21 Apr 2010

FallOut 3 Fundamentals – Part 1 – Intro

Author: Author | Filed under: Guides & Hints

There’s no denying it — Fallout 3 is one humongous game, full of more nuances than you’ll initially be able to wrap your mind around. That’s where this robust basics section comes into play. We’ve split the section into three parts. The first part is for gamers new to western RPGs, Bethesda games, or RPG-shooter hybrids. It’s there that you can get all of the vital information that will help you survive your time in the violent Capital Wasteland. Advanced Tactics is a section for those comfortable with Fallout 3 but want some intermediate and expert level help to increase the potency of their skills. And, of course, our patented Ten Tips section will give you ten things to think about going into your dystopian adventure.


Fallout 3 is a post-apocalyptic western RPG with enough shooting mechanics that it is, indeed, a full-fledged hybrid title. You’re given control of a male or female (depending on who you choose) who lives in a heavily-guarded nuclear fallout shelter. There’s a big, bad post-nuclear world outside of the safety of Vault 101 — your home — but it won’t be until your nineteenth year that you finally get out into the world to see for yourself the devastation of nuclear warfare. Why? Your primary caretaker, your father, has left the safety of Vault 101, and you’re determined to find out why he’s left.

But surviving in the United States after the nuclear bombardment isn’t an easy endeavor. Those few, fortunate souls who have managed to survive generation after generation of incessant radiation, mutated beings, and government-less existence patrol around watching out for themselves first, and everyone else second. Good versus evil plays a part in Fallout 3, for sure, but the paradigm on which they are judged is forever altered, as is the world you live in.

Fallout 3 takes place in Washington D.C., or what’s left of it. Apart from the never-ending threat of contracting deadly radiation poisoning, surviving on the Capital Wasteland is something only the heartiest people can hope to do. So, one can look at surviving in Fallout 3 is somewhat the same as surviving the aftermath of real nuclear devastation. Do you have food? Water? Meds? Weapons? A place to sleep? People to trade with?

Read on, survivors. All of the help you need is here.


Statistics can be found at the core of any RPG, and Fallout 3 is certainly no different. Understanding the three levels of stats in Fallout 3 will allow you to better understand your character and how that character is built up. You can’t have your cake and eat it too in Fallout 3, so developing a specific type of character is preferable to spreading your numbers out thinly across all available stat points.

The most basic statistics you’ll deal with regularly are your AP and HP meters, which are located at the bottom of your screen (HP on the left and AP on the right). HP, or hit points, is your character’s health. Your HP determines how much damage you can sustain before succumbing to death, and varying enemies and other hazards will do varying amounts of damage. You can heal your HP with all sorts of food and meds (such as Stimpaks), and sleeping will also allow you to heal. Keeping an eye on your HP and acting accordingly is at the very heart of surviving for even a few minutes in the Capital Wasteland. AP, or Action Points, are directly associated to V.A.T.S. We’ll discuss V.A.T.S. later, however, so AP will be discussed then.

Underneath that most base statistics system is the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system. S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stands for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. At the very beginning of the game, you’ll formulate your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. statistics, and while you’ll be given the ability during the game to put a point here and there to boost yourself, knowing what kind of character you want to play will be integral from the very beginning. The instruction manual (on page 16) illustrates rather well what each skill does in-game. Here’s what it has to say:

Strength – “Strength is a measure of your raw physical power. It affects how much you can carry, and determines the effectiveness of all melee attacks.”

Perception – “A high perception grants a bonus to the Explosives, Lockpick and Energy Weapons skills, and determines when red compass markings appear (which indicate threats).”

Endurance – “Endurance is a measure of your overall physical fitness. A high Endurance gives bonuses to health, environmental resistances, and the Big Guns and Unarmed skills.”

Charisma – “Having a high Charisma will improve people’s disposition toward you, and give bonuses to both the Barter and Speech skills.”

Intelligence – “Intelligence affects the Science, Repair and Medicine skills. The higher your intelligence, the more Skill Points you’ll be able to distribute when you level up.”

Agility – “Agility affects your Small Guns and Sneak skills, and the number of Action Points available for V.A.T.S.”

Luck – “Raising your Luck will raise all of your skills a little. Having a high Luck will also improve your critical chance with all weapons.”

So, if you want to have a strong character who has great skill with melee weapons, try to boost Strength. Perception will give “gray area” characters who lack in combat but are talented in other lesser aspects a much needed boost. Read the descriptions and dump points where you think they’re necessary. However, we have to recommend that you stay away from Charisma and Luck unless you’re hell-bent on experiencing rare conversation permutations, or want lots of critical hits in battle. They simply don’t affect the game like some of the other statistics do.

Below the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system is, perhaps, the most important statistical system in the entire game. These stats correspond to what are called Skills, and they are constantly updated. Each time you level up (the maximum level in the game being 20), you’ll be able to put a certain amount of points into any skill you desire. Below are a list of the skills in the game along with what the instruction manual has to say about them:
Barter (S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Relation: Charisma) – “The Barter skill affects the prices you get for buying and selling items. In general, the higher your Barter skill, the lower your prices on purchased items.”

