In a word: disappointing.
Sorry, to be the one to bear the bad news, but a lot of people seemingly ignore some glaringly obvious faults in Fallout 2 that deserve more than just casual attention. But I’ll get to that later. First, the positive sides to Fallout 2:
- Same engine as the original . Good thing since it was a good engine, but I wish it hadn’t taken them another 3 years (when Brotherhood of Steel came out) to move it to 16-bits. The dithering and lack of colour depth are more obvious in this game than the first, probably due to the more diverse landscapes.
- Massively larger game world than in Fallout, with about 5 times as many places to visit and 10 times as many things to do in each place. This is the major reason people like Fallout 2 more than the original (you can probably see this in the other reviews), however it is most likely the reason for one of Fallout 2’s major downfalls (more about this later).
- Speaking of which, the landscape is far more diverse in Fallout 2 than it is in Fallout. Here you have both Fallout’s vaults, caves and primitive cities (although I miss the Necropolis) and Fallout 2’s landmarks, such as a post-nuclear Vegas-esque New Reno, a relatively new city (San-Francisco rebuilt), the futuristic Vault City, the Ghost Farm – in short, much more to explore and be impressed by.
- The music is in the same vein as in Fallout; that is, it’s very good – but there’s not much of it. More on that later.
- Many, many obscure allusions to obscure books and films and such – more so than in Fallout, so there’s more to laugh about (my personal favorites are the “Dragon-Lo Pan” and the robot in the canyon).
- Still, despite its flaws, the game is fun to play and can keep you glued for hours. Just don’t expect the kind of satisfaction from it you got from Fallout.
Unfortunately, Fallout 2 has a great deal more problems than its predecessor. There are obvious problems in this game, and I attribute most of them to the fact that Brian Fargo is sorely missing from the game team.
- I’ll start with the bugs. Other have said this before, both about Fallout 1 and Fallout 2. I’ve been lucky enough to play these games 2 or 3 years after they came out (and so patched to the latest version), but still experienced dozens of bugs – minor and major alike – with my UK version of the game. First of all the game is ridiculously prone to crashes and hangs. I had to restart it anywhere from 2 to 10 times per session. It is particularly annoying in the middle of a successful combat where I rarely save. A far worse problem was not being able to save during the final combat with Horrigan – whenever I tried to load, the game gave me a “Save Game Corrupt” message or some-such.
- Seems the team still hasn’t shaken off the tendency to build on “go there, get me this, do that” missions – why is it that none of the characters in the Fallout world are capable of doing things on their own? What’s the deal with Eric not being able to go fix his electricity problem, or the guys from Vault City not being able to take care of their raider/ghost problem? Or, for that matter, the NCR taking care of the squatters on their own? How come everyone is so damn incompetent in the future?
- The dialogue in Fallout 2 varies widely in its consistency, it’s validity and most importantly, its level. It’s most obvious when some of the dialogue options link to other sections of the dialogue tree in a way that’s just not correct (somewhat evident in the dialogue with Marcus but more obvious elsewhere). This also means that in some cases (for example, talking to the vice president) you can say something like “I’m going to kill you”, then get away with it because you’re linked to an earlier section of the tree which allows you to exit the conversation without combat. Worse still, some of the dialogues are actually poorly written (can’t think of an example off the top of my head, but there are too many out there).
- Some of the side-quests in this game are a result of very poor design decisions. One of them is the ghost a fellow reviewer mentioned; another is the “intelligent scorpion” you can’t really do anything with other than piss off. There are also the aliens scattered about the game (along with the Wanamingos that are ridiculously powerful), the bizarre business with Melchior (what’s up with “summoning up” Deathclaws? This is supposed to be a futuristic game), and dozens of other assignments that are less than inspired. (Get me this, get me that – get me 10 Cat’s Paws magazines?!)
- Last but not least, there are some extremely lame design faults in this game; the worst one being the Enclave doctor at the end. He’s been working on his modification of the FEV for what, thirty years now? And all it takes to change his mind is one mutie and an entire minute of thought? And even if we ignore that, what’s up with all of the Enclave (including their non-armoured president and vice-president) being immune to the FEV, particularly when the president tells you they have not been inoculated as of yet (another design mistake of biblical proportions, might as well tell you “go release the virus”?)
- The end part is one of the worst I’ve ever encountered in a game. First off, there’s no way to avoid fighting your way past Horrigan; no matter what you do, you’re going to need a ridiculous amount to hit points and stimpacks to get past him (just ask Tony Van). Despite a Sex Appeal perk and high (over 70%, can’t remember exactly) speech skill, I still couldn’t convince the Enclave guards to join up with me, and because of my character’s relative ineptitude in combat, I couldn’t handle the guards and therefore had no way to get the president’s access card. In short, there was no way to get past Horrigan. I had to, for the first time in my life, use a character editor to finish a game. Classic design problem.
- Minor issues: While the music in Fallout 2 is very good, there’s very little of it. In fact, a vast majority of the game is played with no background music (which becomes very annoying during long dialogue sequences).
The Bottom Line
A game with much promise, much potential - and unfortunately, many problems.