This seems to be a crazy hot button topic on the wiki for some reason. So I figured, what the heck, I'll go ahead and toss my opinion out there. To make it easier on you posters out there I'll go ahead and bullet point some of the basics so you can skim if you want.
The original Fallouts were very story driven because, back in the days before ps3's and computer processors that could handle insane graphics, that was all computer games really had going for them. From an actual gameplay point of view, the original fallouts were mediocre at their best. A lot of back tracking and fetch quests (hell the reason you leave the vault at all in Fo1 is to go grab some water) and combat was slow and often times annoying. But so were most computer games in those days so that was ok. Where Fallout 1 and 2 really shined was in their story. You always had a solid idea of what your character was doing and why. If someone asked you to do something, well they usually had a pretty elaborate reason for doing it. Even quests that were basic in nature (go kill all these radscorpions) usually had more background than that (go kill all these radscorpions because they are killing our town's only source of income/food, oh and they injured this really important member of our society and we need to know more about them so that we can set up a cure for him or something). This made every decision you made in the game feel important. Who you helped, who you didn't, they all had an affect on how people would react to you, and help give you a sense of your characters place in this world since he left his vault. There were also a lot of cool roleplaying tidbits in the first games that I miss. The biggest example of this is bartering, which was actually bartering. You could trade stuff that you had found to people for things that they had. No caps needed just offer someone a stimpack and you could get an item or two. This seemed to make a lot more sense to me than bottle caps. Trading equipment for food or vice versa made it feel more like you were in a post-apocalyptic world to me. Yes it made sense that larger communities would have more of a standard form of currency, but the small towns and outposts, while accepting this currency, may find it more beneficial to just outright trade.
All that positive stuff being said, there was a lot about the original Fallouts that was lame to me. I disliked a lot of the dungeon exploring. Though it made sense that you would need certain items to get through locations, a lot of it seemed to just be tossed in for the sake of extending gameplay time. Using rope to descend elevator shafts makes sense sure, and it adds to the roleplay aspect, but having to scour a city till I find the one trader with a length of rope to sell then searching a dungeon for more along the way was annoying after a while. It also brought up questions of its own. I mean am I supposed to believe that exposure to the elements destroyed the metal elevator cables, but some length of rope in some guys closet is still perfectly able to hold the weight of me and my companions? And the combat system was boring at best, annoying at worst. Click, wait, click, wait, click wait. Combat was distractingly slow and would often do nothing but take me out of the rp experience in general. Plus the layout of a lot of places were too similar for my tastes. I mean I guess there are only so many ways a tiny village or a set of ruins could be set up, but it just felt like they could shake up the designs a little beyond long tracks of empty flat ground with a few npcs saying generic things along the way. And having to control more or less everything your companions did was a little annoying as well. If this person is supposed to be helping me out here, I shouldn't have to tell them to shoot the thing that's trying to eat my face. They should just shoot.
So to Summarize, Things the original Fallouts did Well:
- Great Storyline
- Solid role play aspects
- Tons of background on all Characters and Locations
- Created a well thought out and believable world.
- Dialogue: A lot of characters had a lot of info to give.
Places where the original Fallouts fell short:
- Graphics: while the talking heads were good for back in their day, the over all detail of landscapes and NPC were a little too generic and simple even for back in their day
- Quests: while the stories were solid the actual quests themselves were your standard rp fair of explore, kill, or find quests. To be fair this is a problem that always plagues rp games.
- AI of NPCs: Companions that just watch you get shot is one thing, but this is more about enemies. Seemed like sometimes you could stand right next to a baddy without them attacking while other times a rat would run across miles to bite you. Plus it would have been nice if generic NPCs did more than just strafe a step left or right.
- Dialogue: You could talk to a lot of characters that would give you no information worth having what so ever. I only need to be told once that your people are having trouble with raiders before it gets annoying to hear. Its bad enough npcs say it, but don't make me go to a dialogue box to hear it.
So a few years pass. We hear that Interplay is going to be doing another fallout, only to later find out they are having troubles. I don't know enough about the background of what happened to really comment, so it'll suffice to say that Bethesda eventually picked up the title. At the time this brought a mixed reaction that I didn't get. Well not entirely at least. I get the fanboy attitude. Most recently I walked out of the Green Lantern movie for what were minor differences and changes they made to the character. So I know very well how something that is a minor change to some people, can be a big deal to others. Still, at the time I remember thinking I was just happy that the franchise wasn't just going to disappear into the gaming wastes.
