War never changes
It is impossible to talk about Fallout 3 without making the inevitable comparisons to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. After all, they are both open world RPGs made by the same development team at Bethesda Softworks. And after playing both games, it's clear that Bethesda has a very distinct style that permeates their games. Among all of the similarities, however, Fallout 3 manages to be just different enough to feel fresh, and be a compelling game in its own right.
The first thing fans of Oblivion will probably notice about Fallout 3 is that the game very much looks and feels like Oblivion. Similar controls, similar animations, and similar plot devices. Questing follows pretty much the same pattern, and Fallout 3's large, open ended world is there for you to explore however you choose. While a lot of the framework is blatantly similar to Oblivion, the way Bethesda has sprinkled the flavor on top gives Fallout 3 its own personality. The post-apocalyptic world is a stark contrast to Oblivion's fantasy setting, and also lends the game a surprisingly dark (yet effective) sense of humor. The characters also seem more distinct and expressive, and the nature of the world offers more varied questing options as well. There also seems to be more of a focus on role-playing in Fallout 3, with numerous ways to tackle any given quest- ways that feel like they have a huge impact on the game world. This stuff is awesome, and makes it feel like Fallout 3 has built on Oblivion in many positive, significant ways.
At the same time, some of Oblivion's strengths were lost in the transition. The same controls that worked so well in Oblivion's "swords and sorcery" combat don't seem to lend themselves quite so well to Fallout 3's gunplay. They just aren't as tight as most shooters, and the auto-targeting alternative is too slow to offer any of that "in-your-face" action that Oblivion provided so well. The world itself is also not as enjoyable to explore as Oblivion's. Being a wasteland, the whole thing is fairly barren and full of dull coloring. There's just not a lot of exciting things taking place among the rubble, and you don't really get a sense of possibility around every bend. Fallout 3 also carries its share of technical problems, some of which are carried over from Oblivion. Samples of what I experienced include: disappearing scenery, bugged AI, game freezing, and a whole lot of clipping issues. Granted, Fallout 3's world is large, and it's hard to imagine it not having any problems. But many of these glitches made quests impossible to complete, which is incredibly frustrating, and takes a lot away from the experience.
While it has its problems, they ultimately don't do enough to stop Fallout 3 from being a great RPG. Most of its strengths are things that Oblivion already did well, and we all know how good Oblivion was. And for the most part, Fallout 3 matches it blow for blow. Time has caused the formula to loose a little steam, but not so much that Fallout 3 is no longer a must play for RPG fans. Because it is.
For additional information on my review style and scoring system, click here.