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Picture Fallout 3 like a train ride that you never want to end.  Sure, there are lots of stops, long spans of track going endlessly into the distance, and dark tunnels that carry you unknowingly from one place to the next but eventually, you know that there is a definite end to the track where the train will come to a screeching halt. Now, as you come towards that end, picture the train sprouting a pair of wings and soaring into the sky, allowing you to ride it forever. That pair of wings is Broken Steel, the third DLC add-on for Fallout 3, and what a fine pair of wings it is. But despite the many complaints about Fallout 3 that it addresses and the loads of new gameplay it adds, is the $10 price tag worth it for more Fallout 3 DLC?

Before I start the review though, I should mention that due to the nature of the DLC, there will be some spoilers relating to Fallout 3’s storyline. Thus, if you haven’t completed Fallout 3’s main quest yet and value the plot, read with caution. If not, then read on freely.

Anyway, Broken Steel had two main selling points that, for most people, made it the most anticipated of the DLC. Those were the altering of the game ending, thus continuing the main quest, and raising the level cap from 20 to 30, complete with new perks, enemies, and weapons. Both are handled well but I’ll start with the story first.

So as many of you know (and many of you are about to find out unless you heeded my spoiler warning), the end of Fallout 3 was just that, the end of Fallout 3. Whether you sacrificed yourself for the greater good of mankind by activating Project Purity (or adding the FEV vial) or sent Sentinel Lyons to her death for the same cause, the game would always end and throw you back to the main menu, forcing you to either revert to an earlier save and play from there or, if you didn’t have one, start a new game. Naturally, this got a lot of players, including myself, pissed. Thankfully, Bethesda has addressed this complaint, allowing you to live past the ending and wake up two weeks later, having been hit by a high-voltage discharge, no matter which ending you choose (unless you just let the Purifier blow up, then it’s still game over). They also added another option to allow one of your followers that is immune to radiation activate the Purifier for you without dying. Each outcome is different, so it still feels like a big choice. As a matter of fact, there is a major consequence to one of the choices that, now that you live, you will see the effects of. Now in all honesty, the voltage thing is just a cop-out, as you died from the radiation, but the fact that Bethesda actually went and changed their game because the fans willed it deserves some respect, and the ability to endlessly roam the Capital Wasteland is enough that you will start to ignore and not care about whether or not the change to the end was for the better.

But wait, there’s more! Yes, that’s right, you didn’t think you’d just get to take a vacation after nearly dying, did you? Nope, upon waking up two weeks later, the Brotherhood of Steel is attempting to finish off the remnants of the Enclave once and for all, and they need your help. At the same tine, the clean water that Project Purity brought with it may be fun to take a radiation-free swim in, but for those that just want clean water to drink, there are some problems with distributing it and finding the solutions are side quests that you can partake in. But sticking with the main quest, the Brotherhood will have you out gathering a Tesla coil to build a Tesla Cannon, which will be utilized to help in crushing the Enclave at Adams Air Force Base. Frankly, that’s about the blandest of terms I can put the new part of the main quest into without spoiling anything but overall, it’s a pretty good plot that ends with a decision that you will truly see the consequences of. What make it good as well is that unlike the previous two DLCs, Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt, it’s a direct continuation that takes place in the DC area, as opposed to a parallel plot in an Alaskan simulation or Pittsburgh. Not that other outside locations are bad, because they are not, but everything in Broken Steel just seems more familiar, but in a way that’s fresh and new, especially since it adds some new locations. The side quests as well are interesting, as they give you a taste to the way the rest of the Capital Wasteland is responding to the Purifier. Overall, the main quest will probably take between 5-7 to complete, a bit longer than the previous DLC, and the side quests will each take about half an hour or so. There are also some new unmarked quests and random encounters that might all together add another 30 minutes to an hour. So overall, you’re getting longest DLC in terms of questing.
My only complaint with the quests is that although Broken Steel was advertised to show the effects of your actions, I haven’t really found it to do so. Maybe it’s just because I thought they were talking about side quests but even ignoring that, there really isn’t much different about the world, aside from the Purifier being activated of course. Maybe it’s just because I haven’t run into what’s new but for right now, all I can say is that the Purifier is the only thing that’s really different. I’m not really upset by this but it’s a letdown of sorts.

