Mod of the Week: Simple Realism for Fallout 3

I'm always excited to start a new game of Fallout 3 . The early stages are my favorite: those wonderfully scrappy first few levels where every bottle cap is a fortune, every trashcan a treasure chest. This time around I'm looking for more of a challenge, something to make the early days of my new character, Kurt, even scrappier than usual, but I'm a little daunted by some of the more popular rebalancing mods. Many of them completely overhaul every single element of the game. I'm just looking for something simple.

A mod called Simple Realism sounds about right. It doesn't reshape the entire game, it just juices some of the behind-the-scenes math relating to weapons, damage, health, and loot. Perfect.

By now you know how Fallout 3 starts, so let's just fast-forward: I'm a baby, I'm at my birthday party, I'm shooting my dad in the butt with my BB gun, I'm bribing my way out of taking the G.O.A.T. test, Butch's head falls off because I'm doing something violent to it, yadda yadda yadda, I've escaped the Vault. Hooray!

Now, I'm preparing to heal the various injuries I sustained during my escape. I've got a couple bullet wounds from guards, a few roach bites from saving Butch's Corpse's mother, and my shoulders are probably a little sore from frenziedly beating the Overseer to death with a baseball bat in front of his daughter. Injecting myself with a stimpak, I get to see one of the changes of Simple Realism: my health slowly increases for a few seconds before the injection wears off. There will be no more bringing up my Pip-Boy, injecting myself while the game is paused, and instantaneously recovering health. Health is now recovered slowly, and in real-time, and each stimpack only lasts a few seconds.

I head to Megaton, taking a brief moment to stand ankle-deep in the puddle formed by the town's giant unexploded atom bomb. In just a few seconds I've gotten radiation poisoning, which is another feature of the mod: irradiated water is immediately and incredibly hazardous. Why the noisy lunatic praying to the bomb hasn't dropped dead yet, I don't know. I guess he hasn't installed the mod. After selling Moira my collection of Vault jumpsuits, I head back out into the wastes to start some trouble. The Springvale School is nearby and full of raiders, a good place to see how combat has been tweaked.

Weapon damage has been increased, and shooting someone in the head tends to kill them pretty darn quickly. This definitely smacks of realism, but after creeping through the building and popping raiders in their domes, it seems like it might actually be making the game easier instead of harder. Most of them never even manage to get a shot off at me.

Then I step outside and ow ow OW. A raider on a ledge spots me, opens fire, and immediately almost all of my health is gone. Not only do my weapons do more damage to NPCs, but their weapons do more damage to me, which sounds perfectly fair but doesn't really feel fair at this particular moment. I hunch behind some cover, inject a stimpak, and anxiously wait, bullets zinging by my head, as my health slowly creeps back up to tolerable levels. Crouching there as I slowly heal, wondering if the raider will charge me in the meantime, is pretty tense. I actually like this stimpak change a lot.

After I finish off the remaining raiders, I head to a nearby overpass and find a few more. I take several of them down, then spot another in the distance. He notices me as well. I also notice he has a sniper rifle. Then I notice I'm dead. Hey man, nice shot. I reload the game, and this time he misses me with his shot but hits the ruined car I'm hiding behind. It explodes. So do I. I'm dead again.

On my third or fourth try, I finally manage to drop him with a lucky, long distance pistol shot. I kill the remaining raiders, and I'm excited to find one of them was carrying a flame-thrower. Excellent! I might get to try another feature of this mod shortly: when NPCs are set on fire, they panic and run away, which sounds like some pretty darn realistic behavior.

Since I'm out of stimpaks (the mod makes the chances of finding them in stashes quite unlikely) and low on health, I slowly limp back to Megaton (the effects of crippled limbs has been enhanced) and head to the clinic. With stimpaks appearing less frequently in the world, they're more valuable, and thus more expensive, costing 200 caps each. Oddly, the doctor offers to heal me completely for just 100, which should probably be increased. Even more oddly, he doesn't notice as I rob the clinic of every stimpack I can find. You'd think a ragged maniac with a giant fuel tank strapped to his back crouch-walking around the office might make the doctor a little suspicious. I guess the mod doesn't do anything to make stealth more realistic.

After selling my collection of refuse to Moira again, I head back out to set some things on fire. A molerat attacks me, I flame him, and sure enough, he flees in a trail of smoke. More molerats approach and it just takes a toot from my flamer to send them sprinting away. Cool!

I'm keen to see if this works humans, but before I can find one, I stumble upon a Mr. Gutsy robot who is ironically using his own flamethrower to scatter a pack of dogs. Mr. Gutsy, on the other hand, doesn't flee when I set him on fire. I guess robots don't fear the flames the way organic life does. Makes sense.

Rather than trying to burn me back, Mr. Gutsy shoots me with a plasma bolt, which strikes my flame-thrower, instantly breaking it. "My new toy! Nooooo! You'll pay for this, Mr. Gutsy!" is a thing I want to shout but I'm dead roughly a millisecond later from Mr. Gutsy's second plasma bolt.

By the way, another thing the mod does is to slow down level progression. For instance, Kurt advanced to Level 2 after escaping the Vault, and currently, Kurt's dead body is still Level 2, whereas in the un-modded game, he'd probably have earned enough XP by now to be closing in on Level 4, and thus perhaps would have survived Mr. Gutsy. Sorry, Kurt! You're probably not enjoying this mod, but I definitely am.

Installation : Simple Realism is also simple to install, but there are different installation methods depending on if you have the Mothership Zeta and Broken Steel DLC. Note: you don't need the DLC for Simple Realism, but the installation method is different if you do have it. Rather than try to sum up the various install options, I'm just going to sternly insist you view the Read Me files in the download folders.

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.