Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel Preview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Interplay Entertainment
Developer:Interplay Entertainment
Release Date:2004-01-13
  • Action,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Top-Down
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Black Isle Studios is no more, and with it goes the hopes and dreams of many RPGers for a new Fallout title that capitalizes on the graphical and auditory power of today's gaming PCs. Before all you Vault Dwellers pull out your black armbands, however, be advised that Interplay is not giving up on the Fallout franchise just yet. Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, a new console action adventure game with RPG elements, is projected to ship on January 13th.

Now, I know that you're probably upset that FBOS isn't a straight-up RPG with more perks and skills than you can shake an iguana-on-a-stick at, but look at what FBOS has to offer before you bemoan its existence. Yes, FBOS is primarily a third person shooter, but the action takes in the familiar apocalyptic retro future that sold the Fallout experience to most of us in the first place. You won't be able to create your own unique character, but you'll be able to customize at least six playable characters (officially there are three characters you can play as initially and three you can unlock later). True, character development will be completely skill based and consist primarily of unlocking the unique abilities of your character of choice, but that may not matter so much when you get in the trenches and start blowing up rad scorpions and mutants.

Since FBOS uses the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance engine, the gameplay will be very familiar to fans of that series. The new setting did necessitate a greater emphasis on long range weapons and explosives (and even prompted the designers to add in the ability to duck), but early reports have indicated that the feel of the both games is very similar. You'll pick up armor in pieces, for instance, instead of finding whole suits lying around like you did in Fallout 1 and 2. Also, in a 2-player game, the death of one player will be handled as it is in BG:DA (the surviving player will have to get to a save point to respawn the other player).

Despite the similarities, Interplay assures gamers that they've taken steps to address the less enjoyable gameplay aspects of BG:DA for FBOS. Levels will be more plot driven, for example, instead of being monster depositories. In addition, some bonus levels will require two players to unlock, which is supposed to encourage selfish gamers to respawn their fallen buddies more often.

The development team seems to understand the intensity of devotion to the Fallout fanbase and is adamant that serious care was taken to ensure that FBOS remains true to the spirit of the original Fallout RPGs and that contradictory information has been avoided at all costs. That said, FBOS does take place at a later time than Fallout, so the developers wanted to give it a look that would reflect the evolution of the culture. This means there will still be a 50s influence to the aesthetic of the universe, but less so than in earlier games.

Looks aside, gamers can rest assured that the rest of the apocalypse survival ethos has been left intact. You can still go achieve your goals by helping people or helping only yourself, and early reports indicate that almost every conversation includes the option to cuss the conversant out. The game has been rated M, so you'll still get to enjoy all the swearing, ultraviolence, and adult themes you loved in the original RPGs.

It's too early to tell whether Fallout fans will accept the changes Interplay has made to the franchise, or whether its similarities to Dark Alliance will draw fans of that franchise into the Fallout universe. All early signs point, however, to a product that is likely to impress fans of third person shooters in general.

FBOS currently offers over 60 levels and an estimated 20-25 hours of gameplay. Incentives for replay include cooperative multi-player mode, unlockable content, and easter eggs. In addition, the action is set in a very rich and immersive environment that promises innovative quests and a depth of character development and NPC interaction not found in most games of its genre. So far, the only thing that FBOS lacks that third person shooter fans may want is 4-player competitive deathmatch mode, a deficiency that may be remedied in a future sequel.

Overall, FBOS looks like a promising game. Fans of the original Fallout RPGs may need to keep an open mind and come to grips with the high improbability of Fallout 3 to enjoy it, but most console gamers should find themselves drawn into its quirky universe. Likewise, fans of Dark Alliance may enjoy the familiarity of that game's engine, while finding the new retro-future setting a welcome diversion from the medieval dungeon delving of the D&D world. So get ready to ingest some Rad-Away and pull out your giger counter, '˜cause Gecko Season is just about to reopen.