If you look at Fallout you see a 2-d game with mediocre graphics, simple sound and slow action. However, if you start playing it you discover how ingenious it is.
The story involves a bold person who gets out of an underground shelter after a nuclear holocaust devastated the United States and must find an item essential for the survival of his vault. During your travels you will meet many violent fellows, such as slave traders or gangsters, but you also cross relatively peaceful settlements, where people struggle to recreate civilization. Many dangers await you in the desert and some of them are even worse than giant scorpions or groups of marauders.
The gameplay is about talking to people in towns, accepting quests, travelling in the wastelands, fighting and leveling up your character. Time passes as you go from place to place and day becomes night if you stay somewhere long enough. A world map lets you see where you have been so far and what your next destination could be.
The game is turn-based, not real time, and the smart combat system lets you follow some tactics. Your character has action points used for walking, shooting, reloading, self-healing, etc. Your chances to hit an enemy depend on many factors: weapon used, distance, your skill, amount of light in the area, armor of the enemy and weapon mode· besides standard mode, ‘targeted’ is more probable to fail but delivers critical hits and ‘burst’ consumes a lot of ammo but is often devastating. In some towns you find people willing to accompany you. At the beginning their help is welcome but they are difficult to keep alive when you face strong enemies.
Character creation and development is crucial. Agility is the most important of your attributes because it determines how many actions you can perform in a combat round. Strength affects the weight you can carry and higher charisma increases the maximum number of your allies. Perception is related to the possibility of hitting someone -or something- with a ranged weapon. Endurance has to do with your hit points and intelligence –along with the speech skill- changes your dialogue options. Derived statistics, e.g. resistance to poison, depend on your attributes. There are also perks gained every few character levels and bestowing an additional ability, such as extra damage with melee attacks. Traits have a bonus and a penalty –e.g. ‘fast shot’ means you can no longer make targeted shots but spend less action points to fire a gun- and are not obligatory. When you level up you improve your skills, which allow you to handle different types of weapons effectively, pick locks, repair machines or learn from reading books. Make sure you give a lot of points to ‘small guns’.
Your character can carry several items, such as weapons, armor and first aid kits. Weapons are either melee or ranged, which are much more effective but require specific types of ammo. Armor makes you harder to hit and may even reduce the damage you take. Healing items are very important and you should gather as many as possible, even by stealing from people (it is for the greater good!).
The story is masterfully written. If you talk nicely to someone he/she may give you a quest or information but if you are rude he/she may not speak to you again or even attack you. The amount of work put into the script is astonishing. When I chose a character with very low intelligence his dialogue changed to suit his condition! The plot is very rich, with unpredictable situations and a great climax which raises tension.
The graphics convey a sense of desolation and have interesting details, e.g. see what happens if you shoot someone at close range with an uzi. When you enter a settlement you see cars rusting in the streets and broken furniture in the houses. Various locations present different degrees of technology and organization, so exploration is always interesting. The same goes for your enemies. Most of them are humans or mutated animals but later you will encounter creatures worst than nightmares.
Though you wouldn’t play the game’s music in your cd player, the sound effects add realism to the world of Fallout, the voices are excellent and the minimal ambient sound makes you feel something bad can happen at any moment.
The control system is an accomplishment, taking into account that the game tries something completely new and has so many options. No matter what you do, wander in a dark cave, walk in a decadent building, barter with a merchant, reload your shotgun or smash someone with a sledgehammer, the interface lets you do it easily and precisely. It is nicely designed too, with buttons and panels resembling old machinery. The pictures accompanying the various attributes, skills, etc of your character combine humor with violence and give it a special style.
Fallout is not a very hard game but if you rush into combat with guns blazing you will leave your bones in the desert many times. Sometimes it is better to leave a battle for later. The main quest is not very long, however it offers an original experience that you won’t forget.
Fallout comes from a golden era of role playing. Several amazing games were produced back then and this is among the finest. I recommend it highly to all friends of the genre who are not interested only in high tech graphics.
Article by Dimitris