This 1001 list is full of memories, but the memory I have for Fallout is one where I was watching a friend play, and while it looked pretty good, I kinda wished I was playing something else instead. On a console, where games were meant to be played.
Fast forward ten or so years and I'm playing my first Fallout title, Fallout 3, or as many of us knew it, Oblivion With Guns. Bar the annoying bugs and freezes on the PlayStation 3, I enjoyed my time in the wasteland, as well as wherever the DLC would take me, and would go on to play Fallout: New Vegas too, enjoying it even more.
Add another decade and I'm sat here, having skipped over Fallout 4 entirely, ready to play the original Fallout and looking forward to it. How soon will I fall, like the nuclear bombs of the past?
After a grim opening video to set the scene, I'm dumped into a character selection window to get the game going, and already this is everything I imagined it to be. I've seen a fair bit of both of the not-quite-isometric Fallout titles, and credit should be given to the Fallout 3 developers for capturing the look and feel of the original game.
I'm not here to play Fallout 3, however - not yet at least - and I'm not here to play as Mr Stone there, but as a character of my own.
Your character is comprised of stats, skills, traits and, as you level up, perks which push you towards whatever play style takes your fancy. Heavy and hard-hitting, agile and accurate or even smooth and slick-talking, you can customise yourself throughout your journey outside Vault 13, with everything described by the now iconic Vault Boy, before he even had a name.
Armed with essential traits like Bloody Mess, I began my adventure into the great outdoors.
We've been tasked with saving Vault 13, the only place we've ever known, and have a perhaps generous five months in which to do it. It needs replacement parts, but only one of us should risk venturing outside the safety of the vault in order to find them, though it seems I wasn't the first...
Thus begins Fallout. A dark cave, a skeleton and an awful lot of rats. This small and relatively safe area allows you to get some much-needed combat experience and offers you plenty of time to get used to the controls.
Everything is driven by the mouse. Point where you want to move, right click to cycle through various interaction options, from moving to talking and picking objects up, to targetting rats and other nasties, depending on whether you are in or out of combat.
While in combat (which begins with the (now) familiar VATS targetting sound effect as your HUD hisses and slides around), every action you take will cost a certain number of action points. This includes the obvious, like moving and making attacks, but also the not so obvious, like opening up your inventory.
It makes thematic sense to have your actions limited by diving into your backpack or whathaveyou, but it's better to find that out when faced with a rat bite, rather than a radscorpion sting. End your turn when you can't do any more actions, wait for any enemies to take their turn, repeat until one side is victorious.
Having my fill of rats, I left to see the sun for the first time in my life, and suddenly Fallout got a lot better. Luckily, I knew that my objective was towards Vault 15, and so you're prompted into heading that way from the start. You don't have to follow those hints, but with a time limit on your task, you might as well - even with the day one patch that upped the time limit from 5 months to 13 years.
After a random encounter with yet more rats, I found myself in Shady Sands, a settlement right in the middle of my route (funny, that...), full of friendly faces to interact with. It's here where you can learn more about the world, try your hand at bartering for goods and even pick up companions to follow you on your journey - for the right price.
The townspeople aren't important and only offer text advice. Those with names stand a better chance at having full dialogue options, and if you're really important, you get a CGI head and a voice talent to go along with it.
Seeing these, I'm reminded of how the world of Fallout 3 stops and zooms into someones face until you're done talking. It's nowhere near as seamless here but feels much more personal. Characters are full of details, the background gives more of an idea of what the world wants to look like and the HUD and general interface are like nothing else out there. They might not be great to navigate at times, but they look lovely.
After making my way to Vault 15 (yeah, already), shooting a radscoprion in the brain, forgetting the rope needed to descend into the cave, going back for the rope and then going back to Vault 15, Fallout started to slow up a little.
Despite finding a sweet leather jacket and slashing a bunch more rats to bits, controlling Fallout was getting more and more of a pain. I was aware of its issues and was prompted to get Fallout Fixt installed a be done with it, a mod (or collection thereof) whose intent is to first fix Fallout, and then add a load more options and content for players to play around with.
Sticking to the purist options, I was trying to play Fallout in a manner as close to the original as I'd like, but all I was noticing at this stage of the game was that I was in and out of combat every other minute.
I'd move, a rat would see me, combat would start, the rat would move closer to me, run out of action points before it could attack, I'd get two or three chances to stab it to the point of it exploding (thanks, Bloody Mess), before ending combat and walking a few hexes down the corridor into another rat.
Had I been able to see these rats more clearly, I might not have complained too much. You'd have thought that making every enemy glow red through the walls would have clued me into how many rats there were, but no, they kept leaping out of the shadows.
They were easy enough to deal with, but it was rat after rat, into and out of combat - I didn't feel like I was getting anywhere.
In random encounters, you can simply run to the edge of the screen to get away - very bloody handy when faced with a family of radscorpions when you're level one - but in the middle of a physical place like Vault 15, you don't have that luxury.
After defeating everything that moved, I didn't even find what I was looking for. I don't know where to look, truth be told, but I'm sure it'll come to me sooner or later - or the inhabitants of Vault 13 will die of thirst. Whatever. I headed back to Shady Sands.
Further Fun Times
Before I could get there, Raiders struck. It was myself and three armed guards versus six raiders. I took two of them out with a grenade before the others were shot by guards or stabbed by yours truly, who, incidentally, is named 'None' owing to the fact that I failed to find the character naming section at the start of the game. I see it now, don't worry...
Looting the corpses for goods to trade later on, I took this encounter to be a sign that Fallout was indeed as good as I'd hoped, and I'd basically seen nothing of it. Nothing but rats. Looooots of rats.
By this point, I had been playing for a while and frankly had no idea what I needed to do. I'd been given a quest to clear out a cave of radscorpions, but I then lost that cave - I didn't want to do it before saving Vault 13, you see, and haven't found it on the map since.
I've got stuff to sell and hopefully companions to hire, however, and with them will come stories that will hopefully live long in the memory - the good memory, not the bad.
Fallout has its problems - hence Fallout Fixt - and those problems can get in the way of the fun sometimes. Controlling it all hasn't quite become streamlined, though it's simple enough for me to work out the gist of it. The funny AI can mean turning a friendly town into your mortal enemy because you accidentally shot a civilian, so that's not too good. It's recommended that you save, save often, and save in different slots. Much like Fallout 3...
I'm going to fire up Fallout again, for sure. I'll have a read of the manual and some other guides first, but I will return to the wasteland to see how far I actually get before succumbing to its dangers.
For fans of the later games, going back to the originals is eye-opening both in terms of how far games have come and in how much the developers tried to keep the spirit of Fallout alive. They might not have fully succeeded, but they succeeded enough for me right now. Time will tell when we get around to blogging about Fallout 3, I suppose...
There are quite a few interesting facts and stories about the development of Fallout, but the one that amuses me the most is in their efforts to get players to play on Windows 95. In order to get Windows 95 branding on the box, Fallout had to fail on Windows NT. It ran perfectly fine on Windows NT, and so no branding for Windows 95 was allowed.
Desperate to get that branding, Interplay rewrote the installer to detect if the user was running Windows NT, and if they were, the installer itself would fail. Problem solved, branding given, success assured. The game itself still ran on Windows NT, should anyone have been persistent enough in finding out...
Fallout, developed by Interplay Productions, first released in 1997.
Version played: PC, 1997.