Content of the article: "My thoughts on the classic Fallout games (Fallout 1 and 2)"
I played the first 2 Fallout games after having played all the newer ones years ago. I have some experience with older RPGs and can tolerate some clunkiness, so I thought I'd give them a go.
Fallout 1 is an excellent, self-contained D&D-like adventure that can be finished in a weekend. You start as a Vault dweller and need to get a water chip and later stop a mutant army. The combat hasn't aged too well IMHO, but it's passable for what it is and wasn't a big problem to me. Gear and weapon progression was handled quite nicely and the game is mostly linear in the locations you visit. RPG-wise, it's quite great, though the stat system is a bit unbalanced and some skills (Small Guns, Speech, Lockpick) are better than others which don't see that much use (Science for example). Some stats are way better than others (INT, AGI vs CH, EN).
I very much liked the different quests and towns, though they are not as fleshed out as in FO2. The setting and atmosphere is great and the game remains a nice, coherent experience throughout. Sure, it doesn't look that great these days, but Fallout 1 is a pretty consistent great experience and I can see why it got so much praise. Almost any quest offers a non-combat path. The game can be quite brutal, but I felt it was less hard than FO2. Would recommend to anyone who can stomach some jank.
Fallout 2 is much different in many ways, compared to Fallout 1. Combat and gameplay are much the same, though FO2 is much, much harder in the beginning, or at least it was for me. The RPG elements are also very similar to FO1, so I won't go into detail about them. For me, Fallout 2 is much more varied in its quality compared to Fallout 1; often, it far surpasses it, but sometimes, it's pretty bad. This begins with the infamous tutorial level, the Temple of Trials. This is a pain for anyone who isn't a melee character, as you only get a gun later after the tutorial. While it does a decent job introducing the mechanics, it's a slog and could easily put you off the game. But, the locations after the tutorial level get far better and are way more fleshed out than the ones in Fallout 1.
What I liked about Fallout 2 is that it showed all these towns which had different ways of governance and civilization and contrasted them against another. The game never really shied away from showing some very dark sides of humanity, with slavery and other dark themes being very common. You have the Den, which really feels like a scummy place, complete with gang warfare and slavery, compared to pastoral places like Klamath and Modoc. Later you get New Reno, which is like the Den, but worse, being ruled by four rivaling crime families and showing some gruesome stuff like slavery and human experimentation for drug production. Compared to that you get Vault City, which is an authoritarian, yet peaceful city devoid of joy and replete with "servants" (i.e. slaves). On the bright side, you get Gecko, Broken Hills and the NCR, showing that human/mutant flourishing is still possible after the apocalypse, even with problems.
However, not all is good here; the game constantly breaks the tone with stupid pop culture references and fourth-wall breaks and stupid jokes. This really ruined the atmosphere sometimes; like blowing up that toilet in Modoc. Why? Sure, it looked funny, but it was really kind of out of place.
In the endgame, you have San Francisco, Navarro and the Oil Rig and the antagonist, the Enclave, is introduced. I really liked sneaking into Navarro and generally thought the Enclave made a good villain. Their plan for the Wasteland turns out to be very genocidal and they can not be redeemed, but you get a long explanation from their leader as to why they think the way they do and I thought they made a compelling and relatively believable villain. San Francisco is pretty bad and was obviously rushed. The overall ending and the oil rig I thought was pretty good and served as a good climax (aside from that puzzle room. WTF?)
Overall, the game felt much more disjointed than FO1. In FO1, you had a clear logic to the locations you visit and they had a certain level of coherence. FO2 does not feel like that. FO1 felt like a really nice D&D-session, a cool little self-contained game that can easily be replayed. FO2 was much bigger in scope and sometimes suffered from that IMHO. Though, overall, it was a pretty great experience, honestly and I get all the praise it gets. It took me a pretty long while to get into it though.
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