Entropic Crusader

Home of sci-fi and fantasy author, Benjamin Matthews
The Enclave is real! /TinFoilHat

So… the DLC. This is a pretty mixed bag. On the one hand you have Broken Steel and The Pitt, both fun and surprisingly varied romps with a fair amount to recommend them. In the Pitt you have some actually decent writing, a story that’s rather more morally grey than Bethesda’s usual fare, and you can even choose who to support (*gasp!* choice in a recent Bethsoft game? Never thought I’d see the day!).

And in Broken Steel you have a reasonably open area at Adams Airforce Base with a bunch of fun things to get up to, including releasing Deathclaws and calling in (utterly nonsensical but still fun) artillery strikes on the hapless Enclave soldiers. Plus the amazingly atmospheric White House Metro areas.

The base crawler is kind of nonsensical as well, given the insane amount of fuel that thing would require to move at all, but clearly that’s not something Bethesda cared to think about, exactly as they didn’t think about the existence of Vertibirds and the problems those present. Maybe it’s meant to be an atomic-powered crawler rather than diesel, who knows.

And why is it even here? Last I checked, Washington wasn’t a launch site for rockets, that shit happens in Florida or California, and it’s done in those locations for a damn good reason. Several reasons actually, including safety (you probably don’t want spent fuel tanks dropping on people’s houses rather than into the ocean, as just one example).

And then we have Anchorage and Zeta. Anchorage… well, overall it’s actually not as bad as some people make it out to be, and it’s nice to see Bethesda trying something different with this particular expansion. The Gauss Rifle was a nice addition as well (when it works…), though the DLC itself is about as linear as it gets, even if you can choose which missions to tackle first.

I can’t even be bothered to think up a sarcastic caption. Zeta is just that bad.

Anchorage actually makes sense in the context of the game’s universe, takes place in an unusual and somewhat more interesting locale thanks to the heavy presence of ice and snow, and even has an end boss you can talk down. Unfortunately, it also completely disregards any player who isn’t a bog standard soldier boy using small guns. Prefer melee? Tough shit, son.

Zeta, on the other hand… has none of those positives. I’m not sure how Bethesda managed to make a humongous alien mothership in space boring… but I feel perhaps they deserve some sort of award for managing it. Remember I mentioned the ‘what the fuck were they thinking?’ category? Well Zeta falls firmly into that and takes… not actually the top spot any more because it was dethroned by Cabot House in Fallout 4, but it’s certainly at #2 in the WTF stakes.

See, aliens—while a tongue-in-cheek part of the Fallout universe—were never meant to be anything serious. They were an Easter egg at best, nothing more. When you discover the crashed ship in the random alien encounter in Fallout, the ship itself has a silly label on it saying ‘Property of Area 51. Return if found’.

It’s there primarily to award the over-powered Alien Blaster if you have high enough luck to get the encounter. It’s just a fun little event that doesn’t really mean anything much in the wider world. Fallout 2 also plays around with aliens in the form of the Wannamingos (obviously a reference to Alien), but as I said at the start, Fallout 2 was where they kind of lost me thanks to going a bit too zany.

Zeta, on the other hand, directly shows live aliens, has you beamed up to an alien spacecraft where you fight aliens, culminating in a galactic dick swinging contest with a second mothership filled with—you guessed it—more aliens. And we can’t forget that one prisoner recording (even if they later removed it in a patch) that ruins everything in the Fallout universe by indicating the goddamn aliens started the Great War (which is still better than Vault-Tec doing so… seriously, fuck Amazon).

Let’s count the various violations Bethesda is guilty of perpetrating!

