Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas are both excellent role playing games that live up to the expectations of the classic franchise. However, They both have different strengths and weaknesses, and I think it's important to understand these fully, to get a good comparison of these vast titles.
Music and Radio
The recent Fallout titles published under Bethesda are known for introducing a younger generation to classic musical genres such as easy listening, big band, and jazz. This trend of using "old-timey music" has been in place since the first Fallout, which began and ended with the 1940 song by The Ink Spots, "Maybe". These songs are already "retro" to our ears, which helps establish the settings of these games. In Fallout, these songs are still frequently being played on the radio, decades and even centuries after their release. This old-timey vibe, juxtaposed to the bleak post-apocalyptic American wasteland, along with the futuristic technology, is what makes these games so unique and interesting. It isn't just any post-apocalyptic experience. It's a world of tomorrow come to life, followed by a horrible nuclear holocaust.
In addition to an excellent original soundtrack, Fallout 3 also featured licensed music from the early twentieth century, played on Galaxy News Radio. These songs are interrupted by the DJ Three Dog (voiced by the talented Erik Dellums), who gives news updates based on the player's actions, and can potentially hint towards quests the player can take. These are generally upbeat and amusing to listen to, but they also help to make the wasteland feel alive. The Lone Wanderer isn't as lonely when he's travelling with Three Dog, after all.
In addition, it also featured a handful of instrumental patriotic songs, played on Enclave Radio. This makes a lot of sense, considering that the game takes place in and around the capital of the United States. It fits the setting nicely, and offers a nice alternative to Galaxy News. These are interrupted by the Enclave president, John Henry Eden (voiced by the excellent Malcolm McDowell), who chimes in with short speeches full of stereotypical 1950's American ideals. In addition, he also rios various quotes from previous American presidents. The fact that he's taking these quotes and passing them off as his own shows how much the denizens of America have forgotten the past. To the average player with a basic understanding of American history, it should be clear that these quotes are not his, but the average wastelander doesn't know anything about that. To them, John Henry Eden could be seen as mysterious, confusing, or even enrapturing figure. For the purposes of the story, this is explained by John Henry Eden being a computer, cannibalising data stored by the Enclave.
If the player uncovers and completes the quest Agatha's Song by giving the Soil Stradivarius to Agatha Egglebrecht, the player will acquire a new radio station, Agatha's Station. This station, as one might expect, plays pleasing violin music. This introduces a few more musical styles to the airwaves, including Baroque and Romantic.
Fallout: New Vegas primarily offers two radio stations for the player to tune into. There are two others, but they aren't as readily available as the first two.
Radio New Vegas, hosted by Mr. New Vegas (voiced by Mr. Las Vegas) offers a good variety of rockabilly and pop, interrupted by news stories narrated by the aforementioned AI host. These stories are told with a little more charm and humour, as opposed to Three Dog's insistence on fighting the good fight. Mr. New Vegas is always uplifting and eerily cheery, so it's probably a good thing they made the distinction that it isn't human. Though I don't necessarily feel either approach is inherently better, I can understand how Three Dog might get on some people's nerves, whilst Wayne Newton's more neutral approach might be easier to deal with in the long run.
For those who don't want to deal with DJs at all, there's Mojave Music Radio, a station that primarily plays western country and jazz music with absolutely no interruptions. Though this station plays different tracks than New Vegas Radio, a few songs do overlap, namely "Johnny Guitar", "Heartaches by the Number", "Big Iron", and "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie". This station is a wise addition on the part of the developer, who knew players might get tired of the interruptions and simply want to listen to music. The addition of western country is also welcome, because it suits the "New Wild West" vibe so well. If half the people in the game talk with a twang, wear a cowboy hat, and wield a six-shooter, it's imperative that Marty Robbins be playing in the background.
Both games have their strengths and weaknesses in the soundtrack department. Looking back, I'd say Fallout 3 has a bit more variety, but Fallout: New Vegas has arguably better non-music segments. Again, I don't mind listening to Dellums, but Three Dog's over-the-top personality can get a tad grating at times. The alternatives all have some host, and even killing Three Dog causes Margaret to interrupt the music and shun the player for what they did. Fallout: New Vegas has two radio stations without any DJs or interruptions. That said, some might prefer Three Dog, who is overflowing with personality. The fact that he also plays a role-though neglegible-in the story, and the fact that he can be killed if the player so desires, helps make him feel more like a tangible part of the world, moreso than Mr. New Vegas. Ultimately, they both do different things right, and whether or not the music is to your liking is down to personal preference, nothing more.
Setting and Morality
Games in the Fallout franchise have always delivered an interesting, colourful world for players to explore. Additionally, players can also interact with the world in any way they see fit. Both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas offer an unparalleled amount of freedom in an open world packed with things to do. However, both have some shortcomings when it comes to each respective setting. Allow me to elaborate on how and where.
