10 Fallout 3 Mods To Try While You Wait For Fallout 4
Let me paint you a picture. With words. Envision a 13 year old version of me, getting into gaming heavily for the first time. I had just purchased an Xbox and was looking for games on the horizon to look forward to. One game that caught my eye more than any other was The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. The promises of a massive, reactive world seemed too good to be true (and in some cases were) but I ate up every word Todd Howard spoke about his latest RPG. And lucky for me the game was coming to the Xbox. So imagine my disappointment when I realized I didn’t really like Morrowind. I found the combat slow and boring. I found walking through the massive empty open world slow and boring. In fact I found almost everything about the game slow and boring, except for the insane number of bugs which were instead just supremely frustrating if also occasionally hilarious. I never finished Morrowind. And three years later when I tried Bethesda’s followup, Oblivion, I had similar experiences. And the original vanilla version of Fallout 3 had about the same effect on me.
So at E3 this year I was likely the only person tuning in to the Bethesda Softworks presentation who was more interested in pretty much every other game they were going to be showing over Fallout 4. But once again Todd Howard’s brilliant presentational skills got the better of me and I found myself looking forward to another one of his games that I likely won’t enjoy. But I didn’t want to go into Fallout 4 blind and unlike in 2008, I now have a PC capable of running Fallout 3 and many of the mods that have been made since to make the experience more palatable to those who have problems with the playability of Bethesda’s titles. So I decided during last month’s Steam sale to give Fallout 3 a second chance. After playing through the first five or six hours I was again frustrated and annoyed at all the little things that slowed down the experience, or the bigger things that just straight up broke it. But instead of simply giving up, this time I decided to see if the community could help turn Fallout 3 into the Bethesda game I had always wanted. While they didn’t entirely succeed, I have now sunk over 40 hours into the game, more than I have with any previous Bethesda title and I plan on continuing.
So with Fallout 3 revived for me through the use of mods, I wanted to take a moment to share with folks the mods I currently have running. As it turned out I had 10 mods installed which made this a perfect thing to write a list about. So if you didn’t play the PC version of Fallout 3 when it came out for whatever reason, and are hankering for a reason to give it a(nother) go let me present to you 10 such reasons that I would highly suggest using in combination with one another to improve the experience.
The first five mods I am listing I would suggest everyone who plays Fallout 3 on PC to download. They do not effect game balance, do not lower performance or change the visual makeup of the game beyond fixing visual bugs, and for my money I can’t see any downside to downloading any of them. They simply make the act of playing Fallout 3, especially the exploration portion much easier. I would suggest having all five of these mods installed from the start of the game. They are, in a word, essential.
1. The Unofficial Fallout 3 Patch
This is the most important mod you need to have installed. In fact it isn’t as much of a mod as it is exactly what it is called, a patch. This is the second mod you need to install and also the most core to improving Fallout 3. It features thousands of minor fixes to the game, from quest bugs, to dialogue typos, to visual errors, and makes many broken aspects of the game totally work as intended for the first time. It even claims to improve performance in a variety of ways and makes some very smart minor changes to a couple different elements of the game including allowing certain very rare weapons and armor sets to be repaired using the more common versions of those weapons. So, for example, instead of using that tri-laser rifle for about five minutes before having to wait for 5 hours to find another, you can now simply repair it with a standard laser rifle, making it less of a temporary powerup and more of a permanent upgrade to your arsenal. Small changes like these add up to have a large effect on the game, making it more stable, more dynamic, and overall less frustrating and slow than it was before.
2. The Sprint Mod
This mod does exactly what you would think it does, plus more. The mod replaces the “walk” button with the sprint button. Sprinting obviously increases your speed, but smartly this mod drains your AP as you sprint, so you can’t sprint everywhere limitlessly. And when you run out of AP the mod even adds in a nice out of breath audio stinger to let you know. Meanwhile the sprint action itself adds new visual effects. The camera pulls out and the edge of the screen shakes and blurs, just as you would expect from a sprint function in a modern game. Plus, the mod even holsters your weapon when you are sprinting so you can’t unbalance combat by sprinting around sniping fools. If you want to try, though, the current version of the mod adds in two unique perks. One lets you shoot while sprinting although you suffer a very large accuracy penalty, and the other knocks enemies back when you sprint into them which can lead to some hilarious (although buggy) results. Of course you can simply ignore these perks if you don’t want to upset the combat balance and just want to be able to get around the world a little more quickly.
