Friday, 13 December 2013

Fallout 2 (PC)

Fallout 2 title text
Hello, I'm Ray Hardgrit and you've somehow found yourself reading Super Adventures in Gaming, the site where I play a game from my backlog for a couple of hours while taking screenshots and whining that it's too hard.

Today I'm having a quick go of classic PC RPG Fallout 2 by Black Isle Studios, the sequel to Interplay's Fallout. Though Black Isle was actually just a division of Interplay (and still is actually, although it's really an entirely different Black Isle now as the original Black Isle died back in 2003 and was reborn as an entirely new company called Obsidian Entertainment... kind of. Not that Interplay or this new division known as Black Isle have anything to do with the Fallout franchise anymore as the rights were sold to Bethesda during 2007 who then released Fallout 3 and tasked Obsidian (the original Black Isle staff) with making a sequel called Fallout: New Vegas..

My copy of the original Fallout from GOG.com ran like a dream on Windows 7 with no messing around, but I got this one from Steam instead and my attempts to get it to run haven't been entirely plain sailing. Fortunately a quick ini file edit was enough to fix the screwed up colours and get the gameplay working fine... though that then ended up breaking all the videos. But with the fan base the game has I'm sure there's an amazing mod out there that fixes everything!

War. War never changes. The intros to Fallout games don't seem to change much either it seems, as this also features a classic Ink Spots tune from the 40s as its theme and some gravelly narration by official Fallout series narrator Ron Perlman.

Vault Boy's definitely changed a little though, in this pre-war Vault dweller instruction film at the start of the game at least. Apparently Vault-Tec decided it'd be easier to go with cel-shaded 3D for the animated characters so we've got the parade float balloon version of their heroic mascot standing in for him here.

Fallout 2 Vault Boy wearing goggles
I hate you fake Vault Boy.

Right, I should probably start off by filling in some of the Fallout series's backstory, in case you don't know or have forgotten.

No, wait, hold on. The narrator himself has just assured me during this cutscene that the details are in fact trivial and pointless, so I'll just say that humanity finally went and blew themselves up. A few fortunate souls found sanctuary from the atomic annihilation in giant underground bunkers called Vaults, where they were sealed away for the rest of their lives.

Fallout 2 intro vault dwellers wave
It wasn't exactly been sunshine and rainbows for the survivors or their descendent these last few hundred years locked away underground, but many of their grandchildren lived to see Vault doors finally beginning to open and an unfamiliar world waiting for them outside.

Fallout 2 intro Enclave
In the first game civilisation had barely begun to return to the scorched ruins of California, but it seems that things have come a fair way in the 80 years since then. These Vault dwellers have found blokes with with helicopters and stylish new hazmat suits ready to help them get started in their new life on the surface.

Or not...

Yep, this is definitely a Fallout game. Starts with the apocalypse and then gets worse from there.

Fallout 2 character select screen Chitsa profile
This is a direct sequel to Fallout 1, but the 80 year time jump means I don't get to play as the Vault Dweller anymore. Instead I'm playing as one of their descendants from an semi-isolated tribal village. Like Fallout, I can either choose from three pre-made characters, or create my own.

In fact there's very little about this that isn't like Fallout. This menu is absolutely identical to the one in the first game, even down to the scratches on the paintwork.

Fallout 2 character creation screen
At first I thought this character creation screen was just a little bit browner and more weathered than it used to be, but nope it's the same art reused again. Though they have replaced the 'Night Person' Trait with 'Sex Appeal'... which I will immediately grab because this time I've decided to play as a sexy psychopath thief.

I'm sinking Char Points into Agility to get more Action Points in combat, and Charisma to get an advantage in dialogue (hopefully, I still dunno how that works). I'll probably raise Intelligence a bit as well because I know that gives me more Skill Points to spend each level up on that ridiculously long list of skills on the right.

I can tag three of them now to get a percentage boost and double the value from each point I put into them, so I'm picking Sneak and Steal to let me get my thievery on, and Melee Weapons because I'm an idiot. Bringing a knife to every gun fight isn't likely to end well, but I already went with Small Guns in the first game and picking Energy Weapons or Big Guns isn't likely to work out, as the things probably won't even show up until halfway through the game! Don't know what the devs were thinking there.

