Tuesday, April 17

Review: Pinball FX3 [Bethesda Table Pack] [Nintendo Switch eShop]


It’s that magical time again when the folks at Zen Studios have brought us another exciting themed pack for Pinball FX3, as always hopefully pushing the envelope for expectations of what is possible for a pinball table and for a gameplay experience on Switch. As is usually the case this pack of 3 tables has a clear winner and two that are decent but very much not in the same league. Overall, though, I don’t consider that a problem since they all have a different style and take on gameplay and DOOM is simply a monster table that does its license proud!


Starting with the Fallout table there’s a ton of theming that ties well to Fallout 4, but overall it doesn’t quite seem to meet its full potential. You can choose to create your character at the beginning, setting individual stats, but in the end you’ll likely learn to just take a random roll instead since in a typical game these don’t play an enormous role in things. Of slightly more importance is which character you get as your helper since this will have a variety of bonuses that could potentially help you out. Overall the table layout is pretty open and there are a few pretty accessible ramps for you to hit. The top flipper placement is a bit odd and tough to use but overall things feel right. Just in the end even though you can get into vaults and collect bobbleheads the action feels a bit slow to develop and in a typical game things like the shop and elements like your character stats really have a limited opportunity to make a big difference.


Perhaps at the other end of the spectrum is the Skyrim table, with a character building system that’s similar to Epic Quest, though the table isn’t quite as fun. The concept of slowly leveling up and improving the same character from game to game is a great one, just in this case it’s on the slow side and you’re inundated with things that feel like choices but also at a single game level don’t end up having much of an impact on things. The result is you really need to grind a bit, sticking with your character and trying to improve them, to finally feel like you’re rolling. As a longer term commitment this is interesting and adds to replay value, but on a quick play and enjoyment basis it detracts a bit as well. Still, I like seeing the Epic Quest concepts getting applied to new tables as it is a great, and unique, idea.


Saving the best for last DOOM is teetering on the edge of being my favorite Pinball FX table, neck and neck with the likes of Back to the Future for both nailing the property completely and making a table that’s full of excitement and thrills. Right from the start your ball launching while you’re wielding the chainsaw is a really good sign, and though you being able to work the table effectively plays into things, as it should, compared to the other tables in the pack there tends to be far fewer moments where you’re just knocking the ball around without a whole lot happening. The special modes and sequences in this table are pretty varied and make terrific use of everything the engine is capable of, emphasizing both regular table play as well as things no physical table could do. The result is thrilling, visceral, and challenging. In a great touch you even get to choose your difficulty level, with the aptly-named Nightmare removing the provisions for Ball Saves from the moment you start but with a great score multiplier to make it potentially worth your while.


Overall I’d consider this pack among the best available. In terms of overall theming it may actually be the strongest, with each of the Bethesda franchises well represented in terms of visuals, sounds, and trying to tie in as many elements of the games as possible. While the runaway top table is easily DOOM Skyrim may be a big winner if you’re willing to invest some time in getting your character to be viable. It’s another pack where care has been taken to make each table distinct not just in terms of theming but in flow and play as well. I look forward to whatever the Zen Studios people have in store for us next, their track record to this point has been quite impressive!

Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • The DOOM table is among my favorites in the Zen Studios line-up
  • Skyrim borrows the slow burn character building idea introduced in Epic Quest, though it is slow to get started
  • Each table succeeds in representing the game it is based on well and in being distinct from one another

Cons:
  • The action on both the Fallout and Skyrim tables can get a bit slow in spots
  • Character creation in the Fallout table is novel but honestly has little effect game to game