GBAtemp Exclusive GBAtemp Recommends: The Classic Fallout Series

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    When you think of Fallout, what comes to mind? 1950’s decor, bombastic radio songs, first-person perspective and mini-nuke launchers? Or methodical and tactical isometric movement, focusing heavily on swaths of dialogue and fourth wall-breaking meta humor? Either of those descriptions represent the Fallout series, just separated by decades and different developers.

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    Even before the Fallout franchise fell into the hands of Bethesda, the post apocalyptic role-playing-game had quite the storied history. Going all the way back to 1987, in a time where Super Mario Bros. was still fairly new and innovative, developer Interplay decided to make a sci-fi video game, based on what would happen if nuclear fallout would devastate the United States. Thanks to the talent of writer and director, Brian Fargo and his team at Interplay, the game came to be known as Wasteland, and released for the Apple II computer in 1988.

    At the time, Wasteland was considered impressive, offering punishing difficulty, an interesting story mostly delivered through the game’s manual booklet, and innovative AI combat. By today’s standards, it’s a little dated, but if you sit down and give it a chance, it’s still more than playable...if you’re willing to take a few visits to GameFAQs and steel yourself for a 1980’s-era-tough challenge. For those that have played Wasteland, you’ll be familiar with the general plot and concepts--religious techno-zealots, modified superior human beings, overly radiated zombie-like creatures, and more--which will remain relevant for years to come.

    Fallout came to be as a result of Electronic Arts doing what they do best: being the worst company in America. In all seriousness, when Interplay decided they wanted to make a sequel to Wasteland on their own, EA, their original publisher, refused, holding onto the license for themselves. This left Interplay at a crossroads. They were dedicated and had their hearts set on continuing their ideas for a post-apocalyptic strategy RPG, yet couldn’t fall back on their previously established franchise. So instead, they’d bend the rules and create a spiritual successor to Wasteland, titled Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game.

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    Nine years had passed since Wasteland’s initial release, but the memories of creating the game were still recent in Interplay’s mind. The development team set to work creating Fallout 1, using many themes and ideas from Wasteland as the basis of inspiration for this new game. One of the companion characters from Fallout 1, Tycho, even directly mentions Wasteland’s Desert Rangers, almost serving as a neon sign to clue the player into how many similarities there were between the two titles. Drools had become Ghouls, the Citadelian Clergy became the Brotherhood of Steel, Power Armor become...well, Powered Armor. Even the Military Base Cochise and Irwin Finster were almost copy-pasted into Fallout 1, with just how indistinguishable it was from the Mariposa Military Base and Richard Grey’s plot.

    Even so, Fallout 1 was a more experienced take on Wasteland, bringing higher production values and more nuanced and thoughtful writing, creating a game that was just a bit more timeless. That’s not to say that Fallout 1 is flawless; it has its fair share of confusing puzzles, unbalanced gameplay, and awkward moments. But, having those nine extra years over Wasteland really helped Fallout stay just a touch more playable, when viewed through the lenses of a modern gamer. Even if you are loathed to try older games, for fear of their obtuse difficulty, lack of compatibility, or other reasons, I implore you to at least read or watch an overview, or some of the game’s final moments with The Master--a brilliant endgame boss. Every single line of dialogue written there could easily put modern Fallout writing to shame. Though diabolical, you can feel the reasoning behind the machnications of the “bad guy”, and could honestly believe him to be in the right. The game gives you the option to ponder such ideas, and go through multiple different solutions, and once the credits roll, you’re left on an introspective note, pondering the slow rebuilding process of a world scarred by nuclear annihilation.

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    So, with the success of Fallout, the stage had been set for a franchise, one to continue upon, improve, and change, as years go by. With the story of Fallout's protagonist, the Vault Dweller having come to a close, where and how do you continue from there? Announced by Black Aisle Studios a mere few months after the release of Fallout, via Usenet of all things, was a sequel: Fallout 2. Taking place 80 years after the events of the original game, Fallout 2 puts you in the role of the Chosen One, the grandchild of Vault Dweller. Rather than focus on the world and the disarray it was in, the sequel attempts to show growth in the decades that have passed in post-nuclear war California. Cities are forming anew, governments have formed to protect the citizens; humans have adapted and survived the destruction of the war. Not everything is happy and peaceful, though--Fallout 2 deals with mature themes, revolving around addiction, corruption, morality, slavery, and humanoid species-based racism.

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    The gameplay had remained largely unchanged between Fallout 1 and 2, with small quality of life changes being added to make the game easier to deal with. It was still an isometric RPG featuring turn-based combat; your movement and the amount you could attack were dictated by action points. Much like other classic RPGs from the 80's and 90's, Fallout 2 is difficult, clunky at times, and can leave you confused about where to go next. The start of the game, a mandatory tutorial dungeon, is a culmination of all of Fallout 2's worst traits. No matter how you've built your character, you'll find yourself struggling, as you try to fruitlessly kick large mutated ants over and over again. It's needlessly punishing, and it's harsh enough to potentially drive new players away with its frustrations.