Another pre-rendered cutscene? How many intros does this game have?

My tribe's elder has bad news. The water chip for the village well has broken down and I'm to travel out into the wasteland to find a new one.

Actually the news is far worse that that. Crops are dying, children are getting ill and the two-headed cows are suffering from ennui. Fresh water alone isn't going fix this, we're going to have purify the soil and bring life back to the region.

Fortunately the Elder has learned that every Vault was (supposedly) assigned one suitcase-sized Garden of Eden Construction Kit, containing everything necessary to start a healthy settlement in this harsh post-apocalyptic wasteland.

It all sounds pretty great, except for the fact that no one here has any idea where to find a GECK. Or even a Vault for that matter, which is a little weird seeing as the place was founded by the Vault Dweller from Fallout 1 who had personally mapped out half of post-apocalyptic California with his Pip-Boy PDA. I guess the batteries must have ran out.

But before I get to worry about things like that, I first have to complete THE TEMPLE OF TRIALS.

Yay.

HOLY SHIT... they've actually drawn new graphics for the interface!

Also this temple is pretty impressive. I was expecting to be the re-purposed ruins of a pre-war shopping mall of something, but it seems that the tribe has actually built this themselves.

Well the gameplay seems to be absolutely identical to Fallout: I click somewhere with the mouse and my hero duly travels there in real-time, unless I've been dragged into turn based combat by a pair of oversized ants getting all hostile at me. I was to trying use my formidable stealth skills to sneak around them, but they spotted me and now it's on.

In combat mode I get a number of XCOM/UFO style Action Points to spend on hitting monsters, looking in my pockets, or moving around on the invisible hex grid each turn. Right now it costs me 1 point to move to an adjacent hex and 4 points to insert the pointy end of my spear into an adjacent ant. After that I end my turn and let all the ants have their go.

I wish to apologise for the glaring error in my previous statement. I meant to say that it costs 4 points to 'wave my spear around in front of the enemy ant while it laughs at me'. For the price of an additional action point I can upgrade to a called shot and bring up this proto-V.A.T.S. screen to target various body parts, but those percentages aren't too encouraging.

The thing is, I'm playing as a thief skilled in melee weapons, so fighting with spears and sneaking past things is what I should be good at. Anyone playing as a diplomat or a gunfighter would probably find these fights dragging on even longer as they miss their shots over and over again.

Alright, two ants down and I still have all my hit points. But now I'm facing a far tougher opponent: a locked door. I didn't tag lockpicking as a skill, but I've still got it available in my Skilldex anyway. Though with only 13% skill I have my doubts that this is going to work out.

Hey, it worked, I got the door open! That's awesome, as I really didn't want to have to start searching everywhere for a key. There's ants all over the bloody place down here.


SEVERAL FIGHTS LATER.


I've searched around everywhere and I just can't find a key to this second door! And do you know what's everywhere in this part of the temple? Giant poisonous scorpions, that's what! So now I can add 'cure fatal poison' to my list of things to do.

'You see: Impenetrable Door'. If that's actually true (and I doubt the game's lying to me here), then I'm going to need to find a switch or a floor panel to get this thing open. I did find some a block of plastic explosive earlier in a vase, which tends to open most doors... but not impenetrable ones. Because they're impenetrable.


SOME SCORPIONS LATER.


Guess what? After a fair amount of walking around corridors and a scorpion fight or two, I eventually discovered... that I was supposed to use the plastic explosive to open the impenetrable door. The explosive that I found by searching a random vase.

Well at least this is all over now because I've finally dragged my weak, wounded and fatally poisoned ass over to the temple exit! But first this guy wants me to fight him in hand to hand combat to prove that I really am worthy to be the Chosen One and carry out the quest for the GECK.

I gotta admit, I don't really give a fuck what he wants at this point. I turned on sneak mode, stole his door key, and let myself out.

Well that was the perfect tutorial level right there, assuming that the developers were deliberately trying to frustrate new players and drive them away, while boring the shit out of fans of the first game.

