Review: Fallout 3 DLC Special

January 29, 2010, Author: Brian Gourlay

Now we’re talking! While Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt were separate from the rest of the game and left your consciousness as soon as they were over, Broken Steel stays with you for a much longer time for two reasons. First of all, Broken Steel alters the ending of Fallout 3 in such a way that doesn’t require the game to end after you’ve performed the final mission, and in fact opens up a new mission thread that directly follows on from “Take It Back!”. Secondly, and as far as I’m concerned more importantly, installing Broken Steel increases your character’s level cap from twenty to thirty, opening up a brand new set of skills and Perks in the process. That’s right, ten whole levels of RPG levelling up goodness to get my teeth stuck into. I could stop right there, as I’m sure you’re already foaming at the mouth at the prospect of all that extra XP, but I’d better continue, it is a review after all.

Broken Steel begins with your character’s death, at least that’s what the original idea was until you were retconned back to life through the magic of downloadable content. It turns out that it wasn’t the lethal doses of radiation which caused the Lone Wanderer to walk toward the light at the end of Fallout 3, but an “energy spike” which put everyone in the vicinity into a coma. The transition between what I thought was a pretty appropriate, if abrupt, ending to the game unfortunately is pretty sloppy. The fact that the same endgame cutscenes are used describing your character’s death made me think the expansion hadn’t installed properly, while your miraculous return to life has plot holes big enough to turn a cruise ship in. However my overarching feeling is just happiness at the opportunity to get back out in the Wasteland, experiencing the consequences of my final decisions and unlocking some cool new perks while I do.

Upon waking up you’re formally inducted into the Brotherhood of Steel through a rushed inauguration ceremony (I’m the saviour of the Wasteland, is it too much to ask for a little fanfare?) with the aim of rooting out the remains of the once powerful Enclave in an effort to wipe them from the planet. However it soon becomes apparent that they’re not down and out yet, as one of the more prominent Brotherhood members is brutally killed during a routine assault (You won’t guess who it is but trust me, tears will be shed).

The remainder of the expansion involves trying to regroup and determine the origin of the Enclave’s new found weapon of destruction, while trying to build something powerful enough to counteract it. The missions themselves are some of the better ones in the Fallout 3 world, with plenty of massive firefights between the two factions and heaps of explosive special effects thrown on top of the frantic action, but the campaign as a whole is a bit underwhelming.

Broken Steel documents the Lone Wanderer’s actions after he saved the world and brought clean water back to the Wasteland, and as a result his efforts to mop up The Enclave comes across as a bit of a damp squib. It’s as if Bethesda made the snap decision to alter the ending before realising that they didn’t have a suitable plot to fill the blank space they had just created. It’s not bad, but it lacks the impact of the original ending, creates loose ends where they were once tightly concluded and just comes across as a bit of an afterthought at times.

Despite the plot of Broken Steel falling short of my expectations, it’s provides much better value for money than the first two DLC packs thanks to Bethesda pandering to my completionist nature by giving me ten extra character levels to achieve. As well as simply being able to expand your base skills to even greater heights around fifteen perks have been added to the roster to compliment the added experience. Apart from being a little bit uninteresting around the level twenty five mark, they’re all fun additions to the list of potential abilities for your character. Perks to instantly change your karmic balance, get a new canine pet or even (and I can’t wait to unlock this) turn the Lone Wanderer into a cross between the Incredible Hulk and a nuclear warhead all succeed in providing a headache as you decide on how best to spend your hard earned experience. Apart  from turning into a walking atomic bomb, that’s a bit of a no-brainer.

Of course it would get pretty stale simply grinding through the Wasteland in order to reach level thirty, so it’s a relief to see that a lot of additional side content makes its way into the game as part of Broken Steel. New weapons all fall into the excessively destructive category of the armoury, with only a couple that don’t result in your intended target (and probably a few in the general vicinity) being set on fire, evaporating into thin air or just plain being blown into smithereens.

They’re immensely fun to use, although some of the new enemies are more than capable of matching them, with the Albino Radscorpions, Ghoul Reavers and Super Mutant Overlords all being tougher than anything else I’ve encountered in the Wasteland; they make Deathclaws look like a reasonably powerful Pokemon. In the latter stages of Fallout 3 I rarely found myself being genuinely tested by any number of enemies, but these guys can take a real pounding and don’t hesitate to get in your face. It brings back the thrill of combat knowing that something which could quite easily kill you is about to…well, quite easily kill you, and I’ve had to launch a few last ditch Fat Man rounds to get an Albino Radscorpion of off my back.

If you’re going to shell out for any of the Fallout 3 expansion packs, then I would say it has to be Broken Steel. It extends the RPG experience much more effectively than the first two, and I spent a lot more time enjoying it’s content as a result. Don’t let the shortcomings of the main story thread put you off (it’s still a satisfying and lengthy campaign) as numerous side missions and random encounters have been included as part of the expansion, which extends the lifespan of the expansion even more. The random encounters in particular are always fun to come across, and give an insight into how the Wasteland is still contriving to corrupt its newest and most valuable commodity, clean water. This is the kind of DLC that should have been hitting the stores in the first place, although I suppose I can forgive Bethesda a couple of transgressions since they’ve now given us the frankly too awesome Nuclear Anomaly perk.

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