I finally finished Fallout 3.
Well, I didn’t quite finish it, because there are more than a dozen missions I haven’t taken on and countless areas left unexplored.
But I wrapped up the main story. And that’s saying something, because it’s taken me nearly a year to do so.
By the time I completed the Fallout 3 cycle—the main game and the five additional chapters released as downloadable content for the PC and Xbox 360—I had 486 save files and had been playing for more than 120 hours.
Set in a world similar to our own but with an alternate history, the events of Fallout 3 take place some 200 years after a nuclear war between China and the U.S. Players take on the role of an unnamed character—female or male—that leaves the safety of a survival shelter and journeys into the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the Washington, D.C., area.
The game is an action-adventure role-playing game, so as your character completes tasks and gains experience, you can improve her or his skills and abilities. Want to be faster? Increase your speed. Rather be stronger? Level up your strength instead.
Games like these require players to make decisions every step of the way. Decisions about what missions to undertake and what faction to side with. Decisions about how to improve characters and whom to sacrifice along the way.
Which is why I promised myself that, when playing Fallout 3, I wouldn’t have too many save files.
It’s always been a problem for me with games that come from developers and publishers like Bethesda Softworks. The story of Fallout 3 is so deep, the plot paths so intricate, that I’m always creating a new save-game file so that I can back up a step or two in time if I want to change my mind.
It gets so that I have to keep a pad of paper close by with an annotated list of the various save-game files. If I decide that instead of choosing the “Finesse” perk, which grants a better probability of scoring a critical hit while in combat, I should have selected “Strong Back”, which allows me to carry more equipment, I can check my notes and load save file #62.
The existence of additional chapters for the game that are available for download just makes this worse.
Downloadable content is a strategy for extending the life of games, both in terms of playability for the consumer and revenue generation for the publisher. There have been five annexes to the PC and Xbox 360 versions of Fallout 3: Operation: Anchorage, The Pitt, Broken Steel, Point Lookout, and Mothership Zeta.
Fallout 3 hit shelves on October 28, 2008. The final chapter of the game, Mothership Zeta, found its way onto the Xbox Live service on August 3, 2009. In October, a Game of the Year edition of the boxed game, which includes the main game and all five downloadable pieces, comes out on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.
Publisher Bethesda, meanwhile, collected $70 for every copy of the main game sold, and an additional $10 for each extra chapter. A total of $120 from the likes of me.
But you know what? It was worth it.
Like the four previous additional chapters, Mothership Zeta adds about eight to 10 hours to your Fallout 3 experience. In it, you are abducted by aliens, lifted off the surface of the Earth, and into an orbiting spacecraft. After a brief period of wakefulness during which you witness yourself being probed, you come to in a cell. And you’re not alone.
You’ll find and rescue other humans, and you’ll explore the spacecraft, all while trying to find out how to get home. New, alien weapons have been introduced, as is a new perk that gives a bonus when using the alien ray guns. At one point, you’ll come across a wealth of human items that have been collected, not to mention a number of cows that go flying through what seems to be a garbage chute. Now we know the secret behind all those cattle mutilations.
Many of the DLC chapters have brought a new look to Fallout 3. Operation: Anchorage gave us the ice and cliffs of Alaska. The Pitt took us to the crumbling steelworks of Pittsburgh. In Point Lookout, we visited the rural swampland—once a state park—that was not affected by a bomb blast, although the region was affected by nuclear fallout.
In Mothership Zeta, we are exploring a steampunk spacecraft that happens to be armed with a Death Ray. And as a finale to one of the best games of 2008 and 2009, saving the Earth from obliteration by an alien menace is just about perfect.
Even if it took me 120 hours to get there.