Fallout 3's Capital Wasteland is a far cry from the settings of the previous instalments, which makes sense, since it's on the opposite side of the country. The settlements here are run by rough-and-tumble people etching out a life wherever they can. The locations here include a shanty town built around a nuke, a city built out of an aircraft carrier, a hoity-toity hotel, a city of ghouls living in a history museum, a small nation ruled by an ego-maniacal dictator, a slaver town, and a whole bunch of other locations. These are all unique and interesting locations that beg to be explored.
The Capital Wasteland is far more hostile compared to the relatively civilised, settled setting of the Mojave. The aforementioned locations all sound interesting, right? At first glance, the Capital is a far more enticing setting, whereas New Vegas has... towns. Don't get me wrong, there are just as many interesting places to see in the Mojave, if not more. It just might not seem that way at first. About a fourth of the Capital is an urban wasteland, whereas the city in Fallout: New Vegas is a booming metropolis. It's full of cool concepts that make you want to explore every nook and cranny.
The Mojave Wasteland on the other hand, is comprised of small towns, military bases, military camps, and towns controlled by different military factions. Everything in the Mojave is dominated by ongoing conflict, intertwining the setting and the story seamlessly. At first glance, the Mojave Wasteland might not seem all that interesting. However, I believe Fallout: New Vegas has a far better setting than its predecessor, even though it may look banal and mundane at first. New Vegas and the surrounding areas make for a far more engaging experience, because of its people and politics. The setting of Fallout: New Vegas is better realised, with a lot more maturity and sophistication than its predecessor.
MrBTongue did an excellent job summing this up in his "The Shandification of Fallout" video, so I'll try to avoid rehashing what he said there too much. For those who haven't seen his video (and you should), he asks the question "what do they eat?". It's implausible that 200 years after the holocaust, these people can still survive by scrounging food. In Fallout: New Vegas, more care and thought went into the setting. It feels like a far more fleshed out society, with agriculture, economy, and political factions vying for power. To me, Fallout: New Vegas presented a far superior setting, because of its complexity and sophistication. There are at least three major factions tearing the Mojave apart, and each one comes with its own culture.
One thing I particularly liked was how the game juggled multiple currencies. This confusing clash of currency made sense, as the Mojave desert is caught in the middle of two expansionist nations, both looking to reform and rebuild the world in completely different-yet somewhat similar-ways. This provides a bit of a moral dilemma for the player, one with no right answer.
The Capital Wasteland on the other hand, is divided by a very black-and-white morality system. It's a mostly unsettled frontier, with pockets of civilisation dotting the hostile land. Yet, the wasteland judges you not by how you treat its people, but by how "good" or "evil" you are. Karma plays a huge role in Fallout 3, where the entire wasteland will experience a paradigm shift in how it views you based on an arbitrary "niceness" score. Three Dog, who has spies everywhere apparently, watches your every move and judges everything you on his radio segment dedicated entirely to the player character. In Fallout: New Vegas, the players actions are covered, but in a much more subtle manner. Mr. New Vegas discusses the news as they happened, but because the Courier isn't always explicitly mentioned, the world feels more alive and dynamic, instead of being revolving around the player.
I'd say the main problem I had with the world of Fallout 3 was how black and white it felt. A lot of the choices presented to the player fall under either good or evil, undermining the choices in question. Do you think "purifying" the wasteland in the name of the greater good is the right thing to do? Maybe you do. Sadly, the game judges you for it. You can pick a side, but your choices are ultimately "be a hero" or a "be a sadistic a monster". That isn't a hard choice to make, and it gets old quick.
The karma system in Fallout: New Vegas is more-or-less broken, in a different way. The game has a strange outlook on morality, and the ways you lose and gain Karma is just strange. Killing feral creatures that attack you in a ruined building makes you a better person, as does killing raiders. However, if you search his hideout and confiscate the weapons they were going to use to terrorise innocent people, you are now a bad person, and you should be ashamed of yourself. Killing Legion soldiers nets you positive Karma, which is a giant middle finger to those who might actually think they're the best option for the Mojave wasteland. The whole point of having these different factions is to make a hard "no right answer" kind of decision. Each faction has its drawbacks, but it's supposed to be a grey area. The karma system works against that.
To put it bluntly, the Karma system in Fallout: New Vegas is a joke, which is both a good and a bad thing. The way the player earns and loses Karma ranges from silly to stupid, but it’s hardly ever used, so it’s little more than a negligible annoyance. Because the Karma system is almost entirely replaced by Reputation, it doesn't really impact gameplay as much as in Fallout 3. Though black and white, the karma system is at least consistent, and I can understand its machinations. It's not hard to figure out how to increase and decrease my Karma score. That said, it permeates nearly every facet of the game, meaning if you don't like how it works, it's going to be a bit of a nuisance. In New Vegas, it is a much smaller distraction either way. Though Karma and Reputation might seem entirely different, the latter is essentially a better form of the former. Karma isn't some unseen force, it's a moral compass for how the world treats you. Reputation is the same thing, but it's far more mature and realistic.
