I have not yet finished it, but I feel confident enough to write a review. Okay, here we go.
Here are four posts tagged "Elder Scrolls" I'm pretty sure I've written more, but those are ones I remembered to tag.
What's the relevance? Here's the review:
Fallout 3 is a total conversion mod for Elder Scrolls: Oblivion that adds new quests, NPCs, and maps, along with guns. There. It's the same game.
Beside shooting, it feels about 99% the same. Jumping, terrain, NPC behavior, stealing, sneaking, all pretty much the same. Sometimes I get mixed up and think the music is the same.
If you liked Oblivion and you don't hate guns, I think you will enjoy Fallout 3.
Okay, some stuff is different. First off, there are guns. And the VATS system, which is essentially: every few seconds you have enough Action Points to tell the computer to do the aiming for you. You can select a body part to aim at, with the torso being the easiest to hit, head often the hardest, and then it will do an attack roll or a few. This can be handy when the enemies just won't stop moving around. Along with the guns come the need to carry lots of guns. In Oblivion I carried a bow, maybe a light-weight backup bow, and a couple melee weapons. Or less if I wanted to travel extremely light. Now I carry a half-dozen guns, in case one runs out of ammo. Also, because I use different guns at different ranges: sniper rifle at long range, scoped pistol or hunting rifle at mid-range, assault rifle at mid-close, shotgun closer in, and possibly a sword for really easy critters, as well as a silenced pistol for taking out roaches and moles. And an SMG in case I run low on ammo.
The crafting system doesn't seem that great. In Oblivion it was a customizable system, with potions being nearly endless in type, based on ingredients chosen. Fallout 3 instead has just a few weapons that can be made from otherwise useless materials like lawnmower blades and crutches.
Getting back to weapons, while I haven't advanced really far in, I'm in far enough that I feel like I should have started to see some new stuff. Oblivion, with its random stat and loot system, could give an upgrade here and there, or at least a new concept, like a bow that drains life or souls or slows enemies, so at least there is some choice to be made. In contrast, Fallout has a set of maybe a dozen weapons and those are what you will use unless you're further in finding unique weapons.
The start of the game uses a pretty near concept, of going from birth to adolescence and using life choices along the way to determine your character. It isn't a random or confusing "you jumped a lot so now you're an acrobat" system; you can still pick exactly what you want, but it gives it a coating of life situations. I liked it, but similar to Oblivion and its character creation/customization start, I can see how it would get pretty annoying for someone playing twice.
The aggro/sneak system is a mixed bag for me. On one hand, I like the three tiers of Hidden, Caution, and Danger, which are basically what they sound like: you're not seen; enemies are alert and looking around; you're in combat. The nice thing is that enemies actually transition between these based on visibility, so a Danger situation can downgrade to Caution and then to Hidden, if you stay quiet and out of sight. On the other hand, I liked the visibility eye, that helped with knowing if I am in shadows or not, something which can be hard to tell given variation in screen brightness and if you forget about the third person perspective, inability to see oneself.
My one major complaint may or may not be a problem with the game. Early on I was having major crashing problems. This was with the use of the recommended settings, as set by the game. After a lot of fiddling around with various fixes suggested online and multiple tries at lower settings, I finally reduced the crash frequency to something bearable. It still seems to be related to video settings, as it now happens most often when one of my abilities causes an enemy to turn into billions of tiny, blood-spewing, VRAM-hogging bits of gore, or when I'm outside, where the draw distance can be a significant issue. The good news is that the game starts up and loads games pretty quickly, so it's not too big of an annoyance if they are only occasional.
I'll end on an obvious note: the situation is different. Rather than a consistent fantasy scene with magic and swords, you instead have a retro, post-apocalyptic scene with radiation and guns. But there are still the standbys: Good Guys, Bandits, Big Bads, and traders in town who are all too happy to pay good bottlecaps for a bent tin can.
Oh, and you can kill just about anyone.
So to recap: if you enjoyed Oblivion, buy Fallout 3. If you felt Oblivion could have been good but needed more guns, buy Fallout 3. If you did not enjoy Oblivion at all and guns were not the problem, do not buy Fallout 3. If you do buy Fallout 3, start with recommended settings, but be prepared to drop them down the moment you see a second crash out in the Wasteland.