Fallout 3 was an odd one, wasn’t it? Looking back on it, especially with New Vegas-tinted spectacles, it wasn’t really that good. It was Oblivion with guns; a big, bleak world that was largely devoid of much of interest. It had a bunch of much-maligned black and white moral choices, guns felt weightless and rubbish and everything rather felt very samey after the tenth hour. But we all loved it just the same, showering a pretty broken game with praise for its originality and variety. Wouldn’t see that happening with Assassin's Creed: Unity.
Tell you what it did have, though: DOGMEAT.
Supposedly related to Dogmeat from the OG Fallout, he was pretty much the only reason I kept playing Fallout 3 for a further 190 hours. Suddenly the barren, lonely Wasteland was made much more bearable by a very poorly-rendered polygonal pooch. He could attack enemies and fetch you supplies, and in turn you could feed, praise and scold him.
Dogmeat also growled at enemies, which I always thought was adorable, but also served as a really good replacement for a low perception stat (Helpful for me, as Fallout 3 was my first proper RPG and I didn’t really understand the concept of ‘builds’.) Only problem is, for some reason the various fauna of the Wasteland considered Dogmeat much more dangerous than The Lone Wanderer, genocidal maniac.
This led to spending approximately 100 of those 190 hours saving his stupid life. Dogmeat started with a pitiful amount of health that meant even stray shot from a Bloatfly could deck him. I couldn’t let my pal die, because I knew as soon as I did I’d stop playing the game, so over and over I’d reload saves to stop the poor mutt snuffing it. Like an idiot I only ever told him to wait somewhere once, when I was heading to the town infested with Deathclaws, because I knew the chances of him making it out alive were nil.
But when you’ve levelled up enough (the sweet spot for me was around level 15), Dogmeat becomes a machine, a snarling hellbeast capable of tearing even the very worst the Wasteland has to offer to shreds before it’s even realised he’s there. By that point your character is exceedingly deadly too, of course, and you’ve likely got the laser chaingun-toting Fawkes accompanying you, but that doesn’t lessen Dogmeat's contribution. On the contrary, at this point his uncanny ability to hunt out enemies from across the map suddenly became a strength, netting you experience before you’d even noticed he was gone.
It is interesting how one little thing can make a game so much more enjoyable. Without Dogmeat keeping me company I’d probably have binned Fallout 3 long before the ending. He really made the experience something else, despite being fairly middling as well-constructed dog NPCs in games go.
Bethesda did latch on to Dogmeat’s popularity and made one of the Broken Steel DLC perks effectively allow Dogmeat to resurrect after death, using the excuse of the new dog being one of his puppies. Broken Steel was also much harder than the base game, so the threat of his death was suddenly very real once again - but without any kind of punishment for it, it was easy to not worry. Let him die, finish the mission then head back to Vault 101 and pick up the new puppy.
I doubt it’s a coincidence that I stopped playing before finishing Broken Steel.
Athene Allen is a professional idiot on twitter. He occasionally says things you might agree with, but most of the time probably not. He enjoys Netrunner, typing code into notepad and shouting about how all JRPGs are shit (except Zelda).