Wednesday, December 5

Fallout 2 Review

I played on: PC(GoG)
I paid: £7.59 (GoG), £0 (the physical copy was an Xmas gift for 2016)
Available on: PC
Notes: Fallout 1 review

Fallout 2 was the last major Fallout game to be published by Interplay being handled by the Black Isle Studios dev team before Bethesda bought the series. Most Fallout fans will have come in at Fallout 3 or later as I did back in 2008. After all, these modern games are good entry points for new fans but after going back and playing the classics it’s obvious that Fallout used to be something greater.

Things have moved on since the events of the first Fallout. The small village of Shady Sands is now the capital city of the New California Republic and many other large communities also exist. Vault City is a massive metropolis that dwarfs even the Hub from Fallout 1. Mutants have mostly moved on in the 49 years since the Vault Dweller destroyed the Master’s army. This doesn’t stop most people fearing them leading to a prejudice against both mutants and ghouls. This may be the same area you were in for the last game but it’s far from the same Wasteland. Fallout 2 does a wonderful job of showing just how much things have moved forward since the last game. The stories of the Vault Dweller are now just history and legends among the people of the Wasteland. It’s very true that war never changes, but the world around the never-ending violence does.

This is something that the later Bethesda Fallout games fail to understand. The DC Capital wasteland in Fallout 3 is still in ruins 200 years after the great war. Just for a bit of context, America was only founded in 1776 which is around 250 years ago. Cities like Washington, New York, Boston and more were all built within 200 years. Fallout 2 shows us life returning to the world after 164 years and given the limited communities, heavy radiation and so on this makes sense. Unlike Fallout 3 and 4 you have paved streets, large cities with separate governments and a new universal currency which is not based around bottle caps. Bethesda doesn’t allow their worlds to age, dates move forward but nothing ever happens. The Elder Scrolls series has this same issue and it’s a shame because you never get to see things change, evolve and grow. Instead, their worlds feel cold, static and pointless. Early Fallout’s Wasteland is such a great place that it makes me sad to see Bethesda turn it into another lifeless world forever frozen in time.

Another wonderful thing about Fallout 1 and 2 is the way that you can approach situations nearly any way you want. For example, you find a locked door. If you happen to be skilled enough you could pick the lock. You could also find someone important and steal the key from them, however, if you do them a favour maybe they will just let you in. If you find a disguise you could sweet talk someone into letting you in. Then again you could just go loud and blow the thing off its hinges or use a crowbar to force it open. Compare this to newer similar games and they start to feel limited. As someone who never grew up with these classic games this level of player freedom amazes me.

This brings us to the brilliant writing in Fallout 2. Take the town of Broken Hills for example. Marcus the mutant and Jacob the Brotherhood Knight spent 2 full days fighting. Eventually, both realised how pointless it all was and just started laughing. Shortly after becoming friends they travelled together and started to pick up survivors and wanders. When their numbers got large enough they settled down and founded Broken Hills. After many years Jacob left his friend behind and Marcus stayed to govern the new town. This town is one of the most beautiful places in Fallout history. Ghouls, mutants and humans all live together peacefully. Most people still remember the Master and his army of Mutants which leads to fear and hatred of ghouls and mutants. In turn, this hate becomes violence against those different from humanity. The coexistence of ghouls, mutants and humans at Broken Hills is what makes it such a wonderful place. Marcus may also be one of my all-time favourite characters in gaming. He admits to his faults, enjoys discussing and listening to other opinions even when he doesn’t agree with them. Then you have people like the First Citizen of Vault City who are bigoted and selfish but in a way that makes sense. She wants to keep herself and her citizens safe but at the cost of those outside her walls. While I disagree with her I can see why she does what she does. Besides Frank Horrigan, at the end of the game, all the characters feel like they exist within a morally grey space.

While I love Fallout 2 it’s far from perfect. When travelling across the Wasteland you will have a number of random encounters. These are both good and bad with you maybe finding a travelling merchant or the remnants of the Master’s army. While these are not terrible in concept I feel they happen far too much in Fallout 2. Travelling between towns becomes tedious and often annoying. This can be bypassed if you repair a car found in the Den but this task is neither easy nor cheap. The frequency of these encounters is made even more annoying when you take into account the brutal difficulty of the game. It’s a necessity to make many different saves in case you get stuck in a situation you can’t get out of. I found that having a save slot for each major settlement worked well for me. If something went wrong in Vault 15 I could just reload to when I was at the NCR before I even set out for Vault 15. Even while saving often you will die a lot in this game which makes my next point rather off-putting.

Exit points. I spoke about these during my Fallout 1 review and it’s the same problem here. This is why games that save at the end of a level or boss fight work so well. You feel the pride and excitement that comes with triumphing and are able to leave with this positive reinforcement. This is not how it works in Fallout 1 or 2 though. When you die you are kicked back to the main menu. This makes it all too easy to take these negative and frustrated emotions and exit the game with them. When you stop playing like this you are less likely to come back. This problem could have been solved so easily by asking you to continue. That way you are encouraged to push forward instead of walking away.

Despite the negative exit points and a few other more minor issues Fallout 2 is an absolutely amazing experience. I still don’t think it’s quite as good as New Vegas just because it lacks the same ease of access that Bethesda’s engine brought with it. However, once you do get into Fallout 2 you find a fantastic world that you are free to interact with nearly anyway you want to. Fallout 2 is an amazing game and one that any fans of the series should finish at least once.

Recommendation Rating: 9 out of 10

1 comment:

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