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Posted by Brother None

Fallout 3 Broken Steel Review

Written by The Dutch Ghost

Broken Steel is the third release in Bethesda's line up of DLCs and probably the most eagerly awaited one by those who have finished Fallout 3. Whereas the previous two DLCs - Operation Anchorage and The Pitt - added new maps and quests for the player to experience during the main game, Broken Steel changes the ending - allowing people to continue after “Take it back” - and offers several new main quest-related sub quests and side quests, as well as new maps to explore, new weapons and armor to acquire, and new enemies to face.
Broken Steel also increases the level cap of the player character and adds a number of new perks that further enhance the gameplay.

When the player activates the water purifier in “Take it back”, it is the end of the main quest and the player is unable to continue the game, having to start over again (or from an earlier save). Broken Steel changes this final choice: not just is it now finally possible for the player to send a companion in to activate the purifier instead, but even if the player sticks to the original path he will still survive.

The player and Sarah Lyons are knocked out by an energy pulse released by the activated purifier, putting them out cold for the next two weeks, after which the player wakes up in the medical bay of the Brotherhood's Citadel headquarters.
Things have changed since the player stormed the Jefferson Memorial, as the Brotherhood has set up shop there to see to it that the water is distributed properly, while at the same time continuing a campaign to eliminate the last remnants of the Enclave which have spread out over the Capital Wasteland.

The player doesn't get much time to enjoy the somewhat peaceful situation as Elder Lyons invites him to join the Brotherhood of Steel and assist with taking out Enclave outposts throughout the wasteland. Once the player has joined the Brotherhood, he is sent out to assist a group of BoS soldiers who are about to engage a recently discovered communications base in the region of Rockland.

After the player participates in this battle, events are triggered that put him once more against the Enclave forces that - despite their defeat at Raven Rock and the Jefferson Memorial - still have significant military strength.

Aside from changing the ending of Fallout 3, Broken Steel would also show the consequences of the decisions the player made during the main quest, one of the important ones was if the player would choose to carry out the Enclave president's plan to infect the water the purifier would cleanse with modified FEV that would destroy all mutated lifeforms, in time.

Normally the water would be clean and help restore the player's health when consumed but if the player has chosen to infect the water the player suffers stat penalties when he or she drinks the infected water for the first time and severe damage to eventual death if the player continues to drink the water.
The player will also suffer negative karma if the player gives the infected water to water beggars.

There is surprisingly little NPC conversation regarding the player's decision at the end of “Take it back”. Owen Lyons and the members of the BoS, as well as the people now working at the Jefferson memorial, thank the player for his or her part during the last quest of Fallout 3. But other than the occasional radio message by the GNR DJ Three Dog, the general consensus of the other NPCs is that there is clean water now and that the Brotherhood runs the purifier, but that the player's part in these events is largely unknown.

With the change of the level cap from level 20 in the original game to level 30 also come new perks that can add abilities or modify skills as well as a few that can change the gameplay.
Some of the new perks are “Nerves of Steel”, which allows for quicker Action Point regeneration and “Warmonger”, which makes the player capable of manufacturing all custom made weapons without having to collect blueprints for them.

Aside from the main questline to assist the Brotherhood in their battle against the Enclave, the player can also carry out several side quests that have nothing to do with the Brotherhood-Enclave conflict.
These quests range from assisting with the escort of water-transporting brahmin and solving a number of raider attacks, to investigating the theft of a supply of water, to uncovering the secrets of a recently sprung up cult and discovering the source of a supposed miracle cure for Ghouls.

The choice at the purifier does not change the start of Broken Steel which always has the player join the Brotherhood to carry out the new quest campaign of the DLC of fighting the Enclave. Nor are there any side quests opened by any choices made in "Take it Back".

The new maps the player can visit in Broken Steel are a section of the previously mentioned Rockland where an Enclave communications base is located, and Adams Air Force Base, a Pre War military base where the Enclave has established a secondary headquarters.
But the Capital Wasteland itself has also been slightly modified with altered and newly added areas such as the Old Olney Underground, and the Presidential Metro under the White House which is the only way for the player to reach Adams Air Force Base.

While exploring the expanded world, the player will come across new enemies and new equipment, including a suit of Power Armor the player can acquire.

The new enemies are mostly additions to the existing ranks that have probably been introduced to compensate for the player's increase in level cap, but more on that later. The Enclave forces now have the Hellfire trooper, an Enclave soldier wearing a power armor variant that is resistant to fire based attacks. Its signature weapon is the heavy incinerator; a mortar like weapon that fires what best can be described as flame grenades.

New amongst the Super Mutants is the Overlord, described as the stage between a Super Mutant Master and the Super Mutant Behemoth, being bulkier in appearance. Like the Enclave Hellfire trooper it also has a signature weapon of its own; the Tri Laser, a laser 'shotgun' that is most effective on short ranges.

A new Ghoul type is the Reaver, a Ghoul that is a lot stronger than regular Ghouls and has a powerful melee attack as well as the ability to throw radioactive blobs at its enemies.

Last is the Albino Radscorpion, a very powerful white giant radscorpion that does more damage but does not have any new unique abilities.

Amongst equipment, new are the mentioned Heavy Incinerator and the Tri Laser. The Heavy Incinerator has a powerful splash flame attack that the player will find very useful against common enemies that are grouped together, however the weapon is less effective against the more powerful enemies including the new ones that come with Broken Steel. The Tri Laser is a surprisingly useful weapon in close quarter battles, tripling several times the regular laser's punch. A shame that it is sometimes very difficult to find as not all Overlords carry it, perhaps it would have been better off as a new Enclave weapon.

At a given time the Brotherhood issues the player the new Tesla cannon, which is specifically designed to take on the Enclave's vertibird gunships. It also does electrical splash damage to enemies that - like fire damage - continues to seep energy for some time after having hit the target. While the Tesla cannon is supposed to be capable of destroying vertibirds in one shot, it turned out to be of little use even for that, in my playthrough.

Other new weapons are variants on the Gatling laser and the flame thrower, with stats that have been slightly altered to do more damage or start up quicker.

Visually, Broken Steel returns to the gray and dirt brown of the Capital Wasteland after the white blue 'coldness' of Operation: Anchorage, and the 'warmth' of the Pitt. The existing new material, including most of Adams Air Force Base and the underground metro, has been crafted in the style of Fallout 3, but everything else is actually recycled content from Fallout 3.

Rockland is a rather small map in which the player must assist with a Brotherhood assault on an Enclave base. After having gained entrance to the facility the player enters a series of corridors similar to the various maintenance tunnels the player has seen in the Capital Wasteland.

The second location, Adams Air Force Base, consists of a series of Pre War buildings such as hangars and office buildings and a mobile base crawler - parked on the main flight strip - that serves as the Enclave's secondary headquarters, from which they control their armed satellite.
The airfield seems like a very exciting location to explore as there are plenty of buildings but unfortunately only a few buildings - the hangars, air control tower and the mobile base - can be entered, which quickly makes going through the map a rather linear experience with little reason to revisit.

The DLC designers can be applauded for finally doing something with Old Olney, which in the normal Fallout 3 game seemed rather a waste of a good location, as it consisted solely of sealed off surface buildings and a sewer full of Deathclaws. Through a series of underground corridors players can now explore a ruined hospital and an underground power plant, where a quest must be completed.

A few other changes have been made to buildings in the Capital Wasteland, but that is pretty much the extent of it. Most of the buildings are still sealed off and merely serve as decoration. One wonders if it would not have been preferable to lay the focus on making the accessible locations as diverse as possible, instead of adding a large number of buildings the player never gets to enter anyway.

Regarding the voices there isn't much to say, several of the voice actors of Fallout 3 have been hired again to do additional voice-work for their characters in Broken Steel, though most people will notice that the voice actor for Scribe Rothchild in Broken Steel is different from the voice actor in Fallout 3. This occasionally leads to a change in voice when the character switches from the old dialogue to the new dialogue.

The voice work is passable, being roughly the same level as the voice work in the main game. The player will most likely not feel any emotional connection to most new characters, as they simply exist to give quests or provide a little background information.

A few new characters have been added at existing locations and at the new locations to provide you with either main quests (Paladin Tristan) or with side quests (Scribe Bigsley), as well as a few NPCs that are either involved in the available quests or in the new encounters.

In general Broken Steel is more of the same of Fallout 3, basically adding an epilogue to the events of the main game, in which the player can see some of the consequences of his or her actions while dealing with another group of Enclave soldiers.

The three main quests are rather straightforward with only one actual plot twist, which sets up the premise of the DLC. The side quests allow the player to revisit a couple of areas that have been slightly altered, but otherwise do not offer many new experiences.

While the new level cap might sound like an improvement it only further unbalances gameplay that was already terribly unbalanced to begin with.
If the player had detailed knowledge of the perk system and the locations of stat boosting elements such as books, it was already possible to max out all of the player's skills during the main game. However, most players would not have a maxed-out character at level 20, and now the player can fill up the last stats he or she may have had to ignore during Fallout 3's main quest.

The result is basically a character that is good at everything, if it would be a real person he or she would be a rocket scientist, brain surgeon, athlete, assassin and commando in one. Even on top of all the maxed out skills, the perk “Almost Perfect” ups all the characteristics to 9.

This basically eliminates any long term decision-making when a player designs a character, no need to specialize in the skills that seem to be the most important during that run of the game.
Most skill checks also become obsolete as the player will be able to hack computers, lock pick doors or convince NPCs of the player's opinion or decision, all in one game.
This effectively eliminates any form of role playing, the game becomes an experience that is basically the same for every playthrough, with no skillsets opening up new paths as you already had those skillsets, and only player choices determining your path, where available.

One other problem with the perks is that they also eliminate permanent and semi permanent consequences such as general status, making it possible to change the person from a despised drug-selling, enslaving murderer to the most beloved person in the wasteland with one choice. This means that the player's actions and attitude towards NPCs now barely serve any role.

The dog companion can now also be brought back through a perk, eliminating the need for the player to be careful with the dog as it will respawn every time it's killed.

While Bethesda does follow up on the consequence of the player infecting the water of the purifier they sadly have done nothing with the choices of aiding president Eden, becoming his right man or woman if the player carries out its plan, or sparing the life of Colonel Autumn at the Jefferson Memorial, allowing him perhaps to make another appearance at the end of Broken Steel. One can speculate this did not happen due to the expenses of rehiring the voice actors and of writing an alternative campaign in which the player joins the Enclave.

Broken Steel really should have been the first DLC that Bethesda released for Fallout 3 as the changed ending allows for easier integration of the existing DLCs and the two upcoming ones, but on its own Broken Steel falls somewhat short.
Players will perhaps go through it two or three times, but there is little draw to replay more as you will have likely found everything there is to find in it.