Fallout was a change of pace for computer gaming when it was released in 1997. With other games going the usual route of fantasy/medieval settings, Fallout’s post-apocalyptic world raised the interest of those looking for something different. Interplay had succeeded in getting an audience as well as credibility, as Fallout is still revered as being one of the greatest PC games. It’s hard to disagree, as many of its qualities still shine despite its age, but is it still worth taking the first step into the wasteland?
The first thing you’ll do is create a character, and while the character creation looks promising at first, it’s actually one of Fallout’s weaknesses. You will pick from one of three character models with each having their unique stat properties and details, and then you’re to spend points and pick perks from a wide variety of options. Although it may look impressive and gives the idea that there’s a lot to the game, the reality is that only a few of these options are worthwhile. If you’re new to the game and decide to spend your points without research, you may be handicapping yourself quite severely. For those who do know what they’re doing, they can expect to get much more out of the game.
Regardless, setting is one aspect Fallout deserves the utmost credit for. Fallout is set decades after a world conflict called the Great War, where greed forced humanity into near extinction with a nuclear holocaust. The Vaults were created for the purpose of preserving humanity if such a situation arose, and until now, your vault served that purpose. Your vault Overseer informs you that the computer chip for supplying water in the vault has malfunctioned, and you have 150 days to find a replacement for the chip. For the first time ever, you will explore the surface after its destruction. It’s a deeply provocative and original concept; a setting that immediately grabs your interest and makes you think about past events and what can happen in the present. By stepping onto the surface, you get to explore many ruined areas and environments, to see what remains and how humanity holds up after its major defeat. The graphics do a great job of giving areas rust and grime, and the music builds an immersive atmosphere. Though newer games can spoil you with their high budget presentation, Fallout’s world hasn’t lost anything with time.
Your first goal of Fallout is to take care of the water chip problem in your vault, but it’s an open-world game with numerous paths to take. You can complete side quests, help out towns with some issues they’re facing, and get paid with items and resources. Talking to certain NPCs will give you numerous lines of dialogue that can flesh out the story and other things of interest, though some NPCs have much less to say. Some of the quests you might have to do can be killing a bunch of powerful mutated monsters, save someone from an assassination, or fetch an important item from a dangerous place. Or, you can pull out your gun and kill everyone you ever come across, looting their bodies for all they’re worth, but this can hurt you in the long run. Some of Fallout is limited, however – outside of having the option of going about quests in your own way, some characters and areas serve only a single purpose. There’s plenty enough variety to give a number of unique playthroughs and endings to find, but in this case, more would have been better.
The battle system is fairly straight-forward once you understand it, and while the combat itself is rather mediocre, it has some added flavor with the perks and skills you level up. When fighting, you spend action points (AP) for everything, be it moving around or attacking. Attack damage depends on the perks you have, the skill percentage you have with that type of weapon, and the strength of the weapon itself. Though you start the game with a few weak weapons, you’ll also need to consider spending skill points for the bigger weapons later in the game. Armor is also very important, and until you can get the unstoppable Power Armor, you’ll need to make do with whatever you can scrounge up. Combat itself is unexciting (you just click attack and wait for each turn to come), but it’s enhanced by the witty lines the enemy can spit out when fighting them.
Fallout may be over a decade old now, but it still holds up as an immersive and original RPG today. Some ideas do feel like a proof of concept with a lack of thorough execution, but perhaps this opinion comes from the fact that newer games offer even greater depth. Regardless, Fallout is still packed with some great moments and enough variety to provide plenty of replay value. It has the love and support from a dedicated fan-base for a reason, because there’s no other series quite like Fallout.