james debate
james debate

Friday, 21 November 2008

When Bethesda Software acquired the rights to make the latest installment in the celebrated Fallout RPG franchise there was a lot of uncertainty, apprehension and good ol' fanboy hate. After Bethesda hit it big with the epic Oblivion many expected they would just turn their beloved franchise into 'Oblivion with guns'. The early screenshots, ditching the old style topdown view for a first person perspective, did little to reassure them otherwise. But at the end of the day the game was always going to live or die on its own merits regardless of comparisons with any other games that have preceded it, and I am glad to say that it excels expectations.

fallout 3

Right from the off I knew I was in for something special. The production values and retro art style was fantastically realized and reminiscent of the even more sublime Bioshock. The opening segment of the game was exceptional as well. Rather than forcing players through the same turgid tutorials like most games do, this game integrates it beautifully into the game world, teaching you how to play the game as you control your character from birth right up to his teenage years; as your character learns who to interact with his world, so do you. It's very cleverly done and makes some really boring tutorial stuff seem really fun and interesting.

However it's when you leave these comfortable homely surroundings that the game really starts to shine. Set in a post apocalyptic Washington DC, the game world is absolutely huge and packed full of life and secrets and intelligent computer controlled characters. The artistic style is remarkable and superbly brings to life an intricate and deep back story without forcing the mythology upon the player, instead the player is free to try and discover as much or as little of the world and it's backstory as he/she wants.

And there is a LOT to do. The player can perform odd jobs wherever he pleases, he can work alongside or against the various factions present in the wasteland, or he can just go looting and try to scrounge up any valuables left in the desolate city. During his travels the player will encounter all forms of trials, requiring brains, violence, charm and a whole range of other skills, allowing a variation of puzzles and missions that far exceeds what you find in so many other games.

Morality is also an issue here, where the player will make big decisions that actually effect the game world permanently. What extremes will you go to in order to survive? Will you kill innocent people? Steal? Cheat and lie? Destroy an entire city? Or will you always remain the consummate 'good guy'. The decision is yours.

This is all complemented excellently by the free-form structure of the game in which you can essentially go and do whatever it is that you want, and take missions on in whatever order you want and accomplish your objectives in any fashion you want. In all aspects of the game there is a relentless freedom for players to enjoy that makes this game a truly memorable experience.

Indeed the only real problem with the game is that it all comes to an end rather abruptly. Whereas in Oblivion you could continue playing indefinitely even after you finished the game and enjoying the many many hours of extra missions and stories, in this game once you finish the main missions, the game is over. This means that if you haven't finished all the extra little things you want to do before you finish the game, you won't get a chance to, and it's really a shame especially as they don't give you much forewarning. In the end it just means that this game will occupy far less of your time than a game like Oblivion, whether they realized this when designing the game is anyone's guess.

Despite this, however, this is a unique game, a highly enjoyable and highly polished game, and great fun while it lasts.

EDIT: in retrospect, I would just like to say that this game was far far better than I initially realised.

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