The Reputation system makes far more sense than Karma. If you commit crimes against the NCR, the NCR won't like you very much. If you kill a few people in Goodsprings, the people of Goodsprings won't like you. It's simple, and it works. Karma takes anything you do and turns the entire wasteland against you if you so much as loot a raider, because looting is frowned upon in the post-apocalypse, apparently. This is even worse in Fallout 3, which has the Talon Company hunt you down for being "too nice". Yes, if you give a lot of water to a homeless man, you will be hunted down and murdered because they have an evil agenda. Who the hell is charge of these guys? Cobra Commander?
Reputation ultimately takes precedence in the Mojave. The silly Karma system is a distraction, but it's harmless in the end. That said, it's still a flaw, and I think the game would have been better off if Karma was removed altogether. In fact, I'd say that it's about time to drop it altogether. Reputation feels like a superior form of Karma, so why keep Karma around, at least in its current form? Karma is not an integral part of the Fallout experience. Fallout: New Vegas is proof of this; Karma was in that game, but it had almost no affect on anything, to the point that I barely ever noticed it. I played through the entire main quest without even knowing my Karma score, and I still don't care about it.
This doesn't mean Karma has to disappear entirely. If it could be redone to work behind the scenes, like Luck, that'd be interesting. I could get behind it if it worked in a sort of "what goes around comes around" manner. For example, if you are a good person, you might find slightly better loot, or have a lower chance of receiving critical hits. This sort of mystical, unseen force could add another subtle layer to the game. I know this sort of goes against the grey morality thing I was talking about earlier, but if it has to be in the game, it should be judging me a little more quietly.
Story and Exploration
Warning: spoilers for both games below.
Both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas have large open worlds with a lot to see and explore. How you do so is generally the same. After a short tutorial, you are free to dick around and do whatever you want, wherever you want, to whomever you want. That said, I ended up feeling like one had a more natural excuse for exploration and general "dicking-about" than the other.
In Fallout 3, the player character is raised in an underground fallout shelter, with no memory or knowledge of the outside world. To the Lone Wanderer, the Capital Wasteland is as much a mystery as it is to the player. This also perfectly explains why they don't know anything about the world. They've lived in a shelter their entire lives. The player and the player character are both on the same page, which makes for a far more immersive experience.
Fallout: New Vegas on the other hand, puts you in the shoes of a courier. Though this can be viewed as a mostly tabula rasa player character, it's also a little bit silly. I didn't form the same connection with the Courier as I did with the Lone Wanderer, for a few reasons. Firstly, the Courier's ignorance has no explanation. The Lone Wanderer is completely ignorant to the world around them, because they've lived a vault for twenty-one years.
The Courier on the other hand, has been all around the Southwest. They've travelled from Navarro, through the Divide, and couriered packages across the Mojave. Despite this, they know little to nothing about the single most important conflict in the American Southwest and the factions waging this war. Their previous occupation involved travelling vast distances across the Mojave. This doesn't do a very good job of explaining the ignorance of the player character, since they should know quite a lot about the area.
On the topic of tutorials, both games have missteps in this area. Fallout 3 has one of the most interesting and innovative tutorials: your childhood. As your character grows, they are introduced to different gameplay concepts over time. This also helps to form a more personal bond with the player and their overarching goal for the first half of the story. However, the downside to this is that it can be a little boring on repeat playthroughs. The tutorial for Fallout: New Vegas arguably does less to invest the player and get them motivated, but the end result is more-or-less the same: you have to find somebody out in the wastes, if you want to. That said, the tutorial in New Vegas is much shorter and far less intrusive. After the character creation bit in the doctor's office, you're turned loose. From here, newbies will likely go see Sunny Smiles, who can give a segmented tutorial that you can take as far you feel it needs to go, if at all.
The story of Fallout 3, like the rest of the series, starts out small and involves a larger conflict over time. I won't go into detail about the whole plot; I'll just skim over the better moments. After being forced out of their vault, the main quest involves the player tracking down their dad. The main quest will have the player following leads that will take them all over the Capital Wasteland, giving them a good tour of the world's highlights. The one thing I particularly love about the story is that it can be sequence broken. By going directly to their father's location, the player can effectively skip about half the story. Of course, these tasks can also be done later for a better reward, which gives the player more freedom, and puts them on a less linear track, making for more replayibility. This is a huge relief for players replaying the game. Though the tutorial can still be a bit of a drag, they can dive into the middle of the main story right away, or at any point beforehand. All told, I wish more games did this.
Should the player choose to do the quests in order-as most likely do-then they won't be disappointed. Along the way, they'll get some interesting foreshadowing regarding the player character's past. Tracking down the player character's father is a series of redirects that finally leads to Vault 112, where the player is trapped inside a computer simulation at the mercy of Stanislaus Braun, a devious villain in the form of a... little girl. This quest has one of two outcomes. Simply put, the "good" and "bad" routes. Though it's as black and white as it gets, it's still somewhat interesting, because the high Karma solution is much harder to do, and out of the way. Instead of asking the player straight away if they'd like to do the right thing or the wrong thing, the evil route is the most straightforward option, whereas the good route requires a bit of snooping and puzzle solving. This requires finding a certain house and entering a tonal combination, which will mercy-kill the vault residents and free you. What I particularly liked about this was how the solution to the puzzle is not only being sung by Braun him/herself, but it's also ingrained into the level as part of the background music.
