Double Buffered

A Programmer’s View of Game Design, Development, and Culture

Fallout 3 Has a Terrible Ending

Posted by Ben Zeigler on December 22, 2008

The topic of this post is self explanatory. I’m not going to discuss the details, but if you do not want to hear anything about the ending to Fallout 3, stop reading now.

The first 99% of Fallout 3 is extremely good. It does a great job of presenting you with interesting, impactful choices, which as I’ve mentioned before is one of my absolute favorite things about games. However, there is a specific point in the game (right after the final escort) where the game takes a horrible turn for the worst. The ending in Fallout 3 is infuriating enough to make me hate the game, even though I absolutely loved it. I’m sure my emotions will mellow with time, but Bethesda made a huge mistake in capping off a great game with a crappy ending.

Many games have crappy endings, and as an experienced game player I’m used to it. I wouldn’t be so infuriated without Fallout 3 if it weren’t for the fact that it seemed like it was heading towards having a really good ending. Despite what the paranoid fans were saying, I felt like Fallout 3 did a great job of carrying on the story traditions of Fallout 3. Also, Bethesda had previously stated that Fallout 3 would have a multi-segmented ending with “over 200 endings” much like the first two Fallouts. I had made many shades-of-grey decisions during the game, and I was interested in seeing a vision of the future based on what I had done. The sections of the main storyline immediatly before the ending were fun and exciting, and I felt it was heading towards a climax. When you combine these factors, I had high expectations for the ending.

Those expectations are really what made the ending feel so much like a slap in the face. Well, here are the primary things wrong with the last 20 minutes of the game:

  1. The total running time of the ending movies is ridiculously short. Mine took about 60 seconds.
  2. There are actually a very small number of endings, even when you add up all the combinations. From reading the spoilerific wiki page, the choices are 5 event-activated segments (where you only got an ending scene if you took one out of many possible choices), 1 2-choice segment, and 1 3-choice segment. I only activated one of the bool flags (most of them are for doing evil actions for some reason) so most of my ending was completely stock
  3. The event-activated segments consist of two pictures with no voice over or text. These pictures are just screenshots from the game and must have taken a whole 5 minutes each.
  4. Many of the screenshots they do show did not apply to my character. For instance, I never found dogmeat but several of them showed him as my loyal companion. They also showed me at several locations I had never been to.
  5. Prior to the ending videos, you are forced to make an artificial choice. However, given the nature of the choice there are multiple companions who could trivially help you out. You are even allowed to ask them to help you, but all of them refuse with EXTREMELY stupid reasoning.
  6. Before that, you confront a “final boss” who goes down with one shot and was the easiest battle I had fought in several hours. It’s possible to use diplomacy, but it is difficult and doesn’t tell you anything interesting (basically you saying “You’ve already lost! Because I say so!”).
  7. You essentially get to choose between doing an evil thing, doing a good thing, and doing nothing. There is an extremely viable neutral choice (cooperating with the “final boss” who isn’t evil at ALL), but the game doesn’t let you take it, for no conceivable reason.
  8. To get the “good” ending (which again is just a slightly different screenshot with narration) you have to manually remember a specific code. This is fine in theory but there is nothing priming your memory near the end of the game, and I had to search through my logs from 10 hours earlier to pull up a hint for it, which took a few minutes while theoretically time was running out.

It looks like they may revise the ending a bit in future DLC, but if they actually DO that it will be even more frustrating. Apparently to get a satisfying ending to a game, we will now have to spend an extra $10. Bethesda, you’ve somehow managed to make me hate your absolutely brilliant game.


26 Responses to “Fallout 3 Has a Terrible Ending”

  1. Whaledawg said

    Despite what the paranoid fans were saying, I felt like Fallout 3 did a great job of carrying on the story traditions of Fallout 3.

    I too felt Fallout 3 lived up to the story tradition of Fallout 3. I also thought it lived up to the gameplay tradition of Fallout 3 and the art tradition of Fallout 3.

    Interestingly, I’m not sure Fallout 3 lived up to size of Fallout 3. But that’s just my opinion.

    Fallout 3.

  2. Joe Ludwig said

    I agree with everything you wrote, but I still loved the game.

    On the other hand, if I had access to a 10 foot pole (like every good adventurer should have in their pack) there would have been no choice at all at the end. Everybody wins!

  3. Mrop said

    I found out the code by telling my female friend (forgot her name, she was totally insignificant to the plot anyway) the code, then telling her she should not go in, and I went in instead. It felt pretty stupid.

  4. johnny said

    idiots. the code is easy to remember, its your parents favorite bible passage. it was supposed to not remind you because they wanted you to be ransacking your inventory trying to remember what the hell the code is until you resort to what you could call the “shit whats my dads b-day”. at that point you can remember “oh yeah, lets try his favorite bible passage which is basically the whole driving point behind why he started this project”. hence 2-1-6, revelations 21:6

  5. Dakps7 said

    i personly think that the game was probably the second best game i’ve played so far. I agree that the ending was awful but i dident mind the pictures at the end quite bad. I thought that since i’d taken about 20 radx and continued to use radaway i dont know why i died of rad poisening. and on her point of veiw when i sent in lyons she also died. kind of under standable. but when you get fawks he wont even go in he would of saved a life! and when i got captired from the enclave my folowers dissapeared.

