In light of this week’s news, let’s look at where it all began. (It actually began elsewhere, but that’s another story.)
The original Fallout was something of a godsend to me. By 1997 the style of RPG I enjoyed was passé. Doom and Warcraft had changed the landscape of PC games so that nearly everything was either a first-person shooter or a real-time strategy game, two genres I had no interest in. While I enjoyed Diablo, it was an action game, not really an RPG. I couldn’t seem to find the kinds of games I liked anymore.
Then Fallout appeared, and it was amazing. Not only was it exactly the sort of thing I liked, it was even in a setting that, at the time, was somewhat fresh and new. It was a post-apocalyptic setting, but even that had a new spin, as its world had a retro-futuristic angle to it. The world that bombs had been dropped onto was a 1950s-envisioned world of the future, and it was amazing. And it was for real roleplaying (it had started its life based around GURPS, but then had veered onto its own path). What’s more, Fallout can be completed without a final “boss battle”, which gave me (false) hope that maybe this type of ending would make a comeback.
Fallout was also innovative in other ways. Your intelligence stat could affect what your dialogue options were. It had traits and perks that allowed you to customize your character beyond the usual. The writing was superb and the world was well thought out and presented.
I absolutely adored Fallout. It was everything I wanted in a videogame. When Fallout 2 appeared the next year, I was thrilled. It changed little about the original game, being mostly more of the same, but that was fine with me, since I had no complaints about the original.
These two games spurred a renaissance in RPGs that favored the style of the American games I had cut my teeth on rather than the growing influence of the Japanese console model. It seemed like the drought was coming to an end, and it did, for a while. This development team would go on to do the Baldur’s Gate series, as well as a few other games I’ll be talking about.
Long time readers of my site may remember “Ground Zero”, a pencil-and-paper RPG I was supposedly creating that was based on the Fallout universe, despite someone already having done that. Such was my devotion to this world, though not sufficient enough to actually, like, complete the project.
My devotion also extended to the fact that when, in 2001, the third Fallout game wasn’t Fallout 3 but instead Fallout Tactics, a pure combat game, I rolled with it. It wasn’t generally my thing, but I played it and enjoyed it, assuming the third game was right around the corner. Despite not really being an RPG and not really giving me what I wanted, it was still a fun, well-polished game firmly set in that same world. Fallout 3 wouldn’t show up until seven years later, and even more than that for me.