3. Games For Windows Live Disabler
Speaking of doing things more quickly, this mod disables Games For Windows Live within Fallout 3, improving performance and making it much easier to play offline. You won’t get achievements, but that is a small price to pay, especially considering most of the mods listed here are considered cheats by the GFWL DRM and will therefore not function properly without this mod installed first. Hence you want to install this mod FIRST, before any of the others. Make sure to launch the game a single time, but before you play it quit and install this mod and then the unofficial patch. If you do have a save game you want to still use after disabling GFWL you need to take the save files out of your GFWL profile folder (located under C:\Users\(YOUR_NAME_HERE)\Documents\My Games\Fallout3\Saves\(YOUR_GAMES_FOR_WINDOWS_LIVE_ID)) and move it into the Saves folder. So if your Live ID is MajorNelson and your username on your computer is Seth then you would find the save files in C:\Users\Seth\Documents\My Games\Fallout3\Saves\MajorNelson and you would need to move them to C:\Users\Seth\Documents\My Games\Fallout3\Saves. Or just save yourself the trouble and install this before starting the game.
4. Smoothlight Pipboy Light Enhancer
This mod increases the range of the Pipboy flashlight. Note I specify range not intensity or brightness. That is something other mods do and they just make entire areas flooded in blinding light. The range is what needs changing, not the brightness. Hence this mod is the one to get for an improved flashlight. Now maybe some people like it when they can’t see jack in their games, and for those people I’m sure the original flashlight will do just fine, but in a game where scavenging gray items off of a gray ground sitting next to about five hundred other gray items that have no use is a key component of the gameplay, being able to see everything clearly is absolutely essential.
5. More Map Markers
This one is pretty self explanatory. It simply adds additional map markers to the wasteland to make it easier to navigate. When you start up the game after installing the mod you can choose to have it fill in all of the locations on the map (basically the same effect as the Level 20 Explorer Perk) or you can choose to discover things on your own. So those new to the game can still get the exploratory element while those who have played the game before and just want to be able to fast travel to more locations can have everything filled in. Maybe the most time saving addition for me, though, was adding your Megaton House to the World Map and having the Megaton marker teleport you right in front of the general store. It cuts out half of the walking time and if you have a quick computer just teleporting between your house and the store can save you a good thirty seconds, which over the course of a 100+ hour game can save you quite a bit of time.
The final five mods either change the balance of the game or improve visuals to a degree that performance on certain computers could be badly effected. I would suggest playing through a portion of the game before deciding whether or not to make use of these mods, although I have personally found that they add to my enjoyment of the game.
1. NMC Texture Pack
This expansive texture pack reworks almost all of the environmental textures in the game. The pack comes in four varieties. Lite does not improve the resolution over the base textures, just provides some slightly different looks to certain objects. Performance, which is the version I would recommend for those who don’t have solid state drives or a graphics card with at least 3 GB of RAM, improves the resolution of different textures to different degrees to try and find a good mix of quality vs performance. The Large version includes ultra-high resolution textures and high-resolution normal maps, while the most demanding version includes ultra-high resolution normals as well. I would recommend players have a graphics card with 4 GB of memory and a SSD if they wish to use the highest resolution version without having to deal with constant hitching while trekking through the wasteland. If you are getting regular crashes while out in the wasteland, or the game is hitching a lot, move down to a lower quality version. If you have a graphics card with less than 2 GB of RAM and no SSD I would recommend skipping this mod entirely and sticking with the textures Bethesda provided.
2. Hi-Res Weapons
This is another self explanatory mod that comes with the same disclaimer as the texture pack above. If you are having performance issues after installing this mod then your computer might not be up to it. If it is, this mod makes weapons look much more detailed without changing the overall look.
