Fix what is broke.
Writing a review for a game one has already previewed is one of the most arduously brain-draining tasks for a game critic. What can be said that hasn’t already been said a few months (or in this case, a week and a half) ago? That is, aside from being brutal about everything that you couldn’t say before because previews are supposed to be the equivalent of petting publishers on the head and saying everything is
not going to be okay. Couple that with my upcoming feature on all the flaws of Fallout 3, and how to fix them, despite my glowing “A”-assessment, and I have quite the job trying to explain myself while being objective and new and fresh and funny and energetic and happy about it.
[image1]Then again, it’s hard not to be when you’re reviewing Broken Steel, the last of the first trilogy of DLC packs for a game that pushes the definition of “storyworld” and elevates game writing to a standard higher than that set by Bioshock in scope and choice. It tries to put a capper on a story that revolves around a wasteland whose sense of scale in size, gritty realism, and rugged Americana is unmatched, as well as amend and expand the ending of the original title. And to do that, Fallout 3 is going out with a bang (quite literally, but I’m not going to say how).
Taken directly, Broken Steel is an epilogue to the outcome of Project Purity in the main game, a short skit that ties loose ends and provides a lens on its aftermath, but it’s more than that. It mindfully alters the ending by giving you more options on how to start Project Purity through the aid of several companions, as well as one thing that players demanded Bethesda fix: gameplay continuity. No longer does completing the game end with a game over screen; you can continue to explore the DC ruins to your heart’s content, eradicating raiders, scorpions, and mutants, finding any remaining skill books and bobbleheads, and ensuring that fresh Aqua Pura flowing into the tidal basin is distributed fairly and justly (or unjustly, if you're a selfish jerk) throughout the Capitol Wasteland.
The Enclave, however, remains your primary concern, with the Brotherhood of Steel dispersing their knights in an attempt to obliterate any remnants of the now disadvantaged Enclave in the DC area, after your destruction of President Eden at Raven Rock (or not) and reclamation of Project Purity from their control in the main game.
Two weeks have elapsed since Project Purity was activated, which caused an energy spike that knocked both you and Sarah Lyons unconscious. During that time, the giant robotic patriot Liberty Prime has been kicking a lot of Enclave booty, and you are immediately deployed to the Rockland Car Tunnels, a new area that exists near the Dunwich Building beyond the outskirts of the wasteland. After reaching the Enclave base, Liberty Prime is unleashed once more, but something devastating happens: The robot is destroyed by an unknown weapon from the sky.
Subsequently, your mission is to find out the weapon’s identity, its location, and how to destroy it along with the Enclave once and for all. Spread between three quests, you will be asked to scour and ransack the Rockland Enclave base, search the Olney Powerworks for the Tesla Coil which powers the new Tesla Cannon, and take the Presidential Metro to the Enclave’s second home base at the grand finale (based on the real-life Andrews Air Force Base). Be assured that the grand finale is worth it – Adams Air Force Base is about one-twelfth the size of the entire wasteland and is contained outside of the wasteland, like the Alaskan combat simulation in Operation: Anchorage and Pittsburgh in The Pitt. Best of all, the last decision you make has a powerful, irreversible effect on the wasteland for good or evil.
[image2]Furthermore, three mini-quests surrounding the distribution of Aqua Pura rounds out the epilogue, with their brevity matching the 100 experience points they give. As it turns out, Project Purity was not an instant cure for the wasteland that you and your parents were hoping for, though its effects are creeping steadily with The Citadel stocked with crates of Aqua Pura and brahmin caravans carrying water canisters to Megaton (or not) and Rivet City. The newly assigned Scribe Bigsley, a testy-poo whiner whose head you wish you could slap, provides information on some unsavory groups - cults, businessmen, and raiders - see Aqua Pura as a means to promote their wily ways. How you choose to deal with them, of course, depends on your honor code, if one exists (bwa, ha, ha).
If that isn’t enough value, Broken Steel permanently boosts the level cap from 20 to 30, which doesn’t require you to complete the main game. To reach the epic level of 30, you need about 2.5 times the experience it takes to go from 1 to 20, effectively extending the gameplay until your body is surrounded by a warm, circular, metal, radioactive green wall of Super Mutants. Thankfully, you will earn a base of 4200 experience points: 1300, 1400, and 1500 respectively for the three quests (which incidentally follows the 1200 points you earn for the last mission in the last game).
Accompanying the increased level cap are new enemies and perks that have their high and low points. Joining the bestiary are Albino Radscorpions, Super Mutant Overlords, and Feral Ghoul Reavers, all of which have ridiculous amounts of health points and can dish out an equally ridiculous amount of damage. Aside from the Super Mutant Overlords with the occasional Tri-Beam Laser Rifle and Enclave Hellfire Troopers that have the Heavy Incinerator, none of the enemies have any rewards worth mentioning - they don’t even give more experience than the lower-leveled Giant Radscorpion, Super Mutant Master, or Glowing One (Feral Ghoul).
Another disappointment is the new perks that don’t match what you would expect from reaching the equivalent of an “epic tier” level (if you get the reference, please roll a d10). Two great perks are Nerves of Steel (Level 26) which greatly boosts the regeneration rate of AP points, and Almost Perfect which increases all S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats to 9, though it penalizes you for nabbing stat-enhancing bobbleheads before taking the perk (nabbing them after puts the respective stat at 10) or having taken the intensive training perk. Most of the other perks are hardly as effective, simply being shortcuts and time savers - or just useless - that anyone with the patience to reach a 20+ level will ignore in favor of taking an older perk.
[image3]Worse, all the changes (perhaps just the new enemies) have made the game less stable. I’ve experienced two crashes and more than several scary patches of slowdown during combat and texture loading, and speaking with a few other Broken Steel downloaders, they have experienced the same. It’s not a rampant problem, but it shouldn’t be a problem at all.
No Fallout 3 fan should miss Broken Steel, especially if you have been holding out on Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt because you have already reached the level cap. For the same price as the first two DLC packs ($10), not only does it have as much content as the first two packs combined, but it also changes the main game for the better. However, the less than mediocre perks list and the added instability blemish what would have been the perfect add-on to an already incredible package. But don’t let that stop you from getting one of the finest examples of downloadable content that other developers should emulate.