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Fallout 1: First Impressions

I hope you like retro reviews!

I’ve been retro-gaming a lot ever since I got my own laptop a year ago. Deus Ex, System Shock 2, Half-Life and both its expansions, Duke Nukem 3D, Counter-Strike, and probably more that I’m forgetting. Lots of games that I’ve heard a lot about but didn’t get a chance to play when they were big. Some I loved, and some I thought were “meh.”

Next up on the list is Fallout, since my brother has one of those fancy-dancy compliation CDs of Fallout 1, 2 and Tactics. I liked Fallout 3 and New Vegas a lot, but it’s come to my attention that a great big mass of people on the Internet very strongly believe that Fallout is apparently the holy grail of RPGs and that Fallout 3 was a disgrace to the franchise.

So I figure, what the hell? Might as well give it a shot.

Clarification: Whenever I try to take a screenshot in-game the picture comes out too dark to discern anything properly, so I have to use pictures from other sites.

First up is the character creation screen.

The first thing this dude reaches for is Kamikaze? Who is this, Leroy Jenkins?

You know, one thing I like about Oblivion and Fallout 3 is that they don’t demand you choose all your character’s traits and abilities and whatnot until after you’ve had a taste for the gameplay. This isn’t like Baldur’s Gate or Planescape, where all the character building is based directly off of D&D. Fallout’s system is entirely original. Meaning if this is your first time playing it, you’re going to have to either consult GameFAQs or just guess which abilities are best, because they aren’t exactly balanced.

Some people consider that standard for an RPG. I consider it bad design.

Onto the opening cinematic. Apparently I’m from Vault 13, and the overseer of said vault is telling me I need to get some chip that will make water for the people. I guess sending one person is a much more hopeful prospect than sending a whole team, but hey, it’s a video game, right?

As a MacGuffin to drive the plot, I guess it does alright. I didn’t find it very interesting, but whatever, let’s get on with the game.

Now, one thing I always hear old-school Fallout fans complain about in Fallout 3 is the color scheme; i.e. everything is brown, there’s not enough color and contrast in the world. So presumably Fallout 1 would have lots of lovely color variety, right?

Well here’s the first environment you’re set into:

Mmm, look at all those lovely shades of grayish blue.

I know this is the very first scene in the game and it’s probably too early for me to be making judgments about the game as a whole, but I still couldn’t help but laugh when I saw this environment. Are all these people hypocrites, or do they all just think gray is way cooler than brown?

So now onto the combat. You encounter a bunch of rats in the cave and you can either shoot them with a pistol or smack them with a knife. It feels very tedious and there isn’t really any strategy involved, but it’s only the beginning of the game, I’m sure all that strategy and intrigue will come later.

I get to the exit and it brings me to the world map. Sadly I couldn’t find an image for this, so I’ll just describe it. I’m sitting inside one brown square surrounded by black squares. On the right it has a list of two locations, one of which is where I’m at now and the other of which is where the overseer told me to go. I click on that one. Suddenly I start moving right, and slowly I travel through the squares until I get to my destination, Vault 15.

Here’s the entrance…

Black Isle dev: "Hey, sorry about all that lack of color in the first area. Here's some brown."

Okay, so I go inside and find myself in the vault.

"Yeah, I thought you'd like brown. Here's some more!"

So after killing a few more rats, I try to go into the elevator shaft and it tells me I need a rope. Okay, there’s probably a rope around here somewhere. Right?

I search the entire area, and no, there is not a rope anywhere. I try using all my skills in the “skilldex,” and none of them seem to give me the ability to travel down that damn elevator shaft.

After searching through the room several more times I got fed up and quit. Then later I decided to commit the cardinal sin of consulting GameFAQs. Apparently while I was traveling through all that empty wilderness on the world map I was supposed to stop at one patch of brown that had a green circle around it, because that was a town, and it’s the only place to get a rope so you can descend into the vault.

Okay, everything I’ve been saying up until now has pretty much been little nitpicks, but that really pissed me off. Isn’t this supposed to be an open world game? I figured since it didn’t have any tutorial or whatever, that meant I could go about things my own way. And my approach was to go right into the vault. But no, apparently Fallout wants you to do things its way, and you’d better step in line or get out.

And this is the game people say Fallout 3 is a disgrace to?

Anyway, so I go into the town of Shady Sands, where a bunch of NPCs are standing around. I chat with all of them. A lot of them have nothing to say, and some have the standard RPG Q&A routine: “So what’s your story?” “What can you tell me about this town?” “Do you like bean burritos?” Et cetera.

