Every week, Retro Game Wednesday reviews a well-aged game available for digital download on Steam.
Title: Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game
Release Date: Nov 1, 1997
Price (at time of review): $9.99 ($19.99 with the second game and Fallout Tactics)
I think everybody simultaneously fears and desires some kind of apocalypse. Perhaps you, like many, hope it will involve zombies somehow, or you don’t care what it is as long as you can wear a lot of leather and ride a motorcycle instead of working in an office all day.
But whatever particular end of the world tickles your fancy, I think we all agree that it would be best not to be around for the part where everything actually goes wrong. Wouldn’t you much rather come out from your safe underground shelter long after the bombs had fallen and the risk of immediate incineration or slow death by radiation were severely reduced?
oh look it’s a game about that
War. War never changes. They dropped the bombs years ago, but their radioactivity remains. Of course, you don’t really know that – you’ve been locked up in your safe, radiation proofed underground Vault with everyone else who’s always lived there, and nobody’s supposed to emerge from it for at least another hundred years. Then the Water Chip broke. As you might surmise, the Water Chip is important because it… well, it makes… or purifies… or whatever. The point is the whole Vault needs it for water and without it they’ll run out. The only plan the Overseer can think of is to send you out into the world in search of a replacement, which hopefully you will find before everyone you’ve ever known dies of dehydration. So, uh, have fun with that.
- Startlingly well-realized post-apocalyptic world.
- The game tracks your use of various medicines and substances. You can get addicted to many things, including cola.
- Important characters have animation and voice acting, from actors like Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver, Stargate SG-1)
- Deep and immersive character customization options. You can be whatever kind of character you want.
- I really mean that. It’s entirely possible to complete this game and Fallout 2 without firing a shot if you want to play a character who sneaks around and/or talks his/her way through things.
- Many quests have an effect on how you complete the story, and every quest affects the epilogue.
- Each settlement tracks your karma individually – people can hate you in one town and love you in another.
- None of that pussy-footing around with political correctness. You want to murder children with a plasma rifle while their parents watch? Yeah, you can do that.
- You monster.
- The graphics go a little wonky and colourful sometimes on newer systems.
- Just as it’s possible to customize your character any way you like, it is also possible to create one that’s absolutely useless. The only way to find out what’s going to end up being useless is to look at a guide or experiment.
- Or use common sense, but that’s no fun.
- It’s not really well explained where skills like ‘science’ or ‘repair’ will be relevant, so it’s easy to miss out on a lot of background EXP bonuses.
Ask yourself this. How many games allow you to talk the last boss to death without a fight? Yeah, that sounds boring, but it shows a certain dedication to the ‘role-playing’ part of ‘role-playing game’. If you’ve ever enjoyed an RPG in your life you owe it to yourself to give Fallout a try. Plus, its even equally better sequel is also only ten bucks, and if you buy both at the same time they throw in Fallout Tactics, which I’m told is rubbish but I’ve never played it. So I guess what I’m saying is 9/10
The first time I played Fallout, I got lost in the world, forgot about the Vault and everybody died of thirst except me, which is apparently game over. I think that says something. Yes, it says something about my crippling attention deficit disorder, but perhaps it also points to how well the game pulls you in.
You’re dealing with a living, breathing world here. There are many different distinct locations, all of them with their own problems that you can solve or exacerbate as you choose. Your choices can even wipe some places off the map entirely – the fate of the people of the wasteland frequently ends up in your hands – but there’s no choice but to explore and see what you run into, since you have no idea where you might find a replacement water chip. How you choose to deal with the problems you’re presented is up to you – the game leaves many options open for almost every quest – you can fight, bluff, trade or sneak your way through many different encounters and there’s no one set way to deal with things. It all depends on the kind of character you want to play.
Setting up that character is easy and straightforward. Fallout uses a system called SPECIAL, with each letter representing one of the core stats available. In order, they are Strength, Perception, Endurance, Constitution, Intelligence, Agility and Luck, and you split your points between them according to the kind of character you envision. Additionally, you have the option to pick one or two ‘traits’ which give unique bonuses, each having its own upside and downside. You also get to ‘tag’ three skills, doubling the rate at which they increase when you add skill points to them. As for further customization after the game begins, you are allowed to pick a ‘perk’ every few levels. Perks are all bonus – they have no downside, but you don’t get to pick them very often so you still have to think about whether or not you’re making the right choices.
Every one of these stats has an effect, and not just on combat – new dialogue options open up when stat or skill requirements are met, and what’s more you’ll never know that you’re missing something if you don’t meet the requirements, so you never feel like you ‘missed out’ for not picking the ‘right stats’. You can even choose to play a character with 3 or less intelligence, which causes all their dialogue to be simple grunts and baby talk. It can get pretty funny, but if you want to fully appreciate the story you should probably play someone intelligent enough to have conversations first and save the ‘idiot run’ for a second playthrough.
There’s a lot to do in the game – like I said, you can take any approach you like, picking locks and sneaking by enemies, shooting your way through them, or trying to talk your way in are all valid approaches even to the final ‘dungeon’. As an example, in the case of one early game quest to retrieve a kidnapped young woman, you can fight all the kidnappers, challenge their leader to hand to hand combat, trade for her freedom, threaten them with your reputation, or pose as the leader’s dead father to scare him into setting the girl free. As you can see, I’m not kidding when I say you can go about the journey however you choose.
Throughout the course of this journey, by the way, you can pick up a few companions to help you with combat and with their other skills. They can be both a blessing and a curse, since while they are helpful in combat and at skills like lockpicking or first aid that you may not have, they are also irreplaceable should they be killed and keeping them alive through late-game combat requires a steady supply of stimpacks that might be better reserved for yourself. Also sometimes they shoot you by mistake, which is irritating at full health and rage-inducing when it kills you by accident. The choice of whether or not to take them along is up to you – personally, I can’t stand getting people killed in any game, so I usually tell them to wait outside when there’s violence to be done.
On the whole, this is one of the best CRPGs of its generation. There’s a reason this game was beloved enough that Bethesda thought it was a good idea to make a sequel and try to suck some more cash out of the franchise over ten years after the release of the original. This is a unique game with more important choices than modern games have ever managed to work in. Remember how everyone complained about the ending to Mass Effect 3, because none of the choices you made affected anything in the end?
Finish Fallout. Watch the epilogue. See exactly how you touched the lives of everyone you met… or ruined them.
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