However, Broken Steel compensates for that by adding something else that substantially increases the playtime, raising the level cap from 20 to 30. Most fans, including myself, felt that level 20 was too easily obtainable or too low a level cap, which therefore didn’t allow for too much experimentation with perks and skills. But yet again, Bethesda has listened to its fans and raised the level cap to 30, and stating that it will be a tough climb from 20 to 30. Well, I will say that indeed, the level 30 cap allows for more experimentation with skills and perks, allowing you to raise skills that you might have wanted to raise but couldn’t because you had to concentrate on more important skills; or try out some perks that looked cool but you didn’t want to get them because there were more important ones to get. So in this regard, the new cap succeeds at allowing you to more fully develop your character.

Fallout 3 Broken Steel's plot

Broken Steel’s plot includes some pretty epic-sized battles featuring fan-favorite Liverty Prime

Where the new level cap has its negative points is in the time it takes to reach it. What was advertised to be a “tough climb” really depends on how much stuff you have left over at level 20. For instance, on my third playthrough character, I had really nothing substantial left except a little bit of the main quest and whatever is in Broken Steel. After finishing this, I was around level 25 but I didn’t have any quests to massively boost my XP, so the next five levels took a while. But on the other hand, on my fourth playthrough, I reached level 20 with the same amount of main quest left as my third and everything in Broken Steel, but also half the side quests and The Pitt to do. As a result, I did everything else before Broken Steel, which put me around level 25 or 26, and reached level 30 when I was halfway through Broken Steel. So what’s my point? Basically, if your character is level 20 and has done everything, you can expect to get much more play time out of the new level cap than a character who is level 20 with a lot of quests left to do. Nevertheless, it should take you as much time to level up from 20 to 30 as it did to go from 1 (you start on level 2 really but regardless) to 20. And although a level 40 cap would’ve extended the time more for everyone, it might’ve been too much and it would allow you to easily max out all your skills and get the majority of the perks, making the game too easy. So overall, the level 30 cap is balanced enough. I personally believe though that raising the level cap should be a free update but I’m not going to hate on this DLC because of it.

Of course, with those new levels, new perks are available, but perhaps the perks that Broken Steel offers are not exactly the kind of perks one would like. That’s not to say they aren’t good perks, in fact one of the perks, Puppies!, addresses the complaint that Dogmeat, who was liked by many, was too easily killed. The perk allows Dogmeat to respawn every time he is killed at Vault 101, allowing you to always have him at your side. Another perk, Nerves of Steel, is a more traditional Fallout perk, allowing your action points to regenerate faster. There are also three perks to change your karma, which allows you to get those pesky karma achievements without making multiple saves (that’s really what they are there for, there’s otherwise not much point to getting them). The other perks, well…I mean they are good perks but that’s just the thing, they are too good.

Let me give you a good example of this. In Fallout 3, there is a side quest called “The Nuka Cola Challenge”, which requires you to collect 30 bottles of a special variant of Nuka Cola called Nuka Cola Quantum. But Quantum was released on the day that a war created this post-apocalyptic world so naturally, it’s pretty rare and in limited supply. I remember spending hours doing this the first time I tried it, especially because I accidentally drank some. So when I finally finished the quest, I felt very accomplished. Now, there is a perk in Broken Steel called “Quantum Chemist” that converts every ten regular Nuka Cola, which are virtually unlimited and easy to find, in your inventory to a Nuka Cola Quantum. Something like that just takes a lot of the challenge out of the quest. Now I realize that you don’t have to take that perk but really, all the new perks in Broken Steel are like that. One allows you to actually lose radiation over time. Another makes you immune or more immune to the effects of certain drugs. One even raises all your SPECIAL skills that are not at nine to nine, which makes it possible to create a 100% perfect character if you handle everything right. You don’t have to take them, I know, but it’s unfortunate that they didn’t have more regular perks that don’t detract from the experience as much. And really, it just takes away a lot of the challenge of the game at a point where you are virtually invincible.

Or, at least you were, because Broken Steel adds a new challenge for high-level players in the form of some seriously tough enemies. Once you reach level 18, regardless of whether or not you started Broken Steel, new, tougher variations of enemies will begin to appear. These come in the form of Super Mutant Overlords, Feral Ghoul Reavers, Enclave Hellfire Troopers, Albino Radscorpions, and some stronger robots. The new Enclave soldiers have more health as well as better armor and weapons but they are the easiest of the new enemies and don’t present too much more of a challenge. Albino Radscorpions are not too much more annoying than Giant Radscorpions, even with more health and the ability to regenerate it in sunlight, so this is also more challenging, but not by too much either. The new robots are colored black and are stronger, as said, but nothing else is different and aside from at Adams Air Force Base, they aren’t too common in the DC area.

