Fallout 3: a Tale of Two Cities

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Brother None at NMA writes:

After NMA’s Fallout 3 preview, I cast about for comments from some of the media people I’ve know as Fallout fans for year (the type Desslock or Will Porter) to get some feedback on our opinions and assumptions.

Desslock eventually replied, and we got into a debate about some of the key issues surrounding our difference of opinion of this game. With Desslock’s permission, I’ve merged these e-mails into one A Tale of Two Cities article. If you’re interested in hearing some different views on the topic of Fallout 3 be sure to read it.

Some highlights:

Brother None: It’s not “the only thing” they have in common, it’s exactly the same mechanic. Ignoring the fact that BioWare’s system is just an example (I think you got bogged down on that), the point is that this is just another predictable, uninnovative RTwP system.

Desslock: I disagree – that’s like saying Fallout 1’s combat is identical to the combat in the Final Fantasy series because they both feature turn-based combat. You’re culling out details that make the systems distinct, and in Fallout 3’s case, original. Again, there’s never been an RPG that featured combat similar to Fallout 3’s, so by definition, it’s innovative.

Brother None: I think we’re asking the wrong question, tho’. Try to make a list of how two combat systems are identical and you’ll always end up with a big wad of differences, does that mean every combat system is innovative? I think the key question is (considering the above) what exactly is so innovative about this combat system? A different angle; not what are they doing that’s exactly the same, but what are they doing that’s significantly
different?

Desslock: The combination of features: real-time/stats-based (as opposed to twitch-based) combat which can be stopped in order to initiate targeted shots using action points. Sure, at some level you can point to aspects that you feel are derived from other games, but the overall package is not just “different”, it feels original.
Anyway, I think this argument is distracting from the more substantive issues of (a) whether this combat system actually works well in practice, and I think we both agree that we have reservations/questions that need to be addressed as more details are revealed by Bethesda; and (b) whether it feels like Fallout 1/2, and I think we both agree that it’s definitely different, so fans hoping for something closer to the turn-based combat of the original games are likely disappointed, while gamers who thought it would be just like Oblivion’s combat are probably pleased that it’s something different – it’s an original, hybrid combat system, which I think looks promising, although I have reservations.
Hell, Bethesda could unveil the melee combat and it’ll have “super-smash; spinning lightning attacks”, in which case I’ll agree with your “supermoves” description, and be disappointed by Bethesda’s design decision. But for now, I’m cautiously optimistic about the combat system.

Jay “RadHamster” Woodward from Bethsoft also disagrees that VATS is a simple Real Time with Pause combat mode:

Any combat system that can correctly be summarized as “real time with pause” must have two fundamental characteristics:

One is that you pause combat to set up actions for your character to take. That’d be the “pause” part.

The other is what happens when you unpause.

What do you think? And remember to check the rest of the discussion, there’s a lot more in there.

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8 thoughts on “Fallout 3: a Tale of Two Cities

  1. I’m guessing he’s putting the emphasis on the targeting/skill based rolls/auto-execution of actions. Maybe he can be more clear (probably not).

    Does it really matter?

    I don’t know how you guys plan on playing through but the only way I’m going to be able to get very deep into the game is if I play it the same way I played Oblivion. Minimizing combat as much as possible. Sneaking, sneak attacks, head shots, brief/lethal confrontations or avoid the whole thing whenever possible. Shitty combat mechanics should just become a prerequisite for the RPG genre. “Does it have good combat?” “yes” “WELL FUCK YOU, IT’S NOT AN RPG”

    back to drinking.

  2. Thing is, people are so blind that they think VATS is a combat system all by itself, when in fact VATS is just a feature inserted INSIDE a combat system. A combat system that is just like any other average RPG real time system. VATS is not a combat system. It’s a feature.

  3. One is that you pause combat to set up actions for your character to take. That’d be the “pause” part.

    The other is what happens when you unpause.

    Uh… Yeah. Unless the game goes turn-based or simply goes comatose when you unpause, it’s real time with pause. Even if it slows down it’s still happening in real time. There’s no other way around it.

    Maybe instead of saying it’s totally not real time with pause, he can set up an RTwP system and contrast it with Bethsoft’s REALTIME WITH PAUSE THAT’S NOT REALTIME WITH PAUSE system. Hell, since most people point to Bioware’s Knights, kindly enlighten the masses by doing a ‘versus’ comparison. After all, Knights is still pretty fresh in people’s minds and unless their marketing department is disassociated with the programmers, it follows to a ‘T’ what Bethesda have been stating. If not, do a bullet point presentation of how it doesn’t.

  4. I can’t see the combat system totally making Fallout 3 not-fallout. The general feel is the thing that they are missing the most.

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