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Fallout 3 vs New Vegas: Which Is Better? [Updated 2022]

Fallout 3 was revolutionary when released in 2008. At that time, it presented the scale and scope of a well-made open-world game that the lovers of gaming had never experienced. The game was a grand post-apocalyptic sandbox and a lot of fans share the opinion that this third installment in the Fallout series helped Bethesda Softworks cement their place in the upper echelons of gaming royalty, along with The Elder Scrolls series, of course.

At the time of the initial release, it was a unique product unlike anything on the market, and for the majority of gamers, it still holds a special place in their hearts. The third installment features fantastically weird vaults and restricting subway stations that imparted an authentic sense of fear on the players. A variety of quests like Tranquility Lane or Tenpenny Tower live long in the memory. Plus, this game introduced the VATS system, a revolutionary action meets turn-based combat approach.

Then in 2010, when Fallout: New Vegas was launched, It took the great parts of the third installment and fixed some of the things in Fallout 3 that didn’t quite work as well. Things like adding iron sights, adding a faction system, and adding more locations on the map to name a few. New Vegas had better characters, superior guns, and comes with a better application of the central mechanics of Fallout 3.

Most enthusiasts who hold the series in high regard argue about which title is better. Both games have their charms and both offer a very different vibe. Fallout 3 is a much more, dark, dreary, and almost survival-horror-inspired title. Whereas Fallout NV is a much more zany and light-hearted affair. Both installments have their merits, but is one game truly better than the other?

Want to see how these two iconic Fallout games compare against each other; follow us as we explore these games in detail:

Main Differences Between Fallout 3 vs New Vegas

The main differences between Fallout 3 and New Vegas are:

  • Fallout 3 features a dark and dreary world which really nails the bleak, post-apocalyptic feel, whereas New Vegas features a much more zany, laid back world with a western theme. Fallout 3 is set in Washington DC and Fallout NV is set in Nevada. 
  • Fallout 3 has a powerful storyline which is very linear and has a controversial ending which gamers as a whole did not appreciate. Whereas Fallout NV has a branching narrative with tonnes of factions to choose from and multiple endings which accomodate all playstyles.
  • Fallout 3 features a fresh combat system and grand weapons, whereas New Vegas features a combat system taht refines the Fallout 3 formula and adds some mechanics too keep things fresh. 
  • Fallout 3 uses a moral system to determine if the player is good or evil. Whereas New Vegas adds more nuance to this system, blurring the lines of good and evil, while also introducing a faction system. 

Fallout 3 vs New Vegas: How They Compare

Quest handling

Fallout 3 vs New Vegas Questline

Fallout 3 is a much more linear experience when compared to Fallout NV. However, there are still some decisions that players can make throughout. These choices tend to be very black and white though. You will often be presented with a good and an evil strategy to complete quests, or a short and long way, with the long way offering, added rewards. However, the process feels a little bit shallow from a writing perspective.

Thankfully, with Obsidian Entertainment at the helm, New Vegas decided to do things much differently. Players would be able to complete quests in multiple ways and follow branching paths to complete quests. Some quests would have up to ten or more potential paths to success and some quests would even overlap, meaning your decisions in one quest could stifle you in the next. Overall, Fallout NV is far superior when quests are concerned. However, Fallout 3 still had some very memorable quests to enjoy. Sadly though, they were few and far between.

Companionship

Companions in Fallout 3 are perhaps the most underwhelming of the entire series, 1990’s Fallout titles included. The game allowed players to pick up companions. However, these were essentially guns for hire. They didn’t offer a lot of interesting dialogue, very few of them had their own unique quests and ultimately, it felt like a very shallow addition to the game which is known for its charismatic companions.

Companions Fallout 3 New Vegas

New Vegas decided to overhaul this approach and offered companions that had their own backstories, quirks, perks, unique dialogue, and unique quests provided you take them to areas on the map that trigger conversations and allow you to get to know them. Plus, in the Lonesome Road DLC expansion, the player got to know the robot companion E-DE very intimately indeed as he played a huge role in the storyline for this DLC expansion.

NPC Interactions

Fallout 3 was a well-populated map, especially in the more built-up areas in The Capital Wasteland. However, a lot of these NPC‘s were fodder. Just characters to occupy a space. Then when you did come across someone of note, the conversation always felt stilted, like this character was a resource rather than someone to have a genuine conversation with.

However, In Fallout NV, every encounter feels like it matters. A conversation with a stranger might make you aware of missions on the other side of the map. It might lead to a skirmish, it might give you some new information about the area that you found them in. No encounter in Fallout NV ever felt like a waste of time. Something we cannot say about Fallout 3.

NPC Interactions Fallout 3

 Moral Choices

Fallout 3 took a black and white approach concerning moral choices gamers can make. Everything you did either earned you karma or lost you karma. It was a simple system to understand but it lacked a certain level of nuance that one would find in real-world society.

