My relationship with Bethesda is an odd one. The first game of theirs I played was The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind, which is fried crap on a stick. After much urging from a like-minded friend, I checked out the sequel, ES4: Oblivion. Better, but much of the same. It was not until I picked up Fallout 3 that it finally clicked. I did not come in as a Bethesda fan or a Fallout fan, seeing as I was too young to play the original games. That and I hate point and click RPGs. My point is that this game made me love it purely on merit.

After I played through the prologue and left the Vault, the character’s vision adjusted and I was treated to… brown. Morrowind levels of brown. I felt that this was somehow different and thus forged on. As soon as I entered the starting town it hit me, for you are immediately greeted by Sheriff Lucas Simms, garbed in a worn leather duster and an odd fitting cowboy hat. This game has a really intense western vibe, right down to a group of duster-clad vigilantes known as the Regulators. Being a gigantic western movie fan, this instantly put me in a mindset to enjoy this game.

I couldn't resist.

The Fallout series is well known for its tongue-in-cheek take on 50’s retro, with everything from advertising to the products themselves, even with weirder stuff like robots and ray guns.. I don’t know quite what it is, but something about that style along with the distinct western feel, gave this game legs far beyond what it should have been capable of. Personally, I’ve logged about 80 hours of play time and I’m not even done. That’s a grand total, of course, I’m not that into it.

As expansive as the game might be, there is a limit, a point where that quest list is bare and everything has been discovered, rescued, or killed, and your only remaining options are to quit or start over. This is where downloadable content (hereto-forth called DLC) comes in. If there was ever a company that it better than Bethesda, I haven’t seen them. They realize that the purpose of DLC is to extend the life of the game, rather than just rip you off *cough*Saints Row 2*cough*. Bethesda went above and beyond the call, giving fans four absolutely stellar add-ons: Operation: Anchorage, Broken Steel, Point Lookout, and Mothership Zeta. There was another one, The Pitt, but it can charitably be called a misstep.Each one of these can last anywhere from three to six hours depending on your play style.

Out of the five, my two favorites were Broken Steel, which was an epilogue to the main story, and Mothership Zeta. In Mothership Zeta., you are abducted by, and subsequently take over, an Adamski-type flying saucer. The gameplay itself was frustrating, but the novelty alone is enough to play it once. You see, it’s been my experience that a good environment can make an okay game great, which is what happened here. Make no mistake, Fallout 3 is far from perfect, but with the atmosphere that it has and the story that’s in place, I was able to gloss over or even contextualize certain flaws. For example, you have to hump it to every new location, something that would bother me if I didn’t already think of the game as some bizarre western, a genre that thrives on vast, empty expanses.

When it comes down to it, I can’t explain Fallout 3 properly, for the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. All I could hope to do is explain why I like it and hope that suffices. There are RPGs that are more polished in terms of gameplay, but I found Fallout to be the easiest and most fun to immerse myself in, which is kind of the point.