Fallout 3 was a mixed game, which is why there are so many mixed reactions to it. It was always clear from the beginning, to me at least, that Bethesda was not going to make a game for Fallout fans. Yes, they would try to appeal to fans of the original game here and there, but they were going to have to change a lot to make it appeal to fans of the X-Box era. Some of the early announcements made me excited, the game was going to be in first person, the map was going to be pretty damn big, and your origins were going to be tied to a Vault. (Incidentally this is the best Fallout origin in my mind, from an rp perspective at least. It means the character is in the same boots as the player, being thrust into an entirely new world, not knowing what to expect. Hopeful, yet cautious.) There was also a lot that made me cringe. At first I was excited to find out that the game was going to be based on the East coast. "Oh good," I thought "we'll get a fresh perspective on the Wasteland and get to see what's been going on in what obviously would have been one of the hardest hit areas of the war", but then they started showing Brotherhood of Steel members, and Super Mutants. This is far enough back that I'm not sure if there were any Enclave in the previews, but I do know their presence wouldn't (and for bit didn't) bother me. The Enclave's history and style of Operation made it perfectly logical that they could have a presence pretty much anywhere in the Wasteland to one degree or another. Still, I reserved judgement till I got the game in my hand. And what I got was... well it was a mix.
Fallout 3 did do a lot of things right. The graphics were up to date and on par with what we'd expect from a video game. Sure there were some places where this was lacking, but overall it was good. The start of this game was also my favorite of any in the fallout series. Though it probably could have been a bit more polished and interactive, Fallout 3 gave you a basic tutorial that wasn't as clunky and tacked on as some games are. You got a feel for the controls and new combat system in a way that didn't take you out of the game. Also this game dropped us into first person view. There are some people out there that will always be fans of the overhead first person view of games, but nothing puts you into the game more than seeing things from your characters perspective. This cleaned up a lot of the gameplay as combat was no longer clunky clicking and waiting. Also the AI seemed a bit better, though still not amazing, as companions acted as companions, and enemies had a more predictable and stable line of sight. Fallout 3 also kept a lot of the classic humor that has always gone hand in hand with Fallout games. Some people complained about the absurdity of some of it, but to me most of it was all in good fun. (The robots in particular were great to me in this. From Mr. Handy's new brittish butler type personality, to Robobrains apologizing as they tried to kill you telling you they didn't want to, it really added more of a humorous personality to the robots) Also a lot of the side quests, while having little to no story connection or even realistic basis, were fun to playthrough. (Can't help but mention the Super Human Gambit in this one. Did it make sense? Nope. Was the concept of crazy wastelanders playing superhero fun? Yep.) The game also had a lot of fun schematics that you could collect to make useful things out of what would otherwise be junk. I always thought this was a fun rp aspect of the game. I mean why wouldn't people try to piece together the junk they found into a useable weapon? Would a wastelander have the engineering knowledge to piece together vacuums and conductors into a Rock-it-Launcher? Probably not, but shooting forks and plates at raiders sure made for some fun gameplay. And I think that's the thing a lot of the fans of the original fallout forget/resent about Fallout 3. It wasn't made for their demographic. Sure Bethesda put in a few things here and there for fans of the original games, but the focus of the game was by far that of capturing the attention of the mainstream gaming community. In a lot of ways Fallout 3 is to the Fallout franchise what the new Star Trek movie was to Star Trek. Was it fun? Yes. Was it entertaining? yes. Is it true to the original series? In someways but not really. Are people going to remember this more than the original? Probably.
That being said, Fallout 3 failed in more of its share of places. It seemed to be a game that couldn't quite make up its mind on what time of game it wanted to be. It was a jack of all trades, but master of none. A lot of its roleplay elements were laughable. Not was its 'good/bad/neutral' system silly to begin with, it was also wildly imbalanced. It seemed like saying mean things to someone could net you more negative karma than killing a neutral character. Hell killing a bad character, even if they didn't provoke you, could not only get you good karma but a cash (or caps as it were) reward. I always thought that killing someone is bad, unless its some kind of self defense. But not in the Fo3 universe. You don't even need to know someone is bad to get a bonus for murdering them. And what the hell is 'neutral' any way, and why does it matter to so many companions? You mean this robot designed to serve humans won't come with me because I've done too many good/bad things? What the hell does that mean? This guy I knew from the vault won't come with me because I'm too good/bad now? You mean to tell me that even though I saved his mom's life, and know far more about the Wasteland than he does he won't come with me because I'm 'not his style'? What an asshole. Also people's react far too much to what my character is looking at. It seems like if I even look at an owned object for a second people are warning me not to take it. I guess that make sense if I was a bad character, and had built up a bad reputation, but I just went out of my way to make sure these assholes don't blow themselves up with the atomic bomb that they are too stupid to decide to get rid of, why are they yelling at me for looking at some other guys Nuka-Cola? There is also a distinct lack of gray area in the game. All the decisions are black and white. I'm either shooting a baby in the head, or bringing it a nice bottle of brahmin milk.
