Too many rant posts lately, let’s talk about something positive. I’m still really enjoying Fallout 3, it’s far, far exceeded my expectations and I really can’t believe it was made by the same company that created the cookie-cutter, sprawling yawnfest that was Oblivion. Now, being a veteran of the series (Fallout 1 and 2 were some of my favourite RPGs of all time, along with Planescape: Torment and KOTOR), to some degree it’s nothing new - they have clearly lifted a great deal of the style and content directly from the originals, but the fact that they’ve managed to do this without trampling over my treasured memories of the original is a revelation. If there’s a canonical example of how to remake classic franchises, this is it.
It’s not perfect - I think the half-realtime, half-action point combat basis doesn’t work that well, making the VATS part too strategically simple to justify itself as a turn-based system, and the real-time part a second-class shooter, but it’s by no means a deal-breaker. The original series' turn-based combat system was often tedious (e.g. easy fights) but like in the sequel, it was just something you could live with because the rest of the game was so great. I still think the KOTOR system (pause & queue up as many actions including movement as you like, ‘action points’ are used up when you unpause) is best way to combine making strategy available without forcing it to be used all the time, and I hope in subsequent Fallouts they refine this some more; I’d prefer it went in that direction rather than trying to be more of a shooter, but unfortunately I think focus groups might push it the other way.
I just encountered the Republic of Dave (spoiler alert in link) which made me laugh a lot, and I think epitomises the Fallout experience; slightly tounge-in-cheek, character-driven, quirky stories. More please. If only someone could recapture the spirit of Planescape: Torment in a remake like this - a bit harder though, considering the novel-worthy amount of text in the original game which these days would no doubt have to be replaced with voice acting and cutscenes. But, I wouldn’t have said they could recreate Fallout effectively before playing Fallout 3, so maybe it’s possible. But nothing, and I mean nothing, has ever come close to the depth of Torment since, either in narrative or dialog. It’s the only game I know whose plot (whichever route you pick) could be translated into a book and stand up to scrutiny. And the genius of making player death not the end of the game, and even integrating death into the solution for some quests, was staggering. There really was no other game like it, before or since. Maybe that’s the way it should stay, but I’d love for someone else to really reach in an RPG like Black Isle did here. Fallout 3 is definitely a step in the right direction, and gives me faith that the best RPGs might not stay in the past forever.