None of the characters seem interesting me to me in the slightest, but maybe I’m just too annoyed by the rest of the game to care at this point. I search every bookcase because apparently the rope was in one of them, and finally I find it and leave to continue my venture into the vault.

I use the rope on the shaft in your typical point-&-click-adventure style and proceed to the next level. More of the same, dull scenery and dull combat with dull rats. This floor has lockers, one of which has a rope. Gee, that would have been helpful a few minutes ago.

Oh wait, there’s another elevator shaft to lead me to another floor this time. Guess that’s what this rope is for. Rinse and repeat!

Now I’m on the third floor. Don’t see any elevator shafts this time. I go through all the rooms and kill all the monsters and… Nothing happens. I examine everything in the room and walk around several times to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and there’s nothing around.

Sigh. Guess it’s back to GameFAQs again. I’m definitely going to gaming Hell.

Okay, so apparently a text prompt appears when you enter one of the rooms, and it tells you that you found nothing and have to search elsewhere. This must have appeared while I was fighting the rats, and I missed it. Wow.

Okay, I know people complain about the tutorial prompts that interrupt game flow in Fallout: New Vegas, but there’s a reason they take up the entire screen and stop the game: It’s kind of important that you notice it on your first go. Since this text prompt was miniscule and quickly got drained in all the combat text telling me how much damage I did to Rat B, I completely missed it.

Anyway, so I’m supposed to go back to Shady Sands and find out more information there. What the hell was the point of Vault 15 then?! Wouldn’t it have made more sense from a design perspective for the overseer to just say “Hey, you should go to Shady Sands and ask around ’cause we don’t have any clues as to where to find blah blah blah”?! Then I could have gone there, gotten to know the NPCs, get any side quests, and all that business without dealing with the confusion about finding ropes and the like.

What makes this really confusing to me is that the reason old-school Fallout fans love the first one and hate the third one so much is because of the writing. Fallout 3 had very awful writing, but from the way people described the first game, I was expecting its writing to be spectacular. From what I’ve seen so far, it seems to be on par with most video games; i.e. bad. Not as bad as Fallout 3’s, probably, but certainly not good enough for me to feel emotionally invested.

I think it’s safe to say that Fallout has failed to endear itself to me. I had to consult GameFAQs twice to get myself unstuck and I’m only, what, like 30 minutes into the game?

I’m not about to say that Fallout 3 is better (though I certainly enjoyed it more) because whenever I try to compare the two this is what comes to mind:

Yeah, the games have a sort of similar visual style, and they have similar themes, and the leveling system is practically the same, but the two games feel completely different, and I think it boils down to personal taste more than anything else.

But hey, that doesn’t stop elitist oldbies from saying that Fallout 3 was a pile of garbage and that Fallout 1 was the digital manifestation of Christ, so you can say whatever the hell you’d like, I guess.

Incidentally: If you can think of other “must-play” retro games, feel free to let me know of them. It’s very fun to check these games out and see if they still hold up by today’s standards. Deus Ex ended up being my favorite game, and I had more fun with Half-Life than I’ve had with a lot of modern day shooters lately.


33 responses

  1. Littaly

    Well, that’s the thing with “old games”. They tend to lack a lot of the commodities that have become standard since then. You can’t really look at them and play them with the same mindset you have when you play modern games. It’s sort of a groove you need to get into, if you manage to do that, they’re a lot easier to enjoy. It’s worth keeping in mind that a game doesn’t actually age, it’s everything else that changes with time.

    I’ve had my fair share of old gems that I’ve been unable to get into myself, Thief being one of them. I’m having a bit of trouble getting into Planescape too, though I probably need to give it more time…

    As for other must-play games, have you played Baldur’s Gate?

    May 12, 2011 at 7:42 AM

    • JPH

      Like I said before, I’ve been playing a lot of old games. Some of them I’ve enjoyed a lot. This isn’t one of them. And it isn’t because it’s missing commodities we take for granted in modern games, it’s just bad design choices on their part. Like the whole thing with the rope. I don’t get what the point of that was.\

      I remember playing some of Baldur’s Gate 2 a long time ago. I thought it was pretty fun, but then I got stuck at one room full of umber hulks and could never beat it, so I got fed up and never played the game again.

      May 12, 2011 at 10:52 AM

      • Johan

        Same idea, but in Baldur’s Gate 1. The Kobolds in Nashkel (is that spelled right?) mine seemed to be one/two-hit-killing me and my team. I had decided on a Sword and Board paladin of JUSTICE, and it seemed sensible to forgo a bow and arrow. I didn’t figure out how the hell I could EVER beat that part until reading online (basically, give every character a ranged weapon, only step ahead a few steps at a time so you never aggro more than 1 or 2 kobolds at a time, put them down quick). A lot of talk is made about the dumbing down or easing up of games, but going through old ones (I played BG after Dragon Age: Origins so… 2010ish?) I think there are many MANY times when it’s warranted.