New Vegas, on the other hand, replicated the good and bad aspects of civilians and groups. This gives real weight to the task of deciding which characters to recruit as companions, what factions to kill or side with, and what decisions you make in various questlines. Plus, the game integrated a sense of moral uncertainty that offered players a handful of choices, none of which being the definitive ‘good decision’. Ultimately, some entities would be harmed so others would flourish.

This created a mental meta-game that completely immerses the players in New Vegas‘s world and offers them a more engaging experience

Fallout 3 vs New Vegas Gameplay

Storyline

Fallout 3‘s main storyline shows just how weak it is when compared to Fallout NV‘s multi-faceted and ever-branching story. It features clumsy dialogue, a lack of player choice, and an ending that essentially leads to a game over screen. Which can only be fixed with, you guessed it, DLC content. It goes without saying that this has seen Bethesda‘s karma rating sink to the floor. The central premise of following your dad played by Liam Neeson out of Vault 101 and aiming to find him in the vast wasteland was a good concept. Just perhaps not done to the best of Bethesda‘s ability.

New Vegas improves greatly on this issue and provides a better and more mature narrative that reflects a post-apocalyptic world where the citizens voice their opinions in a realist manner, investigate serious socioeconomic problems, and use their language as a unique weapon. In this story, you, The Courier, wake up having been shot in the head by a sharp-dressed man named Benny and your role is to find him and get revenge.

This will take you right to the New Vegas Strip, where you will encounter the warring factions represented by the casinos, the NCR, Caesars Legion, and of course, the super-intelligent man behind a screen, Mr House. It’s a whirlwind adventure and one we wouldn’t change one bit.

New Vegas comes with a refined storyline. Apart from the enhanced dialogue, companionship, and travel systems, New Vegas gives the player choices and control, which is all you want in an RPG adventure. So overall, NV is the superior title on this front.

World Design

Fallout 3 was limited in what it was able to achieve and to give credit to Bethesda, they got around these limitations in a very clever and effective way. As the game build could only load in so much at one time, Bethesda used enclosed map sections and Subway stations as a means of concerning off players in a natural way, without using invisible walls that other titles have shamelessly done.

However, despite these clever techniques, the map as a whole felt very empty. You could wander for five, maybe ten minutes in one direction and come across nothing but rocks and the occasional Mole Rat. The unique and densely packed areas of interest were great and the random encounter RNG helped to occasionally fill the space between locations but exploration in this game was a slow burn overall.

Fallout New Vegas took this criticism on board and jam-packed so much into a slightly smaller space. The game would offer a named location practically a stone’s throw away from any other. Each location had more charm about it, more lore to uncover, more unique items to add to your collection, and usually, more unique characters with quests to give.

Plus, New Vegas didn’t offer a linear path for the player like Fallout NV. The player would be allowed to run off in any direction from Goodsprings. They could even make a beeline for the New Vegas Strip or the Legate’s Camp to contact Caesar’s Legion if they so pleased. Granted, this would come with a steeper difficulty curve but hey, at least the option was there.

Enemies

The enemies within FO3 were very much your traditional Fallout roster of mutated beasts. Enemies from the Black Isle Studios days made their way into this title. Monsters like feral ghouls, Radscorpions, Deathclaws, and super mutant foes were commonplace. Plus, the new Behemoth monsters were fun to track down and kill, usually from a distance with the Fat-Man grenade launcher. However, as the game progressed, the types of monsters became less and less varied. Not to mention, the player was more than equipped for any challenge.

However, in Fallout NV, players would have some new enemies to take on which were completely new to the series. Everyone remembers their first run-in with a Cazador and it’s never a pleasant time, we can assure you that. Then NV also added in ultimate variants of each beast which players could hunt down and best if they wanted to. The ultimate bloatfly was the hardest of the bunch in our opinion. Overall, NV offered more of a variety of monsters and managed the difficulty level well, even in the late game.

Hardcore Mode

The Hardcore mode in New Vegas is a great boost, especially for fans who love a little bit of a challenge. New Vegas was more tasking in this mode, and this makes it a more accurate depiction of what it feels like to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

This gives players the chance to immerse themselves further into the often brutal world of Fallout and offers a sense of accomplishment and pride when you take on that extra challenge. With the mode, it is just doctors that can heal limbs, you must determine a regular time to eat and sleep and your health would gradually be restored through stimpaks. It’s not quite as masochistic as Fallout 4‘s Survival mode but it’s better than nothing. Which incidentally was what Fallout 3 had to offer.

VATS

You can easily become a gun-wielding god in Fallout 3. The game system makes it easy for players to take advantage of the VATS system with perks like Grim Reaper’s Sprint making it easy to decimate foes. Plus, in FO3 VATS, players wouldn’t take damage while in VATS, making them near-invincible so long as they had the action points to back it up.

Luckily, New Vegas beautifully brought a balance of these items which resulted in a challenging gameplay experience that satisfied players and offered a more realistic and well-rounded combat experience.

