The History of Fallout

24 Aug 2006

“War. War never changes.”

Like an old friend, those familiar words have greeted Fallout players with each installment of the beloved series. However, while war may or may not change, Fallout has changed with each game. Some of these changes have been met with praise, while others have done nothing more than infuriate the franchise's dedicated fanbase. It's been a long and somewhat shaky history, and we feel it's one that needs to be explored.

So what is Fallout exactly? Our quest for the zeitgeist of Fallout does not begin with Fallout itself, but rather with an older, lesser known gem called Wasteland.


Wasteland (1988)

CHRISTINA rakes Opossum with bullets for 35 points of damage, blasting it into ground round.

The original Apple II version of Wasteland was released in early 1988, with Commodore 64 and IBM versions following shortly thereafter. Produced by Interplay and published by Electronic Arts, it was the first computer game ever to be based in a post-nuclear setting.

As the story goes, the Americans are completing their Citadel Starstation when the Soviets accuse them of creating the station for military ends. An international brouhaha erupts, with the entire globe siding with either the U.S. or the Soviets. Several months later, the Citadel sends out a distress signal. Immediately afterwards, most of the satellites in the world are blown out of the sky. In a panic, both the U.S. and Soviets fire off their nuclear arsenals, plunging the world into darkness. However, people manage to survive and form communities despite the best efforts of both superpowers to wipe the Earth clean. You are a Desert Ranger, the product of the intermingling between a company of U.S. Army Engineers and several communities of survivalists. Your mission is to make the wasteland a safer and more stable place to live.

Those gamers who have only started playing PC games recently may find getting immersed into Wasteland a daunting task. The interface is mostly keyboard driven, though it does feature some less-than-stellar mouse controls. There are no branching dialogue trees either; the player must type in specific keywords in order to get a dialogue response from an NPC. Incorrect inputs are simply greeted with a “What?”, making it difficult to know what to say at times. On top of that, when talking to NPCs, players will often encounter text that refers them to “Read paragraph XX”. In addition to the extra copy protection it provided, long bits of dialogue or narration was placed inside paragraph books to help compensate for the small amount of memory that was typical of early PCs. Players would often have to consult these books or find themselves completely lost. But if players can outlast the culture shock, they will find themselves playing an RPG still worthy of the many accolades it has earned.