    However, if you stick with it for that first hour or so, Fallout 2 opens up, offering you a world rife with interesting dialogue, quests with varied solutions, and fair-yet-challenging difficulty. Each town within the game's world felt alive; they all have specific exports and jobs that keep the area flourishing, with trade routes and caravans going between all of them, connecting the areas of post-apocalyptic California. When you're traveling the desert, alone and scared, running from hostile enemies, running into a new town can feel like finding an oasis, tantalizing you with safety, new missions, and shops. Every city you find throughout your journey can be impacted by you; your choices will help secure a future of prosperity, or destroy it, dooming another piece of civilization to death, out in the cruel wasteland. At the very end of the game, you'll see how your decisions impacted others, along your journey, and it gives you a good sense of closure to know how far-reaching your actions were, to all the friends and enemies you made along the way. You always have this great sense of freedom in Fallout 2; you can venture out anywhere, solve quests in multiple different ways, and outside of an overarching main quest, you're free to do things in any order you want. One of Fallout 2's most standout inclusions is that of a "stupid mode", where if you set your intelligence low enough, you can play the entire game as a bumbling idiot, barely able to understand simple words. Entire quests were re-done to fit this wacky variation of the story--where you might have had to pay someone off or find an item for them, they may instead just pity you and send you on your way. This results in tons of fourth-wall-breaking and hilarious humor.

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    Regrettably, the release of Fallout 2 was rushed, given only a mere few months of development time before needing to be pushed out for a fall 1998 release date. Numerous areas and quests were quietly cut from the game, as the developers knew there wouldn't be enough time to cram all their ideas in before time was up. The dedication of those said developers and writers can be seen most clearly in a set of documents called the Fallout Bible, a handbook of sorts, created post-launch by the game's lead writer, detailing information and extra world-building that never were able to make it to the final release. While the game is entirely playable and enjoyable without those extra areas, you can sometimes feel like there's something missing from a quest, making the rushed nature of the game apparent at times. Black Aisle Studios were open about cut content, describing and offering visual designs of areas that they had wanted to include in Fallout 2, but couldn't. Thanks to all that information floating about, however, a dedicated team of modders was able to incorporate many of these areas and quests, in the form of the Fallout 2 Restoration Project. Suddenly, a great game becomes even greater, thanks to a swath of more overall content, making the game feel like a complete experience. Unless you're a purist for the original, this is the best way to play Fallout 2.

    Bethesda's acquisition of the Fallout license would spell the end for Black Aisle Studios' take on Fallout. At least, until the remains of the studio would come together to form Obsidian, and later work on Fallout: New Vegas. While Fallout has most certainly become a modernized and more popular franchise, the gritty writing, impressive world-building, and overall heart that the original two entries have been replaced by simpler writing, as each newer entry slowly strips away the RPG elements that Fallout once had. Each Fallout game has its own merits, for certain, but if you're looking to sink your teeth into a truly classic set of old school western RPGs, you can't do much better than Fallout 1 and 2.

    If you enjoyed this week's edition of GBAtemp Recommends, please leave a comment in the thread. This helps us monitor feedback and ensures we keep posting these articles in the future! For those who are interested in viewing previous entries, you can see them below!

    Tags: Fallout 2 Fallout PC (Microsoft Windows)
     
    Discussion (21 replies)
  1. Foxi4

    Foxi4 On the hunt...

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    For the longest time playing Fallout 1 and 2 all the way from start to finish was a yearly ritual for me. Even now, though I don't do it as often anymore, I still find new and interesting things in those games. Fallout 2 is the definitive post-apocalyptic role-playing game, nothing even comes close to how well-developed and rich that game is. I hope the series lives on forever, in spite of some recent hiccups - it's been a bottomless well of joy for me for as long as I can remember.
     
  2. Taleweaver

    Taleweaver Storywriter

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    Dec 23, 2009
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    War... War never changes...

    Oh, man. Such great memories. Thanks a lot for this review, @Chary!:lol:

    For the longest time, fallout 1 and 2 were the only RPG's I could get into. Others just had me hating the idea of seemingly randomly thrown together statistics on a character that had to fight other walking spreadsheets. The fact that those were also set in a fantasy world... I won't say I hated them (I did play through d&d dark moon), but it was just passing the time.

