Beware of Faryen! The meanest dyke in the wastes!!
Ready for another trip through the wastes? Fallout 2 is the sequel to the critically acclaimed rpg that spearheaded the rpg revolution almost ten years ago (damn, time does fly!). With such a pedigree to live up to, you would expect the sequel to fall somewhat short of expectations, however it manages to be just as good as the original and even surpasses it on many accounts.
Basically what you have here is a good ol' case of "more of the same"-itis, but perhaps for the first time in history taken seriously. With the basic art, engine, interface and gameplay mechanics already developed for the original, the developers used the tools at hand to expand the Fallout universe to gargantuan proportions and devoted their dev. time to populate the game with even more locations, quests, characters and features to toy around with. The story is completely original and works as a retelling of the original with different
elements. You are a descendant from the original "Vault Dweller" who lived happily in the rustic village he had erected decades ago, but as luck would have it, the village is in peril and you are selected to go out and find the key for it's salvation. Along the way you'll encounter another plot that threatens the post-apocalyptic world and you'll have to face it head-on once again with whatever allies you
can find in the wastes. Perhaps more inspired at times than the original, the story works wonders to immerse you in the post-nuclear world of Fallout once again, but the real star of this sequel is the world itself, with much more in the way of places to go, stuff to do and people to meet.
Roughly 5-10 times larger than the original, the new gameworld features much more varied locations, that not only include the same junkyards and ghost towns of the original but also newly developed civilized outposts like NCR and Vault City, plus equally urbane (but not so much "civilized") locations like the sinful New Reno. The people you meet this time around quite frankly struck me as much more interesting folks than in the original, giving me the sense that the developers had a much looser leash as to what they could and couldn't put in the game. Variety is the word of the day, and each location plays host to a particular group of people with distinct problems and issues. You can encounter for instance, a group of Vault Dwellers so accustomed to living underground that they built their own
underground city, an elitist community that aims to be the guiding force in the wastes, a San Francisco overrun by the descendants of the crew of a Chinese submarine (which turn the an entire sequence of the game into an "Enter the Dragon"-like quest), fanatical zealots, aliens and even good mutants that coexist peacefully with their human counterparts in a seemingly peaceful city (but why does everyone talk in hushed tones...?hmmm?). The world of Fallout 2 is not only larger, but much more interesting to explore than the original, with much
more imagination and detail poured into it so as to make it a much more interesting gameplay experience for one to get lost into. Now, some people complained that the new quests and situations just went too far when it came to stretching the believability of the game universe, with the most prominent example quoted being the seemingly "heaten" "ghost quest" where you come face to face with a deceased spirit. I have a lot of things I would like to say to the shitbrains that like to pick on small details like this as a way to dismiss the game, but I'd rather just write that I loved this kind of stuff as they added a lot of variety to the game and kept you exploring every nook and cranny of the gameworld to see if you could unearth another mini-Twilight Zone episode, or another ghost story, or gangster drama, or genetic experiment or whatever. And besides the post-apocalyptic wastes of Fallout are no less post-apocalyptic because of their existence. So quit it already, will ya?
As for game mechanics and features the game increases the possibilities for evil characters to do their stuff and has plenty of exclusive quests and subplots to tackle should you decide to be a bad mofo instead of the saviour of the wastes. The sequel also makes a few swift changes in what concerns it's horribly developed party management features, allowing you to select each member's basic strategy, equipment and drug/healthpack usage. Trading with them is also much less of a hassle, but when you find the car you won't be needing to share so much of the loot with them as you go. What's that? Oh, didn't I mention that? Now you have a vintage 50's car available to use (fueled by handy atomic cells) that makes your treks along the wastes much speedier and doubles as a safebox to store stuff in. Now THAT is what I call a cool addition.
And speaking of cool additions Fallout 2 is the first game that introduced sex as a major game feature. Yes, this was also in the original, but now it's MUCH more developed. For starters your gender opens up loads of possibilities and paths exclusive to each one. Make no mistake girls: Fallout 2 takes place in the misogynistic wastes of the future, so this isn't an "equal opportunity" place, where
females are often mistreated, discriminated and abused. On the other hand females can seduce their way through places you just can't get through as a man, prostitute themselves for some extra cash, become pornstars, and other assorted extras that use sex as another fully functional gameplay feature. As advertised you can get married and pimp your spouse for cash (What other game you know that lets you do THAT??), get divorced, etc. and even homosexuality is thrown into the mix (the girl-girl shotgun marriage has some of the funniest dialogue ever!). Some "holier-than-thou" types out there seem to think the use of such features under such a misogynistic context is nothing but pure immaturity, yet I love the fact that Fallout 2 is the only game to date that has allowed me to play as an evil,
fast-talking, slutty lesbian! And you can chalk that up to whatever adolescent fantasy you want to, but if that isn't roleplaying then I don't know what roleplaying is! (besides you can always play the game as a straight, goody-two-shoes, SWM if you want to, or you can play it as a dumb-as-a-doorknob character with everyone properly reacting to your stats as such ["You are our saviour? May the gods help us!!" :D], or etc. etc. etc. Such is Fallout 2's genius).
The original release is reeeeeeal buggy, almost Ultima IX-class buggy, but subsequent patches make the game adequately playable (if still slightly buggy).
Furthermore, the AI and gameplay system while improved is still prone to some fuckups (allies still do retarded stuff and god help you whenever Marcus takes out his mini-gun or a rocket launcher).
Besides that there's the issue that the game uses exactly the same engine, art, music and sfx than the original (with additions of course) which is something somewhat... hmm.... tiring?
Anyway, there also seems to be a few forced situations and loose ends when you try to assemble the full continuity in the game's many sidequests and plotlines. I haven't a major problem with this as I understand it's a major issue to create a cohesive plot in a major gameworld like this and have it properly respond to every situation taking into account if you are male/female, good/bad, smart/stupid, etc... (and Fallout 2's achievement is astounding).
However, some of our more anal retentive counterparts seem to be making an issue out of it. So what the heck, right?
The Bottom Line
Take the "bottom line" of any Fallout 1 review and to that add it more of the same. But not just "more", better, more imaginative and interesting. Another masterpiece of deep yet enjoyable mature gaming with the most successful use of sex and gender as an game feature.
Required gaming for people with brains.