and now, the truth

I’m not really into RPGs. Every time I try my hand at one, I get about a third of the way through the game and then irretrievably stuck because I forgot to pick up a swirly purple potion from the 3rd room on the left as you walk in the 2nd door on the 5th level.

The only thing that’s changed between the last time – when I was about 11yo or so – is that the internet appeared, and information and hints and cheats for PC games became instantly accessible, thereby making huge-item-inventory games playable for the casual FPS guy who feels like trying out a slower genre.

Unfortunately, the only other thing that’s changed since Ultima Underworld is that games have become utterly massive (Fallout 3 takes up about a thousand times more space on my hard drive than UW did, no exaggeration), and the bigger something gets the more complicated it is and the harder it is to get it right.

I’m saying F3 has bugs. They’re painful.

  • Critical NPCs will randomly disappear, leaving you unable to talk to them to finish certain missions; this happened twice in my first foray into the game, one of them something important to the storyline, so I couldn’t have finished the game no matter what.
  • I don’t think gamesaves/loads are 100% accurate. I’ve made neutral characters angry with me, reloaded the game to a few moments before I pissed them off, and they’ll be just as angry and try to kill me. In one case, when I reloaded to escape a particular enemy and went back to where I was at the time I saved, that enemy’s actually warped back with me and continued trying to kill me.
  • Fallout 3 has this thing where if you’ve ‘discovered’ a special location like a city or a particular landmark, you can instantly warp between them as long as there’s no enemies near you. This saves hours of gametime where you’d otherwise have to jog for 30 minutes to go back to somewhere particular. Problem is, the game thinks nothing of spawning tons of very strong enemies directly surrounding you at your destination. Surely it makes no sense that you’d just walk out of the desert into the middle of a triangle of 3 super mutants, and then suddenly everyone realises who’s there and starts attacking?
  • Actually, warps are extra-buggy, because they do weird crap with physics and clipping and corpses that’re already there. Frequently I’ll warp to somewhere I’ve killed raiders or dogs or whatever before, and their bodies will suddenly be catapulted into the air, sometimes landing stuck in another object and they’ll bounce forever.
  • You’re meant to run into random enemies when you’re wandering around in the wastelands – a hungry dog, or a pack of molerats, or ants or a super mutant or whatever – but there’re obviously places in the game where certain enemies are scripted to appear with certain weaponry. I hugely doubt that having killed the two mutants camping outside Big Town with a rifle and a rocket launcher, two more mutants with exactly the same weaponry would show up later on and camp in exactly the same spot.
  • Stuff in my inventory changes sometimes. I’ve just realised I have two of a very unique key you pick up very early in the game. Come to think of it UW did something similar once or twice, maybe there’s some particular thing about RPGs that make them near-impossible to code right.
  • Apparently there’s a patch out that fixes all the random crashes when you reload, or warp, or just quit the game anyway.
  • More a design flaw than a bug, but two separate skills you have to build up in the game are Lockpicking and Science, the latter of which lets you break into various computers to gain information or turn other systems on/off. Your skill in a particular area is a number between 1 and 100, but unlike the Medicine, Repair, Explosives or Small Guns skills which give you a straight-out percentage of effectiveness based on how high you’ve made that skill, you can’t even ATTEMPT to pick “hard” locks unless you’ve got 75 lockpick skill points, or hack “very hard” computers until you beef Science up to 100, despite the minigames that represent lockpicking and hacking being identical at every skill level. It just feels like an arbitrary thing that wouldn’t work the same way in real life (you can’t pick more than “very easy” locks if you’re on 24, but the instant it goes up one point another 25% of the locks in the game become available to you).
  • I’ve been playing for a few days, and I’ve already found a few spots in the map where you can get completely stuck, or where there’re textures missing or models wrong or something. I hesitate to even mention it, considering how insanely HUGE that map is and how hard it’d be to get it flawless, but it’s pretty striking to walk past a giant rock and see one whole face is missing:

…and that’s just the stuff I’ve come across. The Fallout 3 wiki has tons more (lots of spoilers there) if you’re interested. The game isn’t completely unplayable; I’m just quickly tiring of wasting ammo killing enemies I’ve already taken care of, and then restarting the game after it crashes because I tried reloading because I warped into the middle of 3 giant enemies with giant guns.

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