Saturday, January 30, 2021

Fallout 2


Apocalypse Later

Until recently, the original Fallout held the distinction of one of few RPGs I found myself unable to complete, although several years after purchasing it, I managed to make it through to the very end with the aid of a good walkthrough. Given my recent refusal to go into games, especially older ones, totally blind, I printed out a walkthrough for the franchise’s first sequel, Fallout 2, believing that having developed my gaming skills with Western RPGs via the original game, I would be better ready for the second entry. Does the second entry improve upon the first?

The first Fallout sequel for the most part uses the same turn-based tactical battle system as its predecessor, although things don’t necessarily play out as well. The player chooses from one of three protagonists to start, sets stats, and chooses a few bonuses before the game throws them into the action. Action points dictate how many commands the player’s character can perform when they reach their turn, with occasional ally NPCs obtained, although players can mostly fight solo. While the general game mechanics are at least bearable with a guide, there are a number of issues such as the lack of saving in the middle of battle, the AP cost of opening the item menu even if just viewing inventory, slow leveling, the scarcity of money, and so forth.

Control only mildly fares better, especially with the ability to save progress any time outside battle and dialogue that’s skippable most of the time, although there’s terrible direction on how to advance the central storyline, the game doesn’t clearly indicate interactable elements on-screen, NPCs sometimes get in the player’s way, slow overworld travel without a car (difficult to obtain without a guide), and the limited inventory space that can really become burdensome later on, and so forth.

The narrative is one of few passable elements, occurring fourscore after the first game, and focusing on the player’s created character known as the Chosen One, tasked with retrieving a Garden of Eden Creation Kit (GECK) for their hometown of Arroyo. The general mythos is superb, there are differences based on decisions made and the character chosen, and given the skippable dialogue, the plot rarely feels forced in the player’s face, although there’s the aforementioned terrible direction in how to advance the central storyline, and the present-day events receive scarce development. Overall, the storyline isn’t excellent, but doesn’t bring the game down too much.

The aurals are another passable element, with some rare decent old-timey music, superb voice acting, and solid ambience and sound effects, although there’s a noticeable lack of memorable music, and many areas that are silent.

The visuals are almost exactly the same as they are in the first game, with a general good realistic style and nice art direction, although there are many instances where they negatively impact the gameplay, given the lack of indication of interactable elements and walls obscuring the player’s view of certain areas, and the FMVs contain blemishes such as a bit of pixilation.

Finally, the first sequel takes a bit longer to beat than its precursor, somewhere from one to two days’ total playtime depending upon sidequests undertaken, and while there is theoretical lasting appeal in the story differences, there isn’t enough entertainment to warrant additional gameplay.

Overall, Fallout 2 is a disappointing sequel, given its relative unplayability without the aid of the internet, the horrible direction on how to advance the central storyline, the unengaging plotline, the lack of a memorable soundtrack, the recycled graphics, and the general torture of going through it another time despite theoretical replay value. Despite these glaring flaws in the game, it somehow attained favorable critical acclaim, which brings to question the integrity of mainstream gaming journalism, and the sequel to date is very much a relic of a time when Western RPGs hadn’t quite emerged from their niche.

This review is based on a playthrough of the Steam version as Chitsa.

The Good:
+You can save anywhere, except in battle.
+Story is okay, with some differences depending on character.
+Aurals don’t offend.

The Bad:
-Virtually unplayable without a guide.
-Terrible direction on how to advance.
-Unengaging plot and characters.
-Not a whole lot of memorable music.
-Lackluster visuals.
-Not fun enough to go through again.

The Bottom Line:
A relic of a time when Western RPGs hadn’t broken out of their niche.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PC
Game Mechanics: 2.0/10
Controls: 3.0/10
Story: 5.0/10
Music/Sound: 5.0/10
Graphics: 3.0/10
Lasting Appeal: 3.0/10
Difficulty: Adjustable, but still hard.
Playing Time: 1-2 Days

Overall: 3.5/10

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