        May 15, 2011 at 10:21 PM

    • Tizzy

      I agree, and I would add that one must take technology into account. Some things were simply not possible; other things were too complicated to pull off (so many functions would have to be made from scratch rather than recycled off some library). Funnily enough, this addresses especially issues like writing. Back then, it was expected that most of the story would take place inside your head, since devoting too many (computer) resources to fleshing out the story would weaken the gameplay. Same thing with the budget and size of programming teams: gaming back then did not involve Holywood-sized credits. (You have to remember btw that the first Fallout was NOT a big title).

      As for the rope thing, again it’s a matter of perspective. The first time I reached that point in the game, I realized: “OK, I can’t get further” and so figured out I must go somewhere else. In my mind, it was a way for the designers to force exploration from the story perspective: otherwise, an obedient vault-dweller would have no real reason to wander off. I’m pretty sure that today this kind of thing would throw me off, but back then, it felt like a pretty natural thing to do.

      May 16, 2011 at 9:06 AM

  2. Ben

    The problem with FO3 isn’t that there are brown environments, its that almost every environment is brown. Also strictly speaking its not the brown so much as the desaturation, you could perhaps make something interesting using only tones in the brown spectrum but FO3 has been so heavily desaturated that it is visually uninteresting. For a similar experiment go into photoshop and turn an image grayscale with the desaturate filter, you’ll notice you lose a lot of contrast, if you grayscale it properly (with one of the many methods for that) the photo will be much more visually interesting.

    The two big places where FO1 and FO3 diverege you haven’t gotten far enough to see yet (only an hour or so in). First is world coherence, FO1 actually feels like a world that could plausibly exist (within various RPG tropes like the dumping exposition on random travlers, etc.) FO3 does not, I’m not going to make a 200 years rant because we’ve all heard that but things like the utter absurdity of the Megaton plot or Little Lamplight feel out of place. Even the Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep quest, one of the better written quests in the game feels out of place because people are still struggling with basic necessities, they shouldn’t have time to debate the finer points of AI philosophy. I won’t say FO1 is fully coherent but it works much better then FO3.

    The other problem is that the main quest railroads heavily starting about halfway through. The early exploration bits of FO3 are fun but once you find your dad its almost completely on rails. FO1 never railroads you that badly, I won’t say its free of railroading but it does give you a lot more freedom.

    FO1 isn’t a perfect game and FO3 isn’t a terrible game (its pretty average in my mind) but making snap judgement after a little more then an hour is unfair.

    May 13, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    • JPH

      I’ve never bought the “it gets better later” defense. I have yet to see anything good about this game whatsoever, and I see no inclination to keep searching after it’s irritated me this much.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:39 AM

  3. Ben

    It gets better later is workable to an extent. This post is based off of .5 to 1 hour of play, that is rarely enough time in any game to get a good sense of it. 2-3 hours in then I think there is a fair claim that you’ve seen what the game has to offer and you don’t like it but after just an hour I’m less sure.

    May 13, 2011 at 12:18 PM

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  5. The game doesn’t get better later, it gets better elsewhere. I mean, I don’t really like being “the defender” here, and maybe some parts, like the combat, aren’t really defensible in that you either enjoy it or you don’t. On the other hand…

    Using GameFAQs to try and get the fun out of Fallout 1 is like lighting your house on fire to stay warm at night. It, in particular, just doesn’t hold up to that kind of play. You can beat the storyline in under half an hour with some decent speech skills, and that is totally expected. The game was trying to force you to aimlessly wander, which is where it actually has a chance to shine if it’s going to…

    May 15, 2011 at 4:34 PM

  6. A few things here:

    Fallout is very much a “read the manual” sort of game. You will almost certainly pass by Shady Sands when starting out the game, and exploring it decently will yield the role, an NPC companion, some additional side-quests to help get a few levels under your belt, etc. The game doesn’t directly force you to go there like many modern titles might, but it’s still pretty much your fault for skipping it over.

    I guess this is one of the big things about Fallout (less so Fallout 2): it doesn’t hold your hand. At all. It is a brutal game to learn, because it has a dated, clunky interface, mechanics that could use better balance (i.e. tagging Outdoorsman is the last thing you want to do), and generally just does not hold your hand in the same way many other titles do.