    But then fallout was a revelation. The stats were handled in a far more logical sense (strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence and luck... SPECIAL, in other words ;)) and the theme made clear that you weren't there to be the hero but just to survive. And it allowed as such. There was this town where you could get a mission from the sherif to shoot some outlaws, but you could talk to them and get proof of the sherif being corrupt as well (either by breaking into his vault, plant a device on him or get him to admit if your stats were high enough) . This sort of freedom of choice was unparalleled at that time. Heck... Even the end boss had multiple ways to overcome.

    Fallout 2 was indeed harder, mostly because you started lower on the rank (you were basically a savage at the start... But that made walking around in power armor hours later all the better).

    Fallout 3...it was good, but too me it wasn't fallout. Otherwise said : it stood on its own as a good Rpg that happened to take place in the same setting. As outlined before : this is no small accomplishment in my eyes. But the turn based combat (which was another thing I loved despite it being slow) was compromised. Even more in 4(along with the crippled speech options), which was the reason I never picked it up.

    Obligatory mention : fallout tactics. I honestly don't know what they were thinking with that one. It was aimed at the people who played it for the Tactical combat, I presume. But the lore was only halfway there (the game was mission based rather than completely free dorm), so it quickly bored me.
     
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  3. Pipistrele

    Pipistrele GBAtemp Regular

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    Jan 21, 2019
    Russia
    Replaying the original game after 10-15 years of not touching it, I end up with somewhat mixed opinions on it. For all the brilliance, atmosphere and versatility it provides, there's still a lot of janky gameplay design, subpar controls, dragged out battles, as well as storytelling that feels all over the place - some dialogues are genuinely well-written and thought-provoking, and some are stiff to the point of feeling like a NES-era JRPG ("I am badass raider" => "What do you do?" => "I raid villages and take women" => "Die, you scummy raider." => fight ensues ). Karma system and ongoing character connections also feel unpolished compared to some other CRPGs of the time - it's not uncommon that characters still treat you like a random stranger they see for the first time, even after you saved them from assasination attempt or rescued their daughter.

    Still, if there's one thing I can praise the game for, it's how Fallout streamlined CRPG mechanics in a way that's easy to figure out even for modern players used to all things QoL - character creation is straightforward, everything is explained, there are no obtuse crafting/magic/alignment systems, weapon maintenance is positively simplistic (just have a good gun and ammo for it), and you execute skills through a simple point'n'click system (open menu => click on skill => click on object/person). Games like Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment felt completely impenetrable for me as a kid, with a ton of options, stats, overloaded GUIs and everything in-between. In that regard, Fallout 1/2 are surprisingly streamlined and intuitive for their time, even for all the jank that outdated isometric engine provided. If anything, I can recommend it as a gateway entry for everyone who's interested in classic 90s CRPGs but feels intimidated by design conventions of the past.
     
    Last edited by Pipistrele, Nov 24, 2019
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  4. Foxi4

    Foxi4 On the hunt...

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    Can't say that I've had that experience as far as the dialogue is concerned, but maybe I'm looking at things through pink glasses. I found the dialogue to be superb most of the time, and while there were some hiccups here and there, I don't think I recall any such formulaic exchanges - I'm sure they exist, they probably just didn't bother me. Speaking of dialogue, Fallout 2 is one of the few games that *really* account for your stats in conversations, particularly the Intelligence stat, and to the extreme. Playing as a moron changes pretty much all of the dialogue trees, and while it limits your options, it's so hilarious that it makes the sacrifice all worth it. Nowadays seeing "special" options show up if your stats are high enough or you have some kind of special item is common, but... Not like this. This is the kind of stuff I like to see, it shows that the people who made the game really had fun doing it, and they polished it as best they could. I mean, how many people are going to purposefully make a character who's an idiot and see all this? Probably only a handful, but they went the extra mile anyway.

     
  5. Reploid

    Reploid GBAtemp Advanced Maniac

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    Jan 20, 2010
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    Fallout is recommended by itself
     
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  6. relauby

    relauby Contributor

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    Sep 21, 2017
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    I still haven’t played Fallout 2 for some reason, but there was a brief period in high school where I was obsessed with the original. I used to spend my computer classes reading the Fallout wikia endlessly. I remember being really interested in The Divergence, the moment when the Fallout universe split from ours. If I remember right, it came down to two basic things. The transistor and/or microchip wasn’t invented after World War II, which meant the world’s engineering power was focussed on making electronics more powerful rather than smaller, which is why things like laser rifles and homemaker robots were common enough that so many of them survived even after a nuclear war. It’s also why there are still massive computers around, and why the terminals you see all have text-based interfaces. Computers weren’t really developed for home use so there was no need for a GUI. These stronger machines needed more power, which made nuclear power more common, which led to the development of radiation management drugs and also contributed to the resource wars that led to World War III. Obviously smaller machines were eventually developed for things like the Pip-Boy to exist, but it seems like it’s something that happened much much later in this timeline.

