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Analysis of Fallout 3

An exploration of some of the successes, failures, and thought on the gameplay of Fallout 3. This does not venture into things like story or aesthetics, just gameplay.

Dustin Treece, Blogger

July 27, 2013

7 Min Read

Fallout 3 (Xbox 360 – RPG/FPS)


+ The skills and perks that the player can acquire as he or she is leveling up give the player a real sense of growth and development as the game goes on. As their skills increase they can hack higher level computers and lock pick more difficult doors and containers, giving more loot and benefits, and giving players a reason to return to some locations when their skills have increased.


+ The ramping of difficulty in the game is one of the more well thought out and detailed systems I’ve seen in games. Enemies in each particular area have a minimum and maximum level they can be, but level up with the player at all points in between. This results in the player being adequately sent down a relatively open path, but while keeping the difficulty of the enemies in the right area for their level and experience with the game. Certain more difficult areas have enemies with relatively high minimum levels, which cause the player to shy away from these areas until they become more experienced. In beginning areas the player is faced with relatively easy enemies, but as the player levels up, so do the enemies, resulting in the player still being challenged. However, there is a point at which the beginning areas reach their maximum level cap, which encourages the player to move onward into more difficult areas. While most of the more intermediate areas have large ranges between their level caps and limits, which keep these areas interesting no matter when the player decides to visit the area. This system gives the player a tremendous amount of the freedom to progress at their own pace, instead of having a dedicated difficulty or creature level of each area (where player are more or less guided along a set path based on the relative difficulty of each area), the difficultly adjusts to the player, so they can explore new areas or linger and finish up quests in older ones, and still be challenged all the while.


+ The game’s targeting system known as V.A.T.S allows the player to slow down the actions and strategize their next move based the various probabilities of hitting their targets. The system adds a lot more thought to the way in which the player handles each combat situation.


+ Three Dog’s messages on the radio gave the player a feeling that their actions actually impacted the world and acted as a very clever way to give vital information to the player and lead them on quests. The radio also provides extra entertainment throughout the game through music and PSAs.


+ Using the Pipboy 3000 as the menu system was a great why to include the much needed inventory, stats and other menu elements without breaking the flow of the game and the player’s immersion in the world.



-       Morality meter in the game seemed to serve little purpose. Some random people would shout different things at you, some different conversations with some characters (but none that are quest or story altering), but ultimately there isn’t any real meaning for this mechanic. While there are moral choices in the game, that effect the story, they can all be made regardless as to what the player’s meter reads, which makes the meter itself largely irrelevant.


-       Having a closed ending (meaning the player cannot continue player after it is over), was a bad choice for a game as open ended as Fallout 3. Doing this results in the player not seeing any of the results of what they’ve done on the world of the game and having the player have to reload a previous save in order to continue playing the game breaks the immersion and leaves a feeling of disappointment that what they did at the end didn’t matter.


-       Outside of V.A.T.S. shooting in combat was often imprecise and a bit clumsy. Once the player’s AP points ran out and they couldn’t use V.A.T.S. anymore, it became very difficult and frustrating to aim and shoot targets.


-       Many areas of the game seem unnecessary, with no quests, notable loot or real memorable moments; it halts the flow of the game when the player realizes that they just spent a lot of time in a cave that had absolutely nothing interesting to offer them. After this happens a few times, it reduces the player’s drive to explore, because each new area could just be another useless cave or building.



~ Because stimpacks are so prevalent in the game, and so much more effective at healing the player than food, it makes all the food scattered throughout the game virtually useless. This kind of breaks the realism of a post-apocalyptic world (where food sources would be essential) and makes for a lot of useless loot to look over throughout the game.

~ Some missions, even larger ones that were part of the story, allowed players to make them dramatically easier or even skip entire mission with the use of a skill in conversation, usually a speech check (like a charisma check), or a chance based appeal in conversation with it’s likelihood based on how high a specific skill is. This seems like a bit of an extreme choice to give to the player. The main mission where this comes up is the mission Galaxy New Radio, where the player can skip the entire mission if they win a speech check. This is also one of the only story missions where players explore downtown D.C., possibly the games biggest signature environment.

~ Forcing the player to choose what skills they want at the start of the game, before they even know what most of them really do or how exactly they want to play the game is something that has been an issue with many RPGs. The game gives the player an option at the end of opening section of the game to redistribute these points, after they’ve had a chance to play a bit, but most of those skills and abilities still haven’t come into play yet at that point, so the option to redistribute is largely useless. Plus, players spend the whole first hour of the game growing their character from a baby into an adult and the skills the player was given were determined by different choices they made as part of the story (which they could edit manually at the end anyway), but giving that option to redistribute sort of makes those choices and every choice that the player made that created their character up until that point seem for nothing, since they can just remake their character now.

~ The area of the game being as large as it is coupled with the amount of wandering the player does, it seems strange that there is no sprint or run command or button. Wondering across some of the larger and less engaging sections of the map trying to get to a specific place or waypoint can become rather tedious. Adding in a sprint or run mechanic would greatly help this.



O Cut the morality meter or make it more important to the core of the game or the story.


O Open up the ending so the player can see what their actions did to change the world of the game.


O Create a more user friendly system in combat outside V.A.T.S. Make a more useful crosshair, look down weapons sights instead of just zooming slightly, highlight the bullet paths of the gun better so the player can see where their shots are going, etc.


O Add more memorable moments, experiences, quests or items to the various locations in the game lacking any. Or just remove those lackluster areas, as their presence reduces the player’s motivation to explore, potentially preventing them from visiting other areas with better experiences, and hurting the game as a whole.


O Add the ability to run, possibly with a stamina bar with the length the player is allowed to sprint being determined by their agility or endurance skills. This would make travelling across the wastes and fighting in combat more engaging.

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