Fallout 2 - Review

By: Mad Lucas

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 10
   Gameplay 9
   Music 7
   Originality 8
   Plot 8
   Replay Value 8
   Sound 9
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

20 - 50 hours


Title Screen
And thus, an addiction began..  

      "War. War Never Changes." These words first pull you into the Fallout World, and they remain your Bible as you travel the lands. Wherever you go, devestation and suffering abound; except for you, the lucky gamer, who gets to experience the brilliance that is Fallout 2. Building upon the legacy of its predecessor, Fallout 2 adds more to the mix, refining and defining the epitome of post-apocalyptic role-playing ecstacy.

      In this age of superficiality, you, gentle reader, my find cause for alarm in anyone handing out a score of '10' in any category; especially one of such importance as a game's battle system. However, in this case, the cause is just; never before has this reviewer seen a more gracefully and efficiently integrated battle scheme. You maneuver in real time about the broken landscape; however, when hostilities inevitably erupt, you are seamlessly shifted into a glorious pure turn-based battle system, on the same screen as "walk-about" mode. If you are like me, a dyed-in-the-wool turn-based addict, the mere mention of 'pure turn-based' is enough to curl your toes with delight; no more madly mashing buttons as you feverishly watch some little bar build up in the corner of the screen. Here, you will find strategic prowess a boon, as you can use cover to your advantage, and range modifers are paramount as you consider moving closer to improve your chance for a head shot. Carefully planning each individual step is a glorious reality; have no fear of being "out-clicked" by malevolent minions; here, in this dimly-lit realm, you may take home the victory with cold, precise calculation. Each action requires a certain amount of 'action points', be it firing a weapon, taking a step, or consuming a healing item. Action points are replenished at the start of every combat round.

      Action points are but one small subset of your overall character; the skill and inventory system in this game is exquisite. Your highly customizable character receives skill points every time he or she acquires a level; these points may be spent improving such skills as lockpicking, doctoring, stealing, weapons skills, and a myriad of others. Careful management of skill points is crucial for a well-balanced character. Along with these skill points, your character may also gain 'perks', which confer various bonuses such as an improvement to your stealing skill, resistance to poison or radiation, or increased accuracy with weapons. There are many different perks available, often contingent upon your experience level and statistics level.

Mmm numbers, yummy numbers...
Numbers, mmmm.. yummy numbers...  

      With an excellent battle system and a wondeful stat/character/inventory management system, you'd assume by the derivation of Murphy's Law that the game must surely be deficient in some important aspect; fortunately, this is not the case. The conversation trees, the facial expressions, the situations presented to the character; all are believable and contribute greatly to the overall 'feel' of this being a very polished title. You will find yourself laughing out loud at some of the antics the characters pull, and chilled to the bone at some of the monstrosities perpetrated by the 'bad guys' (and even the 'good guys', from time to time.) Fallout 2 succeeds in propagating a great sense of versimilitude; you ARE there, making a difference in this fallen land.

      The music in Fallout 2 is very suitable; it has good situational awareness, swelling into ominous themes when danger looms near, and often receding into the background as an ambient tapestry when more peaceful exploration is the course of the day. None of it stands out as being particularly memorable, excepting, of course, the stellar song "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" by Louis Armstrong as the opener. Never before, in my humble experience, has the mood for a game been staged so brilliantly by the opening; Fallout 2 truly deserves an award for "Intro most likely to make the player think 'Yes, this game is going to rock!'"

      How does Fallout 2 stack up in terms of originality? Well, that matter depends solely on your vantage point; if you are coming from the experience of Fallout (another jaw-dropping game) then you'll probably notice many similarities. Fallout 2 retains the flavor, the texture, indeed, many of the graphical elements of Fallout 1. However, compared to the plethora of "sword and sorcery" RPGs out there, it is refreshing to find one in which altercations can be solved with an aimed shot to the head from a gauss rifle, and not by a level 25 fireball.

SOMEONE didn't have their tray table up.  

      "Ok, so the battle system is top-notch, the gameplay is marvelous, but how about the story? What perpetuates my interest in my character and my character's place in the world?" Well, I'm glad you asked that. "Defeat the evil Ooglie-booglie to save the world." Sound familiar? Well, it won't when you are cavorting through the land in your converted Highwayman. (A car? Yes, that's right.. you get to cruise the US's west coast in a car.) You are a man, on a simple quest to save your village from destruction at the hands of mundane forces (dehydration and starvation), and your path develops from there. No evil magicians, no ruthless warlocks, just a world of not-so-black-and -white decisions and towns where enemies may be friends, and friends may be, well, enemies. Trust your allies, but always keep an eye on your back.

      Very few titles capture my attention to play them more than once, 4x titles not included (Civilization, Master of Orion 2, etc.) Fallout 2 is one such title; you can quite literally carve a different experience out of the game depending upon your skill choices; do you play a gun-toting grunt, a sly thief, or a wily charisma-oozing fast talker? At the very least, it will be fun to experience the game as both of the sexes, as the quest endings and opportunities will be different depending on your gender.

      Fallout 2 earns high marks for the effort put into the sound; guns boom realistically, flesh makes a nice meaty thwump! when hit by jacketed hollow points, and the sounds of children laughing and dogs barking fill the air. What really takes the cake, though, are the sounds of the wounded and dying; horrendous cacophonies of moanings and shrieking, choked gurgling and wails of anguish as fire, bullets, and energy weapons bring tortured existences to an end. From the howls of pain to the thump of a headless body hitting the cement, your ears will be in bliss over the sonic revelry around you.

      Fallout 2 is set in a retro-50's-esque environment, with everything from automobiles to clothing reflecting the stylistic preferences of the artists. Everything is dark but detailed, perfectly suited to a post-apocalyptic sojourn; while not breathtaking, the graphics are clean and non-demanding, and very suited to the task.

Temple of Trials.
Uh.. Hello? Hello?.  

       For experienced role-players, the journey should not prove to be that great a challenge; some parts will be difficult, but with perserverence all areas may be conquered with a minimum of re-loads. To the aspiring RPG-newbie, your trials may be tougher, as the judicious expenditure of skill and stat points is imperative to your success; squandering points on skills that look 'neat' now may hinder your chances later on. Don't be afraid of diversity, but hone your skills in one or two weapon areas to stand a chance against the tougher beasts and villians.

If you plan on enjoying the numerous side quests and mini promotional quests, your playing time will spiral up into the 50-60 hour range. If you plan to ramapge through, seeking only the important plot items, you may well be able to cut this down to 20 or so. For a game like Fallout 2, with so much to explore, anything less than 50 hours for full exploration seems almost sacreligious.

All in all, Fallout 2 was, and is, an amazing ride. From the pinpoint-perfect battle system, to the stat system, to the fiendishly twisting plot and the realistic NPCs, this is one epic game that any role-player should not miss.

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