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Fallout 3: Tales from a Confuzzled Beginner

“Needs more tutorials.”

Now there’s something I don’t find myself saying every day, but if ever it was appropriate to utter the abominable sentence above, Fallout 3 is the place to let it slip.

The game exudes an atmosphere that I want to soak in through every pore.  I want to explore, to discover, to roam, and to grow.  But all of that is sadly difficult when I’m this bloody confused.

I’ve certainly played through my fair share of games that took handholding to the extreme.  It’s rarely, fun. A bad tutorial can sour the beginning of a game for a new player.

On the other hand, a good tutorial section can seamlessly introduce players to the world, the story, and the game mechanics while providing a gripping opening scene at the same time.  Metroid Prime, for example, teased players with its exciting space station start, complete with full weapon set, puzzles, enemies, and an escape sequence.

Fallout 3 comes maddeningly close to this ideal latter scenario.  The opening moments, from birth through childhood and to adulthood, provide the perfect backdrop to let players create their character and stats while introducing the story world and basic mechanics.  The problem is that it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

There are numerous aspects of this expansive title that are not introduced or explained to the player by the game (not to mention others that are explained much clearer in the manual, as I found out the hard way too late for it to do me any good).

When that vault door slams shut behind the character, the player’s digital avatar isn’t the only one left stranded by herself in a barren wasteland.  The game seems to abruptly stop teaching the player at about this point, right when the information is needed the most.

Once I found my way to the first settlement and had a couple of quests to my name, I hit kind of a wall.  I didn’t know how to make money.  I wasn’t entirely sure where to go.  I was too weak to explore just about anywhere (or, seemingly, travel to complete one of my quests).  Meanwhile, the game just sat back and quietly snickered at my ignorance, offering not so much as a hint of a helping hand.

It doesn’t help that the game is too hard for my tastes on normal difficulty.  I have since turned it down, without shame I might add, in hopes it would help my experience become more enjoyable.  My fingers are crossed.

It also doesn’t help that the game is set up to force me to make decisions long before I’m ready to make them or can understand their implications.  This bugs me in every game that does it, and it seems particularly common in these open-ended RPGs (such as, oh, I don’t know, Oblivion, say).

How the hell am I supposed to know which of these 27 categories to put my points in?  I haven’t even played the stupid game yet.  I don’t know what they do, what I like, or how I want to play.  How many points should I put in each category?  Is this too much?  Should I spread them out?  Is that bad?  Will this hurt me in the end game or does it not matter much what I do until later?  Can I change it?

And so on.

For me, the beginning of Fallout 3 has been marred by this lack of information.  I spent far too much time simply figuring out what to do instead of enjoying the gorgeous world and fun game play.  I still can’t help but be nervous that I’ve made some grave mistake in character planning or action that I won’t find out is going to totally screw me until about 30 hours in.

Hey, it could certainly have happened in Oblivion.

I’m anxious to get over these problems so the game can solidify itself as one of my favorite games of all time as I’m sure it eventually will.

In the meantime, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go study the instruction manual and buy a strategy guide.

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Reader Comments (2)

Decide what kind of character you want to start out with. This'll change as the game progresses, but it's good to focus at the start. Do you want to use pistols and rifles? Laser pistols? Do you want to be able to quickly heal yourself? Fix things? Be smoothe when you're talking to people?

The best thing is to pick one weapon skill, one technical skill and one "people" skill, and build from there.

I went with Small Guns, Speech and Science. Repair may have been a better choice in hindsight, but Science works.

Focus on your initial three for the first few levels, then try spreading your points out on other skills as you need them. I mean, in the higher levels, you'll probably find yourself using a Minigun as much or more than an assault rifle...

As for making money... You do that by doing quests and selling stuff to people. Haven't you ever played an RPG before? It's the same as in Oblivion, Neverwinter Nights, World of Warcraft and... um... Diablo II. Honestly.

October 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Toronto

I agree that simply having played many rpg is not an answer to the lack of tutorial once you have escaped. Now I llove exploring and figuring stuff out more than killing. I decided i had to master the "map". so i could travel.... I guess right now where I am walking in place or the opposite thru walls that I never reach my goal on the map. This is in downtown DC in Megatown no problem,
Dicided to start again and head for Rivit Why not? Same thing I get to where I go nowhere. But the be careful of pits and holes you can not get out of. I have even got to where i CAN JUMP high to nowhere. How do I get somewhere

December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKaysok

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