Time Played: 7 Hours (as of this writing)

Last Played: 7/1/2016

Fallout: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Wasteland

Ladies and Gentlemen, this will be the first invocation of the ‘Long-Ass Game” rule. I am currently halfway through Fallout 1 and felt the need to at least comment on my experience so far. This won’t be very long, as it’s essentially my first impressions of the game. If you’re unfamiliar with Fallout, that is the original Fallout, it is the cRPG that started the entire series. It was released back in 1997, and will be twenty years old next year.
Despite it’s age, and rather muddy graphics, the game is very immersive and definitely worthwhile even two decades after it’s release. I went into Fallout determined to finish the game. However,  what I didn’t expect was to be enjoying myself as much as I am. I knew it was supposed to be a good game, but honestly I’m really impressed! Perhaps it’s because I’m willfully inserting myself into the situations and role-playing as myself… But I find that I actually care about how the games’ various events turn out; sometimes to the point of save-scumming.

The main impetus for the game’s story is that the water chip in your vault, which essentially a self sustaining bomb shelter, has broken. Without the water chip you’re underground society only has 150 days left before they die of dehydration… So it’s your job to go out into the Nuclear Wasteland and find another water chip or everyone dies.

No pressure, right?

How you go about finding your vault’s salvation is almost entirely up to you. You’re given a of help at the beginning, “go check on the other vault in the area” and you’re pointed in the right direction… But after that — you’re entirely on your own. You actually have to interact with the people living in the Wasteland and piece together the information yourself. There are no quest markers to guide you to where you need to go, which is great for immersion… But you have to be smart enough, perceptive enough, or dedicated enough to find what you need.

For the most part, I’m really enjoying that about this game. But also at the same time a guide is really helpful when you get stuck… Just for a small clue here and there.

I think a lot of this feeling is influenced by the pacing of this game. You have a time limit looming over your head, but it’s also five months…Which should be more than enough time; but much like in real life, time will escape you if you let it. And this adds to the pacing in my opinion. As the concept of time passing is always sitting in the back of your head; a looming feeling of responsibility and possible failure. While you do have a significant amount of time at your disposal, you definitely have to manage your time efficiently. You might be able to get everything done in a town in only a few hours or days… Walking somewhere else could eat up two entire weeks… There is a very real sense of slow urgency that permeates Fallout. It rewards a methodical approach, but could punish you for it if you let it.

This gives every choice you make have a very tangible weight. At one point in the game a character went missing, naturally I was asked to go look for them… Of course I agreed to help, but I honestly thought to myself, “Do I have enough time for this?”

Spoilers: I did.

The combat also follows this slower, more methodical pacing. As it is turn based you have all the time in the world to plan out your moves. Not that there is any particularly heavy strategy needed, but managing your ammo and your targets is definitely a necessity.

Overall Fallout is just endearing. The people in it feel genuine; like good characters from a book. There’s just enough there to give them character, life, and motivation and your imagination fills in the rest. There is a very specific tone in this game. It’s almost bleakly optimistic. There are some really dark things that can, and do, happen… But at the same time, seeing all of the people on the cusp of thriving in the Wasteland is reassuring. This game feels very human.

One moment it’s heart warming. The next it’s horrifying. A lot like life.

And here’s the perfect example, it’s the most memorable moment I’ve had in the game yet:

Since I’m trying to role-play as myself, I don’t want to kill people…

But I also can’t stand there and do nothing when someone is threatening the life of another person…

I found myself in a general store speaking with the owner; his name was Killian. I asked him a few questions about the town as a whole, and what was happening in the area. Over the course of our conversation a man came in and said “Killian, Gizmo sends his regards” and this man proceeded to shoot Killian in the shoulder.

I panicked. “What do I do? I could pull out my pistol and shot the gunman in the head… But I don’t want to kill anyone if I don’t have to! But if I do nothing Killian will die!”

So I decided to go for the third option. I ran over to the gunman and punched him in the groin; my plan was to incapacitate him hoping we could keep him alive. My plan worked, kind of. The blow to his genitals was strong enough to knock the him to the ground. Incapacitating him; success! Except combat didn’t end…  My companion, Ian, then saw this as an opportunity to finish the man off. So he casually walked over and stabbed the gunman, twice. Two of Killian’s men proceeded to hold the gunman down… As Killian shot him a total of four times as Ian stabbed him an additional two times…

I did not feel good about how the situation went down… But the Wasteland can be a harsh place, I guess.

Part two of this review can be read: here.

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