3. DALCO Junk-O-Matic
This mod will likely be the most divisive of the ones I am suggesting. With this mod installed, all the junk items in an area (those that have no gameplay purpose including no use in crafting) are automatically sent to your house in either Megaton or Tenpenny Suites. Most of the time I find areas still feel perfectly full of items when the junk has been removed, and it makes it much easier to find important items when those with no purpose have been taken away. The only exception is in the Arlington National Library, where the mod removes every destroyed book, leaving the library completely empty. The Junk-O-Matic takes the form of an actual in game item that you can equip so try to remember to unequip it before you enter that one location, although it does make the quest of finding certain books in the library much easier considering those books are now the only ones left. While this mod I think has the most negative effect on the game (a very minor negative effect but still), I think not having to sift through junk, and the performance improvements you get when all the junk from an area is removed, is worth the occasionally barren looking room.
4. DALCO Wadsworth The Recycler
Use this mod in combination with the Junk-O-Matic so you actually have a use for some of the junk it collects. With this mod installed you can have your robot butler (Wadsworth in Megaton) recycle any metal junk you collect into scrap metal which you can then sell to Walter for 10 caps and 10 XP per piece. There are a bunch of other recycling mods out there but I’ll explain why I like this one. First off the mod takes into account the weight of the object, so you need four forks for one piece of scrap but only two wrenches and so on. And note I said 4 forks for one piece of scrap metal. While 10 caps and 10 XP might not seem like a balance breaker, as it turns out there are tens of thousands of junk items in the wasteland, so any mod that gives you a one to one payout on any junk item regardless of weight or type will quickly lead to you being very overleveled very quickly. This mod will still likely give you a level up over where you would normally be at any point without it, but one level is nowhere near the game breaker being level 30 20 hours into the game is. To give an idea for folks, I am currently at level 20 after 40 hours of play and have made it into the citadel. You can figure out on your own whether you feel I am too high of a level for this part of the game on your own, but I will say that the Hellfire Enclave Armor included with the Broken Steel DLC has done much more to ruin the game balance than an additional handful of points in my skills. So use the DALCO mods at your own risk. They do make the game easier, but I don’t find a ton of enjoyment in searching for the one non-burned book within a pile of hundreds and I felt like doing something with all the junk in the game made it feel more immersive. Your mileage may vary.
5. 2 Perks Per Level
This mod is also quite self-explanatory. It lets you choose two perks each level instead of just one. I use this mod because it lets you open more options within the game. With so many perks to choose from I felt like I was missing out on some of the more interesting ones that I didn’t feel would provide as much of a benefit. So I’ve basically used this mod to let me take one perk that improves my skills, and one mod that does something a little more odd like the Bloody Mess perk. I should note again that I find Bethesda games to be almost unbearably slow and this includes their progression systems. You’ll note almost every mod I’ve mentioned on this page simply makes certain aspects of the game faster or less cumbersome. If you prefer slow paced, realistic survival sims then these mods probably aren’t for you. But if you want to be able to finish Fallout 3 in under 100 hours, I found these mods to provide a good balance of increasing the pace without making the game too easy. Like I said, the official Hellfire Armor has done more to make the game easy than any of the mods I have downloaded. There are higher level versions of many of the enemies in the game and they will simply replace the lower level ones as you level up, so the game scales to your level to an extent. There is nothing though the game can do against a set of armor that blocks nearly 60 damage, or more than 90% of the weapons in the game do per shot.
So there you have it. The 10 mods I currently have installed for Fallout 3. Two popular mods I don’t have installed are the one that makes the game “realistic” in that it takes things like hunger and thirst into account and one that changes the lighting in the game. The former I just don’t want to deal with, and I felt like changing the entire visual makeup of the game was a bit much for me in regards to the latter. If you are interested in trying any of these mods I suggest you head over to the Nexus Mods website and make use of their download manager as it auto-installs all the mods you download through it, taking a lot of the tedium and guesswork out of the process.
Let us know what you think of this article and if these types of lists would be something you would want to see more of going forward. Game on!