Saving Ten Bucks is Worth More Than Saving the Galaxy
Having played Point-Lookout and Broken Steel (the two add-ons that preceded this installment), I was expecting another decent expansion to an already endless Fallout universe. To be honest, I skipped Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt when I heard their technical faults and limitations were less than forgivable, but the trend would suggest that Mothership Zeta could be an exception to the rule, right? Apparently Bethesda missed the memo.
The plot isn't entirely worth explaining. All in all, a transmition appears upon the DLC's installation that takes you to an alien saucer crash sight already placed on the map. From there, you're beamed onboard an alien vessel where you must break out along with other human prisoners and return safely to earth, all while combating the alien menace.
The environments are meant to look sterile like one would expect, and there are clearly new assets being used which is a nice change of pace from old, rotting buildings so common to the wasteland. Unfortunately, like anything clean and plain, it gets old relatively quickly. The only aspect that seems to change from room to room is the lighting - would you like a red tint or a blue tint with that probing, sir?
Of course, there are plenty of new items (and weapons) to fool around with, ranging from alien energy weapons to samuri swords. The bounty of standard items to be found include ones that repair your equipped weapon (most likely needed to repair the unique items you find onboard) and crystal fragments that serve the purpose of cigarettes (a tiny amount of weight for a boat load of caps). Unfortunately, there isn't a store or kiosk available on the saucer, so you will have to stash these valuables away until the end of the DLC.
The characters that tag along with you are meant to be noteable; since the aliens possess cryogenic technology (freezing people), many of your allies will be from different eras of time, including a cowboy, samurai, and a pre-war girl. There's more, but it's largely irrelevent since these character only change certain interactions and encounters when traversing the hull.
So, as of now, the review hasn't been incredibly critical to warrant two stars. Well, that's going to change right here, right now.
The technical follies of Fallout's engine become glaring in this installment, just as they have in all the others. Occasionally, the game freezes and locks up upon going into VATS. Sometimes, however, you can boil it down to a specific target. After one particular lock up, I restarted my game only to lock up again on the same enemy as before. It's moments like this where I want to call the QA manager and interrogate him as to how this was overlooked.
The enemies also become very redundant. Like Super Mutants and Rad Scorpions, the appearance is very minute between variations, but unlike the wasteland, the enemy variety is substantially low. I can only really recall three enemy types, but don't quote me on that number. The fact is, you have two alien types and a robot thrown into the homogeneous mix and nothing changes but their names and/or uniform color.
Despite these little gripes, the big kicker in this caranaval of discontent is the infamous decision (on the part of the developers) to completely block off access to 80% of the ship upon the DLC's completion. This doesn't aid the issue of having no where to dump or sell you precious loot before wandering around the ship's corridors (you have to collect everything in one go). Of course, you could always place the items in a toolbox, but if Fallout has taught me anything, it's that nothing is reliable. This game loves to randomly clean its drawers of memory by ejecting all your stored items into nothingness. Fortunately (I suppose), the add-on will only take 5 hours to complete, or 8 hours if you want to explore every nook and cranny. Even with that three hour addition, however, the pricing of $10 is far too steep for something of this length and quality. When looking at Broken Steel and Point-Lookout, this add-on should be placed at $5 or $7 if you're feeling generous.
In all, I'm not completely bummed about the experience. It's unique for Fallout 3 and the technical issues (while present) can be avoided through research and trial-and-error, though I don't think too fondly of using a wiki to avoid the shortcomings of a developer. However, the inability to revisit certain sections of the ship after a short completion time, not to mention the disagreeable pricing, makes it clear that this add-on was not meant to be.