Yes, I said "Fallout afternoon." I've now reached level 20 and completed all of the marked sidequests except for "Strictly Business," whose negative karma I just couldn't bear. Instead of accepting the quest, I murdered everybody in Paradise Falls. I think it was the right call. Now my goal is to collect a few more achievements, and then power through the main storyline.
By the way, I've been linking to it a lot in my Fallout posts, but let me take a moment to say how invaluable The Vault, a Fallout wiki, has been. I feel no shame in turning to the Internet for help with any game, but the usually indispensable GameFAQs was useless for this. It's impossible for any one person to write the definitive walkthrough for a game as sprawling as Fallout. The wiki approach is much better. The Vault answered every question I had.
Like Stephen Totilo, I too was unaware of how repairs worked until late in the game. We talked about it a little bit in comments to this post, but basically I blame my ignorance on a couple things. I think what happened is that the "repair" option on the Pip-Boy was inactive so often that I eventually stopped looking at it all together. When people said it was there, I couldn't even remember ever seeing it, but there it is, right under "equip" and "discard." I'd keep making excuses, but the truth is I just feel dumb.
On the plus side, ever since I started repairing things, the game has gotten easier and more fun. But I still can't tell you why I kept prioritizing my repair skill with each level-up, despite having no idea what the hell it did.
Speaking of which, I guess I get why they capped the level progression at 20, but it's disappointing to no longer hear the cha-ching of added XP whenever I kill an enemy, discover a new location, hack a terminal, or do literally anything else. I didn't realize how rewarding XP was until I stopped earning it. I'm just playing for the achievements now, which is not something I usually do. This game has awakened the completionist in me, the first game to do that since Crackdown.
Scott Jones wrote an interesting piece at Crispy Gamer about how he was shamed into voting for Fallout for his game of the year. I salute Scott's capacity for self-criticism, and I think he knows as well as anybody else that he should have been this honest and unsparing about Fallout from the beginning. Particularly when the game was selling 4.7 million copies in its first week, a well-written contrarian view might have been valuable. I am a little surprised at his claim that there are many like him, though, who were lukewarm on the game but nevertheless felt pressured into giving it plaudits. If true, that really sucks. And strange, considering that Michael Abbott had no problem finding 20 people with 20 different GOTY picks for his year-end podcast.
For all the Fallout criticism you could ever need, check out Sparky Clarkson's "critical thinking compilation," a collection of links to all the interesting Fallout essays he's encountered. You could probably spend hours reading everything here. Sparky's doing the Lord's work.
On a non-Fallout note, the news that UGO was buying 1up.com was indeed huge. Jeremy Parish -- who still has a job, thankfully -- has some thoughts on the transaction, plus a eulogy for EGM.