Fallout 3 is a post-apocalyptic action role-playing open world video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. The third major installment in the Fallout series, it is the first game to be created by Bethesda since it bought the franchise from Interplay Entertainment.
The game marks a major shift in the series by using 3D graphics and real-time combat, replacing the 2D isometric graphics and turn-based combat of previous installments. It was released worldwide in October 2008 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
The game is set within a post-apocalyptic, open world environment that encompasses a scaled region consisting of the ruins of Washington, D.C. and much of the countryside to the west of it, referred to as the "Capital Wasteland". It takes place within Fallout's usual setting of a world that deviated into an alternate timeline thanks to atomic age technology, which eventually led to its devastation by a nuclear apocalypse in the year 2077 (referred to as "The Great War"), caused by a major international conflict between the United States and China over natural resources and the last remaining supplies of untapped petroleum.
Fallout 3 takes place in the year 2277, and within the region that covers most of the ruined city of Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, and parts of Maryland. The game's scaled landscape includes war-ravaged variants of numerous real-life landmarks such as the White House, the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, Arlington National Cemetery and the Washington Monument, with a small number of settlements dotted around the Capital Wasteland that consist of descendants of survivors from the Great War, including one that surrounds an unexploded bomb, another consisting primarily of ghoul inhabitants, and another formed within the hulking remains of an aircraft carrier. While the city can be explored, much of the interior zones are cut off by giant rubble over many of the roads leading in, meaning that access can only be achieved by using the city's former underground metro tunnels (loosely based on the real-life Washington Metro).
The region has two major factions within it – the Enclave and the Brotherhood of Steel. While the Enclave is similar in goal to their western brethren, the eastern branch of the Brotherhood of Steel seeks to assist the people of the Wasteland, though a small group rejected this and became outcasts who seek to resume their original goal of salvaging high-level technology. Other factions include former slaves who seek to inspire others for freedom by restoring the Lincoln Memorial, a group that feast on blood, and a group who tend and care for a region of the wastes where plants have become abundant.
For 19 years of their life from 2258 to 2277, the player character grows up within the confines of Vault 101 alongside their father James, a doctor and scientist who assists in the Vault's clinic. While growing up, their father comments about their deceased mother Catherine and her favorite passage from the Bible – Revelation 21:6, which speaks of "the waters of life". Upon reaching their 19th birthday, chaos erupts when James suddenly leaves the Vault...
Fallout 3 is played from the first-person perspective, unlike previous titles of the series. The players have the option to switch between this and an "over-the-shoulder" third-person perspective at any time after the initial stages of the game. While many elements from previous titles are used, such as the SPECIAL system, and the enemies encountered, combat is played out differently, while new features are included into the series.
Character creation is done through a tutorial prologue that encompasses the different ages of the player's character, which also covers tutorials on movement, the HUD, combat, interactions with the game world, and the use of the Pip-Boy 3000. The character's creation is done in steps, with the player first setting up their appearance along with what race and gender their character is, and the name they have. Next, they customize their character's primary attributes via the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system – Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck – which is retained in Fallout 3, and determines the base level of the Skills the character has. Which three Skills their character focuses on can either be left to the choices they make with a series of question, or by choosing manually what they desire. Character creation is not finalized until the player leaves Vault 101 and enters the Capital Wasteland, allowing players the option to modify their character's appearance, primary attributes and Skill choices if they are not satisfied with their choices.
As the character progresses through the game, experience points (XP) are earned from accomplishing various actions, such as completing a quest, killing an enemy, and so forth, with a new level granted upon reaching the necessary amount of XP. A new level grants the player the ability to allocate points to the various Skills available and thus improve upon them, making them more effective; for instance, a higher lock-picking skill allows the player to be able to tackle more difficult locks on doors and containers, while a higher medicine skill increases the amount of health recovered with Stimpaks. Once the character achieves their second level, they can be granted a Perk, which offers advantages of varying quality and form, such as being able to carry more items, finding more ammo in containers, and having a higher chance to perform a critical hit. Many Perks have a set of prerequisites that need to be satisfied, often requiring a certain Skill level to acquire them, while a new Perk can be granted for every two levels earned by the character. Additional improvements to Skill levels can be made by finding Skill books, which confer a permanent boost to levels, while players can search for and find a series of 20 bobbleheads that confer a bonus to these and primary attributes.
An important statistic tracked by the game is Karma, which is affected by the decisions and actions the character performs during the game. Positive actions to Karma include freeing captives and helping others, while negative actions towards this include killing good characters and stealing. Actions vary in the level of karma change they cause; thus, pickpocketing produces less negative karma than the killing of a good character. Karma can have tangible effects to the player, beyond acting as flavor for the game's events, in that it can affect the ending the player gets, alter dialogue with non-player characters (NPCs) or give off unique reactions from other characters, while also granting access to certain perks that require a specific Karma level. However, the player's relationships with the game's factions are distinct, so any two groups or settlements may view the player in contrasting ways, depending on the player's conduct...