren landscape and in part because of it. Here's my impressions:

Stuff I do like:
  1. Ammo is really scarce. This provides good incentive to improve your weapon skills because otherwise, you’d just spam-kill everything you come across without thinking about it. Nevertheless, I’m seriously considering taking the perk that improves the amount of ammo you find in containers, since I spend about 100% of all bottlecap income on repairs, ammo, and stims.
  2. There is a tense balance between feeling powerless and feeling badass. The world knows how to take you down a peg at just the right moments without completely destroying you, so you don’t really get too comfortable in your own skin.
  3. Using the right tool or tactic at the right time can drastically improve the odds of survival (e.g., giant fire ants.)
  4. The world reacts well to your presence in ways that are sometimes surprising. I cleaned out the shopping mart except for the lockpickable ammo cases and when I fast traveled back a few days later with some lock picks in tow to open them up, I had a squad of assassin’s waiting for me with a 1,000 cap contract on my head. They had even killed some of the local riff raff (which was even more bodies I could loot). I like that it doesn’t let me get comfortable.
  5. The radio stations provide great ambiance. I really like Enclave Radio because Malcolm McDowell is the man. He’d get my vote for President.
  6. The V.A.T.S. system is nifty.
  7. The various perks are fun. I just wish I could get more of them per level, as I’m going to run out of levels way before I run out of perks.
  8. There’s no penalty or time cost for using stims & such in-combat. You can be at death’s door and then instantly heal up to 100% while your opponent is actively wailing on you with a sledgehammer. (See point G below)
  9. Overall the world and the game is very engrossing and it feels (at least to me) very different than Oblivion. I think they did a good job capturing the Fallout post-apocalyptic “feel” and sense of humor I remember from my younger days.

Stuff I don’t like:

  1. Weapons decay really, really fast and repairing them yourself depends on having a spare weapon on-hand to consume. You can’t buy spare parts for cheap at a store to do the repairs yourself (as the replacement weapon to use for parts often costs as much if not more than the repair will).
  2. The world encourages you to be a jack of all trades without enabling the ‘masters of one.’ You really do have to spend points in barter, speech, lockpicking, and science in order to optimize harvesting in a resource depleted world. These take a lot of valuable skill points away from the more keep-yourself-alive skills like medicine, repair, and the combat skills. At the end of the day the only skill you can truly do without is stealth, but even that is handy and some archetypes would view it as essential.
  3. Level cap is 20 per a number of online resources. I just hit level 8 and feel like I really would like to (eventually) be a considerably more than twice as powerful than I currently am when all things are said and done. Level 30 would be a more comfortable plateau, but this objection is probably because the world is a harsh mistress and not really thought through from a game balance perspective.
  4. Karma is pretty vague. I’m not sure really how it impacts what I do or how much what I do impacts… well, anything. This is the counterpoint to point 4 above. For example, if I steal everything someone has, I don’t later see them running around going “someone broke into my house and robbed me!!!” even though that’s the most common response we see in real life when someone’s house is invaded: friends, family, neighbors, coworkers – everyone knows in short order.
  5. Bandits taunt me through solid floors as if I’m right there in the room with them. I can also see their shadows through the ceilings above. Yet, when I’m on the same floor as them, only separated by a wall, they are often oblivious to me. ?
  6. The non-V.A.T.S. combat system feels kinda broken somehow. It works, but it just feels like you do way more damage shot-for-shot in V.A.T.S. than outside, even if you line up a perfect shot, etc.
  7. There’s no penalty for using stims & such in-combat. It feels kinda “cheap” to have combat be so inconsequential as long as you have a healthy stack of stims in your pocket.


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