Fallout 3 Goes Interstellar
Check out all of our past reviews.
Another month and we have another downloaded content pack [DLC] for Fallout 3. I wonder if Bethesda will be able to keep up this pace, or if they even plan to? But no complaints in the meantime, because I have enjoyed just about every DLC so far. And every one seems to add a bit of a different flavor to the game, with Mothership Zeta really going over the top in that department.
Hot on the heels of Point Lookout, which added a bit of a horror element and some backwoods exploration to the wasteland, we have Mothership Zeta. This one is totally different from any of the other DLCs we have seen, and is packed with a lot of surprises.
The first surprise will unfold as soon as you begin, so it's not too much of a spoiler if I tell you. Like most DLCs, this one starts with a mysterious entry in your Pipboy. There are rumors of a crashed alien spaceship out in the wasteland, and of course you can go check it out if you want. Or not. But come on? Of course you are going to walk out there to the new map point to give it a peek.
When I saw the ship in the crater, I thought, "well, I've seen this kind of thing before." Those of you who have explored the wasteland a lot will have probably seen a ship up in the sky blowing up, and found at least one crashed into a house. So I figured I would go down there and scoop up some new weapon or a few alien power cells. Only when I got close, I realized that it was a trap!
Cue the blue lights and "Fire in the Sky" levitation. You are taken up to a mothership, where you are probed and prodded and finally dropped into a cell in your underwear, sans equipment. You even have a cellmate, a woman named Somah who may or may not be some type of raider. She could just be a tough wastelander, though she never says too much about her history. Anyway, she comes up with a plan for a jailbreak, and since the aliens never watched any westerns on TV, it actually works. So begins your journey though a working spaceship.
You will also meet a little girl named Sally, who becomes your friend and guide for the rest of the adventure. Sally has been on the ship for a very long time and knows a lot about it. She comes up with the plans that you follow, which basically boil down to "get up to the bridge and take it over." She can even open doors for you sometimes and squeeze into vents to guide you around the ship. She's actually really helpful.
As you explore the ship you will learn that the aliens are really evil. They are abducting people from Earth and performing really harsh experiments on them. Some of these torturous experiments are recorded in audio files you can find along the way. Every time I heard one, I got angrier at those little grey punks. Trust me, the more you learn about them, the more you will want to kill them. The only thing I don't like is that you get negative karma for killing worker aliens, though you can kill all the soldiers normally. Come on, they are all evil. If I find a "worker" standing in a room with a cut up human stretched out across a table, they are culpable in my book.
Another little trick the aliens have been playing is freezing people in cryo-stasis pods. And they have been doing it for hundreds of years. You will eventually be able to free a Wild West gunslinger, a soldier from Operation Anchorage and an ancient samurai warrior. An astronaut is also found, but dies when you try to revive him. That's not too bad, because you will need his suit to do a spacewalk at one point.
Each of the freed prisoners have different back stories and their reactions to different technologies is pretty funny. Each one will journey with you to a different part of the ship on your missions (no, you can't walk right up to the bridge) and you should really take them along because they are not only worthwhile companions in combat but say interesting things. When the gunfighter sees a mechanical Giddyup Buttercup toy (the aliens collect stuff) he jokes that no self-respecting cowboy would ride into town on one.
The neat thing about Mothership Zeta is that everything is new. It's almost like being in the vault once again, only better. The mothership is huge and is littered with various levels like weapon labs, biological research centers, and cargo holds filled with items they have collected over the years. It's a real looter's paradise up there in space. In fact, I think there is more loot in Mothership Zeta than in any other DLC, including things like "alien crystals" which are zero weight but quite valuable. You should be filthy rich by the time you escape from the ship with just those crystals alone. There are also quite a few very good energy weapons, including a few special variants which do extra damage than their normal alien counterparts.
The aliens themselves seem like a real society. There appears to be scientists, workers and military onboard. The workers can't be killed without losing karma, though your companions will blow them away without any negative penalty for you. If you are worried about the karma loss, you need to be careful because the "good" aliens show up as red in your pipboy display just like the "bad" ones.
Some of the aliens have shields all around them that make them kind of warble as they walk. They are no less difficult to see, but can take a lot more damage than unshielded aliens. When dealing with shielded aliens, I found that bullets seem to do more damage than the alien's energy weapons, which makes sense I guess since they would be shielded from technology they know and not really old fashioned slugthrowers. I used my Backwater rifle from Point Lookout to snipe quite a few of them, and their big heads would explode in one shot when fired from a Hidden state. When thing got up close and personal, my Metal Blaster (the laser shotgun) from The Pitt made short work of almost anything.
There are also drones in the ship (floating robots), which are either melee combatants or guardians that fire an energy mortar. You can get the mortar, called a drone cannon, from a dead robot and use it if you want. Also, at one point in the game you might find a control wand on a dead alien that will let you control the robots, though only one at a time. Robots are limited to just following you around and killing things, but serve that purpose pretty well.
The most interesting thing for me was trying to figure out what the aliens were up to. I really thought that it was possible that they were taking humans away from our dying planet and trying to move them to a better place or something like that, right up until I started to see their horrible experiments up close. I even thought that perhaps they were being led by a cruel overseer and that the "good" workers that you can't kill without a karma loss might somehow switch to your side at some point. But it was more straight forward than that. Sadly, I still don't know what their ultimate goal was. While you find a lot of "captive logs" that detail their rough treatment of prisoners, you don't find any real plans. Whether they were just looting our planet or planned to invade it will never be known I guess. One character you free is really funny because he spews all kinds of theories about the aliens, some of which I even considered myself while I was playing.
The final scene in the DLC is pretty darn amazing and completely unexpected. I won't go into details because I really don't want to spoil the surprise. But, wow, it's really cool, sort of like an episode of Star Trek. Almost pulled from one actually. It's worth the price of admission and is WAY different than any other DLC ending.
To tell the truth, I was not looking forward to Mothership Zeta. Aliens are not really my thing, but here, they provide a competent and thoroughly evil group of creatures to kill. And when the DLC is complete, the spaceship remains in orbit for you, with a link that you can use to teleport up there. So you can revisit it anytime you want, though only certain levels inside the ship are still accessible. Some of your companions stay onboard too, and will say things like "Captain on the bridge" when you return. How cool is that?
Mothership Zeta takes Fallout 3 in a totally different direction and is more than worth the price of admission. I don't know what Bethesda plans to do next, but they are going to have a hard time surprising me yet again. Then again, given the quality DLCs we have seen so far for Fallout 3, I wouldn't put it past them.
John Breeden II is the Chief Editor of GiN. While a forward thinking man he admits to a fondness for older video games. You should have seen him at Videotopia. John can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org.