Fallout 3: Broken Steel Preview

Dogmeat is happy to see you again. Woof!

Let me make this easy for you so you can skip all that tiresome reading: Fallout 3: Broken Steel lifts the level cap from 20 to 30. Get it.

[image1]We all know that you’ve been holding out on Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt, because you have already reached the level cap [Yep, you got me there. ~Ed]. Why bother paying money for a side quest that nets you zero experience? No awesome weapon or piece of heavy armor can compare to the dopamine dispenser that is experience points. And if you haven’t reached the level cap yet, you probably have been extremely careful not to take any unplanned diversions that might cap you out. Dancing around the level cap is exhausting, no?

While you could make the argument that pushing the level cap doesn’t change the undeniable fact that there still a level cap, by the time you reach level 30, you will likely have explored every last dirt crumb in the Capitol Wasteland. It’s also oddly fitting that 30 is now the new level cap, as if you’ve been following Dungeons & Dragons, which the Fallout 3 engine is based on, it’s 4th edition rules governs characters up to level 30 as well (epic feats perks and all).

Before asking Alan Nanes (lead designer for Broken Steel) and Pete Hines (VP of Public Relations & Marketing) about how much experience is needed to reach the (perhaps) final level, I thought I would be clever by calculating it beforehand. Following the formula of needing 150 more experience to reach each  subsequent level, you will need 66,700 experience to reach level 30 which is about 125% more experience than that needed at level 20 (29,450). That means that it would likely take more time for you to go from level 20 to 30 than from level 1 to 20, effectively doubling the amount of gameplay time. Of course when I told Alan of these results, he smiled and answered by saying that their designer for level progression has tweaked the formula, so suffice it to say, you might be playing for triple the time, if not more. (And that’s fine by me.)

Along with making a lot more players (finally) download Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt, the increased level cap means more perks, items, enemies, and level-based Achievements. Though all of the perks remain to be disclosed, apart from “Puppies!” (no prerequisites needed) which has your faithful Dogmeat companion automatically resurrected at the entrance of Vault 101 if he should ever die (he always dies), but there should be at least 10 perks added. As usual, you can also take any of the old perks, especially any of the other Level 20 perks – Ninja, Explorer (!), Grim Reaper’s Sprint (please tell me you level cappers took this feat), and Solar Powered.

[image2]While skills are still limited to 100 points, the added perks will aid you in defeating waves of new monsters and enhanced soldiers. The developers made sure not to simply scale monsters to your current level, as they did in Oblivion, and made the effort to create more challenging enemies, all of which can now take more than several rounds of a gatling gun or Fat Man (on normal difficulty). You’ll tangle with the Super Mutant Overlord, the Feral Ghoul Reaver who has a projectile attack, as well as upgraded military turrets, robots, and soldiers from the Enclave. Fortunately, you can loot their corpses and improve your own arsenal with fire-resistant heavy armor, the tri-beam laser rifle, a Heavy Incinerator flamethrower, and the new Brotherhood of Steel super-weapon – the Tesla Cannon. (Time to drop some points into Energy Weapons, you slackers!)

You’ll find pockets of these superior enemies scattered throughout the Capitol Wasteland, but their main purpose is to prevent you from completing the central quest in Broken Steel. (Skip this and next three paragraphs if you don’t want any spoilers whatsoever. [I can’t. Damn you to hell! ~Ed]) As previously noted, Broken Steel alters the ending of Fallout 3 by offering you multiple ways to get Project Purity running, by way of sending any one of three companions (I’m looking at you, Fawkes) to activate it. However, no matter how you resolve the problem of the “locked inside with radiation poisoning” situation, and regardless of whether you choose to send in your companion or not, you will wake up within a few weeks, looked after by the Brotherhood of Steel who now have newfound respect for you (if you’re “good”, I suppose).

The radiation-free “waters of life” now springs from the base in Project Purity, lending fresh “Aqua Pura” to the tidal basin. Scribe Bigsley, a new assignee from the Brotherhood of Steel, scrambles in front of his desk in the Jefferson Memorial, shaking his head over how he’s going to distribute canisters of water by Brotherhood brahmin caravans to the rest of the Wasteland – quickly and fairly. More unique encounters and three new freeform “water” quests have been added, including one that has Megaton (if it’s still there, you evil swines) complaining for more “Aqua Pura”. It seems that all your and your father’s hard work and sacrifice is not the quick-and-easy solution it was meant to be, but at least its effects are beginning to show. This includes whether you decided to spike the waters with “Eden-isitic” F.E.V. or not. Unfortunately, remnants of the Enclave still seek to claim the healing water purifier, and it’s your job to find and eliminate them once and for all.

[image3]As usual, though the Brotherhood of Steel can’t afford to lend some soldiers to your cause, they can aid you with supplies and advanced technology. Part of the mission has you to assemble the Tesla Cannon (because Liberty Prime wasn’t enough), which needs several pieces from throughout the Capitol Wasteland to complete, including the Tesla Coil hidden in the Olney Powerworks. To snatch the piece, you’ll have to find a way to deactivate the bolts of electric current running through it.

From there, you’ll have to navigate through the Presidential Metro Line under the White House to an Enclave stronghold named the Adams Air Force Base. How you choose to get through the tunnel, infested with all the aforementioned super-baddies, and get the train running again depends on your style – aggressive run-and-gunner, stealth boy (pun intended), computer hacker, or a combination of the three. Like Pittsburg in The Pitt and the simulation of Alaska in Operation: Anchorage, the Adams Air Force Base is a completely self-contained space, separate from the Capitol Wasteland. Whatever you do, don’t just barge right into the base and expect to survive the onslaught of turrets (like Pete Hines did in the demo).

The best news out of all this is that you don’t have to embark on this quest to gain the benefits of the level cap – it is a permanent change. Given that you have to complete main storyline to unlock these “water” quests, it’s great to know that you can start a new game with a new character and still be able to encounter the new enemies and acquire the new perks. All in all, Broken Steel’s extension of Fallout 3 is easily worth its $10 price in Aqua Pura. Look for this third (but perhaps not last) DLC to arrive on May 5th.