Enter the Matrix.
The "evil" option however, is more fun and requires you get a little creative. What I especially appreciated about this route is that the player can be begrudgingly evil. The Lone Wanderer can play along with Braun, and tell him they're enjoying it. However, there's also plenty of dialogue for players who are going the "evil" path, but are only cooperating because they have to. This is a great thing to include, because it would be annoying if the player simply couldn't figure out the good guy solution and was forced to be an evil psychopath. All in all, I appreciate the amount of thought that went into this quest, even if it was completely black and white.
After this, the player is reunited with Liam Neeson, leading into The Waters of Life. Sadly, this reunion doesn't last long, as Liam is forced to make a heroic sacrifice for the greater good in order to prevent Augustus Autumn from activating the purifier. Autumn manages to survive, through the use of an unknown plot device syringe. It's a little iffy how this works, but I can forgive it, since it sets up the player to hate the primary human antagonist. After many feels, the player, accompanied by Doctor Li, head to the Citadel, where the good guys have set up shop.
It's here that the player will have to inevitably side with Elder Lyons, the epitome of human righteousness. The player will then set off to hunt down a G.E.C.K, a MacGuffin familiar to those who played Fallout 2. Again, there are a few short cuts for the player here, thought not nearly as many are available as there was in the first half of the main quest. Most of these are dependent on stats, which I like. It makes levelling up and progressing have importance. After retrieving the G.E.C.K, the player is kidnapped and whisked away to Raven Rock. On the way out, the player will finally meet John Henry Eden face to... screen?
Plot twist! The president turns out to be a computer. This comes across as a bit of a surprise, but it's a good explanation as to why he's essentially the "perfect" president. Before you go, he will implore you to take the FEV and intact his plan to "purify" the wastes. The player has the option to kill Eden via speech or skill checks, or use his self-destruct code. Either way, Eden is destroyed along with Raven Rock in Broken Steel.
After escaping, the player joins the Brotherhood of Steel in one final push for the purifier. This would be a fairly straight-forward final battle, but it's one of the greatest moments in gaming history, due to the extremely patriotic and totally radical giant robot,
Optimus Liberty Prime. Once at the heart of the Jefferson Memorial, the player will face off against the final boss, Augustus Autumn, using either words or violence. The latter however, makes for a fairly disappointing and anticlimactic boss fight. He has no armour, and poses little threat compared to his Enclave entourage. He's analogous to Oliver from Fallout: New Vegas. All in all, the Lanius fight from that game is the best final boss, because it offered the most challenge. Sadly, he's basically the Mojave Wasteland version of Frank Horrigan, a tough final boss who is only introduced at the end, when he challenges the player. He is mentioned in dialogue though, which is better than nothing.
After that's out of the way, the player is faced with one final option. Activate the purifier themselves, killing them, have Sarah Lyons do it, killing her, or do nothing and die. In addition, if the player does activate the purifier themselves, they have the option of lacing the water with the FEV virus, essentially wiping out most of the life in the wasteland. For the most part, I like the ending. It brings the whole story full circle (literarily and literally) and forces the player to use some critical thinking skills. There are two instances where the Lone Wanderer mentions actually knowing the code, but for a lot of players, the answer to the three-digit code might not be obvious right away. For me, it's a fond gaming moment, because I had to actually think and pay attention, a novel concept in this medium, sadly. Though Autumn was easy, the real challenge is figuring out the code under pressure. Some might say it's easy, and there are ways for the player to be straight-up told the solution, but I liked it.
However, there are parts I don't like. First, I don't like that none of your followers will do it for you, even when it's the most logical. Fawkes, revealing himself to be the biggest of scumbags, tells you your destined to die. Sargeant RL-3 tells you should stop being a pussy and commit suicide, and Charon refuses to do it... because he doesn't feel like it, I guess. Gee, thanks guys. This is only done to add drama to the ending, and it's rather annoying that they decide to throw logic out the window so obviously. This is made worse when Broken Steel changes their minds. Of course they'll do it; why wouldn't they?
It plays out as a good and evil plot, and whilst I can appreciate the consistency here, it kind of undermines the player’s choices a bit. In the final moment, the player is given the option of purifying the wastes by killing off its denizens (the evil option) or purifying the water for all (the good option). What’s the point of having an ethical dilemma if the player is judged by the game’s systems and narrator immediately afterwards?
One thing I appreciated was that, whilst the player is given motivation, you're not breaking the game's logic if you decide to ignore it. The player is forced out of their vault. If they left voluntarily to search for their father, there would be a disconnect between the story and the player's actions once they chose to go off the beaten path. The same can be said of Fallout: New Vegas. The player is turned loose after a near-death experience, and instead of hunting down the player's father, they are on a quest for revenge against Matthew Perry, which is always a win in my book. Of course, whereas the Lone Wanderer can be bitter and resentful towards their father, the Courier more-or-less always seems eager for payback. Though this is understandable, I would have liked a few more "live and let live" dialogue options, so it's less jarring when you spend a year exploring the wastes and looting ruins.