    And guess what? The beginning, where you’re told to go to Vault 15? That’s pretty much the most direction you will get from the game. After this it’s basically up to you to talk to people, read books and holotapes, and do quests to gradually piece together how to advance in the main story. If you don’t like figuring stuff out for yourself, Fallout is not the game for you.

    As for the writing, while Fallout isn’t going to wow you with its insight into human nature in the same way Planescape might, it does feature highly functional dialogue. By that, I mean that characters aren’t going to dump exposition on you whenever you ask a simple question, they’re going to behave in ways you don’t expect, the game won’t always make it clear if there’s a skill check involved or not… it’s a subtler, less mechanical approach to character interaction, where NPCs aren’t so much lore dispensers and quest givers as they are just ordinary people. Getting your head around that will be key to enjoying Fallout and its character interaction.

    I’m not going to say the game is free from flaws. There are definitely balance issues, as I said, and while I forgive much of its art style because of how much more coherent and less monotonous than it is next to Fallout 3 (plus, it’s old and all that). Sometimes there are situations where figuring out where to go and what to do is difficult, although never quite reaching “guide dang it” territory if you pay attention. The combat is decent, but not particularly tactical and much more dependent on your ability to exploit the weak AI (though I would argue that in a CRPG, character skill should always prevail over player skill, so this is less an issue for me). And yes, the “you need a rope to progress” thing is a bit weird, especially because you’d think it’d be a more common thing (though to be fair, a number of merchants sell them).

    Still, Fallout is a game you have to spend a good deal of time on, and maybe even play multiple times, to get an appreciation for it. It’s a pretty compact game, too, and it’s even possible to beat it in 10-20 minutes if you know what you’re doing. It’s is all about providing a reactive world, open-ended skill system that goes far beyond combat in its influence, and the ability to come up with inventive solutions to problems (killing people with super stimpaks, ahoy).

    May 15, 2011 at 4:49 PM

  7. TSED

    Lots has been said about where Fallout succeeds, so I’ll just toss in the line “you’ve missed all the MEMORABLE locales!”

    Anyway, if you’re still looking for old ‘classic’ games, have you ever played any of the Might & Magics? I have finished Might & Magic 4+5 (the two join together to form a mega-game) more times than I can count. They are my nostalgic holy grail.

    6 and 7 are also very good games, but very different. 8 was… 8 was something. It definitely doesn’t count as a classic.

    Anyway, I’d like to see someone’s opinion on the games. I’ve never met someone else who’s played them, though they seem to be pretty big in some circles.

    And in a different direction: ever played any of the Wizardries? I’ve been meaning to catch someone playing Crusaders of the Dark Savant for some time now in a Let’s Play. I was too young to figure that game out when I cared about it, so it was endlessly frustrating but still endlessly addicting.

    May 15, 2011 at 7:41 PM

  8. krellen

    The reason you’re not told to go to Shady Sands is because the Overseer doesn’t know there is a Shady Sands. As far as the Vault Dwellers know, everyone’s dead and the vaults are the only source of survivors. They’re not expecting there to be any surface settlements, because they believe the world is an irradiated mess (exactly as everyone thought it would be after a nuclear war in the 50s.)

    It is at least a little bit your fault for being incurious enough to not try to find out what that little green circle was; if you don’t have an explorer mindset, you’re not going to get a lot out of Fallout. It was pretty much the perfect game for us Explorers, and I suspect the strongest supporters of Fallout 1 over Fallout 3 are those much more strongly in the Explorer category over the Achiever or Killer categories.

    As for retro games: Have you ever played the Ultima series? I’d probably recommend starting with Ultima 6; it’s the most “modern-like” of the bunch, and had absolutely the best story to boot. The first three are sort of in another series from the later ones, and I’m not sure the gameplay of the earlier titles (1-5 all play more-or-less the same) really holds up, but you might try giving 6 a whirl if you can get your hands on a copy that runs.

    May 15, 2011 at 8:12 PM

    • JPH

      Truth be told, I don’t think I even noticed the green circle. I may not have been paying attention at the moment when I passed over that square, I think I was looking around to see how far the map would pan out or something.

      I’m normally really into exploration in games. I loved exploring in Fallout 3 and New Vegas. Hell, I bought Fuel just for the sake of driving around in the wasteland looking for collectables. I just didn’t realize that in this case that’s what I had to do.

      May 15, 2011 at 8:15 PM

  9. (LK)

    The thing about Fallout is it’s a long-haul RPG and the things that make it memorable to people are the moments hidden throughout the experience that were particularly memorable to them.

    You’d encounter a bit of humor you really like at some point, or a character or quest you think was particularly amusing.

