So, for those who've spent any elongated period of time battling the harsh world that is Fallout 3's Capital Wasteland, chances are you maxed your character out long ago and have been anxiously awaiting the final episode of downloadable content to liven up and continue your quest for... (insert 'good', 'neutral' or 'evil' here).
The good news right off the bat is that Broken Steel is indeed the best of the three episodes available thus far, and yes it extends the gameplay beyond simple side-quests or short story arcs.
I'm going to drop a major spoiler here, but if you were one of the people who absolutely hated the fact that finishing the game either killed you or just ended (depending on the choice you made), Bethesda have the cure for what ails you. "Two Weeks Later" are the lucky three words that expand the game's core narrative and bring you legitimately back into the game-world. You wake up in the Brotherhood of Steel HQ (The Citadel) where both you and Sarah Lyons have been unconscious for the past two weeks. While you're up and about and having a chat to Elder Lyons though, it turns out Sarah, while stable, is in no hurry to come into the land of consciousness. Looks like it's time to get back to work and wouldn't you know it, there's a job opening meaning you're now a fully-fledged member of the Brotherhood of Steel.
Things in regards to this review are now going to get a bit tricky, because I played the game through as super goody-two-shoes, which means I never used Edens 'vaccine', and everything in my world appears to be hunky dory (so I'm not sure what the outcome for those who made evil choices will be). The clean water is flowing and Project Purity proved a reality. Good on ya Dad. But it's not all fresh water and clean living once more. The Enclave haven't fallen yet and between water distribution across the Wastes, maintaining Project Purity and fighting the Enclave, The Brotherhood are stretched uber-thin.
Initially you're given a mission to head north and take down an Enclave stronghold, but screw that. Instead, I went off to see just how much of the game-world had actually changed. First stop was the Jefferson Memorial, and yep, those clean waters are flowing and the Brotherhood seem to be running a tight ship. Rivet City has employed some of its guards to help caravan the water to places such as Megaton (still alive in my game), Canterbury Commons and so on. A bit of investigation, however, reveals that despite the water being free for all, it hasn't stopped the Wasteland loonies from attempting to take their own chunk of the pie.
The first mission I came across saw me having to investigate both caravan routes to Megaton and Rivet City. My first port of call then was Megaton, where I found the Children of the Atom had taken their unbelievable cult worship of the unexploded Atom Bomb in Megaton a step further by stealing the Megaton water supply and exposing it to radiation, to then redistribute among anyone looking for light.
Rivet City on the other hand, was simply being bullied by a gang who I had to discover the location of. Both missions, while very short, immediately gave me a pretty good idea of the sort of expansion ahead. There were plenty of options with both instances; good, neutral and bad, with various rewards in tow.
Other cool touches that revealed themselves were small aesthetic things, such as new dialogue from Three Dog and NPCs. I stood around listening to water caravans conversing with Brotherhood Knights and Rivet City Scientists and the like, and it all flowed consistently and contextually. Having branching stories and mini side-quests that revolved around Project Purity was a nice touch, and because of this, I equally felt the play time involved was much better. Then of course there's the other major, major change – the expanded level cap.
I've logged around 130 hours, and until I started playing Broken Steel, I'd forgotten just what a joy it was to constantly gain experience and earn new perks and skill points. The inclusion of new perks up to level 30 is also welcome, and heaps of them are really cool (such as the "Puppies" perk that allows for Dog Meat's puppy to be waiting for you at Vault 101 should Dog Meat die), and above all else, it means the game is far tougher.
If you follow the main story, the Enclave are a pretty bad-arse crew, and one of the missions will actually see you having to face a stack of Deathclaws out at Old Olny (but you also get some neat tools to handle this sort stuff – but I won't spoil it).
There are new weapons, new location markers, new characters and a much more rounded story. It's unfortunate Broken Steel couldn't have expanded the impact your presence has had in the Capital Wasteland more so; I would have loved to have seen long-term results of decisions I made with major quests in places such as Little Lamp Light, Megaton, Underworld or (especially) Oasis. It would have also been good to see inhabitants talking about the last two efforts – Operation Anchorage and The Pitt.
This is definitely the most action-packed and expansive of the DLC packs, but it still doesn't deliver the dynamic afterthought it should have. Project Purity should have a much more wide-spread affect on the game-world, and what does dynamically alter as a result simply stands as a reminder so many of your other major actions throughout your experience will go unnoticed.
Raising the level cap was a great idea and it definitely drew me back into the experience a lot more than the previous two games, I just want more again after being given a little of the major experience I enjoyed so much from the outset.
If you own the game, you'd do well to grab this. It expands the story very well. You can play on through the Wastes now, despite how you were treated by Bethesda at the end of the original experience, and you're rewarded for doing so. Here's hoping this isn't the definitive end of Fallout 3 as we know it though, because there's still so much to do and see.