See a good quest should give you options and make you think. One of my favorite quests in New Vegas was the one you run for the Sharecroppers (the name of it escapes me at the moment). You go through a Vault, fighting ghouls all the way, with the goal of helping the farmers get more water. A simple noble goal, no gray area there. But then you find out that the only way you can help the farmers is by dooming innocent vault dwellers to their deaths. Conversely the only way to save the vault dwellers is by ruining the farmers crops, ruining their lively hood if not causing people to outright starve to death. In Fallout 3, your choices were much easier to make, and that's not a good thing. The Power of the Atom quest is the easiest, and earliest, example of this. You decide if your good, bad, or neutral, then you either disarm the giant bomb in the middle of the town, blow it all the hell, or just stay out of the whole mess. That's the other thing I hated about neutrality. You either had to just skip a lot of quests, or roleplay a bipolar maniac.
The main quest in Fo3 was also flimsy to say the least. It starts out well enough, you leave the Vault because your dad skipped out and now its pretty likely that the Overseer is going to either lock you up forever, or out right murder you, if you don't follow. But after this the whole thing falls apart. Your out to find your dad, alright that makes sense. But too many 'good' characters seem to want favors along the way. Not to mention that few, practically none, of the side quests are involved in this main story. Part of the fun of the original fallouts was getting bonuses for exploring, but you got most of the main stuff by going through the main quest and poking around a little. In Fo3 you could, and most likely did, miss whole areas of the map by just following the main quest line. Not to mention that the end goal of providing clean water to the Wasteland, seems kind of frivalous since most of the people in the waste seem to have a pretty easy time finding it. There may be a character or two here and there that are dying of thirst, but the Wasteland as a whole seems unconcerned with what is supposedly a horrible water shortage.
Fo3 fails even worse as a shooter. The game seems to emphasize the importance of V.A.T.S. by making it hard to impossible to accurately shoot without it. This would be bad enough, but the accuracy of vats seems to be an iffy thing in itself. Too often would it predict a high success chance only to have your character wildly miss. As if that weren't bad enough, bullets, and other weapons, do an unrealistically low amount of damage. Sure it makes sense that if I'm hitting a Super Mutant, or a robot with a sword, its not going to do a whole lot, but I would think smacking a raider that's only protection is a tire on the shoulder and a loin cloth would die pretty easily at the hands of a well placed blade, let alone a bullet. All too often in the game the player can find themselves shooting someone in their face several times before they die. One shot kills may not be fun, but they make logical sense.
So to summarize, What Fo3 did well:
- Saved Fallout from falling into obscurity
- Kept the Fallout Sense of humor
- Overall feel of the game. There are points where you genuinely do feel like your character, roaming the wastes of D.C.
- Interesting locations: there is just something fun about seeing D.C. landmarks in post-apocalyptic form.
- Number and variety of side quests.
- Had interesting locations with interesting back stories IF you were willing to poke around (The Ghoul in the Underworld who tells her story from before the way was always particularly interesting to me. I really wish there were more pre-war ghouls in the Fallout universe)
Things Fo3 fell short on:
- Over all roleplay experience. Too many black and white decisions and unrealistic reactions to events.
- Failed combat system. No one can honestly like the shooting in Fo3
- Horrible main quest. It teeters on decent then the ending pushes it into horrible.
- Pointless side quests: too many of the side quests are either unrealistic, or have no real benefit to the player beyond a change in Karma.
- Over the top isn't always good. Maybe I'd like the challenge of fighting an army of Enclave instead of just watching a giant robot step on them.
- Inability to play after main quest. I've never and will never understand why an rpg would do this. The games not over till I've done everything especially in a game with so many side quests that aren't even remotely related to the main quest. I wouldn't mind if the water was still irradiated after the main quest, or if no one commented on my heroic deeds. Maybe I just want to run around and shoot stuff with my horribly inaccurate gun?
So which game did I like better? I liked both actually. Both games come from such different times in gaming that they are hard to compare. This is why I don't think of Fo3 as the third fallout game. I think of it more as the first in a new generation of fallout games. Kind like how Fallout took what it liked from the Wasteland game and changed it up. The only difference really is that they are calling it Fallout 3 instead of something else. When of you think of it in this way, it isn't that bad of a game at all. Game of the Year? Probably not, but it was pretty enjoyable despite a lot of the headaches. I saw the games potential as a revitilization of the series instead of a continuation. FNV, which is granted made by Obsidian and not Bethesda, gives me more hope for the future of the Fallout Universe. A lot of the annoying aspects of Fo3 were cleaned up, others were made worse, but the potential for Fallout 4 is pretty good. Maybe Bethesda will learn a lot from what people liked and didn't like about Fo3 and FNV? Maybe not. who knows?
But now that I'm sure that I've said a good deal that both sides of the argument will like and hate, feel free to comment on how I'm a douche. That's what the internet is for anyways.