The first act in the main quest of Fallout New: Vegas is a lot like the first half of the main quest in Fallout: 3. In both games, you are looking for an individual in a fixed location to which player can immediately go and skip half the quest. The quests along the way can be skipped or done in any order. As I've said, it's great that the player can just skip to the second act if they so desire. It gets the job done, and ties into the central conflict well.
The plot of Fallout: New Vegas feels less personal and more plot-driven than Fallout 3. The politics take the forefront here, and the player has less of a connection with the protagonist, who for all intents and purposes exists solely to drive the plot forward. They're a wanderer, like the protagonist of the previous game, but they're less arguably less defined than the Lone Wander. It's only in the DLC does the Courier really shine as a character.
Whilst Fallout 3 has a few ethical dilemmas sprinkled throughout, with one huge one at the end, the entire branching questline of Fallout: New Vegas is one huge ethical dilemma in itself. After killing Benny, opportunities unfold. Do you side with the well-intentioned albeit corrupt expansionists? The NCR aims to bring old-world American values to the Mojave, but they're often corrupt and ineffective. The Legion is far more effective, but they rule with an iron fist, painting a nasty picture for the future. Do you side with the House, the shrewd and conniving businessman? Or do you forge your own path and forgo order? There's no right answer here, which means choosing your quest arc might require a bit of thought.
Having four branching main quest lines means a lot more replayability than Fallout 3, which is a linear storyline after finding Liam. It's easier to come back to the main quest of New Vegas, since you're getting a different flavour each time. Now, to be fair, there's a lot of similarities, but there's enough there that's different to make it worth playing at least four times.
Whereas Fallout 3 has a simple good vs. evil plot, the action in Fallout: New Vegas is a more political affair. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but having several factions vying for control of a huge area of land, with you stuck in the middle of it, seems far more complex and interesting than two factions fighting over a water purifier.
The ending for Fallout 3 left me with a good feeling of satisfaction overall. We are shown the Lone Wanderer's life from beginning to end (well, we get the highlight reel for the childhood, but you get the idea), and it left me with a good taste in my mouth. It wrapped up rather nicely, and I feel like it's almost a shame that Broken Steel leaves the story of the Lone Wander on an ellipsis.
Fallout: New Vegas has a variety of endings, and they all leave me a little unsure. Choosing which faction with which to side was a difficult choice, but I ultimately sided with Yes-Man, feeling it was the safest option. The NCR is ineffective and corrupt but well-meaning, the Legion is brutal but effective, and Mr. House is a shady businessman who always has some ulterior motives. In the end however, it seems to be implied that Yes-Man will become a sort of dictator, with Vegas becoming a police state. I felt almost betrayed, and it left me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, I did wish the Courier themselves got a little bit more closure in the main game. Whereas Fallout 3 had a neatly self-contained story that was undone by downloadable content, Fallout: New Vegas had an almost unfinished character arc that was wrapped up in the add-ons. Make of that what you will.
Characters and Followers
The Fallout series hasn't been shy about giving us colourful casts of characters and companions on our post-apocalyptic journeys. Both games are full of interesting personalities, so I don't think I can necessarily say which is better. However, when it comes to companions, one game does it better in spades.
The followers of Fallout 3 are dependent upon your Karma, like a lot of things in that game. For players with high Karma, there's Fawkes, the walking tank who is maybe a little too overpowered. He's an interesting companion however, since you spend so much time fighting super mutants that can think of only bashing brains, Fawkes offers a nice contrast. The other good Karma follower is Star Paladin Cross, a literal white knight fighting for justice and honour in the wasteland. She'd be a fairly boring character if she wasn't directly related to the player's origin, which makes her worth bringing along at least once or twice. Both of these people are highly idealistic, so it makes sense that you'd lose them if you're being a "bad" person.
For the bad boys, there's Jericho and Clover, a former Raider and a slave, respectively. Jericho used to rape and pillage, but is generally a badass, easily my favourite follower of the bunch. The fact that he'll smoke any cigarettes you give him is also a nice touch. I can maybe buy the fact that he'll leave if you're being a goody two-shoes. After all, he was part of a tough gang, where strength and badassery mean everything. The one thing I don't like about him was how he returns to Megaton even if you destroy it. It's absolutely ridiculous that this person would stand around for eternity in front of a pile of irradiated rubble. C'mon Bethesda, you can do better than that. If I were Jericho, I'd insist on moving in with the Lone Wanderer, since he did blow up his house. Just sayin'.
Clover on the other hand, is an insane slave in love with her master. It makes sense that you can re-hire her after buying her with no karma requirement, because you own her. I think it's a little silly that you have to a "bad guy" just to perform a simple business transaction, but whatever. She's crazy, and adds a lot of personality to the cast that someone like Cross lacks.
