Another unfortunate new direction for Fallout that abandoned something of appeal, at least for me, is the new complete lack of a sense of isolation, which affects the experience directly. When things aren’t exploding and nobody speaks or does anything in your vicinity, in Fallout 3, the world does seem bleak. Once you start roaming and exploring though, you soon realize that you can stop giving a crap because things aren’t neatly as bad as they were during the time of the original Vault Dweller, apart from the giant green blood-thirsty mutants trying to kill everyone, of course.
Yes, the super mutants are scary and all, but soon enough, you get to slaughter so many that they quickly become routine, until you are an unstoppable killing machine who doesn’t even need to bother with trivial shit, like bullets flying your way. And then what? It’s not like you are truly alone, lost and at the mercy of the elements, struggling to survive. You’ve got your gun and your armor and everything else is never a problem, since you are never too far away from a town, if you ever need anything at all (including food and water, if you are playing New Vegas on Hardcore).
Understandably, a first person “go anywhere” game has to be much smaller than the area featured in Black Isle’s Fallouts so everything must be crammed into this small real time world that is a fraction of this:
And that’s one of the major differences right there. The massive, unpredictable wasteland itself was the danger of the first two games, as opposed to a funky band of boogiemen. To take trips between towns, you had to gear up and be prepared for unforeseen events, like being stung by a Radscorpion in a random encounter, as you would find yourself in the middle of nowhere for weeks and your destination was often a mere rumor anyway.
But even in New Vegas, which did a relatively good job of separating some towns to give you long stretches of lonely nothingness (though probably not the most ideal thing for a first person shooter), one has to wonder how the towns have not simply connected to each other, when everything is so close that you can often jump in one town to see the next one. After all, the nuclear apocalypse happened 200 years prior! 200 years! That’s how old America is!
In the new Fallout, you no longer fear the wasteland because before anything of significance happens to you, you are more likely to hear about its’ possibility from the countless regular human beings that you constantly encounter. And that’s another thing. Finding new people is no longer a big deal in the crowded new Fallout, like it was in the older ones. It used to be a desolate desert, where death was much less remarkable than life, where you could easily perish without a trace and not even the carrion eaters would be interested in your irradiated corpse. Now, you rarely feel like you are dealing with the precious remnants of humanity anymore, or that every settlement you discover is a miracle, whose fate carries a special importance to the world as a whole, giving gravity to your decisions.
It also used to be a place where you would actually pick up and carry a bunch of “junk” in your pocket. Now, you can open any closet or enter any gas station and be greeted with this:
Seriously, when someone asks you for scrap metal in these new games, there needs to be a response option to slap them silly. Walk outside your door and you will be swimming in steam gauge assemblies and vacuum cleaners with a set of fission batteries crawling up your ass. Oh, you can’t extract metal from things, for some reason? Then walk your lazy ass across a hill to the next town and exchange whatever you pick up along the way for whatever you need.
Of course, the biggest point here is that these issues are here to stay. Crafting is now an essential part of the games, along with the numerous ingredients; and the franchise has made a successful jump to first person that is limited in size and scope, more successful that Fallout has ever been. There is no reason for them to go back now and unless they get really creative or hard-working all of the sudden, the necessarily resulting issues are not going anywhere.