Posted by Eric “Guildwriter” Paik at 7:00 pm on 06.23.2006 (7 years ago)
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.
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.
There is more than one way to gut a cat, and in Wasteland, the developers made sure to have as many options open to players as possible. Lock picking wasn’t the only way to open a door - brute strength or a melee weapon were options as well. And if all else fails, there always was my favorite (albeit expensive) solution to every problem: explosives. Furthermore, the storyline itself was fairly non-linear. As soon as the player has formed their first party, they are sent out into the wasteland with little guidance of what to do. Wandering into a dangerous monster that is more then your party can handle is an imminent threat from the beginning. This didn't stop gamers from wandering the dizzyingly large wasteland region of the American Southwest, though. With a truckload of side quests and a mammoth main quest, it is a game that players can get happily lost in.
After Wasteland was completed, the team behind the game split up and went their separate ways. Considering the massive success of the RPG (it was one of the best-selling games of its time), one would have expected to see a sequel. Unfortunately, there has yet to be a true sequel to Wasteland. Instead, Electronic Arts chose to produce Fountain of Dreams.
Fountain of Dreams (1990)
Fountain of Dreams was released in 1990 by Electronic Arts for the IBM compatible, though it didn't achieve nearly as much attention as Wasteland.
The story takes place in a post-nuclear Florida, which has since been separated from the rest of the United States due to heavy bombardment. The island of Florida is plagued by many hazards, including mutated animals, raiders, crime families, and the Killer Clowns - group of former clowns who have taken their slapstick violence and turned it into the deadly martial art of Slap-Fu. When the game begins, things have started to worsen for Florida. Not only are dangerous creatures venturing farther into settled areas, but the people themselves are starting to mutate. What makes the latter even more alarming is that Dream Water, the only known substance that slows mutation, has become much more scarce. This has lead to unsubstantiated stories of a legendary Fountain of Youth, which is said to contain water that can cure any ailment, including mutations. You and your companions have decided to go look for the fountain in hopes to solve the problems engulfing the island of Florida.
Fountain of Dreams is considered an “unofficial” sequel to Wasteland, but many fans feel that it didn't live up to the standards they had come to expect from Wasteland. After experiencing the writing and depth of Wasteland, many players were unhappy with the shorter and smaller game. Those players who wish to try Fountain of Dreams should be warned that the beginning is very unforgiving. Expect to die over and over.
Think Fallout is around the corner? Guess again reader! We still have one more entry.
Meantime was to be another RPG made with the Wasteland engine, but unlike Fountain of Dreams it barely saw daylight before the plug was pulled. Based on the small amount of information available about the game, the storyline was intended to take the player through time where they would interact with certain historical figures (including the likes of Amelia Earhardt and Albert Einstein). Unfortunately, Meantime met its fate just before reaching beta due to the collapse of the 8-bit video game market. Various attempts were made to resurrect it, but eventually the game was abandoned altogether.
Readers may be curious as to why there was never a true sequel to Wasteland. Many variables attributed to the lack of a sequel, but it's interesting to note that Brian Fargo, former Interplay CEO and founder of InXile Entertainment, acquired the rights to Wasteland back in 2003. It is anyone’s guess if and when a sequel might yet be developed. Even if fans never get the chance to experience a true Wasteland sequel, there will always be one series of role-playing games that fills the gap quite nicely.