Anyway, my worthiness has at last been confirmed and I've been allowed to take the sacred jumpsuit, once worn by the legendary Vault Dweller themselves. It's perhaps not so useful on its own, but it does come with...

Fallout 2 Pip-Boy 2000
... the original Fallout 1 Pip-Boy 2000 computer! The thing doesn't look a day older either, although it's missing the 'GET THE WATER CHIP' note that used to cover up Pip-Boy's ugly face.

I gotta say, as journals go this falls on the wrong side of pathetic, but at least it gives me a list of what I need to get done. Which so far is mostly 'Get a GECK'

Wow, this place is a whole lot less impressive than I was expecting after seeing that temple. 80 years they've been here and they're still living in tents. Also I've only been in the village five seconds and I'm already being pestered to do stuff.

My Repair skill is only at 11% and I'm a little shaky from the 'dying of poison' thing, but I still managed to get the well up and running again on my first try. So either Feargus plain didn't bother to try fixing it himself, or his Repair skill is in the minus numbers.

Hang on, I wonder if this guy has anything to do with Feargus Urquhart, who was running Black Isle Studios at the time... nah.

Speaking with the Elder again earned me some cash (actual money this time, not bottle caps) and my first clue. The tribes has had dealings with a trader called Vic and it appears that he knows a bit about ancient technology from the Vaults, so I'm to head off to Klamath and look for him. It's the only other place visible on my map screen so I might as well.

The trip will take me a fair number of days, but it doesn't matter as there's no time limit this time! I can travel as much as I want, rest as many hours as I want, get knocked out by super mutants and dragged halfway across the map to their secret base etc. and my home town of Arroyo will still be doing fine regardless. With any luck.

You could argue that the lack of a ticking clock removes the sense of urgency and makes the Arroyo situation seem trivial, but personally I'm quite capable of using my imagination to pretend they're in imminent danger. I can live without getting a game over for taking my time and doing side quests in an RPG.

Klamath has children? I thought they were patched out due to concerns about the fact that you can happily kill off every single character in the game. Well I definitely don't have a problem with them being around, as it means I've got more people to pickpocket. In fact I think I'll strip every shelf and cupboard in this town bare while I'm at it as well.

Hi there, I'd like to exchange all of this crap I found in your house for a knife and some armour. Oh by the way, you might want to get that door over there looked at; I kind of jammed the mechanism with my inept attempts to pick the lock, so I had to kick it open in the end. Surprised you didn't hear that actually.

Once all the items are on the table I have to drag over the correct number of coins to balance the deal, which usually takes me several tries because my mental arithmetic skills are laughable. At least I can type the number in with the keypad instead of moving all 183 of them across by hand.

Annoyingly there doesn't seem to be any way for me to see a weapon's stats before I've got it in my bag, so I had no idea that the knife was worse than my starting spear. Though one thing I'm sure of is that you can bet I won't be selling it back for anywhere near the price that I paid for it.

Still, the armour seems good, as long as no one aims for my right arm or chest.

Crap, my harmless attempts to relieve the townsfolk of their only possessions has led to dark consequences. A failed pickpocket attempt on a drunk has gotten them all to come gather around and take turns hammering my head into the asphalt with sledgehammers. But honestly the most painful part about this is that I have to wait for each and every character in the area to take their turn before I get to move, and there's more of them out here than it looks.

Fortunately I quick saved right before my public demonstration of ineptitude, so now I can try a different approach. It doesn't throw me back to a save point or anything quaint like that.

I figured that the most dangerous weapon on the field during that fight... was the tribal with the Jamaican accent doing amateur roadwork using my face and a large hammer, so I offered him a place on the team. Actually I used all my hard earned cash to pay off the shop owner he was stuck working for, and I'm hoping it turns out to be a good investment.

This new combat control screen's definitely a step above anything in the first game, as it gives me some small ability to influence my sidekick's behaviour in fights. I'm not seeing a 'don't shoot me in the back with a submachine gun' button though.

Oh, plus I also have the ability to trade items with a companion now without having to pickpocket them out of their inventory!

