Fallout 3 DLC final thoughts…

Fallout 3 DLC final thoughts after the break…

Fallout 3 DLC final thoughts…

We have long since entered the age where the video game that debuts is hardly the only amount of video game one may get. Developers and publishers have long since employed several tactics to stretch a successful property to it’s financial limits.

What were once large “Expansion Packs” have now evolved into smaller and more expensive “Downloadable Content” (DLC, get it?). Where once you could get one-third of an entire game, you now get a few extra hours of game play for the same price. Capitalism at it’s finest.

Granted, Fallout 3 DLC has learned from the infamous “Horse Armor” incident from “Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion” where gamers received a few extra armors and nothing else… All for a price. This from the same company that, only a few years prior, gave it’s gamers two huge expansions for “Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind” (Tribunal and Bloodmoon).

The idea for DLC is almost no different then the once-popular but now hardly-mentioned (outside of the computer game developer “Telltale Games”) “episodes,” where developers deliver less content but faster then in the pesky old days when gamers would have to *GASP!* wait for new content from their favorite intellectual properties of choice. Unfortunately, not many game developers have utilized that concept of episodic content (I’m looking squarely at you… Valve…) to it’s fullest potential.

Fallout 3 DLC ultimately arrived in 5 different flavors: Arctic, Industrial, More of the Same, Swampland & Space Alien. Having now played them all to some significant extent, here’s my take on all of them, both individually and as a group…

Operation: Anchorage – This was Fallout 3’s version of a First-Person Shooter and… It just didn’t work for me. The game engine for Fallout 3 doesn’t work well as a twitch-dependent game engine. Having gotten used to a slower, more methodical game play with the main game, Operation Anchorage had a lot of pretty scenery but without any substantive story or interaction to give that scenery any depth.

The Pitt – The Pitt and Point Lookout are almost like brothers (or sisters, if you want to assign computer programs gender): Each try to be an expansion set in a different land, retaining the role-playing game mechanics but with different scenery, costumes, weapons and perks. In the case of The Pitt, it has two mechanics that I found somewhat annoying – “You Start Over” and “Treasure Hunt.” In The Pitt, you re-start life (temporarily) as a slave until you can rise above your surroundings to start a revolution where both sides are more a shade of grey rather then black and white. You’re eventually led to a large setting where you have to find steel ingots in an area infested with human and humanoid enemies.

Broken Steel – Most Fallout 3 fans will recognize “Broken Steel” by it’s more common name… “We’re Sorry We Killed You Off During the Main Quest.” In this expansion, only accessible if you’ve actually completed the main quest, you continue your fight against the Enclave until it reaches it’s climactic end.

Point Outlook – Fallout 3 meets “Redneck Rampage” (classic gamers will know what I’m talking about while the younguns’ can simple use Wikipedia to figure that one out).

Mothership Zeta – Your main character gets abducted by 1950’s space alien cliches who would like to treat you with all of the dignity of a high school biology dissection.

BEST DLC? I dunno. I think that “Broken Steel” edges out “The Pitt” and “Point Outlook” but none of the five can be considered as “great.” “Broken Steel” gets the win simply because it integrates itself the best with the main game; You never feel like you’ve broken the game’s “fourth wall” by using the DLC. The same can’t be said of the runner-ups – With “Point Outlook,” you ride a ferry to a “distant” land that you never return from until it’s all over while with “The Pitt” you enter a tunnel for the same effect. “Point Outlook” does have one “cross-over” quest that does require you to¬† go back to the main game but it’s a throwaway quest that’s just not necessary (and the one location you do have to go back to isn’t consistent with the Fallout theme).

WORST DLC? Tough call between “Operation Anchorage” and “Mothership Zeta.” I think I’ll give this one to “Mothership Zeta” for two reasons – One, it completely wastes a great setting and Two, it couldn’t keep my interest. Had I played “Mothership Zeta” first and then “Operation Anchorage,” my impressions would be different but, after plowing through Operation Anchorage, I simply had no enthusiasm for what felt like “Operation Anchorage in Space.” Neither of these DLCs integrated itself very well with the main game (OA more so, as you at least had to encounter a Brotherhood of Steel Outcast base where you are simply “abducted” for MZ).