Big Guns (S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Relation: Endurance) – “The Big Guns skill determines your combat effectiveness with all oversized weapons such as the Fat Man, Missile Launcher, Flamer, Minigun and Gatling Laser.”

Energy Weapons (S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Relation: Perception) – “The Energy Weapons skill determines your effectiveness with weapons such as the Laser Pistol, Laser Rifle, Plasma Rifle and Plasma Pistol.”

Explosives (S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Relation: Perception) – “The Explosives skill determines the power of any set of mines, the ease of disarming any hostile mines, and the effectiveness of any thrown grenades.”

Lockpick (S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Relation: Perception) – “The Lockpick skill is used to open locked doors and containers.”

Medicine (S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Relation: Intelligence) – “The Medicine skill determines how many Hit Points you’ll replenish using a Stimpak, and the effectiveness of Rad-X and RadAway.”

Melee Weapons (S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Relation: Strength) – “The Melee Weapons skill determines your effectiveness with any melee weapon, from the simple lead pipe all the way up to the high-tech Super Sledge.”

Repair (S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Relation: Intelligence) – “The Repair skill allows you to maintain any weapons and apparel. In addition, the higher your repair skill, the better the starting condition of any custom-made weapons.”

Science (S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Relation: Intelligence) – “The Science skill represents your combined scientific knowledge, and is primarily used to hack restricted computer terminals.”

Small Guns (S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Relation: Agility) – “Small Guns determines your effectiveness with all conventional projectile weapons, such as the 10mm pistol, BB Gun, Assault Rifle, and Combat Shotgun.”

Sneak (S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Relation: Agility) – “The higher your Sneak skill, the easier it is to remain undetected, steal an item, or pick someone’s pocket. Successfully attacking while undetected grants an automatic critical hit.”

Speech (S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Relation: Charisma) – “The Speech skill governs how much you can influence someone through dialogue, and gain access to information they might otherwise not want to share.”

Unarmed (S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Relation: Endurance) – “The Unarmed skill is used for fighting without a weapon, or with the few weapons specifically designed for hand-to-hand combat, like Brass Knuckles or the Power Fist.”

Because you’ll have only a finite amount of points you can dump into any of the above each time you level up (and since you’ll only have up to the maximum level of twenty in which to allocate points), you’ll need to pick specific skills through each playthrough to try and max out. You can’t be a hacker, lockpicker and master of all weapons simultaneously. It’s not possible. Our recommendation? Try to pick at least one of each “type” and try to maximize those statistics as best you can. So, for instance, try to specialize in Energy Weapons, Bartering, and Science, but not while also trying specialize in Small Guns, Speech and Repair. It’s simply not going to work out well for you if you spread your skills out too thin. If you do, you won’t be able to do much of anything when the going gets tough!

Combat & V.A.T.S.

What would an RPG be without combat? Combat is at the very heart of your Fallout 3 experience, for without being able to effectively fight, you won’t last very long in the Capital Wasteland. There’s little of any substance to be said about fighting on the periphery — you’ll be armed with all sorts of weapons that are effective on all types of enemies. But generally speaking, you’ll need to manage your ammunition carefully, changing weapons constantly to use whatever is most effective against the enemy type you’re currently fighting against. For instance, why waste Assault Rifle ammunition when you’re fighting a Radroach? Put away the firearm, take out your Chinese Officer’s Sword, and go to down on the bug. But if you’re fighting a Super Mutant Behemoth, you might want to put away the Lead Pipe and take out some of those Mini-Nukes you’ve been stocking up on.

V.A.T.S. (which stands for Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) changes things up significantly for you during combat, however. Pressing the corresponding button on your controller to bring up V.A.T.S. during combat, allowing you to target specific parts of your enemy’s body for maximum damage and effectiveness. As long as your AP (Action Points) permit, you can use V.A.T.S. multiple times a turn, though you’ll have to wait for your AP meter to slowly fill back up before using it again. AP itself is more about feel than explanation — when you see how your AP meter works in action, and how quickly it refills and how many points an attack takes from the meter, it will become more clear to you.

Use V.A.T.S. often; there’s simply no reason not to. And try to be smart with how you attack an enemy with V.A.T.S. Generally, before calling the assisted targeting system up, you’ll want to chip away at an enemy’s health from afar, only using V.A.T.S. at close range. This will increase your hit percentages significantly, as opposed to the needless waste of bullets that will result from aiming at an enemy’s torso with a 25% hit rate. Speaking of body parts, you’ll want to aim at specific parts for the desired result. Aiming at an enemy’s torso will always give you the maximum hit rate, but if you want to do maximum damage to a foe, consider aiming at his head. Aiming and shooting at an enemy’s legs can slow down or completely immobilize a foe, while shooting arms will lessen the likelihood of an enemy using his or her weapon effectively. Hell — they might even drop their weapon completely with some well-aimed arm shooting, leaving them completely defenseless.

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