  6. Dakps7 said

    cont. whats up with that. well thats my belifs. sorry for the spelling mistakes.

  7. Greg said

    I was disappointed with the ending too. In a few ways I saw it coming though. Your dad dies so early that I knew that the ending would have to be more significant than that. And I read Bethesda’s opening statement in the game manual, which said the game eventually came to an end.

    I saved outside of the Jefferson Memorial, so after completing the game, I just reloaded that file and left. Nevertheless, my fix feels a bit haphazard and I would have preferred an alternative ending where you can continue free roam. Personally, I think they should have added some version similar to the game’s current endings, and some that allow you to continue playing. For example, if you send Lyons in, she tells you to go back to the Citadel. And then the game goes into a nearly identical cinematic and you get game over.

  8. Jim said

    (please note: i cant spell.) lol

    i know the game ends, but not like this. why do me or Lyons have odie of extreamly deadly radation.

    its stupid. when i was about to go in and start up the purifirer, it came across me “oh no, im gona die of radiation, arnt i?….WAIT A SECOND….ghouly (name i gave to your super mutant friend. *i could never remember his name*) enyway i ask him and he says “i cant interfeir with your own destiny” *WHAT DO YOU MEAN MY DESTINY!!!!? you wont die, you will be loved by all*
    so i had no choice but to go in and die. oh, and the code is just in your data *notes section. i forgot it when i read it. i found it quick tho.

    all & all, i give fallout 3, 7/10. thats fair right?

  9. Jess said

    I have to agree with Johnny. The code was the number of your mother favourate passage. I got that strait away. But you are right about the crapy selection of endings.

  10. Shawn said

    Ya I was cussing at the end. I had Fawke (super-mutant) as a companion. He is the one that helps you get the GECK in the vault that is all in a radio-active state of meltdown…. and yet when it comes to this one he won’t do it. Even though to him it would be like a sauna.
    Bethesda just ripped the plug out of the game and called it a ending. The script had to read like this…
    “someone dies and its all emotional and we cry… THE END.”
    What totally makes up for such a piss poor ending quest is the fact that there is SO many side quests it makes the main story arc seem pointless to begin with.
    Good game.. but IMHO the side quests are 100x better than the main story quests which consistantly remained dumb. Except for virtual world. THAT WAS AWESOME!!!

  11. Sanguinius said

    I wanna know who the fuck the guy in the purifier was. I mean all of a sudden there was this crazy indian looking guy whom i’d never seen before standing INSIDE the freaking machine, Whats up with that!

    I think the ending has a big impact on how good the game is Its like making a great cake and then using shit for the icing. Still a great cake though lol.

    I agree with Shawn overall though, The side quests are what makes the game so awesome. Except for the virtual world, shittest part of the game except for the ending.

    P.S there are downloads you can get to activate more stuff, like, you surviving the end and going on to explore and find out all of the locations and do all the quests, and some other downloads like new locations and people.

    P.P.S It’s all LEGIT! as well, put out by the developers.

    • Andy said

      I assume the guy in the purifier is a statue of Jefferson? It is meant to be the centre of the Jefferson memorial, in the Jefferson rotunda…

      I would definitely like to continue with the side quests, I don’t mind the ending where you die but of course some kind of warning letting you know to finish all your quests you want before doing this might have mitigated this (while spoiling the surprise).

  12. Dave said

    JZig, you are absolutely right! That ending was PATHETIC! What I really wanted was a town-by-town ending which described what happened to them in the days-months-years after my death at the purifier.

    This ending, to put it bluntly, blew hard. I am seriously contemplating logging a complaint with Bethesda.

    NOTE TO INTERPLAY>> PLEASE BUY BACK THE RIGHTS TO FALLOUT 4 … and do it the way it should be done!

  13. Jim said

    If they do make a Fallout 4 ‘heres hoping they do’ i think it should be located in Australia. I mean comon, its already quite creepy as it is (if you have ever driven along the Pacific Highway before, you should know what i mean. if not, to bad for you) enywho, the plot could be after the purifier is running the brotherhood of steel travel to other parts of the world to search for survivers. they find that Australia wasnt hit by the war as bad as other places, and you could get vehicles and drive around in search for the ‘Comonweath’ (it is refered to in fallout 3). eh, wat do you think? well i like the idea, what do you think ‘Fallout 4’ could be?
    p.s. im Australin if you havnt figured it out. lol

  14. G. said

    Sorry for my english. I’m out of practice…

    Jesus! I totally agree! What was that ending?!!!!! The game is EXCELLENT besides the crappy end!!!!

