30 Reviews in 30 Days, Day 19 – Fallout

For many, Fallout 3 was their first introduction to the Fallout series of games. For those of us who had been gaming for a while, however, this was just the return of a series we were already familiar with. The post-nuclear RPG world was one we had already visited, and we were excited to see what Bethesda could do with the series.

While many people praised Fallout 3, I personally had a difficult time getting into it. As good as the game is, Bethesda’s take on open world games tend to leave me a little hollow after playing them, and once I got to Rivet City in the game, I found myself just not wanting to play anymore. Part of the reason for this was the game just did not quite feel like the old Fallout games to me, and I am not just saying this because they made it a first person shooter.

While I may not be able to fully explain why I prefer Fallout to Fallout 3, I hope this review of the original game will give you, the reader, some insight into my line of reasoning.

Welcome to the End of the World

Fallout takes place decades after a nuclear war has left he world on the brink of ruin. Those who were fortunate enough to afford it were allowed to hide out in government-run Vaults to wait out the effects of the war. You play a resident of Vault 13 who must venture forth from the vault into the wasteland because the Water Chip, a computer responsible for handling the water pumping and recycling systems for the vault, has malfunctioned. Without a repair, the vault will be out of water in 150 days.

Pip Boy 2000: A little more primitve that Fallout 3’s but just as effective.

So here you are, one lone vault dweller armed with lousy weapons and carrying a meager handful of bottle caps (the currency of the time) setting out to who knows where to find what you need to replace the Water Chip. You also have a “Pip-Boy 2000,” an interactive system which acts as your menu within the game, handling mapping, equipping of items, leveling of characters and other necessary tasks. As you progress in the story, you will learn the real threat to the Vault and to all those left alive is “The Master,” a mutant who intends to change everyone into a new race of Super Mutants who will join with him in unity to control the world.

Interplay Entertainment was known for their engaging storytelling, and Fallout is no exception. Everything in the universe has a unique and slightly humorous tinge to it, even if that humor is rather morbid. The world itself is a mixture of modern technology and that you would find in the 1950s and 60s, creating a very retro-futuristic feel for the game. There are several easter eggs hidden throughout the game, referencing such pop culture icons as Dr Who, Monty Python and even War Games. Interplay did a fantastic job of creating a world that is both devastated and lively, a combination that is not easy to pull off properly.

While the story was impressive, Interplay’s greatest achievement with fallout was the gameplay itself.

A New Level of Detail

Fallout is an isometric, turn based RPG. You start out by building your character traits: Strength,  Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck, or SPECIAL for short. You can also choose up to two traits which give you a benefit for you character but come at a cost somewhere else, like increased agility for decreased ability to carry equipment. As you level up throughout the game, you get the ability to unlock perks. These perks give you enhanced abilities, including the ability to heal more quickly or an increased chance of landing critical strikes. These perks added more detail to the leveling up process, helping separate Fallout from other RPGs.

The leveling system was not the only thing about Fallout which was more detailed. The combat in the game was much more in-depth than many RPGs of the time. You had a certain number of Action Points (AP) per turn, and you could make as many moves or attack as many times as your AP would allow. You also had the ability to take aimed shots, which would allow you to target specific areas of the body. While these shots usually had a lower percentage of being successful than a standard shot would, they could be a whole lore more effective as Fallout actually tracked the amount of damage done to specific parts of the body. Do enough damage to an arm, for example, and you could cripple an opponent or even end up effectively amputating the limb. Damage done to you was tracked the same way, and this played a role in how you used the stimpacks in the game. Just using a stimpack will heal you overall, but using one on a specific damaged limb will restore it if it has been crippled. The tradeoff is it will be the only part of you which is healed.

Another detail Fallout tracked is your reputation. Different actions performed by you could either raise or lower your reputation with the different factions of the game, affecting how much they chose to help you or what dialogue options you had available. Karma was also tracked, with your character earning karma points for doing good deeds and losing them for performing evil ones. While karma did not a have a huge influence on the game itself, the fact the game actually tracked that set it apart from other RPGs of that era.

Not Perfect, But Still Great

Fallout was not without its faults. As nice as the detailed leveling system was, it could lead to difficulties in setting up characters with traits that complimented each other well, leading to unbalanced and often hindered characters. There were also some exploits which kind of broke the game, including one you could do when gambling that would allow you to get just about limitless amounts of bottle caps without even really controlling the game.

Even with its faults, Fallout was truly revolutionary. There was a reason it set the standard for post apocalyptic RPGs, one that in my opinion has not been topped, even by its successors. Fallout gets a 9 out of 10.

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