Picking Games Apart, One Title At A Time

The Problem With Killing Everything

In the old days you could kill everything. EVERYTHING.

In the old days you could kill everything. EVERYTHING.

With Fallout 4 having been out nearly a year now, I’ve been thinking about Fallout as a franchise. Actually, I think about Fallout quite a lot, it’s a series I’m particularly fond of (3&4 notwithstanding). And one thing I’ve always loved is the freedom, the ability to play the games your way.

Whether that be diplomatically via speech and charisma, or brutally through extreme violence, or a mixture of the two, say a bartering trader who focuses almost wholly on buying and selling but isn’t above tactical killing of high-value targets.

Point is, these games allow for real roleplaying. You pick a role you want to play, you specialise in a few stats to support that role, and away you go. Then along came Fallout 3 and ruined everything. Maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic, but it does annoy me how much of the actual roleplaying Bethesda threw out when they bought the franchise and transitioned it to 3D. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 17: Full-Floral Jacket

Treehugging Hippies, Inc. Maybe we should ship them over to Big MT, I’m sure they could find a use…

Treehugging Hippies, Inc. Maybe we should ship them over to Big MT, I’m sure they could find a use…

So this time I’m going to be looking at Oasis and a nearby new location I’ll be adding. First of all, let me say this: I hate Bethesda for what they did to Harold. He’s a fun and interesting character, and having him shoehorned into dreck such as Brotherhood of Steel and, of course, Fallout 3 as a living god-tree is just… *sigh*

That being the case, I’ll be changing it entirely. No more silly god-tree, no more dumbass treeminders, no more Oasis. The location itself will exist, but it won’t be filled with treehugging hippies and will instead be something rather more morally grey, with an unpleasant history leading the player to actually have to make a difficult decision on how to deal with the uh… inhabitants.

But first, Harold. He’ll be around, we can still say that he headed out east and just continued walking, or alternatively we can say he’s here in DC for a specific reason. I’ll be going with a specific reason I’ll get to in a later post, when I talk a bit more about quests and how some of the unused locations can be tied into the wasteland, but either way his presence isn’t offensive in and of itself.

It’s how he’s presented that’s the problem. Taking a well-known and well-liked character like Harold and turning him into a bad joke is in very poor taste, but it’s about what I’ve come to expect from Bethesda; you only have to look at how badly they handled everything else in Fallout 3 to see they don’t give a crap about the source material beyond how it can make them the most money.

It feels like someone sat down with the Fallout Wikia and hit the random page button, got Harold as a result, and thought, ‘Hmm… interesting, he has a tree growing out of his head, I wonder if we could use that… wait, wait… WAIT… I’ve got it! We can turn him into a tree! Genius, gaming is saved, guys.

Anyway, I don’t want to spend ages ranting on Harold, I’ll cover him later, but for now you just needed to know that he ain’t a tree-god in Oasis in my world. Moving on! (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 16: Aiding With the Raiding

Welcome to Raider Town.

Welcome to Raider Town.

So let’s talk raiders and others of their ilk. I’ll be both introducing a new location and overhauling an existing one here, so I guess I’ll kick off with the overhauled one as that ties directly into Eighton.

Raiders of one form or another have been a staple of the series since the start; the Khans, Vipers, Jackals, Scorpions, Fiends, etc. And in every game not made by Bethesda they’ve also been either joinable in some way, or at the very least the player can talk to them and potentially pick up quests. Catering to the evil types is a necessity Bethesda sadly ignores in their gimped version of Fallout.

Remember that lovely location in the north-western portion of the map, the three satellite towers together in a triangle shape? The generic Raider haunt? You can see it there in the above image. I’ll be livening that place up a bit momentarily, but first I’m going to focus on Springvale and its associated school, pointless Raider haunt that it currently is.

So the general deal with Springvale is thus: technically it’s a Raider haunt, and the people living there are certainly less than pleasant to outsiders, but in reality these were mostly people from Eighton who were banished for one reason or another.

For certain crimes, the legal system of Eighton hands out banishment rather than death, figuring that the Wasteland is a death sentence in any case, and probably worse than a quick death by firing squad or whatever. This is a relatively new thing introduced by the hardliners with their more militaristic ideals, and banishing is considered a fate worse than death. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 15: DLC Attacks!

