|Soon after its release, Fallout was hailed
as the outstanding CRPG of its time, breathing new life into a dying genre. I
remember wondering at the time whether Fallout could possibly live up to the hype
surrounding it. It certainly could, and for me it undeniably did. Fallout provided
an incredible role-playing experience, particularly in comparison to other CRPGs available
at the time. Like a gripping novel, I was saddened by its inevitable conclusionand
was compelled to replay it again (and again, and again!) To extend the metaphor, Fallout 2
was nearly as eagerly welcomed into my home and heart as a new installment of Robert
Jordans Wheel of Time series.
Fallout 2 picks up a couple of generations after the fall of the Master. You are the Chosen One, direct descendant of the original Vault Dweller. Your quest is to seek out the Holy G.E.C.K., or Garden of Eden Creation Kit, to restore prosperity to your village, Arroyo. Your favorite color is olive no, brown noAaauuugghh! Thats right, in Fallout 2 you are constantly exposed to humor in the form of thinly veiled references to classic movies (Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Star Wars), television programs (South Park and Star Trek), and even "Tragic the Garnering" (Magic: The Gathering).
In many ways, Fallout 2 really is just a continuation of Fallout. There are constant references to Fallouts plot elements, and characters pop up in Fallout 2 that you may have already interacted with in the original. (This actually brings up a good pointif you have not played Fallout yet, I would suggest that you find an inexpensive copy prior to playing its sequel). The game engine is identical, and the bizarre montage of retro and futuristic elements is still in evidence. The graphics are of the same quality, but rather than seeming dated, only add to the games flavor.
Nevertheless, there are many new elements that enhance the sequel. NPCs are given considerably more importance. For example, when Dogmeat joined you in Fallout, he was moderately useful for many battles, but eventually he would resemble his name. On the other hand, Fallout 2s Marcus the Super Mutant is a one-man tank who can wipe out small armies if given a Bozar and unlimited .223 ammunition. Unfortunately, Marcus with a Bozar will reliably kill either you or one of your other NPCs in nearly every battle. To avoid these sorts of difficulties, there is an impressive group of scripting options that may be adjusted to provide each NPC with fighting styles appropriate to their abilities. And if this doesnt work, you can just remove all of the burst-style weapons from poor Marcus and let him wreak bloody havoc with a super sledge!
In addition, you can acquire a car! It may actually take a decent amount of time to procure the relic, but with the help of various post-apocalyptic mechanics you will have a somewhat-reliable vehicle. By "somewhat-reliable," I am referring to a bug that causes the car to occasionally lose everything but the trunk during one of your jaunts. And despite the fact that the car will sometimes lose all four wheels, it still allows you to travel much more rapidly across the very large map.
As in Fallout, there are no dice or random numbers involved in character creation. Instead, your character has five (out of a possible ten) points allocated to each of seven attributes. You can add five additional points to any of these attributes at your discretion, and each of the original allocations may be adjusted up or down. You may also choose up to two traits that help differentiate your character from another character with similar attributes. Finally, you must "tag" three of your skills. Tagging a skill not only provides a bonusl, it also doubles the rate at which your tagged skill advances. My favorite element of character development is the "perks" that may be chosen every three or four levels. Perks can be extremely helpful, and include bonuses to skills, extra "tags," and bonuses to damage.
The game itself is played from an isometric viewpoint; when your character walks into a building the roof "pops off." In addition, a small bubble around your character allows you to see through walls that would otherwise obstruct your view. Except for combat, the game runs in real-time; when in combat, your character has a certain number of Action Points available each turn. Each weapon uses a certain number of Action Points. In one turn, you might move two spaces, fire a rocket launcher at a Super Mutant, and reload the rocket launcherif you missed, it will then be the Super Mutants turn to hit you twice (ouch!) with his plasma rifle
I found Fallout 2 to be much better balanced than Fallout (if one follows the suggested route), with many more interesting quests to befuddle the intrepid adventurer. One quest in particular actually forced me to get out a pencil and paper, and promoted a sense of accomplishment in addition to the experience points gained! Unlike Fallout, you should not expect to have a turbo-plasma rifle after playing for only 10 hoursdont even expect to find a turbo-plasma rifle at all! I actually spent many hours before I had anything much better than a spear for a weapon, and I spent a decent amount of time with no better weapon than the small handgun from the beginning of Fallout.
Unfortunately, while I would love to say that Fallout 2 is nearly perfect, its initial release is bug-ridden. These bugs include the car trunk bug, random crashes, extremely long save and load times, and many others. In fact, out of the 19 major bugs that were listed on the Interplay site approximately two weeks after its release, I personally ran into 12! Despite the tremendous effort expended upon bug termination, these bugs were quite obvious to me, even though I only played through the game oncewhat happened? Fortunately, a patch is expected within days to rectify the situation, but it is still a disappointing weakness in an otherwise extraordinary RPG.
I eagerly awaited Fallout 2, and in many areas it exceeded my expectations. It has an excellent story, fabulous gameplay, dozens of weapons, and is chock full of humor. Even the box and the manual are impressive! Fallout 2s bugs are annoying but in my case did not detract much from an incredible gaming experience. A word of warning, howeverthe game designers appear to have been quite serious about designing a game with a mature audience in mind.
I believe that this game may become a classic, and is certainly a must-play for anyone with an interest in RPGs. I would even suggest it as a great game for mature beginners who want to delve into the intricacies of role-playing. Fallout was considered by many to be the best RPG of 1997, in the midst of an RPG wasteland. It remains to be seen whether Fallout 2 can take the same honors this year, as the field no longer lays fallow. However, I would be very surprised if any game other than Baldurs Gate (also an Interplay product) could triumph against such an impressive role playing experience as Fallout 2.