September 10th, 2009

Me and DogmeatAlthough I purchased Fallout 3 when it first released in October of 2008, I made up my mind that I would wait until two conditions had been met before playing. First, I wanted to wait for the first three official add-ons to be released. Second, I wanted to play using a mature version of the DarNified UI, a Fallout 3 PC mod (of which there is also a version for Oblivion) that overhauls the game’s interface (HUD, Pip-Boy, etc.) to look and feel as if they were designed for PC controls and displays. I finally began playing in May of 2009, when both conditions had been met. I’ve since logged just over 56 hours of play; the main quest and a slew of side quests are now completed, and I have impressions and experiences to share.

To give you some context for the type of RPG player I am, I was level 12 before I visited the D.C. Ruins. I was level 19 and over 40 hours into the game before I even learned to use power armor. At level 26, with 56 hours played, and without having touched the add-on content, I bit the bullet and finally finished the main quest. I take it slow. With that in mind, it should make sense that I toiled for several hours over which weapon specialization to go with when I left Vault 101. I expected to play through Fallout 3 multiple times as I did with Oblivion, so I decided (after numerous restarts) that I wanted more of a challenge up-front and I went with Melee Weapons. And a challenge it was: there is little more frustrating than trying to advance on a mini-gun wielding super mutant from a block away. Deciding that I needed to be able to shoot back, I chalked up my 100 skill points in Melee Weapons as a waste and began skilling up Small Guns. I was surprised that I even had enough points to do this, but there are apparently enough skill points to be proficient in just about everything. Currently, at level 26, I’ve maxed Small Guns, Melee Weapons, Energy Weapons, Explosives, Science, Lockpicking, Medicine, Repair, and have Big Guns at about 60. Even Speech and Barter are each over 50. It seems there was little point in choosing anything at all; characters may as well gradually gain points in everything as they level. I realize the level cap was 20 before the Broken Steel add-on, but even by that level I had mastered more skills than I thought I ought to. I’m not bent out of shape about it, though. There’s a lot of content in Fallout 3, so Bethesda’s decision to allow players to become a master of everything in one go is understandable.

Dogmeat posing for V.A.T.S.Although the main quest was a load of fun, the most fun I had was with the optional content. Messing up raider camps, spelunking in irradiated animal dens, and meeting wasteland eccentrics are great pastimes. Moira’s Wasteland Survival Guide quest alone took me a few days to complete because I kept getting sidetracked. My favorite bit of side content, though, is Dogmeat. If you follow me on Twitter, you may be aware that my dog of six years, Saya, died over the summer. This happened not long after I started playing Fallout 3, and just a few days before I found Dogmeat; I’d completely forgotten he was hiding somewhere in the game. Entering a random junkyard and seeing him run up to me so suddenly was, to say the least, difficult to deal with. Matters were made worse when I realized that Dogmeat can die. This was unacceptable. I turned to the mod community to see if there was anything I could get to protect my dog, and what I found at Planet Fallout was a mod called Dogmeat Leather Armor. Besides giving him a custom leather armor graphic, this mod flags Dogmeat as an essential NPC so that if he runs out of health in combat, he doesn’t die, he merely falls unconscious until the danger is gone. It’s technically a cheat mod, but not much of one. I feel no shame about it either way; it’s better than sending him back to Vault 101.

As I said, I haven’t touched any of the five add-ons, so I may not be out of things to say about Fallout 3 just yet, but there you have it. I’ll leave you with a video of The Nuka-Cola Tour that I recorded a few weeks ago in Girdershade.

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