Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Interplay Entertainment
Developer:Interplay Entertainment
Release Date:2004-01-13
Genre:
  • Action,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Top-Down
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel has been out for almost a week now and has received mixed reviews. Having just finished playing it myself, I must admit that it seems a strange basket for Interplay to have put all its eggs into. I feel like I want to recommend the game, but I'm not quite sure to whom.

Probably the best way to judge whether you will enjoy BOS is to ask yourself how much you enjoyed Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. The feel of the two games is very similar, although F:BOS made great improvements on the Dark Alliance engine, in my opinion. In BOS, you can use height to your advantage, meaning you can jump onto barrels to stay safely out of the range of enemies equipped with melee weapons while you pick them off with ranged weapons. Also, you won't become encumbered by the loot you gather, which relieves you of the tedious chore of schlepping back to the local merchant to sell your wares.

Does the lack of encumbrance hurt the realism of the game? Yes. Does it help gameplay? Immensely. And here's where the die-hard CRPG fans bow out. On almost every decision between realism and gameplay, the developers came down on the side of gameplay. Such is the world of console gaming.

So, you have to decide if you are a "glass half full" role-playing gamer. If you are, then you can really enjoy this game for what it is, an action game that gives you some control of how your character develops over the course of the game. There are a bunch of skills that you can use to tweak you character, but you'll mostly want to use them to make him or her more effective at giving beat-downs. If you are dead against the trend of genre blending in today's games (or feel that the release of this title was the final nail in Fallout 3's coffin), stick with the PC versions of Fallout.

From what I've seen, many Fallout fans have decided to do just that. But I consider myself a fan of the original games (and of CRPGs in general) and I really enjoyed BOS. It's kind of like the Phantom Menace of the Fallout franchise (the Raider Matron gets my vote as the Jar-Jar Binks of BOS). BOS looks the same, and sometimes feels the same, but it's definitely a step down from the quality and scope of the original source.

Which isn't to say that it's not fun. My only major gripe as far as adherence to the original titles is that there were no geckos to hunt. You may recall from my optimistic preview that I was willing to give Interplay slack on a lot of things for the chance to blow away some radioactive geckos in real time. Aside from the absence of geckos, you get to take on radscorpions, ghouls, mutants, huge rats, raiders, and most of the other enemies from the original Fallout titles.

The missions are similar to a few that you may have taken on in the original Fallout RPGs. For instance, you get to deliver a mail bomb, fight in gladiatorial combat, and retrieve a hooker's dead cat. You almost always have the option to spew vitriol on the people you converse with and sometimes doing so will get you discounts from merchants. Just a warning - swearing is prevalent throughout the game, so those who are bothered by it need not apply.

The design of the levels is pretty good, and is a definite step up from Dark Alliance. Even when a level is linear, there are plenty of out-of-the-way side areas to comb for loot. There are some key and switch hunts, but there weren't very many places where I had to hunt too hard for a key or wander around trying to figure out what to do next. Nor did I feel like the monsters on each level were only there to give me more experience points (as I often did in Dark Alliance).

I played BOS on an Xbox, so the graphics were very good. The Fallout environment is a big part of the franchise's popularity and BOS lives up to its predecessors in graphic atmosphere. It falls short in the area of sound if you aren't a fan of thrash metal, and the absence of music on many levels is either a curse or a blessing for the same reason. The song that plays over the main menu is pleasantly reminiscent of the earlier RPGs, but is definitely more tongue in cheek.

While BOS lacks the coolness factor of having a Tony Shaloub or Richard Dean Anderson, the voice acting is pretty good in parts, though pretty bad in others. A couple of the voice actors from the children's program Clifford, the Big Red Dog (I have a toddler) turn out to do something for the grownups and Dean Wormer himself (John Vernon) lends his voice to Rhombus and one of the ghouls.

As far as lasting value goes, it took me about seventeen hours to get through the whole thing on normal mode (and I was writing a walkthrough at the same time), so you may just want to rent it. There are three extra characters that you can unlock when you beat the game (or by doing certain things within it I'm not sure just yet), and one of them is the Vaultdweller of the original Fallout game. There is also the option to play in two-player co-op mode with a friend and there are a couple of areas you can only access if you play this way. None of these options really knocked me over, but I felt like the gameplay was enough to get me to go back through at least a couple more times.

All in all, there is much evidence the the team did what they could to translate the Fallout universe into a console action title without sacrificing too much of its flavor. The result is a game that's enjoyable to play, especially if you like fast-paced action RPGs, but need a change from the world of sword and sorcery. It's foul-mouthed, violent, and testosterone driven, even when you're playing the girl.

The bottom line? It's not Fallout 3, but I suppose it'll do for now.