At some point last year I was doing a little podcast for MMORPG.com with my friend Chris Coke when a story came across the show notes. Fallout 4 was in development! I’d never played a Fallout game (I know, I know – pleb status), but Chris’ description of “Skyrim in a post-apocalypse environment” intrigued me. I decided that I’d keep an eye on this title in the off chance that it would someday be placed squarely within my budget range via Steam sale.
Well, that didn’t really happen this Christmas. While Fallout 4 did see a sale price, it was still a bit more than I wanted to spend. However I did notice that the previous Fallout installments were on sale, and at quite the bargain – under $5 each. In mulling this over, I casually threw a question out to Twitter about whether I should drop a few bucks on Fallout 3 or Fallout New Vegas, if I had to choose. To my great surprise, within about ten minutes of asking that question, a couple of Twitter friends had Steam-gifted me copies of both Fallout 3 and Fallout 4! Have I mentioned how awesome and sweet you guys are? This was probably my favorite moment this Christmas, not because I received two great games, but because someone actually succeeded in surprising me, which seems to happen less and less as the Christmases wear on. BTW, I also want to thank everyone who was thoughtful enough to send me games. I am truly blessed with great people.
After returning home from travel, I needed to decide which Fallout to start with. If these games were indeed anything like Skyrim, I knew I wouldn’t be able to play them simultaneously, as there would just be too much content to dig into all at once. Should I jump right into Fallout 4 to be able to speak intelligently within the community about the latest and greatest installment? Or should I go chronologically, and start with Fallout 3 to better understand the progression of story, systems and references? In the end, it occurred to me that speaking intelligently about the latest and greatest games has never been my forte (obviously), and that I would rather take the chronological route. Plus, when starting with the newest game and working backwards, there’s always the danger that the older game will show it’s age even more when compared with a newer version of itself.
Fallout 3 requires a little tweaking in order to run on Windows 10. It was developed during a time when everybody (well, game developers, anyway) thought that having a constant online connection for single player games was a brilliant idea. Side note: even in 2016, this is still not a brilliant idea. So, running the game means fooling it into thinking that you have a connection to the now-retired Windows Live game service. Thankfully, Steam has some nice posts that point you to appropriate Nexus mods which will get you up and running. Fallout 3 now runs fairly well on my machine, with the occasional annoying lockup. Luckily, the lockups occur only about once every other night, and have encouraged me to save frequently.
As for the game itself, it is as advertised. Dialog choices, first or third person combat, exploration, (presumably) crafting, the works. After a short cinematic describing the apocalyptic events, the story begins with your character being born in a protective vault. You progress fairly quickly through various life stages as the game teaches you to interact with objects, speak to people, and fire weapons. Eventually, you are awoken as an adult and told that your father has left the vault and disappeared. This is a big deal because one of the mantra’s that has been drilled into your head during the opening sequences is “born in the vault, die in the vault”. So, naturally your father’s disappearance has caused quite an uproar, and the local security teams are looking for you. You need to find a way to escape the vault and pursue your father across the vast, unknown wasteland outside with nothing more than your fists and your wits.
Happily, it doesn’t take very long to pick up some more formidable weapons. Even so, the early game is fairly difficult as raiders, scorpions and mad dogs are all prevalent in the wasteland. Perhaps the game wants to teach you about frequently saving, a lesson I learned early thanks to numerous early deaths. In fact, I was taking so much damage from wasteland creatures early on that it wasn’t unusual for me to fight a few, port back to the one unoccupied bed I’d discovered, sleep for 20 hours, and then go back out to face a few more foes. It was the best way I had found to heal up since the dogmeat from my victims would only restore about +5 health a pop.
By complete blind luck, however, one of the first quest lines I chose to pursue saw me abducted to an alien mothership. I’m totally not kidding. Goodbye, wasteland, I hardly knew you! This was a total shock, as I was expecting this game to be “Mad Max” and my very first quest had me experiencing “Independence Day” instead! What followed was a fairly long quest line involving escaping from a cell, unfreezing some historical companions from cryogenic sleep, exploring the ship and zapping the little green guys with their own weapons. The payoff scene has your character taking over the bridge of the ship and doing battle with another alien ship hundreds of thousands of miles above the surface of the Earth. It was an incredibly unexpected and enjoyable distraction from the main story. By the time I was able to escape the ship, I’d traded my barbaric sledgehammer for a shock baton and an alien disintegrator rifle with plenty of energy cell ammo.
Look out wasteland, I’m back!