For neutral characters, there's Butch and Sergeant RL-3. Butch is a fun comic relief character, one for whom I always had a soft spot, so I can't really complain about him. He also gives the added benefit of cutting the player's hair anywhere at any time, which is a good perk. Furthermore, the Karma restriction makes a bit more sense than with some of the other companions. If you're too good, he's self-conscious about not being a badass. If you're too evil, he's too cowardly to do join you. Here, the restriction works, because it fits with Butch's personality.
RL-3 is a patriotic robot (though not nearly as patriotic a robot as Liberty Prime) whose personality and initials are based off of actor R. Lee Ermy. He contrasts with the group rather well, being a robot and all. His excuse for not joining the player character if they aren't neutral is that a soldier should just do his duty, which is kind of dumb if you ask me. It's a lame way of shoehorning in the Karma restriction.
Then there are the followers with no Karma requirement, both of which I particularly like, because they don't have seemingly arbitrary moral restrictions placed on them. Charon is a ghoul who is brainwashed into believing whomever holds his contract is his master, and he must follow their every command. Imagine my surprise then, when he refused to save my life at no cost or danger to him, because I guess saving my life and purifying the wastes is too much of a hassle for him. Still, who doesn't want their very own Argyle?
Then there's Dogmeat, the best follower in the game. Like the original version, Dogmeat is a tenacious fighter and loyal follower. He's iconic, useful, and intelligent-the perfect companion for any Lone Wanderer. Originally, Dogmeat was meant to be an early-on random encounter, so the player could build up a relationship with him. This was scrapped, and now players can go the whole game without finding him, which is a shame. Instead, he is found at the Scrapyard. Though Fallout: New Vegas also has a canine companion, he simply doesn't match up to the one from this game. This Dogmeat is arguably better than the one from Fallout, because he doesn't run into your bullets and into force field barriers.
Yeah, I'm still salty about that.
Fallout: New Vegas also has an interesting ensemble of mistfits and lunatics, ranging from a robotic dog to a schizophrenic super mutant to a guilt-ridden sniper to Felicia Day. They're quite the motley crew, needless to say.
Rex is a robotic dog, and as I said, he simply doesn't live up to Dogmeat. Still, he's got an interesting design and personality. I also appreciate that, like every other follower in the game, it gets its own quest, during which the player can decide the dog's ultimate personality, affecting where it ends up after your time with it. Cass is a caravanner and daughter to John Cassidy, a follower from Fallout 2 She's tough, loose, sarcastic, and loves a drink. Sadly, the player has no option to romance her, even though she was the only person I wanted to in the whole game. She can also make moonshine, which is useful. Arcade Israel Gannon, who officially has the greatest name of all time, is an idealistic scientist working for the Followers, with a shady past. He also has a connection to Fallout 2, which is totally radical for people who played that, and I'm sure the twist came as a surprise to most of the long-time fans. He is also an idealist who speaks fluent Latin, so he contrasts nicely with the Legion.
Then there's Lily, the psychotic super mutant. At first, she might seem like a comic relief character, but she actually has an interesting and touching story, like many other followers. Despite the novelty of a granny super mutant, she's actually a very tragic character who doesn't ever really get a happy ending. If she takes her medicine, she remains stable, but forgets herself and her grandchildren. If she stops taking her medication altogether, she becomes feral. If she takes a half-dose, her memory becomes hazy, and she heads out to find herself. No matter what you do, you can't make everyone happy, and not everyone gets a happy ending. This flies in the face of most games, that tell you it's okay to take the impractical, idealist route, because it will always work out in the end.
Raul Alfonso Tejada is an old Mexican ghoul. Like Charon, he's a cool ghoul sidekick, albeit with a lot more personality. He's a reluctant sidekick, one who's eager to follow you, but not without making a few snide comments first. He seems to have a somewhat positive response to the Legion, which is nice for Legion characters, especially when the rest of the followers in the game don't. Depending on the direction you take with his personal quest, he'll end up with an armoured jumpsuit (similar to the Armored Vault 101 jumpsuit) or a cowboy costume. I don't think I need to tell you any more about Raul for you to know he's awesome.
Veronica might seem young and innocent, and you wouldn't be wrong in that assumption, considering she's voiced by Felicia Day. However, you'd be wrong. There's more to this girl than meets the eye. Despite her bubbly nature, she's got some serious opinions about recent events and the Brotherhood of Steel, though she may not always be taken seriously. Really, all you need to know is that she loves to punch things and she has a great voice actor. Did I mention she's voiced by Felicia Day? 'Cause she is.
Boone is a badass sniper racked with guilt mourning the loss of his wife. He too has an excellent voice actor, though it might be hard for some people to take Haku seriously as a sniper. That said, I thought his delivery was great, so I can't complain. What's even better than his actor is his writing. He has a tragic backstory full of feels that is slowly unravelled over time. Generally speaking, anything that gets close to him dies horribly. And quickly. I can see why he's such a fan favourite.
