Fallout - An amazing game reviewed by Cola Powered Gamer

Fallout can be considered the godfather of modern RPGs. While it may look and play differently than modern RPGs, almost everything that you see in today’s RPGs, Fallout did in one way or another. Released in 1997 and developed by Interplay, Fallout is certainly one of the most important RPGs ever developed. Its development process was rough and full of problems, but the result is one great game

Initially, Fallout was supposed to be the sequel to Wasteland (an older RPG from 1988), but Interplay didn’t have the rights. So, Fallout was supposed to be the spiritual successor to Wasteland but ended becoming its own game and later franchise. In the early stages of development the game was supposed to use the GURPS role-playing system, but due to Interplay losing the rights, Tim Cain the game designer created S.P.E.C.I.A.L a similar system. One of the most interesting parts of Fallout development history is that it was created by one man. Tim Cain, the designer of Fallout, basically created the game engine and most of the game on its own spare time.

He created the game engine in about six months, without money and resources, and only using his spare time. Cain later assembled the team of about 30 people (later it will grow to about 100 people, mostly artists), and they developed the game for three years. The game was nearly canceled after Interplay acquired the licenses to Forgotten Realms and Planescape D&D, but Cain managed to convince Interplay to let them finish the project.

The game is also one of the first games that explain the game’s backstory and premise in-game (at least in my opinion). So in 2052 several resources wars are started over the last few non-renewable resources, such as uranium and oil. Europe will collapse and in 2066 China would invade Alaska, which prompts a war with the US. This will lead to the US to violently annex Canada in 2076, and retake Alaska in 2077. This will all eventually culminate in a global nuclear war on October 23, 2077. Nobody knows who dropped the bombs first, but in less than two hours most of the world was destroyed. Normally, the effects of the war didn’t disappear even after a hundred years, and humanity has collapsed. Those that were fortunate enough to survive, are barely surviving on the surface, while the few lucky ones sought refuge in large underground fallout shelters, known as Vaults. Almost a generation passes by, without knowing about the outside world.

The game begins in 2161, 84 years after the war in Southern California and your vault, Vault 13 is in trouble. You play as the Vault Dweller, and you have been selected to go outside and find the replacement for you Vault’s malfunctioning water chip. You have 150 days until the water runs out, and you need to found the replacement as soon as possible. You are given several clues to investigate, and your best shot is the closest vault, Vault 15. So, you take your supplies and head out into the wasteland and start your journey.

Although the game offers three pre-made characters, you, of course, have the option to create your character. Like mention before, the game uses a SPECIAL system, which stands for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. These can go from 1 to 10 and are directly tied to skills and perks. If you put fewer points into Intelligence you will not be able to talk, but this can provide a fun playthrough. There are 18 skills to choose from, and you can tag three of them, which will make the skill improve at twice the normal rate. Some of the skills can be redundant, like Gambling and Traps, because at least in my playthroughs these skills were rarely used. Next to skills you also have to choose Traits.

You can only choose two traits, and all of them have a good and bad effect on them. For instance, choosing Bruiser will give you more strength, but less agility. Once the traits are chosen they cannot be changed, except for the very specific perks that let you change them. After every three levels, you can choose a perk. Each perk is a bonus to your specific skill, and there are 53 perks in total to choose from. Of course, you can choose perks based on your previously selected trait or skill.

The game is, for the most part, played in real-time, except when combat is started, which is when will transition to turn-based mode. The combat is played similarly to X-COM, as Cain once stated that they “all loved of X-COM”. Combat is played by using Action Points (AP), and once you spend all of your points, the enemy will play their turn. You can also initiate combat, and end combat if there are no hostiles around. Fallout also offers you a chance to take critical hits, by choosing a specific body part. Hitting them will usually inflict a serious wound, and you can see the effects described in the message box. You can also recruit people to join your party, but their stats cannot be changed only their weapons. In combat, you can use a large variety of weapons, ranging from melee weapons, small guns, big guns (like rocket launchers) and high tech energy weapons. To best use the weapon, you must level up the skill required for the weapon for maximum effectiveness.

After leaving the vault, you will begin exploring the wasteland. You will soon encounter the first settlement called Shady Sands, and here you will get your first quests, as well as clues where to search for the water chip. However the wasteland is still a dangerous place, and you can die from radiation, fights from mutated beasts, raiders, etc. You can poison yourself, lose limbs, use drugs and even install implants, if you have the money, of course. The best thing about Fallout is that it plays organically. The game gives you a large amount of freedom and doesn’t force you on a specific path. There are also several ways you can complete quests. In Fallout, you also have the option to fight your way, talk your way, or sneak your way through. You have karma, and if your karma is good or bad, people in the game will treat you differently and it can even affect the ending. There are no so-called “fetch quests”, where you need to collect 10 specific items to proceed forward. Instead, all of the side quests, seem to have a place in the setting and are never boring. The game is also balanced in a way, that if you don’t complete the side quests, you may find yourself and your party too weak to finish the game. One of the best aspects of the game is exploring the wasteland, and at any time you can select the “Tell me about” and ask them questions to find more clues. You can also find more information about the world, either from before the war and after the war, how certain things came into place and more. All of this gives the universe more atmosphere and flavor to the world.

One of the most memorable things about Fallout is that your actions (or inaction) will shape the world. Your results will be shown in the ending, telling you of the fate of the places that you visited. Numerous outcomes can be achieved, all based on the choices that you made. The game even lets you achieve an evil ending, as well as several bad endings.

Fallout is rendered in 2D, in oblique projection (commonly mistaken for isometric projection), with some 3D models. The game’s art style is Retro Futurism, and the game draws much inspiration from the 1950s. Art is inspired by pulp magazines, classic sci-fi films like the Forbidden Planet and old comics like Atomic Age. You can see that computers use vacuum tubes instead of transistors, energy weapons look like those from old sci-fi, old ruined cars look like those from the 1950s, etc. Fallout’s menus and character sheets resemble those advertisements of that period and are presented by Vault Boy, which is partly inspired by Rich Uncle Pennybags from Monopoly. There are also several references to Mad Max, A Boy and His Dog and other movies. Interestingly there are also several references to Wasteland (a 1988 game), which is why Fallout is usually refereed as its spiritual successor. Fallout also contains many Easter Eggs, mainly found during random encounters, which usually reference pop culture. Fallout features a cast of well-known actors such as Ron Perlman as the game’s narrator, as well as Richard Dean Anderson, Tony Shalhoub, Brad Garrett, Keith David, Tony Jay, David Warner, and others. Although the game never got a developer commentary, there are numerous interviews on-line that detail the game’s development.

Fallout was a commercial success, and by the end of 1997, there were 53, 777 copies sold. Ultimately the game sold around 600,000 copies according to Brian Fargo, the founder of Interplay. However, the game was not without flaws. On release, the game was plagued by numerous smaller bugs, and some endings couldn’t be achieved, either due to errors or due to them being cut from the game. There were supposed to be at least two different endings for two locations that were cut from the game. Most of the bugs were later patched, and several fan patches fix the smaller problems and also allow for the game to be run on modern systems. The time limit presented in the game was a nuisance for some, but there is a quest that will extend the time limit almost indefinitely.

I won’t spoil the plot of the game, as it is best that you experience it yourself. Playing the game you will see the foundation found in most modern RPGs. This game will start a franchise, eventually creating 10 games (spin-off games included), and will influence numerous games. The game is available on-line and can be found on both Steam on GOG, and fan patches are easily available. I warmly recommend that you give this game a try, and you will see why it is held in a such a high regard.

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