The History of Fallout

24 Aug 2006

Fallout (1997)

Remember Wasteland? - Fallout Box

Nearly a decade after the release of Wasteland, a spiritual successor to the first post-nuclear PC game finally arrived. Released for the PC in 1997, Fallout continues to be hailed as one of the greatest RPGs ever made.

Fallout allows you to assume the role of a Vault Dweller, one of the lucky few who were locked away in giant vaults buried deep into the earth before a nuclear apocalypse swept the world. Vault 13 has been your home for many years, sheltering you and a small community of other dwellers from the hostile world above. When the game begins, you learn that the vault’s water system has broken down, and that you have been chosen to travel into the wasteland in search of a water chip to save your people.

The world of Fallout is large and open-ended, providing a great expanse of land to explore and, for the most part, plenty of non-linear gameplay. Players will find that they are afforded various moral choices during the game, as well as plenty of violence while exploring the wasteland. In fact, the game even offers a setting that allows players to witness the deaths of his or her enemies in the most excruciating fashion possible. The game's violent nature actually ended up throwing a monkey wrench into its development. Fallout was originally meant to use the popular GURPS system, but due to the game’s violence, Steve Jackson Games pulled out of the deal. Pen and paper role-playing games had come under the spotlight because of their supposed influence in driving youngsters to devil worship and violent acts. Thus, Steve Jackson Games decided it was in their best interest not to have their system associated with Fallout. Interplay was forced to create their own character development system, dubbed S.P.E.C.I.A.L. (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck), which ended up becoming a staple for Fallout and successive games in the series.

So what exactly makes Fallout a unique classic? There are a lot of reasons why Fallout is such a great game, but the game’s unique atmosphere is probably its greatest strength. Although the game contains all sorts of references to 50’s pop culture, it never fails to portray the gritty and dangerous radioactive wasteland one might expect after a nuclear holocaust. Furthermore, there is a real sense that the actions of the player matter. Sure, sending a water caravan to your Vault might buy you some extra time now, but the game makes you understand in a concrete fashion that there are consequences for jeopardizing the location of the Vault. Your actions don’t only have an effect during the game, but they also help determine the fate for various people, organizations, and cultures at the end of the game. Without a doubt, Fallout creates a world that is easy to become engrossed with.

The release of Fallout garnered a lot of respect for Black Isle Studios, and it wasn't long before Interplay announced plans for a sequel. The division was also developing Planescape: Torment and helping with BioWare's original Baldur's Gate at the time, but many of the original Fallout team members were still able to contribute to the sequel. Unfortunately, not all of the key contributors stuck around to see it through. Producer Tim Cain, Art Director Leonard Boyarsky, and Lead Artist Jason Anderson all left during the sequel's development to form their own game development studio, Troika Games. The small exodus wasn't enough to halt development, though, and Fallout 2 eventually reached completion.


Fallout 2 (1998)

What is it about a product cycle that makes me want to cry? - Chris Avellone

Fallout 2 hit store shelves in late 1998, almost exactly one year after the original made its debut. The game takes place eight decades after the events of Fallout, though the wasteland isn't a whole lot more inviting than it was back then. After being cast out of Vault 13 at the end of the first game, the Vault Dweller eventually founded a small tribal village called Arroyo. When the game begins, you learn that the village is slowly withering away due to the cruel conditions of the wasteland. As a direct descendent of the Vault Dweller, you’re given the task to recover a Garden of Eden Creation Kit (G.E.C.K.), a device you’re told will help the village restore the land to its pre-nuclear war state.

Finding the G.E.C.K. is no easy task, as Fallout 2 is much bigger than its predecessor. The sheer size and scope of the wasteland is staggering, and there are far more side quests for the player to tackle. Because there is so much to do, players will often times find themselves getting sidetracked from the main quest. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though, as finding any sort of significant clue about the whereabouts (or even existence) of a G.E.C.K. requires the player to heavily explore the landscape. Fortunately, the player won't find themselves trying to fight the clock so much in Fallout 2, as was the case in the original game. While the sequel does have a time limit of twelve game years, players should find that amount more than adequate to explore the map several times over.