Fallout 3 was a groundbreaking title when it was released in 2008. It introduced a scale and scope to the open-world genre gamers had only imagined up to that point. It was a post-apocalyptic sandbox of epic proportions, and many thought this game helped Fallout surpass The Elder Scrolls (Bethesda's other open-world franchise) in terms of quality. It was a nearly perfect product, and for most people that was enough.
The wonderfully creepy vaults of Fallout 3, as well as the claustrophobic subway stations, instilled a real sense of fear in the audience. The title went on to win numerous game of the year awards and cement the Fallout legacy.
Fast-forward to 2010 when Fallout: New Vegas was released, shaking up the status quo (as all good sequels do) and fixing things from Fallout 3 that players didn't even know needed fixing. New Vegas had better NPCs, better guns, and better implementation of core Fallout mechanics.
Still, fans bicker fiercely over which title is better. At least most gamers concede that Fallout 4 is the weakest of the series. But when it comes to these two masterpieces, there is really no argument. New Vegas was, is, and will always be the vastly superior Fallout game.
Fallout 3's companions were nothing more than hired help the game was programmed to lump the player with, were they so inclined to have a travel buddy for their adventures. New Vegas offered up companions steeped in the history of the world around them, giving the partners a sense of context and reason to be fighting alongside the player's character.
While it's a small adjustment on the surface, going in to battle with someone who has a motive to be there does wonders for adding to the role-playing immersion Fallout games try so hard to manufacture.
Fallout 3 was more than a little binary with its in-game decision making. Usually there were two paths to choose from, and neither outcome was substantially consequential. Luckily, New Vegas upended that system and introduced a multitude of different paths to take with any given quest.
This offered the player a ton of choices in how they wanted to approach a situation and affect its outcome, all with the immersive benefit of lasting, tangible repercussions.
New Vegas awarded and punished its players far more seriously than Fallout 3, further adding to the sense of consequence that was all but nonexistent in the latter. For every choice made and action taken, there were ramifications. NPCs acknowledge these selections, and depending on your positive or negative Karma they will do everything from attacking you to joining you as an ally.
The changes caused by interacting with the world, while cruel at times, ultimately produced a far more engrossing role-playing experience. Particularly because any NPC had the possibility of noting a previous action at any point in a gamer's playthrough.
One of the most annoying aspects a role-playing game can implement is a safety net on its NPCs, protecting them from any harm the player may wish to inflict. If gamers want to annihilate an entire town of civilians, they should be able to. Sandbox games are about freedom and a feeling of infinite possibility. Having more options creates a more enriching experience.
New Vegas shared this sentiment. The game allowed players the freedom to kill off virtually anyone, a feature that wasn't available in Fallout 3. Of course, this ended up creating some complications when it came to completing the game's central narrative, but gamers should also be able to forgo that linear model to forge their own path, and New Vegas allowed that.