Sunday, October 25, 2020



Apocalypse Eventually

Having mostly experienced Japanese roleplaying games, I’ve made a point to delve into Western titles in the genre, and years ago, I bought a deal on Steam for the first two titles in the Fallout series with Tactics. I tried the very first game in the franchise, Fallout, but didn’t experience the masterpiece critics made it out to be, to the point where I didn’t even bother with its sequels, and didn’t technically beat the initial entry. A few years later, my failure to actually beat the game lay heavy upon me, and I gave it another shot with a guide; while the game certainly has its flaws, I don’t regret playing.

The first game occurs in a post-nuclear doomsday setting, with the player’s blank-slate protagonist at first tasked with retrieving a water chip for their vault within a hundred-day-plus timeframe, after which is a more open-world experience that culminates in a confrontation with a religious leader known as the Master. The story isn’t anything spectacular, although there are occasional colorful characters and some decent backstory. Regardless, the direction of the narrative is unclear at best, and while the plot isn’t thrown in the player’s face, it could have used more development.

When creating their protagonist, the player can set their various stats (which they can only sporadically improve through means such as surgery) and grant bonuses to innate abilities such as increased proficiency with small/large firearms, or improved speech capability, among others. Fights themselves trigger whenever the player’s character draws near hostiles, with the player granted a number of action points, and things such as moving, opening the inventory, or attacking consuming a certain number of them. When the player runs out of action points, all enemies take their actions, which largely mimic those of the main character.

The player can find the rare AI-controlled ally, but luckily, at least if the player discovers certain secrets such as the most powerful weapon in the game (which comes in a random encounter on the overworld and depends on luck to trigger), the player can mostly fight solo. When all hostiles in an area are gone, the player gains experience for occasional level-ups, in which case they can invest points into their skillsets and, every three levels, pick a perk that can provide benefits such as increased base stats. The battle system generally works decently, at least with a guide, though contemporary features such as being able to skip enemy turns would have been nice.

While the keyboard and mouse controls are easy to get a handle of, there are issues such as the player’s limited inventory space, the lack of descriptions for item effects, the lack of organizational capabilities, and the like. There’s also weak direction on how to advance the central storyline, although as with most Western RPGs, the player can record their progress most of the time anywhere (and keep multiple save slots, to boot), and there are few actual dungeons where the player can find himself or herself lost. All in all, Fallout doesn’t always interact well with players, but things could have been worse.

As with most RPGs originating outside Japan, the soundtrack isn’t anything particularly special, although the rare music is occasionally good, the sound effects are fitting, there’s good ambience, and the voice performances are generally well-done.

The visuals look good, with an isometric and realistic style where all characters have good anatomy, along with well-designed scenery and colors that very well reflect the post-doomsday disposition. Granted, the FMVs contain a great deal of blurriness and pixilation and haven’t aged well, and the game doesn’t clearly indicate interactable objects. Regardless, Fallout is far from an eyesore.

Finally, the first game is fairly short, with a straightforward playthrough, especially with a guide, potentially taking as little as twelve hours, although the large amount of extra content and potential differences when starting new playthroughs can bump it up to more than that.

In the end, Fallout isn’t quite the masterpiece many videogame critics have made it out to be, although it nonetheless started a successful franchise, and admittedly does have plenty of things going for it such as its strategic turn-based tactical battle system, save-anywhere feature, and strong aspects such as part of the visuals. However, it has many of the pitfalls of open-world Western RPGs such as the poor direction with regards to the narrative and control, not to mention the unmemorable soundtrack. Despite its flaws, I definitely don’t regret the time I spent with the game, and would gladly play its successors to see how the franchise evolves.

This review is based on a playthrough of a digital copy downloaded from Steam.

The Good:
+Half-decent turn-based tactical battle system.
+Save-anywhere feature.
+Visuals have good aspects.

The Bad:
-Poor direction on how to advance.
-Scant story development.
-Unmemorable soundtrack.

The Bottom Line:
Not the best start to the series, but I don’t regret experiencing it.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PC (Steam)
Game Mechanics: 6.5/10
Controls: 5.0/10
Story: 5.0/10
Music/Sound: 5.0/10
Graphics: 6.5/10
Lasting Appeal: 8.0/10
Difficulty: Variable
Playing Time: 12-24 Hours

Overall: 6.0/10

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