Fallout 3: Broken Steel review

Makes the first two offerings look like side quests

We could tell that Fallout 3 was a great game by how annoyed we were by the abrupt ending.We wanted to keep adventuring in its enormous world with the character that we’d come to love, and earn rewards for doing so rather than bangingour heads against the level 20 cap. With Broken Steel, Bethesda has squashed that complaint, closed an enormous plot hole in the ending, and reopened the world of Fallout for many, many more hours of glorious super mutant-mulching.

You begin by loading up the last saved game before you completed the main quest in Fallout 3, and go through the motions of entering the key code into Project Purity. But this time, your character wakes up two weeks later to help the Brotherhood of Steel finish mopping up the remains of the Enclave. The ensuing action-heavy quest chain sends you into a nest of Deathclaws and up against a legion of Enclave soldiers, and equips you with some ludicrously overpowered new hardware including a Tesla cannon and the Enclave heavy incinerator.

All of the new quests are polished to the standards of the original game, which is to say very well-designed, with some good roleplaying choices (including a great opportunity for betrayal), although it’s still not without a few quirky but non-game-stopping bugs. The whole expansion will last you a solid six hours if you savor their charms, and on top of that there are a few additional side quests scattered around, like escorting water caravans.

But even more exciting than the new quests is the level cap boost from 20 to 30, giving you the incentive to go back and play all the original Fallout 3 quests you never got around to (like us, you probably hit the level 20 ceiling before you’d seen half of the game’s huge world). You’re further enticed by a fresh set of perks that make the time spent earning them worth your while. Standouts include Nuka Chemist, which converts every ten Nuka-Colas in your inventory into one Nuka-Cola Quantum, and Puppies! which spawns a new Dogmeat at Vault 101 in the event of the untimely death of your best friend.

Of course, by the time you’re halfway to the new cap, you’re practically a god – far too powerful for all but the strongest of enemies to pose any threat. New super-powered ghoul reavers and supermutant overlords will give you a run for your money, but otherwise the lack of danger in combat reduces the tension. But if you’re in it for the exploration, this mini-expansion basically doubles the amount of time you can spend walking the ruined Earth, doing what you do. And with Fallout 3, that has always been the very best part.

May 28, 2009

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