Jon Gracey's

Games That Rocked…Liam Welton’s World – #47: Fallout 2

In PC on November 15, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Title: Fallout 2

Format: PC

Released: 30th September, 1998

Fallout 2 Box Art

Hello all! I’m Liam, and I’m a games developer working at Failbetter Games. We make interactive fiction games that place a lot of emphasis on writing, well-rounded characters and your choices in the world making a difference to your experience. So I guess it makes sense that one of the games that has had the biggest influence on me was Fallout 2.

I’m going to start by saying that it might be the buggiest game I’ve ever played, and despite this it is still one of my favourite games of all time. Black Isle Studio’s sequel to Fallout builds on the strength of the first game, both in terms of story and mechanics, while addressing a raft of little bugs and broken features. I mean, it’s still buggy, don’t get me wrong, but when you get into the content you start to see why.

Fallout 2 is set in the post-apocalyptic wastes of West-coast America after humanity has nuked itself to hell. Decades have past; society has fallen, risen again and rebuilt itself as best as it can in the irradiated wastelands of what was once California.

As soon as I heard about this game, I knew it was going to press all my buttons. I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned post-apocalyptic story, and this was basically a Mad Max RPG. That’s sort of the secret to the game’s success – it doesn’t just want to be a great game, it wants to be a great movie and a great novel on top of that.

You start out by creating a character to thrust into this world and bestowing them with stats and characteristics that will affect how they’ll cope in the wasteland and how the other inhabitants will respond to them. The number of character combinations you can create with these options is staggering, and the way the world is built to respond to these choices never fails to impress me. People will talk to me differently depending on my character’s gender, intelligence, strength, charisma, whether they’re good at talking to the opposite sex, if they’re good at bartering – everything makes a difference. So much so, that after a few hours of playing, it stopped feeling like a branching story, and it began to feel like an actual world. And it’s a strange sort of world at that.

It’s a world occupied by rival street gangs and drug dealers, irradiated undying corpses, super-mutants (that’s a whole other story covered in the first Fallout), casino-owners, cultists and an army intent on hoarding all the pre-war technology they can lay their hands on. You can talk to almost anyone, you can kill almost anyone, and the way you treat them will have a knock-on effect with people in the same town, or even the whole world.

The game has a plot and a purpose, and it’s a damn good one at that, but it’s hard to describe Fallout 2 from moment to moment, because really it’s just about getting stuck in and taking pleasure in the effects your choices have on your character and the world in general. That’s what makes it such an amazingly replayable game; you’re constantly discovering different approaches to the situations you find yourself in. This is partly through experimentation, and partly because the stats you give your character determine what they can do. I’ve created totally broken characters before and the game was almost impossible, but so many builds are catered for that most of the time you’ll find a way to survive.

I’ve played as:

 A sharp-shooting loner who barely spoke to anyone, rolling into each town to pick up the bounty on anyone who needed ‘wasting’ and earning himself a small fortune.

 An intelligent and charismatic youth who surrounded themselves with a band of merry adventures, a loving husband and a dog (you can pick up two dogs in the game actually).

 A guy as strong as an ox that could fell anyone he came across with a sledgehammer, but couldn’t string two words together, making it impossible for him to talk to around 2/3rds of the other characters in the game (you could still complete the game though).

 A drug-dealing, slave-trading bastard who robbed from everyone he met and hoarded his ill-gotten gains.

Those are just the character’s I’ve played as. People have completed the game without killing a single person, collected every unique rock in the game (there are hundreds, apparently), or murdered everyone in the entire world, and this is all before we get into the factions you can align yourselves with!

This range of options and story-branching is possible because graphically it’s quite simple. The characters all look quite similar and the dialogue is almost all done purely through text. Outside of combat (which is turn-based and quite similar to other games RPG games, like Planescape: Torment and Baldur’s Gate), it’s basically just walking around, picking things up and talking to people. But what the game manages to accomplish with that is incredible.

Fallout‘s world is one I feel like I’ve actually lived in, multiple times with multiple characters. The writing is so smart and funny that it’s a joy to read over and over, like returning to a favourite book. The sense of agency in the world they create through the branching narrative and evolving relationships with characters in factions has, in my opinion, almost never been matched.

Basically, it’s the most fun you can have not being yourself.

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Liam Welton is a Unity3D developer at Failbetter Games. Don’t worry, he’s not entirely sure what that entails either. He thinks you should go play Fallen London and check out the game he’s currently working on, Sunless Sea.

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  1. Fallout 2 is one of my favourite games. And yet I find it difficult to get back to playing it. I guess I just keep it in my mind too much, so whenever I get back to it, it doesn’t feel very refreshing or new or interesting. I think I need to forget about it. Somehow.

    But I’ve taken up clicking on buttons and opportunity cards in Fallen London, so that’ll keep me busy for a while. Maybe we’ll eventually see a post-apocalyptic game after a really bad ending to Fallen London? Apparently some destined endings did not bode well for the Neath, or the Surface world.

    Anyhow, I noticed that you mentioned that you can pick up two dogs in Fallout 2 and I thought that you could pick up three: Robodog, K-9 and Dogmeat. And then I checked the walkthrough, and realised that I had forgotten that you can also pick up Laddie, as well as being followed by Pariah Dog. So if you’re a dog-person you could surround yourself with five dogs at the same time. Four of which are likely to be killed rather easily, while the fifth doesn’t do anything except bringing bad luck and critical failures to everyone around. Happy happy, joy joy! 😀

    • Ha, good to know. (sorry, JUST read this) I got myself a copy of Fallout 2 from GOG recently, and can’t wait to sit down and get lost in it. Definitely gon’ get myself some dogs

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