A kiss to build a dream on...
The missiles were launched. The bombs were dropped. The War happened. Specific details have grown blurry over the last few generations. Scattered, struggling survivors do not keep histories so well. Besides, useless facts about the Ancient Tribes and their politics will not put food on the table or uncontaminated water in the tanks. Do you think the last remaining dinosaurs sat around discussing the color and shape of the comet that doomed them?
Some surface dwellers survived, but few without genetic scars from the fallout. Others survived underground, although they too changed in their way. A lucky few lived in the Vaults, built in preparation by the Ancient Tribes. They worked and grew and had children untouched and separated from the holocaust above. But nothing lasts forever, and eventually a reason would make it necessary to leave the Vault and discover what was left of the world. Or sometimes it was the savage outer world that discovered the Vault first. Either way, the Vault dwellers were seldom prepared.
This is the world to which you are born, the world of Fallout 2 from Interplay. Your tribe, the Arroyo, are the descendents of survivors from Vault 13 who moved to the surface in the original Fallout. Recently in your village, water is becoming more scarce, raiders more frequent, and the crops are getting thinner and sicker every year.
You have been chosen (you lucky dog) to leave the tribe and risk life and limb in search of an ancient artifact. Tribal lore describes the Garden of Eden Creation Kit (GECK) which can be used to build a paradise* (*results may vary). So off you go, bold adventurer, to brave the wastelands, to confront bandits and mutants, to comb the boneyards of the destroyed cities in search of mythical science. At least you have a spear…
And you'll need it if you want to make it through the dark, complex, dangerous, intelligent story of Fallout 2. Having last reviewed Zelda 64, it was a bit of a shock moving to Fallout. Unlike the cutsie-poo Zelda, this is a very adult game with complex dynamic plots, a fairly high violence level, a dark mood, and every swear word in the book.
In fact, it is difficult if not impossible to be completely moral in this game. Decisions are complex and there are often no right answers. Which New Reno crime syndicate do you help? They're all just competing for the distribution of highly addictive 'jet'. Which competing towns do you help or hinder? Sometimes there are no 'right'anwers.
Of course, this assumes you want to try to do right. You can also slaughter the innocent, pimp your wife, and shoot children in the head if that is more to your taste. However, if you do the latter, be prepared to defend yourself from the other townspeople.
To be fully prepared, you will need plenty of armor, weapons and ammo. You may begin with only a spear, but there are many levels of technology out there, and you'll quickly move to guns and advanced armor of you wish to survive. There's even power armor and energy weapons when you get far enough.
To augment all this, you have seven primary stats and dozens of different skills, abilities and 'perks'. These affect many gameplay issues, not just combat like most other games. I made a fighter for my first character, and lowered his intelligence in order to have plenty of strength. However, I lowered it too much and I soon realized that the computer controlled people were treating me like an idiot (which I was). It was especially frustrating trying to respond to them.
"I have a job for you, dullard, if you think you can help guard this merchant caravan, " someone might say to me. However, my choice of responses was often limited to "Me Baldric." or "Ug herg ba?"
I quickly started a new character. What I am saying here is that the depth of Fallout 2 is simply phenomenal.
The graphics, on the other hand, are a bit disappointing. 2D sprites wander about using what is obviously the old Fallout 1 engine. Everything is well detailed, but there aren't very many frames of animation and all the humans tend to look the same. The similar isometric graphics in Ultima Online, for example, have much more character differentiation, and Fallout has no online component at all.
The interface is a bit awkward. By making everything 100% mouse driven (there are keyboard shortcuts), they have made many actions difficult. Nothing is impossible (except removing weapons or armor from one of your party members for some reason), but the interface really could have been much more streamlined.
One final complaint: if you install the upgrade patch (which I recommend doing), it will make your previously saved games useless. So patch it first, before you play.
Despite these problems, Fallout 2 is highly addictive. The warm, fuzzy, post-apocalyptic world has all the little details and exactly the right tone. The immersive story has kept me up until the wee hours of the morn on many occasions. And finally, if you aren't convinced to buy it yet, Fallout 2 simply has the best opening movie of any game, ever. Now if only I had a telepathic dog and a disposable girlfriend…