Fallout 3 Previewed

With the forced change over of development from Black Isles to Bethesda, a lot of people have been worried about whether the spirit of the original two games is going to be maintained. The fact that it is Bethesda that is developing Fallout 3 is an indication that we can expect a game in which graphics play a very important part if Oblivion is any indication. The problem is that so far Bethesda’s best work has been in environments that are substantially different to those that the Fallout series have been based in thus far.

For most people, it is the sense of continuity that is most at risk, because the essence of the game is truly derived from those who develop it. This essence is impossible to pass from one company to another, even if all staff involved also move across. On paper the proposition appears good, giving an award winning games franchise to a studio that is award winning in its own right. Unfortunately, situations like that which have occurred recently have shown that the reality often falls grossly short of what is expected (naming no names of course).

The fact that the game is available on multiple platforms merely enlarges the circle of people to whom the game is likely to appeal to, but there are genuine complaints that layers of complexity in the games is likely to be lost in the quest to ensure that it can be played on 360, PS3 and PC. Widespread appeal is essential for any game wanting to be seen as a major success, but those people who played the previous games on PC may find something missing if they play this one on a console, although the improved graphics are likely to counter balance this issue for many people.

While discussion about the game has been slightly dulled during this time due to a major industry focus on the Second Coming, otherwise known as the release of Halo 3, this is likely to pick up after the Event has occurred. Sequels to highly rated games, particularly those that are created by different studios to the original, are always under pressure to provide the same level of innovation, while holding true to the original themes and elements. This often creates a sense of disillusionment on the part of the gamers for whom anticipation leads to hyped up expectations. Many sequels are perfectly good games in their own right, but with the weight of their namesake hanging over them, they are derided as ineffectual and unsatisfactory.

With a game that has accumulated such a devoted following, the No Mutants Allowed site being a prime example, there are likely to be a large number of complaints about the game, no matter how much work is put into it. While this is only to be expected since a new company is creating the game, gamers should bear in mind that even if Black Isle studio had made the game, it would also have taken a very different path to the original. As a standalone game it actually has a far better chance of becoming successful and well loved in its own right. The name behind it is likely to increase sales, but the long term fan base that has been built around the series may take a hit.

Although Bethesda claims to be retaining a large portion of the elements that attracted most gamers to the first two instalments, there do seem to be large discrepancies. A principal aspect that is being done away with for Fallout 3 is the open ended story that was present in the first games. It has been officially stated that the game will have definitive endings to be determined by the actions you take. This greatly limits the number of potential endings that you can encounter, which is likely to be off-putting since this is what attracted gamers to the franchise originally.

So far, the game itself looks like a winner, but judging it on the strength of the teaser trailer and released artwork is risky to say the least. In spite of this, the award’s it’s been receiving are a good indication that those who are most informed like where it’s going. Unfortunately, the people that have a say in the winners of those awards comprise a very tiny segment of the gaming market and it is to the mass-market that the game needs to appeal. The trailer looks good so far, but it will take a lot more than that to persuade gamers, and particular Hardcore Fallout fans, that the game lives up to it’s predecessors. This wouldn’t have been such a problem if the first two games hadn’t set the bar so high originally.

Using the people like Ron Perlman and Liam Neeson shows two things. Firstly, Bethesda would like to ensure that at least superficially that game is going to feel the same, something that Ron Perlman’s voiceovers will accentuate. Using Liam Neeson as the voice of someone very close to the protagonist shows that they are willing to spend a lot of money on getting details right. The problem though is likely to be in the details, which Bethesda is sure to make beautiful and well rendered, but in the overall package.

In the end, the allure of Fallout 3, while it may pale in comparison to the Second Coming (see above), is likely to attract fans and the public to the game, but it is it’s adherence to the standards of 1 & 2 that will keep people playing. However, before then Bethesda needs to prove that they can release the game at some point close to the anticipated release date rather than leaving fans hanging around. Personally, I hope the Bethesda comes through and proves to us that they can take another company’s franchise and create a game that is intrinsically their own, but still faithful to the source.

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