Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Waiting for Fallout

Fallout.
If you have never heard of this series or played any of its games, do so now. No, I’m not kidding, do it now. Stop reading this and go search online for it. A full version of the first game of the series, “Fallout”, is free to play on Gametap, and free to download at Fileradar. Here you go, here’s the link.
http://www.gametap.com/play/gameDetails/000587850
Now play it and then come back to read this afterward. Go! Go now!!


Ok, now just to recap incase any of you can’t remember much about the series or you’ve still never played it and are ignoring my instructions from above (I know who you are and I will come for you), I’ll give a quick summery of the series.

The first two Fallout games (Fallout 1 and Fallout 2) were PC based role-playing games, that used a turn based combat system and took place in a post-apocalyptic California. In short, there was a war with China, nukes and biological weapons were unleashed, some people hid in giant underground fallout shelters called vaults, and 80 years later (when the first game takes place) the world sucks worse than Oklahoma during the dust bowl. At least Oklahoma didn’t have radioactive zombies, cannibalistic mutants armed with miniguns and missile launchers, and manmade superviruses that turned you inside out. Though, that would have made “The Grapes of Wrath” a lot more interesting.

Now the story alone wasn’t what made the series great. Sure it was a great one, but what really set these games apart was the atmosphere that the games’ developers managed to create.
The world is a dark, horrifying place where giant scorpions and other mutated monstrosities eat children in the night while gangs of raiders kill and enslave what’s left of humanity. Throw in sinister cults, zombie like human mutants pissed off about their existence, rogue killer robots, and gratuitous violence and you’re almost there. Finally slap on a strangely campy 1950’s sci-fi feel combined with a rather dark sense of humor and you’ve got Fallout. Oh, and there’s also a dog.

In the games you could be a beacon of hope, killing the bandits, saving babies from giant scorpions and generally bringing light and civilization to the wasteland while saving the remnants of humanity from extinction. Or you could systematically kill every living thing in the game, depopulating California of anything more intelligent than a rat. It was up to you. You could even beat the game without firing a single shot, eventually arguing the main boss into abandoning his quest and committing suicide. My favorite example of how rich the game was with choices is a side quest in Fallout 1. By sleeping in a shoddy inn, you’re awoken by another patron threatening to murder a prostitute, and it falls to you to talk him out of it. Depending on how high your character’s skill at speaking was you could talk the guy out of it and into leaving peacefully, convince him to just hurt her a little instead of killing her, make him so angry he tries to kill you instead of her, let him just kill her and leave you out of it, or you could just shoot him in the head before he could do anything. And whatever you did would influence how other people treated you for the rest of the game.

There were a lot of other little things that made the series great, but in short, it all came together, Fallout 1 and 2 won some awards, and are now considered to be some of the greatest RPG video games ever made.


There were two games that followed, Fallout: Tactics (Which consisted of only the combat system from the previous 2 games, and abandoned everything that made the series great. Imagine a Final Fantasy game where all you did was go from one fight to another with nothing in between…wait a minute…), and Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel (released only for the X-Box and generally considered to be so bad that it made “ET’ for the NES look like a decent game). Together, these games almost killed the series.

Now in April of ’07, Bethesda Softworks bought the Fallout IP from Interplay, who at the time was plummeting towards eventual bankruptcy. Bethesda would eventually announce that they were going to produce Fallout 3 and that it would use the same engine as their hit “Oblivion”. What followed was a quickly growing list of ways they were going to change the series in their new game, from core gameplay elements to stylistic changes to major changes to the established setting. Though they are bringing back the dog. As this continued, they began loosing much of the support and interest of the original Fallout fan base. The situation was made worse by Bethesda’s open disregard for the opinions of their fans and draconian procedures on the Fallout 3 forums. Based on the comments of the game’s developers in interviews the feeling is that they are approaching Fallout 3 with an attitude of “we’re making the game we want, not what the fans want.”
If you’d like an example of this, post on the Fallout 3 forum about anything slightly critical about the changes being made to the series and see how long it takes for the thread to be locked.
http://www.bethsoft.com/bgsforums/index.php?&showforum=33

With Fallout 3 coming out only a month from now, many are anxious to see how the game does. At it’s best, it’s being called the greatest game to bless creation (a title bestowed upon apparently every game to come out in the last 12 years), and at it’s worst it’s being called an abomination onto the lord for which Bethesda should be stricken with a pox. The middle ground seems to describe it as little more than Oblivion with guns, or as a Fallout themed mod for Oblivion. How it does we’ll see, but it remains difficult to be optimistic at this time.

From the look of it, the PS3 version won’t be getting the planned DLC that the PC and 360 versions will be getting. When Bethesda originally release both Morrowind and Oblivion (their last two major releases), they provided a version of the developer toolkit used to create the games. This made modding pretty easy and spawned an enormous modding community for both games that is still going strong. As a result, it was assumed that Fallout 3 would have a construction set released for it as well. However, regarding this the game’s developers have so far been somewhat vague and iffy regarding the possible release of a construction set.

Finally, when Bethesda bought the Fallout IP, Interplay retained the rights to create a MMORPG based on the Fallout games (think Everquest or World of Warcraft). It was recently revealed that following their bankruptcy and rebuilding efforts they’ve recently hired on one of the lead designers from the Fallout games to work as lead designer on something called “Project V13” which is a reference to the Fallout games. So it would seem that a Fallout MMORPG is in the works as well.

What remains to be seen is if Bethesda can pull of a successful sequel to a game series they didn’t create or if Fallout 3 will be but another lame sequel to what was a great series.

If you’re interested in this series I’d suggest going to No Mutants Allowed. It’s a fan site that provides some of the best and most up-to-date news and info on the series. Additionally, it’s had a very antagonistic relationship with Bethesda, mainly due to the fact that they initially failed to speak of the game with anything but a glowing optimism.

42 comments:

Richard R. said...

Great job at showing the history of Fallout. I didn't know there was so much crap behind this series.

And going from battle to battle in a final fantasy game? Ya, that worked VERY well. Final Fanatsy Tactics is one of my favorite Final Fantasy games ever. FFTA ruined it. Damn you Square Enix! You ruin everything you touch!

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