Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts entitled '''Fallout Critique''', since I'm tired of reposting the same stuff every time someone comes and tries to prove me wrong with an insightful thought I've seen before several tens of times.
This first issue is dedicated to the Lone Wanderer, the 19 year old vault dweller who just loves his daddy soooo much that his first thought after
But ad rem.
BackgroundWhen it comes to Fallout games, two game protagonists come directly from a Vault: the Vault Dweller (Fallout 1) and the Lone Wanderer (Fallout 3). However, this is where the similarities end. Where the Vault Dweller is a blank slate you are free to fill in with your own backstory (or choose any of the three pre-made character: Max, Natalia or Albert), within certain rather generous limits, namely you grew up in a Vault and were chosen to seek out the water chip, the Lone Wanderer is a pre-made character.
Now, I know that you can pretend he's not, but play-pretend is not roleplaying. In Fallout 3, the developers force you to play as a 19 year old teenager who looks for his dad and can't possibly hate him for leaving him to die in the Vault, as with all his intellect, he could not figure out that the fascist Overseer, whose sanity is quite shaky, would go ballistic and hurt his child in retaliation. The game does not permit you to stray from the role of loving offspring. You are not allowed to define your character as you like, hell, you can't even ''hate'' your father or call him out on his bullshit. This brings me to the next point...
Choices, choices...In addition to having a pre-set background, you simply cannot define your character through the choices you make in the game. Most sidequests have only one correct way of solving them, but they're not the primary culprit. The biggest issue is the main story, where you are not given any choice at all. Let's go through the paces, shall we?
- You must find your father.
- You must be a loving, obedient child and follow in his footsteps and help reactivate Project Purity.
- You must hate the Enclave after your father decides to be a moron and blow up his life's work
- You must help the Brotherhood.
- You must be captured by the Enclave and escape.
- You must take the modified FEV.
- You must destroy the Enclave with overwhelming force and make a superficial choice.
- You must aid the Brotherhood in destroying Adams Air Force Base.
The lack of choice in the story is not excusable in a Fallout RPG. Yes, you can argue that you can choose who inputs the Project Purity code, whether or not to put in the modified FEV or who to blow up with the satellite, but ask yourself, why would your character do that? After all, the entire plot is based on the assumption that you're playing a 19 year old who loves his father and hates the Enclave after his father kills himself, refusing to give the Purifier to the only people ith the means to distribute the water. Why give the choice if you're not going to give a rationale for it? Or even give an explanation as to why the player would give it?
Why can't you choose to support the Enclave? After all, they have the weapons and equipment to bring order and civilization to the wasteland. Why are you forced to fight them? In this place various posters pipe up ''But they hate mutants! Read the terminals! Talk to Eden!'', instead of stopping for a minute, thinking and realizing that I'm criticizing the design choices made by Bethesda. If you were given the opportunity to join the Enclave, then they wouldn't have designed the game with the intent on making the Enclave as villanous as possible.
Hell, even when Col. Autumn explains his plan to you, you can't join him. If you give him the code, he shoots you, because the developers want to make you hate him ''real hard''. It's also completely out-of-character for him to shoot people for ''cooperating''. Why aren't you given the choice to join him? Hell, even if you defeat the Enclave at the Purifier, why can't you have a change of heart and support the Enclave and join them ''against'' the Brotherhood?
No, nuking the Pentagon at the end of BS does not make you an Enclave supporter.
Now let's compare that to Fallout 1:
- You must find the water chip.
- You must confront the mutant leader.
- You must destroy the Vats '''if''' you do not join the Unity.
Furthermore, the number of essential steps is minimal. Fallout 1 does not have a linear story, unlike its spin-off. Here, you create your own story and shape the wastelands as you see fit. You make actual choices as to how to handle the problems of the cities or you can ignore them wholesale. And ultimately, you can ''join'' the supposed enemy. It isn't a choice given out of the blue, you are given ample explanation by the Master and Unity-aligned characters as to why you should join the Unity.
Simply put, Fallout 1 truly allowed you to shape your character as you wanted him to be, starting with the rather broad template of a Vault Dweller. In Fallout 3, you are forced to play as a 19 year old Vault Dweller who loves his dad and absolutely hates the Enclave and gladly supports the Brotherhood in everything they do because the developers said so.
No, two completely random options to poison the Potomac and nuke the Pentagon do not make your character any more deep than randomly killing people in real life makes you a philosopher.