Ever since I played Fallout 3 for the first time back in 2007, I've been an avid fan of the critically acclaimed role-playing game (RPG) franchise. The amount of play time I've invested between Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and Fallout 4 is staggering, and despite the issues that I have with these games overall, they remain some of my favorite games ever made. Recently, though, I decided to go back and play the original two Fallout games — Fallout and Fallout 2, released in 1997 and 1998, respectively.
As a millennial born in 1998 myself, I wasn't into video games at the time these two were in the spotlight. However, as an adult now, I wanted to experience these groundbreaking titles firsthand and see how they spawned a franchise. What I found is that their design philosophies hold up to this day.
Zero hand-holding whatsoever
What strikes me the most about Fallout 1 and 2 is the way that they give you minimal guidance for completing quests and other activities. Aside from being given your objective by NPCs, it's completely up to you and you alone to explore the wasteland and search for the information that you need in order to head in the right direction. Where many modern RPGs will simply show you where to go with an arrow, the original Fallout games force you to get involved with the world and find the answers yourself.
There are definitely some things that could have been better — for example, you don't get a quest journal to help review your objective or what you've learned about it so far — but overall, this approach to RPG design makes the experience very immersive. Instead of treating you like you can't figure things out, the developers decided to give you the power of complete independence.
Choices matter, but you aren't special
In the original Fallout games, you essentially tell the story yourself by making impactful choices. Things such as who you kill, what you say, and who you help will have a major effect on the world. That being said, though, the games don't always make you come out on top. Instead, you can and will lose the game if you don't play intelligently. Let yourself get captured by super mutants, for example, and you'll be tortured until you give up the location of your Vault and the people within.
This balance of letting you have an effect on your surroundings without controlling them makes the post-nuclear wasteland feel, ironically, full of character and life. It resembles an actual real-world setting where every individual, NPC or player character, has the potential to change things. Again, this is something many modern games fail to achieve, so the fact that developer Interplay managed to create this feeling twenty years ago is incredible.
Conclusion: Play these masterpieces
Between the excellent world-building, high immersion, and the fact that your choices matter, Fallout 1 and 2 are perfect examples of the RPG genre done right. Any modern computer can run them, too, so I highly recommend buying and playing both titles. I'm glad that I went back into the past to experience the roots of the Fallout franchise, and I know you will be, too.
Fallout 1 and 2 are available on GOG and Steam for $9.99 each. Make sure to also check out our complete guide to the upcoming Fallout 76.
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