Overall Impressions: If I was on a budget, I’d buy the following DLCs in the following order – Broken Steel, Point Outlook, The Pitt, Operation: Anchorage & Mothership Zeta. Granted, I would be hard pressed to offer a credible reason to buy the last two on the list and, nowadays, it is difficult to buy the DLCs separately anyway.

If game companies are really going to offer DLCs, they need to integrate them more thoroughly into the main game. Four of these DLCs treat themselves as “Islands,” locations that you go to, explore and exploit and then leave with no real tangible reason for returning. Broken Steel felt the least “Island” like and so of the top three, it got the nod to be number one.

Bethesda really doesn’t like having truly interactive environments. You can’t really “ride” a subway car or an elevator; Having to watch the load screen when traveling between cells is distancing from the immersion that other games, such as first-person shooters, take for granted. For instance, I rode a subway car in Doom 3 back when that game came out and that was YEARS before Fallout 3. Why not the same level of tech for a game released far later? Gothic 3 may have had it’s faults but it just felt so immersing to enter a castle and really ENTER it instead of clicking on a door and waiting for that cell to load. I felt like I was exploring a land in that game… Why not with Fallout 3 / Elder Scrolls 4?

I’m really surprised that Bethesda decided not to have any vaults in their DLCs. Vaults to the Fallout mythos are like lightsabers to the Star Wars mythos. Granted, you’d be hard pressed to fit a Vault in the MZ DLC… It’s on an alien spaceship after all. However, where was the excuse in Broken Steel? The Pitt? Point Outlook? While giving the player uniquely different settings is great (no one wants to eat at the same fast food place wherever they go), a little hint of familiarity would’ve been nice as well. The vaults wouldn’t have to be the same, just different enough to be distinct from one another. I found the underground lab setting from Point Outlook to be especially refreshing – Although it wasn’t a Vault, the setting was distinct and opened up a whole new realm of possibilities.

One aspect of the DLCs that Bethesda should definitely consider is integrating the DLCs with each other. I understand that there are technical aspects of this that might not be feasible but the integration would’ve been deeply rewarding. Imagine a quest that starts in Point Outlook ending in The Pitt? A decision made during Mothership Zeta affecting the outcome of Broken Steel? Yes, this would be more complicated but it would also compel people to purchase the product that much more. Of course, I’ve already argued for greater integration and consequence of these DLCs to the main game but by tying the DLCs together, even loosely, the DLCs would retain more value for the player then simply being “islands.”

Finally, it would’ve been nice if the DLCs would’ve offered just the slightest hint at what a possible Fallout 4 might entail. Granted, there have always been mentions of “The Commonwealth” and other places not visited yet in the Fallout mythos mentioned in Fallout 3 but they’ve only been words or a character. How neat it would’ve been had there been more then just a dash of a preview of where Fallout 4 would lead then in Fallout 3? There is nothing more tempting then seeing that display of teddy bears in Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” (a teddy bear being integral to Kubrick’s next film which, sadly, he never made due to his death) and wondering what “A.I.” would’ve been like had he lived long enough to make it. Imagine if Fallout 3 and their DLCs employed that tactic to greater effect, previewing for it’s gamers the next direction that the Fallout franchise would take… To the Commonwealth? Beyond?

Final Thoughts – In an age where gamers always want more, and cheaper, and faster, and now, and bug-free… You have to credit the developers for at least trying to keep up. However, not all DLCs are created equal, received as equals or perceived as equals. Integrating a DLC into the main game and to other expansions of that same property adds a synergistic value that is hard to calculate but also immeasurably invaluable. We all want to travel to someplace different but, at the same time, we do want the luxury of getting off of the ride whenever we please. Here’s to hoping that Fallout 4’s DLCs learns it’s lessons from the mistakes that Fallout 3’s DLCs made by being both distinct but indistinguishable from the main game that it supports. That’s a tough objective but one both well worth the trouble as well as the retail price.


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