In 2077 the world was plunged into a wave of nuclear fire. A 2 hour barrage of non-stop nuclear weapon launching left the world an irradiated wreckage. Humanity endured in small part to a series of underground vaults that were constructed with the purpose of saving people– well except for all those experimental vaults that destroyed their denizens in a myriad of terrible ways. It’s 2161 now and Vault 13’s water purification chip has unceremoniously died and if they’ve elected YOU to go get a replacement somehow. You have 150 in-game days to find a water chip and return it to the Vault but surviving in the wasteland will prove more difficult than the search.
Fallout was developed by Interplay Entertainment, it was meant to be a successor to the apocalypse themed game Wasteland. Interplay couldn’t get the rights to the Wasteland name so Interplay’s boss, Brian Fargo, named it Fallout instead. A team of 30 pumped this game out in 2 years with 3 million dollars to burn. The opening music was supposed to be “I Don’t Want to set the World on Fire,” but a copyright claim had it changed to “Maybe” instead. Eleven years later, “I Don’t Want to set the World on Fire” would grace our ears as Fallout 3’s opening tune.
The game was supposed to have complicated moral dilemmas, working with the sheriff to kill a crime boss sends the sheriff on a head trip but killing the sheriff fills the crime boss with enough regret that he reforms– I think that’s really cool and if the game dropped enough clues to these men’s true natures it could have been a really compelling turn of events– but we got sort of simple moral choices instead. There’s no easy way to put it, but this game was one of the first that allowed, but heavily discouraged– seriously, some NPCs won’t even talk to the player if tale of this heinous deed reaches them– the player to kill children. This lead to heavy and buggy censorship in foreign releases, the children’s sprites were just made invisible. They’re dialogue still hangs in the air and they can still be killed, invisibly leaving no gore, with an errant grenade or other explosives.
Fun Fact: Fallout was originally supposed to use the Generic Use Role-Playing System– or GURPS for short– rule set but Steve Jackson Games was so repulsed by the levels of violence and gore in the game that they refused to license their system for it.
Fallout was released on September 30th, 1997. It was going up against Hexen II (PC), Grand Theft Auto (PC, PS1), and Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II– that’s a mouthful– (PC). I guess it was just a time for violent videogames.
Have any of you ever played a game that seemed like a game you played when you were a kid? I swear that I played Fallout when I was super young, too young to figure out what was going on or even how to play. I remember walking around in a wasteland town but that could have been any game that takes place in a dusty town. I probably didn’t play it at all actually. And why is it even important whether I did or not? Maybe I want to feel like I was part of the history, playing a game before it was classic. Maybe I just want to clarify the memory. Or maybe I need to accept that I might have dreamt it when I was 20 and that it doesn’t matter. I’m gonna go with option 3 and move on to the Gameplay section.
The main quest of the game is to get the water chip for Vault 13 so the player will have to do a lot of investigating and do a lot of travelling. An interesting point is that you can ask special NPCs about certain topics which requires you to actually type out the term you want to ask about. So, pay attention, it could lead to important information that’s NECESSARY to beat the game.
The wasteland is a dangerous place filled with raiders, mutant animals, mutant people, other mutant people, and mutant mutants– did mutant stop being a word for you too– so your character had also be really good at killing things unless he or she wants to end up on the menu for some mutant mutant. And I mean really good at killing dudes because you’ll typically be outnumbered, outgunned, or be facing an 8 foot tall beclawed monstrosity.
The player enters combat automatically when he approaches an enemy or concludes dialogue that would lead to a conflict. The combat is turn based in which each character has a set number of action points determined by their perks and agility. Certain weapons and attacks cost variable action points so smaller weapons can get fired more in a turn as opposed to that honkin’ sniper rifle that takes 8 action points to fire. Moving, reloading, and opening your inventory also cost action points.
The game’s attributes effect your skills starting values and you tag 3 skills which get a 15% boost and level up twice as much when skill points are spent on them. Strength also effects your character weight carry limit and melee damage, Perception effects a lot of skills and effects how close enemies start in random encounters, Endurance effects a few skills and gives the player more health, Charisma increases Barter and Speech and allows the player to recruit more companions, Intelligence effects a bunch of skills and gives the player more skill points to spend at level up, Agility increases the amount of action points and when they act in a turn, and Luck effects all skills a little bit and increases the players critical hit ratio– luck also increases the chance of finding beneficial random encounters on the map.
There is stuff everywhere in this game. There are computer terminals with lore and lockers filled with items.
Just about every skill is useful– I’m looking at you Traps skill, YOU’RE ON THIN ICE!
There are traits that give the player useful attributes that come with penalties so you can customize your character in such a way that suits your play-style.
The claymation and voice acting for this game is really good. The claymation heads show a lot of emotional range, even if it’s a little simple as does the voice acting.
You can also use the Vault Assisted Targeting System– VATS for short– to aim at particular areas to hinder your opponents.
Did I mention the simple fact that this game has…
The world feels appropriately desolate. It will feel like you’re wandering around a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
The camera lacks a zoom so it’s difficult to see small objects on the ground. If you drop a grenade in a cave it’s basically lost forever.
This game is unpleasantly difficult. I’ve started combats in which the first turn is just me taking three times my maximum health in damage and getting blown away. I guess I walked into the wrong neighborhood.
Time for a rant. You only have 150 days to get the water chip and if you fail it’s game over. I saved my game with 12 hours of play with only 10 days left on the clock to find the chip. Long story short, I was super far from where it was because I got a lot of lost. I didn’t have multiple saves so that save was just doomed. There was no way to salvage it and no way to get the water chip in 10 days so it was just in an infinite game over cycle. Veterans of this era in gaming would call me a fool for not having multiple saves for one character but I was indeed a fool… and I wasted 12 hours… so that’s “fun”.
It seems like 150 days is more than enough time but only if you spend all your time looking for that chip. Side questing has to be kept to a minimum. It’s all about getting that XP and those clues until you get the water. At least that was my experience– and it was a really stressful one.
It’s really easy to break the game, sort of. If your gambling skill and luck are high enough then you’ll never lose a gambling game, this gives the character a theoretically infinite amount of currency if they’re willing to mash some buttons for awhile. That being said, all the money in the world won’t buy you enough to live. No matter how many stimpacks you have it never seems like it’s enough.
It’s unfair to judge a game based on its sequels. This game was incredible for the time but I’ve been so spoiled by modern gaming that I found it to be un-fun levels of hard. I’d say that I’m playing it wrong but I looked up character building guides, quest completion guides, and full spoilers for wear to find the water chip but I still couldn’t get my shit in order enough to fight Super Mutants. If it’s the only game you’re going to play all year then it definitely has the content to support that through all the deaths. But there are so many games now that it’s unreasonable to ask for such a commitment from the player.
Bottom line, play this before you play any of the other Fallout games if you want to really enjoy it, however unlikely that is to happen. If you’ve already played Fallout 3 or New Vegas and still want to play the classics then go ahead, it’s fun just to experience the past. But if you want to play a classic that’s better designed then I recommend skipping to Fallout 2.
Next Week: Chrono Trigger