  • Showing actual, living aliens.
  • Having the player beamed up to an actual alien ship with more living aliens.
  • An irritating brat child character you can’t blow out an airlock (bratty immortal kids are part of Bethesda’s core MO at this point…).
  • Mothership Combat™
  • Lampooning Mars Attacks. That film was great. Zeta is not.
  • Ruining Fallout forever by implying the aliens started the Great War.
  • Dull corridor shooting.
  • Possibly the worst space skybox in all of gaming history. Unreal Tournament’s Facing Worlds Capture the Flag map did it better in 1999.
  • Alien workers awarding negative karma for Reasons.
  • Shielded aliens. Seriously, fuck those guys.
  • Have player blow up Death Ray, then use broken Death Ray to blow up the enemy Mothership (???).
  • Making the player go outside the ship and see that skybox up close.
  • Tentacle porn.
  • Abominations / science experiments. Just… why? This is basically just South Park now.
  • Alien weapons that are almost without exception inferior to Earth weapons.
  • Audio Logs. This isn’t System Shock 2, guys. That game didn’t suck.
  • Giving the player a mothership with a Goddamn DEATH RAY.
  • Seriously, a Death Ray? REALLY? Way to trivialise atomic devastation, Bethesda.

Bleh, I could go on, but you probably get the picture by now. I’m not a fan of Mothership Zeta. And having the crashed recon craft be a guaranteed thing you can always find just by walking over to it merely puts the deliciously putrid icing on an already rancid cake. A flavourless sponge cake made from mouldy sprouts and alien squid food. And the Cabot House nonsense takes an additional planet-sized dump on the franchise for good measure.

Meanwhile, in UT3, a game released in 2007—two years before Zeta—this was possible.

*cough* Anyway, discounting Zeta as a total waste of time and effort, let’s take a quick look at the other three DLC areas that don’t universally suck. The Pitt is pretty sorted, to be honest; interesting location with a lot of verticality and room to explore, and can tie into the wasteland with the ammo crafting side of things (not that this is necessary in vanilla FO3, you’re pretty much haemorrhaging surplus ammo by about five hours in).

While my own version of events won’t be using the Brotherhood, having the top guy (Ashur) be a power-armoured dictator is still entirely feasible, as I’m using power armour itself, just introducing a new faction to wear it.

So yeah, the Pitt gets a pass, though in my version I’d have it so you can actually join the slaver / raider faction at the start with the right reputation, not just be trolled by Mex and then beaten up anyway. That was a dick move, Bethesda. Captured in a cut-scene is a reviled trope for a damn good reason.

Similarly, Anchorage is basically okay as a standalone deal that doesn’t necessarily fit into the overall world beyond being a random diversion. I do have two opposing political sides vying for power in the Eighton faction, so having one of them take the role of the Outcasts for Anchorage would potentially work.

The Prydwen was apparently constructed here. Using unicorn farts and magical gnomes, because they sure as shit didn’t have steel manufacturing, oil, rubber, hydrogen production and storage, or the million other things necessary to build an airship.

For Broken Steel… honestly, Adams Airforce Base needs to be part of the main game, shipped with the game (again, not including the real ending was a dick move, Bethesda, stop that). Assuming this is the case, it’ll effectively lose the status of DLC and simply become an area similar to Hoover Dam in New Vegas; a super critical location the various factions are interested in and where the final battle takes place.

As far as Old Olney is concerned, the Broken Steel fetch quest that tasks you with obtaining a tesla coil would probably remain as-is, but the steps required to actually get the item would be considerably more involved. For starters, you’d need access to the sewers.

Did the player already visit this location? Have they completed the Death Cult questline? Are they on good terms with the people above ground, or the cultists below? Is everyone dead? All of these things and more will potentially affect the ability of the player to get down into the sewers, through to the other side, and up into the power works building for the MacGuffin.

Finally, Point Lookout is a hugely atmospheric location that I actually quite enjoy, but for the most part is so self-contained that it probably doesn’t need tying to the wasteland in any real way. However… there is one thing that most certainly could be tied into that DLC: a potential new Chinese companion character, given the background of that particular piece of DLC content.

And on that subject… let’s talk about NPCs and companions in the next part.

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