Hey there little doggy, want to join my team? No? Aww.

Well there's no sign of Vic the Trader around and I've already lost my interest in this town, so I'm going to check to see if my conversations have added any new locations to my world map and investigate the closest one with some potential for looting.

I wouldn't want to return home to the adulation of my peers too soon anyway. I hear that fame is intolerable without fortune.

Why is it that not one of these geckos is carrying a wallet?

I'm starting to think that coming to these toxic caves might have been a bad idea. Even with my buddy joining in with his sledgehammer these fights are forcing me to hang around these puddles of nuclear waste at little longer than I'm comfortable with.

Oh great, now I'm irradiated. My character is suffering from a significant amount of radiation poisoning in fact according to this, with no way for me to get rid of it that I'm aware of.

Well at least the poison eventually wore off, so I guess there's still hope for me. Crap, I only have 7 hit points left? Now I really don't want to be down here any longer.

Luckily the radiation poisoning seems to be something I can live with, as time spent travelling on the world map is still healing my wounds. It's been a little over two weeks since I left my home village of Arroyo in case you were wondering. If I was the Elder I'd have sent out a second Chosen One by now to go find out what happened to the first one. Maybe with backup this time.

I'm heading for the Den, in the hopes of finding some good side-quests and enemies carrying cash. Klamath had more to do in town than I expected (after my experience with Fallout 1), but I had no luck completing any of the quests, or even starting them really. One guy asked me to help him guard some cows, so I went to get some gear before saying yes. When I came back he wouldn't even talk to me!

Well here's an exciting quest to start me off. I have to go collect $200 off Fred somehow. I don't know what his last name is, what he looks like, or where I can find him, and it doesn't seem like I can ask either.

They've taken the semi-pointless 'Tell Me About' button out since the first game, so I can't even try typing in keywords for people to not know anything about.

Okay this is good, I want this. It's so weird to see a car around here that isn't stacked up on a pile of other cars. I always did think it was a bit weird that Fallout 1 is so obviously inspired by Mad Max, yet they never gave me a V8 Interceptor to drive around in.

Sadly this nuclear powered Cadillac is way way more than I can afford and I don't think I'll be stealing the car keys any time soon. Oh well, it wasn't really my colour anyway.

Ah, I knew the Brotherhood of Steel would be able to tell me where Vic is, those guys know everything. I totally failed to find the Brotherhood in the first game, but it appears they've got a bunker conveniently located right inside town here.

There must be some amazing gear behind that door... shame really that they're a cult of self-righteous tech-hoarding assholes who would sooner spit on a tribal than tell them the location of the slaver's guild.

Well it didn't take me long to find a use for this spade I picked up for no good reason. Some might say it's a little immoral to dig up someone's grave in the middle of the night just on the off chance they might have been buried with something. Those people probably wouldn't be too impressed at all that I'm digging up ALL of them.

Oh the game has a day/night cycle by the way and I can choose to wait a few hours/days to recover health instead of using my First Aid skill or Stimpaks. That probably deserves mentioning.

Hey I got a new thing on my Karma page! It's funny how digging up their ancestors wasn't quite enough to get the town lower than neutral on the reputation scale. I think that says more about the town though than the reputation system, as everyone in this place either has enough drugs in their system to make them run around the streets at night yelling like a lunatic, or they work in the slave trade. Or both I suppose.

Awesome, I found some RadAway in one of those graves. I'm half tempted to sell it, but I think it'd probably be best if I got rid of this radiation poisoning already. Who knows what it's doing to my stats... I definitely have no bloody clue.

Well that went about as well as I could've expected.

I was trying to creep up unseen and surreptitiously pilfer from these well dressed gentlemen, but I guess my hand must have gotten caught on their spikes and they noticed me because all I got for my efforts was a bullet between the eyes. I'm only level two (and they have guns) so I haven't got a chance of beating these guys in combat really. Still, it's worth a shot, right?

