Wednesday, December 5

Fallout Review

I played on: PC
I paid: £7.59 (GoG), £0 (Physical edition was an Xmas gift in 2016)
Available on: PC (GOG, Steam and CD-Rom)
Notes: N/A

War, War never changes. Although war may never change going back to the original Fallout proves that this series has changed a lot.

We start our story in the year 2161, 84 years after a full-scale nuclear war between America and China. The ground has been scorched and burnt leaving only a barren wasteland behind. Humans being the amazing creatures that we are have started to rebuild with small villages and towns returning to life. Death and violence are all too common in the Wasteland. Gangs prey on the smaller communities and travelling merchants will often be attacked for their goods. On top of this harshness, there is also a mutant army getting ready for war in an attempt to forcefully convert humanity into monstrous humanoids. You have grown up in the safety of a Vault-Tec underground vault unaware of the dangers outside the heavy blast doors. That is until your vault’s water-chip breaks and you’re sent out to find a replacement before the reserves run dry. From here, this is your story and you can shape it however you see fit.

I’m really not joking when I say that, the gameplay is so open that nearly every possibility you can think of will work. At one point while inside an enemy base with forcefields preventing me from getting to my destination I was stumped. After finding some TNT I lit the fuse and dropped the explosives near the forcefield’s generator not really expecting anything to happen. After a loud explosion, the forcefield vanished and I was amazed. The later Fallout games would let you hack some terminal or find the passcode but none have let you freely damage the equipment or environment. Every fight can be avoided with the right character build.

On a more basic level, you experience the world via isometric graphics which all look gorgeous. You click where you want your character to move to and right-click on objects or people to interact with them. Combat works on a turn-based system with actions being governed by action points, this includes everything from attacking to moving to reloading. While most certainly slower than newer games in the series it does work well and allows for more strategy during fights. I’m not saying it’s better or worse than the first-person combat of later Fallouts. It’s different and enjoyable in its own way. Each battle felt very tense with just an unlucky critical between you and a very gory death. Which brings me to the next point, your companions can die. You’re free to reload an earlier save but that’s the only way you’re getting them back. I legitimately cried when Dogmeat died. Death feels closer and more serious than I’m used to in this series. The writing and dialogue in this game are so far beyond that of both Fallout 3 and 4 that in comparison Bethesda’s games feel like they were written by toddlers. This led to me becoming more involved with both the world and the people who lived in it. During my ending, a town called the Hub was destroyed and knowing that hurt. I had friends there, mostly Harold who I would regularly pop-in and see donating all the caps I could afford.

Helping this world feel as rich and detailed as it does is the outstanding art style. Everything feels both fantastical and grounded at the same time. The detail and love that went into creating this world make my heart melt. Every sprite looks beautiful, every animation is stunning and the levels create a world that feels both harsh and exquisite. There’s so much detail in every environment allowing them to feel pulsing with more life than most modern games.

This game is not flawless despite its many great aspects. Navigation is slow and clunky and is one area where the game starts to feel dated. Things can be hidden behind walls making them hard to see or interact with. This makes things like lockpicking and other activities needlessly aggravating at times. The inventory is no better with items stacked in a single long line that makes accessing them take far too long. Your companions will not make these issues any better as they have some of the worse AI I have seen. During one point, I had to reload the game because my ally trapped me in a room and refused to move from the doorway. They will also stand in your line of fire all the time as well as outright shooting you by mistake. These are not game breakers but they are annoying and show the age of this game a little too much.

The thing this game does terribly, however, are it’s exit points. For those who don’t know what these are I will explain. Exit points are times when the player is able to exit the game with a positive example being Grand Theft Auto’s sleeping system. You can save at your character’s bed and exit the game picking back up at a later date. Fallout has an example of some of the worst exit points I can think of. When you die you get a death screen and are then kicked back to the main menu. When a game kicks you back to the main menu after a negative experience such as death it really doesn’t make you want to play more. If a game asks you to load a save game or automatically loads your last save then it feels like it wants you to continue. The game is asking and encouraging you to push on and make it past that difficult section, however, when it brings you back to the main menu it feels like it doesn’t want you to continue. It’s kicked you out and it’s up to you to get back in. This presents you with a good reason to leave and each time you leave like this there is a chance you won’t come back. This is bad game design and something that was common back in the ’90s. This is probably the most dated and ineffective part of the original Fallout games.

I am glad I pushed on and finished this game because it’s extraordinary when you give it a chance. I have never felt so free during an RPG before and it was so refreshing after the very limited and almost linear Fallout 4. Parts of Fallout feel really old and outdated while other parts feel so much beyond even modern game design. It’s both brilliant and awful at the same time. The amount of enjoyment you can get from this will depend on how tolerant you are of old games. If you can look past the older game design then you will find one of the best games ever made.

Recommendation Rating: 8 out of 10.

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