The Enclave is real! /TinFoilHat

The Enclave is real! /TinFoilHat

So… DLC. This is a pretty mixed bag. On the one hand you have Broken Steel and The Pitt, both fun and surprisingly varied romps with a fair amount to recommend them. In the Pitt you have some actually decent writing, a story that’s rather more morally grey than Bethesda’s usual fare, and can even choose who to support (*gasp!* choice in a recent Bethsoft game? Never thought I’d see the day!).

And in Broken Steel you have a reasonably open area at Adams Airforce Base with a bunch of fun things to get up to, including releasing Deathclaws and calling in (utterly nonsensical but still fun) artillery strikes on the hapless Enclave soldiers. Plus the amazingly atmospheric White House Metro areas.

The base crawler is kind of nonsensical as well given the insane amount of fuel that thing would require to move at all, but clearly that’s not something Bethesda cared to think about, exactly as they didn’t think about the existence of Vertibirds and the problems those present. Maybe it’s meant to be an atomic-powered crawler rather than diesel, who knows.

Also, the space race kind of went differently in Fallout’s universe, would they even have had mobile platforms for moving shuttles around? Considering the USS Quetzel is a nuclear-powered reusable shuttle that can take off under its own power… it seems like the crawler-transport potentially wouldn’t even have existed. Oops. See what you get for only paying attention to Rule of Cool instead of consistency of setting?

And then we have Anchorage and Zeta. Anchorage… well, overall it’s actually not as bad as some people make it out to be, and it’s nice to see Bethesda trying something different with this particular expansion. The Gauss Rifle was a nice addition as well, though the DLC itself is about as linear as it gets, even if you can choose which missions to tackle. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 14: Forbidden Fruits

A simple matter of rearranging reality.

A simple matter of rearranging reality.

On the G.E.C.K.

Since this is a Vault-specific device I’ll talk briefly about it here before moving onto the last couple of locations, mostly because holy shit did Bethesda screw this one up. Beth’s version of the G.E.C.K. (henceforth known simply as the GECK because screw typing those periods every time) is a magical matter rearranger, totally alien to the original concept of the device. I use the term magical on purpose, because that’s effectively what it is.

Overall, I don’t exactly take issue with the device’s mode of function in Fallout 3, we’ve seen similar tech used elsewhere, after all, most-especially the Sierra Madre’s vending machines. It’s more the lack of care and attention paid to actually explaining the major change in functionality from what we’ve already seen in the previous game.

As the main cause of the war, not counting political tensions, was the dearth of natural resources around the globe, research into highly experimental tech of this nature would be entirely within the realm of reason.

Sinclair had a personal vault built for Vera, and commissioned research into all manner of things via Big Mountain – including the vending machines – specifically so she (and, it has to be assumed, he) could survive the inevitable nuclear war he had already predicted. Research into this magical Beth version of the GECK is roughly similar in overall goals, just on a rather more grandiose scale.

With the advent of micro-fusion technology, it looked like we might avert disaster… until the bombs fell. If we’d obtained that sort of tech earlier, we might well have avoided the war because most of the world’s problems would have been solved with a source of effectively infinite energy… though it’s always possible another war could’ve sprung up over who gets access to the tech. *shrug*

Similar to the Madre’s vending machines – experimental and only ever shipped to the casino and its villa, and even then only after Sinclair allowed the Big MT scientists to use the villa as another test city, and right before the bombs fell, therefore making the tech useless anyway – this magical matter rearranger GECK could have been a super late development, too late to be of real use before the war happened. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 13: High Vaultage

Vault 101? Feels more like Bethesda needs a world building 101.

Vault 101? Feels more like Bethesda needs a world building 101.

So let’s take a quick look at some of the logical social experiments conducted in the non-Bethesda Vaults, starting with Fallout 1.

Vault 13:

The starting point for all things Fallout, this is the Vault the player is kicked out of in the first game in order to search for a water purifier chip. The experiment here was prolonged isolation. The only reason it was unsealed is because the water chip broke; unintentionally, and their supply of chips was accidentally sent to Vault 8 instead.

(There’s minor conflicting info here from two different sources – Chris Avellone and Dick Richardson – who say it was a prolonged isolation experiment, or ‘was a Control Vault designed to stay sealed until it was needed’ respectively, but either way the basic premise is the same; it was meant to stay sealed.) (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 12: Divided Deadites

Under the hills and far away.