All my plans to defeat those guards failed miserably in the end, but I at least managed to get a few to leave their post and chase me around. Then I heroically walked across the area exit grid nearby to escape into a different part of town with a hit point or two left. If I can get them to open the door and lure them all out like that then I'm sure I could slip inside the building and get my hands on whatever's in those crates. But I've got my team shot dead enough times for now, so I'll save that for later.


LATER.


Wow, who'd have thought the leader of the slaver's guild would be an anti-social sexist asshole. But he's holding Vic prisoner so I need to either get on his good side, give him an offer he can't refuse, or hire 15 trained mercenaries with assault rifles to back me up. I've got barely any cash and I can't even convince the bloody dog to join my team so I'm going to go with the charm for now.

Well I managed to have a civilised conversation with the man in the end, even managed to get him to agree to let Vic go for a reasonable price. Trouble is that price is $1000, half the cost of the car!

I'm getting a bit discouraged here to tell you the truth. For someone who is quite happily taking and selling every single object I can lay my hands on, I'm not ending up with a great deal of cash for my trouble and my track record for completing side missions is even worse. I haven't even found Fred yet.

So I decided to say 'fuck it' and trek off into the unknown. Hopefully I'll come across a more interesting town along the way, or maybe even one of those crazy zany pop culture reference random encounters I've been hearing about.

Nope, I've found scorpions. Poisonous bloody scorpions. But I'm so eager for a level up right now that I'm going to go and wipe out the whole cave full of them anyway.

Here's how combat generally plays out for me by the way: I click on the knife, then click the enemy, click the enemy, click the enemy, and then click End Turn. I do that over and over until they're all dead or I need to use a Stimpak. I'm sure I'd do better here if I continually attacked only once each time before retreated out of their range to force them to burn up their Action Points chasing me instead of hitting me... but who has the time or patience for that?

Level 3 finally! They've added some new Perks here for me to pick from each level up, but right now I think I'm going to have to go with the extra melee damage one. In fact I'm just going to dump all my points into the melee skill as well, because it's obvious that I need to be considerably more formidable than I currently am.

Hey, this is a more interesting random encounter.

Well just in case anyone needed reminding, the guys in the power armour are evil and like to gun down entire families (all at once if possible). I'm more or less beneath their notice right now though, so for now I'm spared from the Gatling gun firing squad. Man I need to get hold of some of their gear somehow. Then I'd show those guys guarding those boxes why they call me the Chosen One.

Actually I have no idea why my tribe decided that I deserved that title, because it definitely wasn't because of my ability to get stuff done, I realise that now. I'm starting to think they just wanted rid of me because I kept stealing all of their shit.


MORE WANDERING LATER.


"You see nothing out of the ordinary"? I suppose vertibirds must be falling out of the sky every couple of days back in Arroyo, because this seems pretty unusual to me. What's really weird though is how little loot I'm finding here. You'd figure I could at least take some of their damaged armour and maybe slip inside the wreck to grab an assault rifle and a Stimpak or two, but nope.

This was my big chance to get my hands on some of that awesome tech, but it's just not to be.


TEN MINUTES OF SCAVENGING LATER.


My journey across the world map ended in utter failure, so now I'm back in Klamath, searching the shelves for whatever trash hasn't already been claimed. You can really tell this is set 80 years after Fallout, because all the heroic wandering protagonist types before me have stripped this place bare.

Out of curiosity and boredom I decided I'd go off to google maps instead to look if this place actually exists, so that I can make absolutely certain I never accidentally come here in real life. It turns out that Klamath Falls is a real town in Oregon, around 350 miles north of where I started off in the last game. It's not a bad looking place really when it's not all blown up.

Also now I know roughly where two Vaults are (assuming the game map stretches down that far), so I could always go travelling down that way if I hit a dead end and I'm desperate.


SOME TIME LATER, BACK AT THE DEN.


I'VE FOUND FRED!

He was just down the road from Becky's casino the whole time. I asked him to give me the $500 he owed her, but he claimed he'd never seen that much money before in his life so I beat him to death in the street.

Oh hang on, it was $200 she wanted wasn't it. They threw me off by calling her Rebecca!

