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Fallout 3 created incidental stories that made the Wasteland setting a place I wanted to be. Add in the epic robots of the Broken Steel DLC and even for my eclectic tastes this is impressive stuff.
It's the little eclectic stories that I like most about Fallout. Sure, the main plotline to find your Daddy is interesting and noble and gives a structure to your journey and all that standard role-playing stuff. But it's the things that happen along the way that capture my imagination the most.
Side-quests like Moira's mission to build a Wasteland Survival Guide based on first-hand experiences are wonderfully written. And Walter's desperate need for scrap metal to keep Megaton's water supply clean humanises the scavenging mind set that these RPGs develop.
Sometimes I wonder if my history of RPG games is responsible for all the crap I have lying around my house. Fallout 3 keeps the take-whatever-isn't-nailed-down adventure tradition going with a great set of blueprints that let you build incredibly powerful weapons from junk.
Right now I have 2 drawers filled with old PC mice, PSUs and DVD drives that might - or might not - work. Under the bed I have a bag filled with power cables, a couple of wire wheely baskets and a duffel bag full of duffel bags. I have real difficulty throwing them away. Unlike in the game, I don't have any need to build a weapon that fires railway spikes into people's heads - I live in Canary Wharf, for heaven's sake. Logically, keeping all this stuff makes no sense but I do it all the same. You never know what might be useful if you live through a nuclear apocalypse..
Sometimes I wonder if my eclectic history of RPG games is responsible for all the crap I have lying around my house.
Set aside the quests, side-quests and sub-quests of Fallout 3, and you clear space to notice the littler stories - the ones that weren't even written but are there nonetheless. The moments where you've fended off countless raider attacks, you're tired and hungry and sorely injured. The times when a broken down skeleton of a barn looms on a hill with the setting sun behind it so it looks like your salvation.
Then there are the eclectic tales you can tell of the stash you found when you most needed it. Of having climbed the stairs to the top floor and found a skeleton in a chair, hunting rifle resting on one side, cup and plate on the other. A wastelander seemingly sat here every day, scanning the horizon for hungry wanderers. How he dies you don't know - plenty of food and Rad-Away in the cupboard, so he didn't starve or die of radiation. Perhaps he went peacefully. Either way he won't have much use for the ammo, the rifle or the first-aid kit stashed in the back.
It's these stories, over and above the main plot that keeps me going in the Wasteland - the feeling that everywhere you go there's another adventure to be had.
But running against this is the annoying frequency of attacks. Seems like every two minutes another crazed mole rat comes leaping out from behind a tree to savage my face. Or a wild dog. Or a Bloat fly / Radscorpion / Yao Guai / Death claw / Sentry robot / Protectron / Raider clan / Super mutant / Enclave soldier. I'm surprised there's room out there for the bloody rocks.
Despite its flaws I really enjoyed Fallout 3. It simply became a place I wanted to be. But for all that it didn't really sing before I added the Broken Steel DLC.
It's these stories, over and above the main plot that keeps me going in the Wasteland.
It wasn't until experiencing the DLC that I realised how much Fallout 3 needed that injection of epic stature. Broken Steel's whacking great robot clomping around the Jefferson monument is inspired. In all my varied game play there are only a few times I felt similar - like that shared moment in Half-Life 2 the first time you meet a Walker.
The instant I saw that huge android in the Citadel I was straight on the Internet to see if I could activate it. Sure you can, for only GBP8 - but it was entirely worth it for the robot alone. Watching the fearsome Enclave soldiers crumble in his path, you really learn what "Shock and Awe" is all about.
While I think I've had my fill of Fallout 3 for now, I am looking forward to another dose of post-nuclear apocalyptica in Fallout New Vegas 360.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: