Fallout 3 Broken Steel Review: An Epic Postscript

Broken Steel is the last of three announced Xbox 360 and PC-exclusive expansions to Fallout 3, and the one that was most clearly built to be a crowd-pleaser.

Broken Steel adds about five hours of new quests to what used to be the end of Fallout 3. It raises Fallout 3's level cap from 20 to 30, introduces some new weapons, perks and enemies. The expansion is set two weeks after the base game and spans the full game map plus new regions. Broken Steel puts the player in the service of the heroic, armored Brotherhood of Steel on a series of group and solo missions to defeat the enemy Enclave's most powerful weapon of war.

The question for most DLC expansions is whether they are worth the price. But, for this one, the other question is how a player will feel about DLC that undoes the ending of a game they may have already completed.

Loved
Epic Missions: It wasn't until the final mission of Fallout 3 that Bethesda's developers proved their game could render conflict on an epic scale. There's no holding back like that in Broken Steel, which starts with a grand battle and offers at least one more before its main content is done.

Tesla's Latest: The new Tesla Cannon is among the prettiest and best weapons in the Fallout 3 universe, a worthy addition to your arsenal, especially given how hard Broken Steel is.

New Mutterings: You're not just downloading new missions, perks and guns when you get Broken Steel. You're downloading a lot of new audio chatter. Quite a lot of people in Broken Steel have things to say about where you've been and what's been going on since the game they are starring in originally seemed to end. Whether they're rambling to you or muttering from a corner, they are doing a great job making familiar hangouts and battlegrounds feel new again.

Wander Forever: There's no finality to Broken Steel. Fallout 3 is no longer a game that ends, a la Zelda, but a game that can go on and on as long as you want to keep exploring it, like Fable 2. This will let us all play it forever until every last Nuka Cola bottle is found.

Hated
Wander Forever: Sorry to be difficult, developers, but it's disappointing to have experienced a very final, very complete ending to an adventure — only to have the story re-written. Those formerly conclusive events rendered moot and things just keep going on. What used to feel like a finale now just feels like turning out the lights for the night. Morning follows and the impact of an ending that caused a serious voice over actor to speak and credits to role has evaporated.

Taxing Difficulty: It's not altogether bad that Broken Steel was much harder for me than Fallout 3 was, but it is troubling that it may have been this hard because of the DLC conundrum Bethesda posed to gamers. If you, unlike me, had already completed the missions of the first two DLC expansions you probably will have better weapons to defeat Broken Steel's tough enemies than I did. I held off from playing them because they didn't raise the game's level cap and I didn't want the quests in those expansions to not reward me with character-building experience points. Perhaps the best road to take would be to download Broken Steel, let the new level cap take effect, then play the quests of the first two DLCs to get the weapons that will ease Broken Steel's quests.

It took me just under five hours to play through Broken Steel's main quests and another hour to play around with some of its side quests. Prior to Broken Steel, I had saved my progress 64 times during the full three-dozen hours I played Fallout 3. Broken Steel was so much harder that I wound up saving the game about 30 more times before I was done.

It's disappointing that the impact of the game's original ending has been undermined, but many players will be happy to have the chance to just keep exploring Fallout 3's world. Plus, the new missions — which involve everything from knife fights and pet monsters to something I'm convinced is a Left 4 Dead homage — are strong. Like most expansions of late, it's a mixed bag, But it tips toward the positive. This was good DLC.

Broken Steel was developed and published by Bethesda Softworks for the Xbox 360 and PC, released on May 5th. Retails for 800 MS points ($10.00 USD) Played through the main missions and completed two of the side quests of the Xbox 360 version. Game froze twice; no other malfunctions. Character leveled up from level 20 to 24.

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