You can tell how much of a shithole the Den is, as only one person in the whole street came to Fred's aid. So I stabbed him as well and took everything he had. Hey I actually won a fight! Sorry Flick, but there had to be one man in this wasteland with worse gear than me and I guess that was you.

HOLY SHIT, Flick had all of the gear! He's got more pistols in his pants than there's been in every shop I've visited put together... and I can't use any of them because I've specialised in melee weapons. I'm crying right now.

Well at least I've got the cash to pay off the Slave Traders and rescue Vic. Or at least I would have if I could find anyone with enough money to afford to buy these bloody things off me. Right, it's time for desperate measures. I'm going back to that building I lured the guards out of earlier and I'm going to raid those boxes in the slim hope that one of them has cash in it.

Crap, I knew this would happen. The enemies all swarmed back in to block my exit before I could make it out again. Worse, there wasn't even any cash in the boxes, or anything for that matter.

But somehow, miraculously, I managed to defeat ALL the guards with just my puny knife! It took a few of my precious Stimpaks to keep me going, but I came away from this victorious. I suppose it helped that they had to use up their Action Points getting over to me first, so I got a free shot at them.

And now I am going to save my game. I am going to save my game SO MUCH.


EVENTUALLY.


So I got the money together at last and went back to the slavers to pay for Vic's release. But the leader immediately turned hostile and ended negotiations with a shot to the chest. The only explanation I can think of is that the guys guarding the boxes I just killed were working for him. I'd load a save but... I kinda just saved over the only recent one.

I guess that's it for Vic then, he's screwed and I've lost my only lead to finding the GECK. I'm sure there's still plenty of options open for me, but this seems like a reasonable place to call it a day.


Stand by for my controversial opinions about Fallout 2. At first I thought the game felt more like an expansion pack to Fallout rather than a sequel in its own right, and it does reuse a lot of the art resources, but this world seems much more alive and interesting. The dialogue is just as good as ever, but there's more characters around and those characters have more character. Plus the wasteland feels a bit more connected and civilised this time, instead of being made up of isolated side-quest zones.

But I am really struggling to get into the game and I'm not entirely sure why. I think it may be due to the fact that I'm absolutely terrible at it, and I don't mean the combat for once. For a game that apparently lets you solve problems multiple ways, I don't seem to be solving a damn thing. It's all been going downhill for me after my epic success with fixing that well at the start, and I'm finding it pretty tedious and unsatisfying.

Though even I can tell that it's not a crap game and it does come with a recipe for pancakes in the manual, so I guess I have to give it a gold star.

Whoa, you actually READ all of that text? Or did you just scroll down to the bottom to see what I thought about the game? Either way I'm curious to see what you think about Fallout 2, the Fallout franchise, my writing, my site in general... all kinds of things. So why not leave me some feedback in the comment box below?

5 comments:

  1. I've only ever played Fallout Tactics in the series, and I really didn't enjoy it that much. And I'm not sure you would either, since it's mostly battle after battle.
    Are you planning on playing it, since you seem to be going through the lot?

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    1. Yep, Fallout Tactics is coming in the next few weeks, followed by the rest of them with any luck. Though unless I stumble across it in a bargain bin I'll probably be skipping Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel.

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  2. Fallout 1 and 2 are considerably deep games in their own right. I found that exploring every shelf, nook and cranny as well as talking to every NPC gave me the best results for finding gear and side quests. There are a few broken quests that never initialize properly. Fallout 2 is definitely the more difficult of the two original RPGs. Setting out my strategy has always been the murder of a shop keep for all his gear and money. And I generally used three different saves, just in case I ended up doing something along the lines of pissing off the Slavers Guild and walking into the dangerous end of a shotgun. The real fun starts when you get your hands on some Power Armor. Special treats for me were the "Pariah Dog" which is a companion that permanently lowers all of your stats until you find a way to get rid of him (almost impossible) and the Fallout Hint Book which your character gets to read after the end of the game - which maxes out all your skills.

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  3. I am pretty sure that is one of the three best games ever made. Virtually flawless. And definitely the best of all Fallouts released.
    I really wanted the third one would be more like the second.

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  4. I love this game

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