Vault 74 by MuxauJl (English version, Fallout 3 mod) review…

Vault 74 by MuxauJl (English version, Fallout 3 mod) review after the break…

Vault 74 by MuxauJl (English version, Fallout 3 mod) review…

There is a popular question amongst ecologically-minded people as to why the bumblebees are currently dying off at an “alarming” rate. I have no idea what a normal or “alarming” mortality rate is for bumblebees but I will defer to those bumblebee experts that the current mortality rate is “alarming.” Since the answer is, at present, mysterious, the question has increased in popularity and is often used as just one of many factoids for environmentally-aware persons to advocate their views.

Not quite as dire but equally popular (at least, in the gaming community) is the question of why adventure games have become a niche genre for the video and computer game population. Just fifteen years ago, adventure games were well represented in the gaming stores. Brands such as “King’s Quest,” “Leisure Suit Larry” and “Monkey Island” filled shelves, along with hosts of independent, one-off adventure games. Yet, in the present, adventure games are now an endangered species, holed up on reservations such as “Telltale Games” or have been re-invented as Japanese-influenced “visual novel” games which often have the same mature content as an adult magazine. Bumblebees and adventure games alike have fallen on hard times, indeed.

So why talk of bumblebees and adventure games when reviewing “Vault 74 by MuxauJl,” a Fallout 3 mod? Well, because this mod might shed some light on the answer.

“Vault 74,” to start off with, is a common name, much like “Smith” or “Jones” is a common last name, as it is the vault name in a tutorial on how to build a vault. Yet this mod shares precious few qualities with that tutorial and spouts a quest and storyline all of it’s own. You start the mod having discovered a dead Raider’s body. On the body is the location of Vault 74, at the South border of the map, near the Southwest corner and the Dunwich building (Fallout 3’s nod to Lovecraftian horror).

Once you enter the doorway, you are treated to traps and mines just even attempting to get to the vault door. Once inside the vault itself, you are confronted by assorted raiders who, apparently, are only utilizing the area of the vault not previously barricaded. After dispatching the raiders and reading the notes, you are able to unlock the barricaded area and begin your discovery of how some Russian scientists met their fate and how you must now avoid a similar fate.

In the end, you must follow a serpentine path of vault areas, tunnels and caves before you finally access a sewage pipe that only ends mercifully nearby from where you began your journey. Along the way, you encounter various deathclaws and feral zombies.

The mod is not a “shooting gallery,” a mod filled with nothing other then enemies to exterminate however you desire. There are notes scattered throughout the mod as well as objectives to perform if you want just one more door to open. For instance, one must repair a generator or gather supplies in order to arm an A-bomb.

The notes, at least in the English version, are written in that broken “All your base belongs to us” English that foreigners tend to use when they’re still learning the language. Since I’m fairly certain that becoming a polyglot is not on my itinerary, it is a safe bet that their English is better then my [fill in whatever native language they speak here].

The quest is amusing through the first 2/3rds of the mod but the constant “All your base belongs to us” language is not only distracting but also a bit difficult to comprehend as well. Towards the end, the quest has exhausted itself when you uncover what I can only presume is the big “reveal” – That the scientists were hounded by deathclaws until they were all killed. Knowing that the creatures you hear growling are deathclaws is a bit underwhelming – You half expect a new creature or even a remodeled old creature (a green deathclaw?).

One aspect of the mod that reminded me of the adventure games of old was that the quest had to be completed in a very linear fashion. At one point, you enter an office where there is an obvious switch near it’s entrance. Flipping the switch causes nothing until AFTER you pick up a note nearby. Huh? This is not the only example of the mod’s linearity but is one of the earliest and sets the tone for other objectives as well.

By the time one enters the sewage pipe with all of the feral ghouls at the end, the mod has worn out it’s welcome. Although the late-level enemies provide a bit of challenge, one can’t help but feel that this mod is far too linear for it’s own good. Reading the broken English notes is also taxing on the storyline.

Adventure games shrank when people got tired of trying to get past a door using only a toothpick and a paint can and why they couldn’t just use a ladder (which they couldn’t grab in the game) that they saw two screens earlier. In this mod, similar tricks are employed (one note that you need is under a pile of books) and while no one of those tricks are lethal towards gameplay, the combination of such diminishes the game play completely.

We may never know exactly why the bumblebees are dying off but we know why adventure games have moved to the back row on the video game bus – Not many people want to take the time to figure out that, in order to get the key, you must throw a rock painted like a walnut at a parrot, grab the key inside it’s nest while it’s away, use the door and then replace the key when you’re done (unless you want the parrot to peck your eyes out). The same antics are evidenced to a lesser degree here, coupled with a drainage tube finale that simply doesn’t end in much reward.

Clean up the broken English, allow for multiple ways to solve a problem and this mod elevates itself beyond the stereotypes of the niche genre that it too closely emulates.

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