Under the hills and far away.

Underworld is the ghoul settlement in the centre of DC’s ruins founded in the old history museum. The usual supply problems are there; where do they get water, food, and supplies, which I’ll get to momentarily. But beyond that it’s a mostly okay location. The ghouls have a good reason to hide out there (racism, bigotry, Muties, Brotherhood) without being quite as in your face about it as the whole Roy Phillips questline.

We know that ghouls have the same biological processes as non-ghouls (though Beth is busy retconning this with that goddamn kid in the fridge quest, ffffffffffaaaggghrrr), meaning they need food, water, and sleep.

Sleep is no problem. Food and drink… not so much. On the plus side, they’re already immune to radiation so they can handle not only entering irradiated zones to scavenge, but also potentially eating foods that would be deadly to regular humans. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 11: Big Trouble In…

Big town full of small problems.

Big town full of small problems.

With Little Lamplight mostly dealt with, it’s onto Big Town next. I… don’t really have anything much against Big Town itself, it’d make a fine settlement with some work and additional thought put into it.

My first urge would be to simply decouple it from Little Lamplight entirely, forget the whole kids being kicked out thing. But eh… on the other hand, it could also form something of a symbiotic relationship with the cavernous kids. I’ll pontificate on that later.

So where do the main problems lie? Primarily, Bittercup. Need I say more? A Gothic, mopey, depressed character like this can work if handled carefully. But for the love of god at least make her interesting, or batshit crazy, or suicidally amusing. Something.

Bethesda has writers capable of this kind of writing, you only have to look at the Wild Bill dialogue in the Pitt DLC to see that. Though I do have to wonder if that writer had any hand in the main game… it feels like they probably didn’t, to be honest. Preston Garvey suffers the same issue in Fallout 4, he’s the most unapologetically boring character imaginable. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 10: Little Lampblight

Mining for Awe.

Mining for Awe.

I suppose I should talk about Big Town and Little Lamplight now, huh? Big and Little because they have adults and children, ohoho, very good, Bethesda. Let’s start with Little Lamplight and the little bar studs who live there, shall we? Then we can move on to Big Town, which I honestly don’t consider to be all that bad, it merely needs a few tweaks and changes to bring it into line with a more logical world.

So… Little Lampblight. I hate this place so much, in so very many different ways. Irritating, bratty kids you can’t shoot because they’re immortal and have guns. A total and complete lack of any logic to the setting (eh, with caveats, will talk about the good points a bit later). And it’s a mandatory location thanks to the entrance to Vault 87 being there; so you can’t even bypass or ignore the little barstools.

This is one of those locations that could conceivably work if we were talking no more than twenty years after the bombs. There’d likely still be plenty of refugees, homeless, destitute, and otherwise royally screwed up people from nearby areas not so directly devastated by the bombs. Plenty of orphans to supply Lamplight with fine, upstanding new members of their society.

The overall story of this place (largely discovered via holotapes and terminal entries) is that a group of kids were trapped in the caves with radiation outside after the bombs fell. They found an entrance to Vault 87 but couldn’t get inside. After banging on the doors for days, a voice yelled through telling them they were already dead. (more…)

Reconstructing Fallout 3 Part 9: Reinvigorating Old Olney

Old but still charming.

Old but still charming.

This is a really nice little location, I’m hugely fond of Old Olney. It’s just a shame it’s so utterly squandered. I think this place could have been a really nice settlement as it stands; reasonably easy to defend, lots of space both in the town itself and surrounding areas, and the sewers are ripe for… interesting ideas.

I like the architecture here as well, there are a bunch of buildings that remind me heavily of both Searchlight and Nipton in New Vegas, and the overall style suits me well (I’m kind of an Art Deco nerd). In-game, though… it’s basically just a Deathclaw haunt and serves no real purpose beyond that until you hit Broken Steel, and even that’s just a simple fetch quest. *sigh*

That said… let’s see if we can improve it, shall we? How about a crazy ass loony death cult? Cults – good, bad, and neutral – are a staple of the Fallout universe, they provide ample opportunity for conflict, and they’re an uncomfortable reality both in our own world and the fictional secondary world we temporarily inhabit while playing a game such as this. (more…)