Fallout vets will be glad to hear that Items are back and in as substantial numbers as they were in the previous games. During my forays into the various houses, I was able to find everything from pre-war snack cakes to random books scattered throughout the areas; so far, they seemed to serve little purpose other than to take up inventory space. There was also a fair amount of actually useful stuff, such as new weapons, ammunition and even the password to a computer belonging to the town information monger, which provided useful quest information.
All this scavenging comes at a price. When exploring, you’ll find certain items or doors marked in red, and if you take those items or pick those locks, your Karma will drop, and you’ll end up ticking off a lot of people. One unfortunate foray into the Children of the Atom’s stronghold left me faced with an entire group of angry people who were out for my blood. To make matters worse, every item I took or door I opened dropped my Karma, and once the Children of the Atom got angry at me, fighting back also dropped my Karma further. It’s entirely possible to play Fallout 3 as some sort of homicidal maniac, but don’t expect to do so without anyone calling you on it.
For those of us of the less violent persuasion, Fallout 3 includes plenty of people to talk to. Conversations take place in a fairly simple menu-driven system, where you pick your choice and the character responds. The twist is that not all of your choices are available at all times, and certain conversation choices are only available to certain characters. Your skills will also influence the success rate of conversations; a character with high Charisma and Speech skills may be able to charm information out of a normally uptight individual, and those with a high intelligence may notice something that less clever characters don’t. If you’re discussing explosives, having a high Explosive skill will make it more likely that folks will believe you. Even certain perks influence your choices. The Lady Killer perk, for example, gives you a bonus for talking to female characters and also provides a couple of conversation choices that wouldn’t normally be available. If you’re the kind of gamer who just wants to get back to the shooting, you can ignore most of these conversation trees and focus on the smashing, but it might come back to haunt you later.
You can find a few more previews at NMA.