Finally, there's ED-E, the adorable robotic companion. It floats around zaps enemies for you. Personally, I never cared for Rex too much, so I always thought of him as this game's Dogmeat. His dialogue, or lack thereof, never gets annoying, because they're just beeps and boops.
The companions of Fallout: New Vegas are a huge improvement over the ones in its predecessor. The companion wheel makes interfacing with them much easier, removing the hassle of navigating repetitive dialogue menus. In addition to the improved user interface, they feel more well-written and fleshed out as characters. Each one has their own story arc which can be influenced by the player. They feel more dynamic and interactive. Each follower has their own opinion on the Mojave conflict, and who you side with can cause some people to leave. Unfortunately, it's really the Legion that people hate the most. I really wish we had a pro-Legion follower (like Ulysses was originally supposed to be). If you side with the NCR, you can pretty easily keep everyone in your party, meaning you won't always have a really difficult decision to make.
Aside from that, I really appreciate how much the followers felt like a part of the world. You can ask them for their opinion on recent events and where you're going with the conflict. They will stop at certain places and have unique dialogue pertaining to it. For example, when travelling too close to Cottonwood Cove, Boone informed me about it, and said if we went in, he wouldn't hesitate to murder every Legionnaire he sees. From here, you can go all the way and kill Caesar himself, for which Boone will also have unique dialogue. This is just one example, however. Overall, a lot more thought and effort was put into the companions of this game, and it makes them, and the world, feel more tangible as a result.
Add-Ons and Downloadable Content
Generally speaking, Bethesda has been doing a good job giving consumers worthwhile downloadable content. The DLC they'd offered us has ranged from the best add-on ever made to some of the worst. Whilst I've been disappointed and underwhelmed by some of their DLC offers, I believe they maintain a sort of worth. Most are worth buying and playing, and don't feel like the same thing re-skinned and re-sold to you. So whilst all of them were a good effort, not all of them felt like they were worth my time and money.
Operation Anchorage is the first ever add-on for a Fallout title, but I'm not sure if it was a great start. It puts the player in a simulation of the Battle of Anchorage. This means a new snowy environment through which the player can fight. Notice I said fight and not explore. Though the typical RPG elements are there, it's still mostly a straightforward campaign, with very little exploration present. This add-on almost boils the game down to its combat mechanics alone, and unfortunately, shows how weak those mechanics are when you aren't exploring the wastes.
The Pitt is an improvement, and whilst it isn't the greatest add-on ever, the ability to explore a new city and make some difficult morally grey decisions along the way makes it far more interesting than its predecessor. That said, the moral choices in the main questline are "free the slaves" or "let the slaves suffer". Considering the context of the situation, that's not a difficult moral choice. It's a simple and easy choice between good and evil. Regardless of your decision, you'll get a few worthwhile diversions and some cool loot along the way. It's not the best add-on by any stretch of the imagination, but it's still worth a look for a new area to explore.
For many people, the ending was a let-down. Despite a couple of plot holes and contrivances, I liked how the ending concluded the story of the Lone Wanderer. For those that wanted to complete their adventure and keep going however, there's Broken Steel. I liked this one a lot more than the previous two, because it's far more open-ended. Though I liked where the story left off in the vanilla game, I really enjoyed the plot of this one for the most part. That said, it would have been a good idea to have some sort of central antagonist instead of "the Enclave remnants". The lack of an antagonist here, and the fact that this add-on wasn't entirely necessary was my biggest problem. There weren't really loose ends at the end of Fallout 3, so another campaign feels like a little much.
That said, it is interesting to explore the wasteland again, and see the aftermath of your actions. It could have just given you a solid campaign, but it also changed and added to the base game world in a few interesting ways. As for the campaign, it was well-paced, with plenty of fun battles to fight along the way. My only real complaint is that, whilst you have the option to bomb the Citadel, there's no reason or incentive for it. Again, the game would have benefited from an antagonist here. If the enemy could have offered one last offer, nuking your allies would actually make sense. Instead, it's a weird ending that's thrown in for no reason, if you want to make sure all of your progress was for nothing.
Broken Steel was followed by Fallout 3's best piece of downloadable content, Point Lookout. Easily the Shivering Isles of Fallout 3, this add-on offers a huge new world with an eerie Lovecraftian atmosphere in which players can immerse themselves. In fact, there were more than a couple ambushes that managed to make me feel actual fear. That's the power of a powerful atmosphere. There aren't a lot of vendors, and most of the area is unsettled, meaning you'll be spending most of your time exploring and fighting. This DLC is by far the most open-ended of them all, offering a wide selection of themed weapons and apparel. The questline is interesting to say the least, involving a feud between a well-groomed ghoul and an evil brain. Needless to say, the entire add-on is filled to the brim with personality an an intriguing atmosphere, setting it apart from the Capital.