    Two BIG things needed for that end:
    1) A REAL boss (not necessary a typical super giant boss).
    2) A real choice to LIVE and -win?- another ending later (for what the hell do I have more than 30 RadAways in my pack at that moment?!!!!).

    I felt the SAME.

    Great article, it calmed me down (I’m not the only one pissed off).

  15. G. said

    Another thing:

    You learn all the game how to survive radiation. You look your father die because of it and you can’t do anything…



    Jesus!… Great game, stupid, stupid ending…

  16. Sebastian said

    This is the most crappy ending i have ever played in a game so far in my life, it was like the hours you spent doing the main quest was just wasted. And one of the things that bothers me the most is that i have to start the game again, and then do all the side quests before the main quest.

    I beated the game in the same day as i got it, and i played 12 (a lot) that day. Plus i didn’t even get to se more than two cities, because i concentrated on the main quest. Rivet city and Megaton was the only cities i got to see:( Terrible, Terrible ending…..Dissapointing.

    From Norwegian 13year old boy;)

  17. Tom said

    It really ticked me off that ending.
    I was a loyal Bethesda lover, and could never put down Oblivion. That game never ended; you could do the main quest, then go away and explore, completing the 4 factiona and hundreds of side quests.
    In Fallout though, they for some reason thought “Hey, lets kill them at the end. That would be great!”. I had just got full tesla, and even a laser rifle. I had maxed out 3 of my skills and was really looking forward to exploring the vast wasteland, blowing beggar’s heads off and enslaving people (oh yeah. i was evil). But then, the stupid Redguard voice from Oblivion starts talking and shows me a picture of me blowing up Megaton.
    F*** you Bethesda. F*** you.

  18. Harry said

    This game sucks at the ending!

    I too felt that the game was ABSOLOUTLY GREAT!
    I got full tesla, and plasma rifle and so on… Though, after that stupid quest, i cant wear any of that, i cant expore anything cuz im dead…. Even when i sacrifised the other girl?!?!

    This game sucks! The most suckizh game ever! I dont feel like playing as a evil person as i know that i wont get anything out of it 😦

  19. Jim said

    ok, now i agree that ‘Fallout 3’ has a bad ending to it, but why dont you just buy the expantion ‘Broken Steel’?! this lets you explore the map after the main quest. now i once posted on this saying it was bad, but now with the expantions on it is great. so yer, my advice is to get ‘Broken Steel’

  20. tech said

    I agree with everyone here.. what pissed me off was that I had just gotten out of enclave HQ with all this great stuff.. the tesla gear, some weaps, tons of other supplies, that new bobblehead.. and 20 minutes later i’m dead and can’t continue the game.. WTF is that? the funny thing too is that my method of gameplay is to use the underpowered weaps and save the more powerful weaps for when I REALLY need them, big boss battles and such.. so by the time I died I barely got to use any of those weaps, only in a few situations since I was expecting some epic battles.. yea, overall great game but the end was a disappointment.. i’ll wait for DLC to go on sale and check that out though..

  21. Amy said

    Why is everyone saying the expansion lets you play the game after the end? I have the game of the year edition with all the extra content, the higher lvl cap and everything but it just adds more side-quests. I still died and was unable to play on when I stumbled across the ending. This annoyed me, because the main quests seemed so urgent and i felt bad if i wandered for too long without continuing it and then bam! You can’t finish any of that stuff, coz you’re dead.

    • Austin said

      I agree with Jim. I dunno why everyone dies at that point. Well, I started playing Fallout 3 with 4 DLCs (except Mothership Zeta) and during the game I’ve just finished only some of the side quests b4 reaching this (death point). I just entered the purifier code myself & I was just KNOCKED OUT, NOT KILLED!!! After that it shows approx 60-second movie and the main quest continues (I woke up in the Citadel & Sentinel Lyons is unconcious)!!! Just after that point I carried out The Anchorage and The Point Lookout (The Pitt is already finished). I really have no idea about it…… The only thing I can tell you guys is that I’m already at level 30 b4 that point and have very-good karma, that’s all. It isn’t the end!!!! :O

  22. yo people check it out i am still roaming the wasteland even after startiing the purifier,and completing the pitt,point lookout,and the alien mothership zeta,but when does the game truly end im getting bored cause i have NO quests left to do can someone please help im getting fustrated trying to figure out what to do.

  23. Chum said

    If your karma is good, Fawkes goes in (after some minor grumbling) and succeeds at activating the purifier. Then, (after some sort of energy spike) you wake up in the Citadel and have new things to do, as well as any unfinished missions and unvisited locations from before. Oh ya, I fortunately came a little late to the game and ended up with the Game of the Year Edition– which makes all the difference. score 🙂

  24. Starn said

    I never really liked the main story of Fallout 3. It basically copies the Fallout 2 story tht includes Enclave killing mutants with modified FEV. And Fallout 3 contained the same. I mean like did Bethesda actually invest a tenth of the game making time to writing the story?

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