    The other thing is that China stayed a purely communist country past 1970. This meant that the USSR didn’t dissolve in 1991, the Cold War never ended and that greater communist threat left America frozen in its 1950s culture. The hippie and counter-culture movements of the 60’s still happened, but with communist countries posing a more obvious threat than they did, that disillusionment didn’t take hold the same way it did in our world. (Weirdly, I don’t remember anything specifically about the Vietnam war, and I don’t see anything taking a quick glance back at the Wiki but I might just be missing it.)

    I don’t know how much scrutiny the timeline holds up to and it doesn’t account for all the weird stuff in Fallout (like the understanding of science out of a 1950’s comic book) but I always loved the amount of thought that went into such an unimportant part of the game. The pre-war world doesn’t really matter but it’s cool to see them change a few details and see the ripple effect that comes out of it.
     
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  7. leon315

    leon315 POWERLIFTER

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    Nov 27, 2013
    Italy
    A story of a Low accuracy char fresh came out of vault:

    my avatar shots bandits:
    MISS, MISS, MISS, THEN DIES

    forgot to save before battle, lost 30min of progress

    RAGEQUIT, game uninstalled.
     
  8. Frexxos

    Frexxos GBAtemp Fan

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    Apr 27, 2015
    Germany
    Only 7 comments so far?

    For me the absolute best Fallout ever: Fallout 2!
    I grew up with it, the first computer I had back then - installed the game without any expectations from a Golden Games collection and what can I say? The game was so overwhelming!

    All the decisions at the beginning, nothing of the Lore/Story was known, back in the days no Trailers known like today and not promoted a year ago. A completely unknown world. Then the Vault, the search for it. Then in the Vaults themselves the several floors with those alien and mutants.

    Casino in New Den with so awesome story quests.
    I played the game up and down for months. Trying to repair the Ghuls' reactor, get into Bunker City, etc.

    And not to mention Navarro: The first time you put on your power armor. I felt powerful!

    Fantastic game!

    Then Fallout 3 was announced and I was very very divided as it will be. Since then I've played every Fallout but THE real "Fallout" will always be Fallout 2 for me.

    Best and most immersive part of the whole series.

    Thank you from my deepest heart @Chary for this wonderful article!!! Now its time to play a little bit Fallout 2. I am sure the disc is somewhere here...
     
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  9. Purple_Shyguy

    Purple_Shyguy GBAtemp Maniac

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    I'm waiting for either a official or homebrew port to Switch before I play the classic Fallouts
     
  10. x65943

    x65943 Dr. Rabbi Prince X, Sr., Ed. D.

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    This song always brings me back to fallout 2

     
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  11. Megadriver94

    Megadriver94 GBAtemp Fan

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    I have Fallout 1 and Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel. Played the former but not the latter so far. Sometimes I wonder How Fallout 3 would have been had PS1/OG Xbox BOS never happened...
     
  12. Taleweaver

    Taleweaver Storywriter

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    Dec 23, 2009
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    Yup... That sounds like fallout, alright. Save scumming each time you attempt to punch a mutated rat between the eyes and miss. :P
     
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  13. snobbysteven

    snobbysteven Advanced Member

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    Aug 14, 2019
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    I have been wanting to try out the original fallout games. I loved Vegas and fallout 3. This recommendation was a great read and has also reminded me that I need to play these. Thanks for the recommendation!
     
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  14. Kwyjor

    Kwyjor GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    May 23, 2018
    Canada
    There's a whole bunch of really useful mods for the first two Fallout games at this point, aren't there? Ones that genuinely enhance and improve the experience without changing it entirely?

    It's hard to keep track of all these things.
     
  15. Chary
    OP

    Chary Never sleeps.

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    Oct 2, 2012
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    When I played, there, afaik, was only mods to restore cut content for 2, add back a quest-line that was broken in 1, and a skip the annoying tutorial dungeon mod for 2. The rest was just very minor. Would love to be corrected on that though--I didn't search Nexus mods too hard.
     
  16. Kwyjor

    Kwyjor GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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  17. raxadian

    raxadian GBAtemp Maniac

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    Nov 10, 2018
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    I got the first game when they were offering it for free on Steam but I haven't played it much.
     
  18. ZipMartin

    ZipMartin Newbie

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    Jan 29, 2008
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    I played Fallout 1.5 a few years ago. Reading this discussion I'm feeling encouraged to finally play Fallout 2. I got them both free along with Fallout Tactics on GOG when the copyrights of those games were temporarily suspended or something like that.
     
  19. XDel

    XDel Author of Alien Breed: Projekt Odamex

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    Jul 25, 2012
    United States
    Another Huxleyian Dystopia
    I hope the classics collection makes it to the Switch, or at least part 1 and 2.
     
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