Visions of Deathclaws dance in the heads of RPG fans as they anxiously snooze in anticipation of the October 28 release of Fallout 3. Will series devotees consider it too different from the classic RPGs that spawned it? The original Fallout RPGs were modest commercial successes compared to their swords and sorcery contemporaries such as Baldur’s Gate; will developer/publisher Bethesda be able to replicate the blockbuster success it enjoyed with Oblivion with a game in a non-fantasy setting? Will Fallout 3 successfully meld the best attributes of the Fallout franchise and the Elder Scrolls games, or will it prove to be a Frankenstein-like hodgepodge that disappoints rather than enthralls?
I write this column with giddiness, knowing that we’ll finally know the answers to those questions shortly, but even these few remaining days taunt my keenness to delve into the first new Fallout game (not counting Tactics) in a decade. So, I’ve satiated my fervid craving for my Fallout fix by replaying the original game, which remains one of the best RPGs ever made, even when judged by today’s standards. The low-resolution (640x480) graphics are a little creaky when blown up on the much larger monitors that dominate the PC world today, and the right-click-hold interface feels more cumbersome and unintuitive than ever, but all of the features that earned Fallout its classic status remain abundantly evident.
Fondly remembered for its humorous dialogue options, Fallout was still a combat-intensive game, unless you took great pains to avoid it
Fallout is about making real role-playing choices. It’s about creating a highly customized alter-ego and making distinct decisions that meaningfully affect your character’s journey. It’s choosing either to aid post-apocalyptic NPCs or to punch them in head [Or groin! –Ed] until you hear the lamentations of their children. It’s embracing the seemingly insufferable task of keeping your Mad Max–inspired hapless canine pet alive against chain-gun-wielding super-mutants, and eschewing potentially more beneficial character traits in favor of reducing foes to a “bloody mess.” The game constantly delivers a range of nuanced choices, and considerably fewer subtle alternatives, that collectively ensure players have a highly personalized experience, which is the essence of roleplaying. In terms of offering role-playing depth, Fallout has a paucity of peers, and it’s still worthwhile to track it down if you never journeyed into its apocalyptic wasteland.
Since Fallout was an early Windows 95 game (it also ran under DOS), it may require some work to get an original copy running on your modern system. An elegant solution to those woes is being offered by CD Projekt, who are about to launch GOG.com (Good Old Games), which PCG profiled last month. For a few bucks, you’ll be able to download DRM-free games from the past, including Fallout 1 and 2, appropriately modified to install and run on Windows XP and Vista systems. GOG will also make Fallout goodies available, such as avatars, the game’s MP3 soundtrack, and links to fan-made patches that have been tested to work with GOG’s modifications to enable higher resolutions and other tweaks.
The nuanced role-playing is great, but what made Fallout truly memorable was how the consequences of your actions often turned out to be colorfully over-the-top
CD Projekt is proving to be a boon to RPG fans—it just released an enhanced edition of The Witcher (PCG’s 2007 RPG of the Year) that greatly expands the game’s English dialogue, significantly reduces loading times, adds dozens of new NPC character models to reduce repetition, and incorporates a new lip-syncing system. Best of all, the enhancements will be offered in a free patch. I’ll have a more in-depth look at the enhanced version of The Witcher next month.
September 24, 2008