Hey, let's play a game. It's called, "name that game!". I'll describe a game, and you guess what it is!
Ok, ready? What game was made by Bethesda Studios in the 2000s, reviving a series that hadn't had a game in several years, and featured, while having a slow start, some excellent questing, and a massive free roaming world the scale of which has been hard to match by any game since.
Did you get it? The answer was Oblivion. And Fallout 3. Because they're the same freaking game.
No really. They are.
After being in production for 4 years, The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion was released. The absolutely breathtaking visuals, great questing system, and just the free-ness of the game really give the game a feeling that few others have ever captured, even though it certainly had it's fair share of problems.
At the start of the game you find yourself in prison for a crime that's never adequately explain, when suddenly Captain Jean Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise is escorted into your cell by two guards, and you find out that there's a secret passageway as an escape, and that there's a hit out on him and blah blah blah he dies five minute later anyways.
Anyways, after the Captain is assassinated by a guy with magic armor or whatever, the guards get really depressed and let you walk free, because... Why the heck not. They're not very good at their job.
From there, you can go do... Whatever the heck you want. You can do all sorts of stuff! You're a warrior? Go join the warriors guild! You're a thief? Go steal stuff! You're an explorer? Go explore! The world is massive and you were given little to no direction. Sure, you CAN do the main quest involving demons invading the kingdom, and finding Picard's last heir, but really, if you are playing Oblivion and only doing the main quest, you're missing the point. Go explore! There's all sorts of nifty things out in the world! You can find all sorts of awesome stuff! So go level up, explore, grow your magical powers, steal stuff, kill people, do what you wish!
Speaking of killing people, another unique thing Oblivion did is give you the power to kill pretty much anyone. There are a few "essential" NPCs you can't kill until you've finished their part of the main quest, but hey, other than that, you can mindlessly slaughter most of the kingdom if you want.
Also, not only can you kill everyone in the game, but unlike many games, you can actually, y'know, take what they had on them. For example, you kill a guard? You can loot a dead guard, for example, and get his armor. And his sword. And his money.
What if you find out the guy you just killed was part of a quest two days later? Well, if that happens, you're screwed! But the sheer number of quests will make sure you never run short on things to do. Go buy a house! Go get the unbreakable lockpick! Go curse a town with a plague of flaming dogs raining down from the skies! Enchant your armor to make you completely invisible! Get a mask that bends the very fabric of reality! Go become champion of the Imperial City arena!
That said, while the game is definately one of my favorites of all time, it certainly wasn't without it's problems. The main quest, unlike pretty much everything else in the game, is very bland. In fact, I've never finished the main quest in Oblivion on any character. Every time I make a character I soon lose interest in saving the world, and instead decide I'm going to go do something more... Um... Fun.
And one of the most annoying things in the game is the lack of voice actors. You will hear the same two or three voice actors doing various accents for every character in the entire freaking game. And it does get very annoying before long.
Not to mention that, while the graphics engine is gorgeous, and Oblivion is still, in my opinion, one of the best looking games on the market today... It can bug fairly easily. And the graphics don't always scale well on every machine.
In fact, the entire game can bug fairly easily. Not to mention there are some fairly game breaking design flaws, such as the ability to become 100% invisible if you enchant your gear right, making not only your sneak skill epically insane, but the enemies unable to see you, and thus you able to KILL THEM ALL!
But these are just tiny blemishes on the great game that is Oblivion. A classic game, that any true RPG fan should play.
The level up system is far different from other games, in that you don't get experience points, you level up each skill individually, by using that skill. Level up swords by hitting things with swords. Level up athletics by jumping.
Meanwhile in 2008, someone at Bethesda said, "Hey guys, you know what Oblivion really needed? GUNS!"
And so Fallout 3 was made.
The Fallout series, for those who don't know, is set in an alternate universe, where after World War 2, America never progressed forward socially, thus staying in a 1950's culture. Maybe they didn't have enough snobs, who knows? Either way, in 2077, Earth nukes the crap out of itself. Oops. Luckily, a few groups of humans sealed themselves away inside underground vaults, safe from the nuclear fallout. (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?)
Eventually, all the Vaults opened up. Except of course for Vault 101, which never opened, and that's where our story begins. Heh. 101. I see what you did there Bethesda.
Ok, now, let me just say now, Fallout 3, technically speaking, is the superior game. Almost every bug or quirk Oblivion had no longer exists in Fallout 3. There are more voice actors, so that's better, the graphics engine isn't quite so buggy any more, and it's just TECHNICALLY, a better game.
However, it's hard for me to define one or the other as BETTER, when really they're just very DIFFERENT.
Sure, it's easy to say, "it's Oblivion with guns" and knock off this review, but that would be giving it FAR less than it's due.
The first big difference, aside from the guns, of course, is the inclusion of the Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System, or V.A.T.S.
V.A.T.S. lets you zoom in to target specific points of your enemy and shoot them using a resource known as "Action Points". You can target legs to cripple the speed of the enemy, arms to cripple the enemies accuracy, guns to knock them out of the enemies hands, torso because why the heck not, and head to do more damage and get a satisfying bloody explosion when the final shot is fired.
You might think it would get old slowing down time and shooting people up, but it NEVER DOES! EVER! There's just something AWESOME about it! Maybe I'm just sadistic. I dunno, either way V.A.T.S. is awesome.
Now, I gotta say, the main questline in this is infinitely better than Oblivion's, I.E. it's actually good. It all starts with you inside of Vault 101 growing up. It starts with you at 1, and then skips forwards a few time until finally, you're 19! Hooray! And guess what? Your dad abandoned you and left the vault! And now the Overseer sent guards to kill you! Time to KILL THEM ALL or maybe that's just me. I dunno.
In any case, you escape the vault, and go to the nearby town of Megaton to see if anyone knows where your dad went to. Oh and did I mention that there's a LIVE ATOMIC BOMB IN THE CENTER OF TOWN?!
Let's see if you can guess where this is going.
Anyways, after talking to this one guy, you find out your dad went to the host of a popular radio show Galaxy News Radio, and a man approaches you and makes you an offer. Blow up megaton, and profit.
Of course, you COULD choose to disarm it and let a hundred or so people live but c'mon, you can NUKE THE TOWN.
Speaking of radio stations, another one of my favorite features in the game is the inclusion of Radio Stations you can listen to and hear some pretty nice 50's music.
And it's FREAKING AWESOME. Seriously, it's just awesome. Wandering the wide open expanse that is the Capital Wasteland, listening to 50's tunes? It's incredible.
And, the Capital Wasteland is amazing. It's huge, it's fun to explore, and it's just plain cool. The downside is there's much less emphasis on quests, and more on just exploring. That's not to say that there's a lack of quests, but there's definitely less than there are in Oblivion.
It's also populated by a lot of interesting creatures, and characters. Ghouls, Deathclaws, Super Mutants, all sorts of awesome stuff.
So overall, which game is better? Well, honestly, I don't know that I could choose. Both are great games, two of my favorites. Both have strengths. I suppose though, Fallout 3 has less weaknesses. If someone who had played neither had asked me which to get, I would probably say.... Fallout 3. Just because it has a better plot, better UI, and better overall gameplay. But honestly? Both are incredible games. Incredible. And you should get both of them.