Friday, April 3, 2009

Fallout 3's Ending Stupidity

To any Fallout series fanatic (and to be quite honest, I'm not sure there's any fan of the series who isn't fanatical about it) in the decade between 1998 and 2008, the term "Fallout 3" was...exciting, to say the least. "Exciting" the way the idea of Jesus's second coming is exciting to the clergy.

Once the long-awaited game finally came out, opinions on it were mixed, and quite often pretty violently polar. Some people absolutely love the game, while others spit on its casing and shake their fist at God in angered betrayal. Myself, I happen to quite like it--it may not quite live up to the Fallout name to me, but it's a solid entry to the series nonetheless. It's got a decent story that's epic in its simplicity, fine characters, and overall things tend to make sense (as much as the Fallout games generally do, at any rate) and follow logic.

Except the ending sequence. The ending sequence is bullshit. It's been a while since I officially gave a Spoiler alert, but I'm definitely going to right now.

So basically, in the final moments of the game, it's determined that the machine you're trying to save that can purify water in the hellishly irradiated Capital Wasteland is going to go boom if somebody doesn't go into its center chamber and enter in the Anti-Explodey access code that all plot-important catastrophe-prone machines have. Problem with that is, of course, that the radiation in the chamber is crazy lethal, so anyone going in isn't coming out. Now, you have the option of sending the heroic Sarah Lyons in to die instead of you, but if you have a heroic character who's not a dickwad/bitch, that option sucks. So it's up to your character, the Lone Wanderer, to do it, adding Self Sacrifice to Save the Future to your doubtlessly already impressive wasteland resume.

Well, that's all well and good, and I can respect an ending like that...except for one minor detail. Or really, 3 minor details: Fawkes, Charon, and Sergeant RL-3. These 3 are possible companions who can be with you at the time of the ending who are, for one reason or another, more or less immune to radiation. Fawkes is a Super Mutant who has proven previously that she suffers no ill effect from walking into tremendously radiated areas that would make Captain Planet villain Duke Nukem sunburned. Charon is a Ghoul, a fallout zombie-esque person who got so fried by radiation during the original nuclear bombings that it transformed them into a living corpse. I've yet to see a Ghoul in the Fallout series that had any problem with crazy doses of radiation; in fact, most of them enjoy the stuff. And Sergeant RL-3 is a robot with several manipulating limbs that could easily work the plot-machine's controls while he sits floats in radiation that, to a robot such as him, is pretty much harmless.

I'm not saying that every ally you can get should jump at the chance to go become a fleshy night light in your place. I wouldn't opt to send Jericho or Star Paladin Cross, for examples, in because they'd die. But why the HELL doesn't the game give you the option of having a friend who won't die go in to do the task that would kill you? These beings that are supposed to be your companions are just going to watch your character's face melt off instead of just walking in, putting in a code themselves, and walking out? The protagonist's life just isn't worth that much trouble to them?

And it's not just a case of the developers not thinking about it; at least not with Fawkes (haven't checked Charon or RL-3, although I'd be inclined to say it's the same case with them, most likely). Fawkes you can actually ask to go in so that nobody has to die a horrible death. You know what she says to that? Basically, "Thanks but no thanks; wouldn't want to rob you of your destiny."


Dot. Dot. DOT, motherfuckers.

You know what? If my destiny is to die horribly even though there's a completely harmless alternative that does the job equally well without having me or anyone else die, then go ahead and rob me of my destiny! Seriously, not gonna mind, won't even miss it. I mean, COME ON, rather than take a few steps and push a few buttons, you're gonna watch the person you've traveled from one end of Hell on Earth to the other with die because it's your personal opinion that it's their destiny to do so? SERIOUSLY? And with Charon's case, he's bound by the papers your character holds to do whatever the goddamn hell your character wants him to!

I'm fine with a dramatic self-sacrifice under reasonable conditions (even if it's a little over-played in RPGs), but this scenario is ridiculous.

RETRACTION (Posted 05/17/09):

So. Remember a (comparably) recent rant I did on how stupid Fallout 3's ending was, focusing on how it had some of your party members just sit around while you went to die from radiation that they were completely immune against? Gonna have to officially retract that whole rant.

See, it's like this. The makers of Fallout 3 have continued to develop for the game since its release, and have made new areas and missions available to Fallout 3 players to download and play (for a fee, of course). They're fairly neat additions in general, but the latest one, the Broken Steel package, extends the game past the original ending, as well as modifying the scene which used to be the game's final moments. Now, not only does your character survive no matter what (which makes sense, honestly; I mean, by the time you get to that point in the game, you've probably accumulated radiation-blocking medicine, clothing, and perks up the wazoo, not to mention craploads of radiation-removing medicine. My own character's got enough Rad-X and RadAway that she could curl up inside a nuclear power plant's reactor core for a nap without a problem), but you also DO get the option of making your radiation-resistant party members pick up the fucking slack.

So basically, the fine folks at Bethesda fixed the idiotic oversight or intentional apathy that made the ending stupid. It's not a perfect solution, in that the Broken Steel package doesn't actually give you an ending after completing it. You're basically trading off a stupid ending, but getting a non-existent one in return. Still, that's certainly better than it was. So yes. I take that whole rant back. Jumped the gun, it seems.