The final DLC for Fallout 3 takes you to a place high above the planet to a place vastly different from what you are used to. Mothership Zeta makes the Lone Wanderer a victim of an alien abduction, but you know you're going to make the aliens regret ever beaming you up. Mothership Zeta is the fifth DLC from Bethesda, but the title proves the quantity doesn't equal quality.
For people like me who didn't explore the alien crash landing site in the Capital Wasteland, Mothership Zeta starts there and takes you to an alien spaceship high above the Earth. As with almost every other piece of DLC, the Lone Wanderer receives a
mysterious signal that directs him to a location. Upon arriving at said location the main character then proceeds to get transported up and away to an alien holding area. Of course you get to see yourself on an examining table, and the aliens' love for probes comes into play briefly. On board the spaceship, you'll find out that you are not alone, and there are various other captives from different time periods along for the ride. You're tasked to free the captives,
eliminate the aliens, and stop their threat to Earth.
One of the unique things about Mothership Zeta that I like is the use of all brand new assets for the monsters and environment. The all-metal interior is a stark contrast to the decaying and destroyed surroundings of the Capital Wasteland. It's not too bright, but everything is well-lit so there's little time spent fumbling in the dark. The textures used all invoke a sense of something not of this world, with the control panels and walls lined with metal, lights, and alien icons. It is nice to be able to see something different rather than rundown buildings, dirt, and dead shrubbery.
Littered throughout the ship are recordings from various captives. Some are actually pretty funny to listen to, and they give you a little bit more background information since all the aliens speak in an unrecognizable language. It's one of the few times in Fallout 3 where I did seek out a few and actively listened to the aliens making the humans talk about their experience. One of my favorites is the one where you hear an alien voice being answered by the moo of a cow, which goes to show you that all aliens love cows. A lot of what you do learn about these guys will be from these recordings as you won't understand anything the aliens say to you.
The designs of the aliens are pretty consistent with what we see in sketches from real-life recounting of alien abductions and a few movies. Some are green, while the abominations are more pale skinned but they all exhibit the typical alien shape we are all familiar with along with the big round black eyes. These guys aren't that tough, unless you run into those with personal shield systems, but a gang of them can bring down the most hardened Vault Dweller with a constant barrage from their alien blasters. Some can cloak and sneak up on you which can be a bit annoying. For the most part, the aliens that don't have personal shields are about as tough as regular mercenaries with a little bit more firepower. The few variety of alien character
designs do makes the encounters interesting, and the abominations (alien/human hybrids) can be a little bit creepy to look at, but those are about the only new enemies you'll encounter with the DLC. I was hoping to see a few more different things in the Experimental ward of the ship, though alas nothing of interest appeared in that area other than the abominations. Some of the Capital Wasteland’s common enemies still appear in the DLC to add a small bit of variety.
Robots also make an appearance; some that just like to slap you around, but there are a few equipped with some pretty powerful Drone Cannons. As with some sentry units on Earth, you'll be able to wire a few to be on your side. They aren't too hard to kill for my level 26 character, but do provide a some spots of trouble in the game when a few gang up on you. The designs feature more sharp angles and are dark orange in color compared to the robots on Earth, which are more rounded and use black steel. The robots are pretty silent and I wished they exhibited more of a personality.
Mothership Zeta is a pretty linear DLC with some minor room for exploring, but what do you expect when it takes place on a spaceship? The corridors are relatively narrow and there are plenty of them,
so it does get a little monotonous traveling around. There are only a few panels you can access on a spaceship which is a little disappointing. From beginning to end, it's a pretty straight forward trip which is what I expected. While the previous DLC in Point Lookout had a nice, new, vast open area, Mothership Zeta closes you in. For Fallout 3, I'm more partial to the open areas of the universe, so I wasn't too excited about running around in the corridors of a spaceship. Since you've got very little leeway in terms of deviating from the set path, it does feel a little forced and which is something RPG players don't like these days.
All the weapons use alien ammo, so this is a good time to stock up on them as they are pretty rare outside of Mothership Zeta. While it's always nice to have some new weapons to dabble with, none of the ones I picked up will be in my regular rotation to. That's not to say they aren't that much fun to use as I did use the blaster a lot during Mothership Zeta, but after four other DLCs, I mostly used them to give me a good amount of bottle caps.
One of the things that Fallout 3 isn't very strong with is first person combat and here is another shortcoming of the DLC with Mothership Zeta doing nothing to improve on it. When the folks at Bethesda try to turn Fallout 3 into more of an action game, the results are usually not that good as it didn't work too well for Operation Anchorage, and it only fares a little better with Mothership Zeta. Trying to maneuver around and fight against a bunch of aliens can be a bit annoying as you get caught in different areas of the environment. I spent most of my time in VATS or just standing still and shooting while munching on alien bio-gels that help replenish your health significantly rather than try to run around dodging attacks. The Fallout 3 engine doesn't handle being a fast paced action game well, and here's where Mothership Zeta makes you spend most of your time in. Yes, there are a few spots of dialog and some minor puzzles to solve but the ratio of combat to role playing isn't balanced out well enough.
Mothership Zeta is a short DLC which I completed in about 3 hours of play. There aren't any side quests, and there's only one new perk which gives you a 20% increase in damage using alien weapons. To me, the DLC is really a quick way to earn a lot of bottle caps and experience because the small alien atomizers are lightweight and can be traded in for 100-500 caps. I spent a lot of time gathering the weapons and pretty much outfitting my house and myself with the trades I made by using them as they brought in a lot of bottlecaps. The new weapons are OK but I don't think I'll be using any of them on a consistent basis like I do
Broken Steel's Tesla Cannon. If this is indeed the final Fallout 3 DLC, then they didn't go out on top. Out of the five, this is my second least favorite ranking ahead of Operation Anchorage. I consider it the end of the bell curve of Fallout 3 DLC quality, but at least I enjoyed it more than the first one. I don't think you'd be missing too much if you decide to skip Mothership Zeta, but for those that have to have them all, then by all means pick up Mothership Zeta. Just don't expect too much out of it.
Too combat heavy, Mothership Zeta really isn't that much better than the first DLC. You do get access to some high tech weapons though and lots of alien ammo. The environment isn't bad except for the vast amount of tight corridors. Overall, not a good DLC to go out on but it's not the worst of the five.