DLC

For us, this isn’t even a contest. Fallout New Vegas reigns supreme when DLC is concerned. The reason is that while The Pitt, Mothership Zeta, and Point Lookout were super DLC expansions, they weren’t cohesive in any way. Plus, Broken Steel was essentially a way of patching a mistake the developers made at launch, which they made their players pay for. It just doesn’t sit right with us. So while there were some peaks, there were valleys too.

NV doesn’t dip in quality at all. Things began with the Dead Money DLC and from there, it only rose in quality. Honest Hearts was a super DLC that shed some light on the Legion and their lost soldier, The Burned Man. Plus, the open-world map in this DLC was huge for just an expansion. The same could be said for Old World Blues which was a sci-fi trip that also gave players a base that they could use as they pleased even after Old World Blues concluded. Then lastly, you had Lonesome road, a DLC that gave added lore, Fallout history, and backstory to the Courier’s story and allowed players to explore, The Divide.

Best of all though, all of the stories tied together in some way, all leading back to Elijah who you first encounter at the Sierra Madre, and Ulysses, the original courier for the Platinum Chip. I don’t think I’ve encountered a better batch of DLC within gaming since and I’m skeptical that I ever will.

Other Smaller Details: 

  • FO3 had some factions like the Brotherhood of Steel, the residents of Megaton, the residents of Rivet City to name a few. However, FNV has many more interesting, power hungry factions like the NCR, Caesar’s Legion, The Boomers, The Casinos, The Followers, The Kings and the Brotherhood of Steel as well. The abundance of rival factions led to a more interesting in-game world, overall world design and a better end game. 
  • Armor in NV was fixed, offering a Damage Threshold rather than a damage resistance. 
  • Crafting was added to FNV, allowing you to create your own ammo from supplies. This would be the blueprint for Fallout 4’s modding and junk system.
  • More unique weapons and special weapons were added to Fallout New Vegas, as in FO3, these were somewhat hard to come by. 

FAQs

Question: Is Fallout 3 and New Vegas the same?

Answer: The two games are similar, besides that the Fallout New Vegas’ skill payments are concentrated on outright values, whereas Fallout 3 is ratio based. Also, while Fallout 3 comes with 15 side quests, Fallout New Vegas features more than 100 side quests.

Question: Is Fallout 4 a better game than Fallout 3?

Answer: Fallout 3 comes with a better game plot than Fallout 4. It offers additional extra choices of side quests and comes with a lot more fascinating key enemy. It also comes with a lot more choices of how a character can take action.

Question: Is Fallout New Vegas the best episode in the fallout game series?

Answer: The highest benefit of New Vegas and why it is the best among the episodes in the Fallout game series is the superb writing. It comes with a powerful storyline with a more interesting quest and moral ambiguity which is lacking in Fallout 3.

Question: What’s better Fallout 4 or New Vegas?

Answer: Arguably, Fallout 4 comes with a better story because it features a more personal and more rigid storyline but the New Vegas wins consigning the way it centers on gameplay. It emphasizes more on exploration and side quests.

Question: What is the most powerful weapon in Fallout New Vegas?

Answer: The most powerful weapon in New Vegas is the CZ 57 avenger minigun. Although it doesn’t cause a lot of harm in every single shot, it can cause some monstrous damage every second. This is mainly because it comes with a superior firing rate compared to a standard minigun.

Question: Is Mojave Wasteland a real place?

Answer: Yes. Actually, the Mojave Wasteland was inspired by a real-world place, the Mojave Desert which stretches across California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.

Question: Is using a Fallout 4 mod safe?

Answer: Yes. Using a Fallout 4 Mod is one of the main reasons why the game is still blooming. In fact, the game is designed to be moddable in every way. It’s legitimate, unbannable, and virus free as every file is scanned before being hosted.

Conclusion

Overall, Fallout 3 is an immersive open-world game that offered players at the time, something completely new. The VATS combat was fun and satisfying if a little broken. The world has huge and full of landmarks and quests, but equally felt very barren in places, especially at the top of the map. The main storyline was powerful and had some great moments. However, also had some plot holes, was very linear, had a reliance on fetch quests, and had an ending that divided opinion massively. Fallout 3 is great, but in our opinion, it was merely the blueprint for the far superior Fallout NV.

Fallout New Vegas adds fun mechanics like weapon mods, iron sights, tonnes of new perks, a batch of traits, including the Wild Wasteland trait, a hardcore mode, and much more. Then it did away with the karma system, introducing a far superior faction system. Fallout NV gave more player choice in just about every aspect of its design. Fallout New Vegas opened up the map and added a cavalcade of locations so that there would never be a dull moment when exploring. Plus, while FO3’s DLC was strong, FNV‘s DLC is perhaps the best and most cohesive DLC expansion series ever produced.

Fallout 3 is a game that is made with more modern gamers in mind. The linear design will suit many and the dark and bleak setting will appeal to a lot of gamers. However, if you are looking for a much more nuanced, wild, and much-improved game mechanically and narratively, you have to go with Fallout New Vegas.

The two Bethesda Game Studios titles are nonetheless, amazingly full of fun so do give them both a try.

Further read:

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