The two enemies I noticed the most improvement in were the Feral Ghoul Reavers and Super Mutant Overlords. Feral Ghoul Reavers are stronger and have more health than other Ghouls, as well as a regenerative radiation ability and the ability to chuck grenade-like weapons of radioactive goo. Super Mutant Overlords are not only much stronger than any other Super Mutant (aside from the Behemoths that they resemble), but carry Gatling Lasers and a devastating new weapon called the Tri-Beam Laser Rifle, a super-strong laser shotgun of sort. Even for a level 30 player, either of these enemies can be a challenge and even kill you if your not careful. And any of the new enemies I mentioned, aside from the robots, can pop up instead of their weaker variants wherever you might find them, so for those high level players looking for a real challenge, these new enemies will not let you down. I’ve even seen them take down a Deathclaw with ease (arguably the former hardest enemy in the game). But at the same time though, you will still feel like you have progressed to be this ultimate being as all your hard work (and a couple of tricks you might have learned) will pay off when fighting the new enemies so it’s a nice balance.

Fallout 3 Broken Steel Impressions

You do not want to mess with a Super Mutant Overlord

Broken Steel, like the other Fallout DLCs, also brings to the table some nice items. There’s the incredibly powerful Tesla Cannon, which even though it only shoots once before you have to reload, is incredibly devastating to anyone close enough to it’s blast (including Vertibirds). The Tri-Beam Laser Rifle I mentioned earlier is a devastating Laser Combat Shotgun that fires three split beams with great accuracy. There’s also the Heavy Incinerator, which is a flamethrower that launches fireballs at the target. To round out the weapons, there are also some new, unique variants of the Gatling Laser, Scoped .44 Magnum, and the Flamer. The new apparel isn’t as strong as the weapons. There’s a rather humorous wig and a police hat and the rest is just a couple of variations on preexisting apparel, the only one of which that looks different is the Enclave Hellfire Armor. It’s still a solid effort though as even though much of the new apparel looks the same, it provides some solid benefits. Finally, there is now widespread Purified Water called Aqua Pura and a Deathclaw Control Scrambler, which causes Enclave-controlled Deathclaws to follow you…unless you get too far away and then they just die.

Finally, I guess this would be a bad review if I didn’t talk about glitches. Broken Steel had some problems in its initial release but as of right now, I believe those have been fixed. The rest of the glitches that are in it I have not encountered but from what I’ve found, they are few and far between and certainly not as substantial as other glitches in the main game or the other two DLCs. It’s certainly an improvement from The Pitt and many of the glitches that have been found are actually caused by not updating your game. However, since downloading Broken Steel, my game has become much more laggy at points than it has ever been (except with The Pitt at points). It’s not so common that it ruins the DLC but it’s there and when it happens, it’s annoying as hell, and the fact that it became more common as a result of downloading it is an upset. If Broken Steel didn’t have as much going for it as it does though, it would be much worse but thankfully, the extra content included in it compensates for the increased amount of lag.

If you’ve been waiting months to download any DLC in anticipation for Broken Steel, you’ll find that the wait was worth it. And if you can only download one DLC, go with Broken Steel. Between the most new questing, raised level cap, new items and challenging enemies, and new perks, it simply blows the other two DLCs out of the water. And while some of the perks may irritate those who put many hours into this game because of the challenge it takes away and the increased amount of lag and the usual not too terrible glitches are upsetting, Broken Steel more than makes up for that with everything else. More importantly though, Broken Steel is well worth the $10 price tag because frankly, Broken Steel makes Fallout 3 what it should’ve been all along. I’ve got to give respect to the people at Bethesda for actually listening to their fans and making a DLC that actually changes core aspects of a game they worked so long on. Truly, Broken Steel is an essential buy for any Fallout 3 fan that well overcomes any of its faults with it’s slew of awesome features.

Speaking of fan service, I just thought I’d add a final note. We all know that PS3 owners have been feeling ripped off by Bethesda for not giving them the DLC. Well, Bethesda has heard your angry hate mail as all three previously released DLCs will be coming to PSN starting in June (as well as two new ones, after the Xbox and PC versions release though). Broken Steel will release after Operation: Anchorage and The Pitt on PSN but still, it will be released and my opinion will still apply, get it.

+ By extending the main quest past the ending, raising the level cap with all new perks, and adding the challenging new enemies along with the new items, Broken Steel adds some substantial new playtime to Fallout 3 that is a worthwhile experience.

– There are some nitpicking remarks I could make (which would be stupid) so truthfully, the only things that weigh this DLC down are some bad perk choices and the increased amount of lag, along with the usual glitch complaints.  And the new level cap may not last you that long.