Unfortunately, the best add-on was followed by the worst: Mothership Zeta. This DLC sounded interesting at first, but its premise just doesn't hold up. Though the climax was kind of cool, and the characters were fun to talk to, most of the time playing this DLC is spent shooting stereotypical alien invaders in narrow corridors, which actually doesn't make for a fun time, especially contrasted against the open-ended exploration of Point Lookout. The colourful cast simply wasn't enough to save this add-on, and we were left with an ultimately disappointing end to the Lone Wanderer's tale.
Dead Money was a fun time for hardcore players like myself who like a more survival-oriented challenge, but I can understand how players might find it frustrating. It's more in the vein of survival horror than open-world RPG, so I can understand how it might disappoint some people. Well, that and the bugs. Like Point Lookout, the atmosphere was spooky, but it was the survival aspect that made me feel fear when exploring. In addition to the pseudo-survival horror gameplay, the story was touching and was complemented by a an interesting ensemble of companions. I'd say it was everything that Mothership Zeta should have been. Overall, it was a good start to the add-on story that would be continued in the later packs.
Honest Hearts felt like it was trying to capture the open-endedness of Point Lookout, and I'm not sure if it necessarily failed. It offers a bright and colourful national park for the player to explore. Like Point Lookout, Zion Canyon hasn't been touched by nuclear devastation, only societal degradation. This means that, for the first time in the Fallout franchise, the player gets to see rain. The story revolves around two tribes. You don't side with a tribe, but rather either Joshua Graham or Daniel. Both follow different interpretations of their faith, and have a different method for dealing with the White Legs tribe. This leads to one of the more interesting morally grey choices in the game. Do you hold your ground and defeat the savage White Legs, or do you take the more peaceful route, and retreat? Either way, Daniel ends up either longing for his old home, or dies haunted by his failure. This add-on captures the "you can't make everyone happy" idea quite well. Personally, with all things considered, I feel this may even surpass Point Lookout.
Old World Blues is a testament to the power of witty writing. I must have spent the first hour listening to dialogue, and I enjoyed every second of it. Though I compared Honest Hearts to Point Lookout, this is easily better than both. It's full to burst with personality in every conceivable area. It's characters are laugh-out-loud hysterical, the events, enemies, and locations are all completely ludicrous, and it all comes together to form a hell of a fun time. True, the lag made it unplayable in some areas, and it froze several times, but I think it's a testament to how fun it is that I kept booting it up every time despite the frustration.
The fourth and final add-on pack was Lonesome Road. Though I've complained about the linearity of previous add-on titles, I felt this one actually managed to find a good balance, and manages to pull it off rather well. There are some optional areas, and some things to explore, but this is ultimately a gauntlet. Yet, I don't hate it, because it's properly executed. It's difficult, as it should be. You're expected to give the Divide everything you've got, and the Divide will give plenty back. Along the way, I really enjoyed the excellent level, character, and enemy designs. This was the last true add-on pack, so the developers saw fit to give us the coolest stuff before the game was finally done. This DLC gives us a Shoulder mounted machine gun, an extremely patriotic rocket launcher, the incredibly radical Scorched Sierra power armor, and a lot more.
Lonesome Road did more than give you some cool stuff, though. It also concluded the Courier's journey, shedding some light on their backstory. The story here is simple, and follows a simple theme: one Man can have a huge impact on history, whether they know it or not. Ulysses, with his mysterious aura, obsession with Americana, and silky smooth voice, makes for a great final antagonist, one of the best in the franchise. As promised in the first add-on, the road ends with an epic battle under the flag of the old world. In a clever bit of writing, this is alluded to, but the implication is that the two couriers fight. You can still do this-and expect a helluva duel if you do-but you can also team up for one last stand. Finally, the player has the option to nuke a Caesar's Legion compound, an NCR base, both, or neither. It's a great way to cap of the game for a lot of people, and brings a lot of finality to the DLC story arc as well as the protagonist's.
In addition the the four, there were also pre-order bonuses, which gave you a huge headstart at the beginning of the game with some unique gear. These are neat little aesthetic additions, and it isn't a total waste of money for completionsists. Gun Runners' Arsenal on the other hand, adds a bunch of new toys, tools, mods, and challenges for the player to uncover. It's spread all over the wasteland, so it only makes the game world feel deeper. Both the Gun Runner's Arsenal and the Courier's Stash add-ons feel like small, worthwhile additions to the game, and I was more than willing to buy a little something extra for my game after all the fun I've been having with it.
Ultimately, I feel that the add-ons for Fallout: New Vegas maintained a higher overall quality than the ones in Fallout 3, which fluctuated wildly in value. Not every piece of Fallout: New Vegas DLC knocked it out of the park, but I was never outright disappointed with any of them like I was with Mothership Zeta.
In the end though, it doesn't matter, because none of them are as good as Shivering Isles.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
Both games have their missteps, their strengths and weaknesses. They're both incredible experiences that live up to the Fallout license, and even surpass it in some ways. Some things about the games aren't necessarily better or worse, just different. In some areas, Fallout: New Vegas is an improvement over its predecessor, and in some ways, Fallout 3 is still better. Instead of arguing about which game is better, I think it's more important to understand what makes each game work, and hope the next Fallout game includes the best of both worlds.