    But, this stuff is all hidden amongst hours of pretty average, typical (for the time period) RPG gameplay. So, if you go into it with expectations of finding great things right away you are definitely going to be disappointed.

    It’s not that it was a fantastic game, it was a competent RPG from its’ era that had, buried within it, a lot of really endearing moments that as a sum made it stand out from others.

    To experience them, though, you have to play through a lot of dated design methods and standard RPG timesinks, etc. that aren’t really hallmarks of good game design, but are instead just what everyone was doing when they made RPGs.

    May 15, 2011 at 10:21 PM

  10. Old-school wise, how about System Shock? The original one, not SS2.

    The cons in your way will be graphics that by today’s standards are ferociously ugly (this is 3D from before the era of 3D graphics accelerators) and a pretty complex control system. But if you can make it through that, matching wits with the mad computer SHODAN as you run around Citadel Station is one of the best experiences ever in gaming. A lot of the concepts we take for granted nowadays appeared for the first time ever in System Shock.

    As far as Fallout 1 goes, I just couldn’t get into it. Ran out of gas fumbling around in Shady Sands.

    May 15, 2011 at 10:28 PM

  11. Tychox

    dude, V13 is an isolated community, all they know of the outside world is the location of other vaults. V15 was the closest one, so that’s where they tell you go try first. All that happens after that is your fault. If V15 has no power, then you will need rope to climb down to the lower levels (if that’s what you want), procuring some rope is up to you.

    You should read the manual, you chastise the devs, when they actually took the trouble of placing Shady Sands in your path! You are the one who ignored it (the “patch of brown that had a green circle around it”). If you are stuck at V15, all you have to do is go back, you have all the gameworld to explore! What would someone do if they needed a rope? Search for some settlement and trade for it. You’d have done exactly the same thing in FO3 if you where stuck in some cave, you would’ve got bored, got back, continued exploring and then maybe you would realize what you needed to do or find something needed for that cave.

    I mean the whole point if you actually check the story is that you are a Vault Dweller, raised in isolation from the world, who suddenly finds himself thrust upon the said unknown world (yep, exactly like FO3). It’s only natural that you will become stuck at points, where a sane Vault Dweller will just retread and check for some other settlement, solve quests, get to know more people and eventually return (or not).

    Having to actually use ropes to get down somewhere is a wonderful RPGy thing that’s been lost. It’s these kind of details that make a game too, for example, in Fallout you could use crowbars not just as weapons but also to pry open doors (if you pass a stat check). The game is full of these little things, and you don’t need a manual, they follow logically. If it were a modern game the crowbar would be a “quest item” and there would be a whole special quest so you can get it and use just on *that* single door that needs it. Its stupid. These things should flow naturally, not so artificially. So Fallout won’t throw that rope at you with a special marker and prohibit you from removing it from your inventory, acquiring said rope will follow naturally from your actions.

    You haven’t even completed all of Shady Sand’s quests and you already quit it. I can understand you, the game can be slow, but I feel sad you are missing Necropolis and Set, the Brotherhood’s HQ and Glow or the Cathedral, epic random encounters, interesting quests, the main quest mid twist and bittersweet ending, wonderful talking heads, the Master, MASTER!

    The problem with FO3 wasn’t it’s brown, Hell, not even that they simplified SPECIAL, replaced isometric view and removed turn based combat. It was that is was incredibly stupid. Quests were stupid, recycled main story from previous games, irrational presence of factions in the eastern coast, dialog was stupid ([Intelligence: So you use your voice to fight the good fight?]), dialog trees were reduced, they removed dumb dialog simply because it would be too much work, they virtually removed having more than two ways of solving a quest, they eliminated the splendid ending narration for each settlement and significant characters (ie. reduced your contribution to the world to just three key points, all the rest didn’t actually matter), reduced Super Mutants to always chaotic evil Orcs, they reduced Raiders to very much the same, Enclave is the same (even if you join the president)… they essentially reduced all they could to mindless enemies for people to shoot at (which is what passes for fun nowadays). “oh son, hello. yeah I left you, you went to some trouble in order to find me, huh?… erm oh well I need to go. See ya!” all delivered in Neeson’s monotone clichéd father-mentor-figure voice, the incredibly idiotic ending that even fanboys wanted changed (but somehow didnt see the idiocy of the whole rest of the game), complete settlements based off just one stupid idea, settlements that don’t even have a visible source of food, unkillable characters, settlements that “forget” you where there shooting and killing people randomly a few ingame days before (removal of reputation system), unkillable children (oh, its okay to blow an entire city – including the kids living there – but shooting some kid is not. Removing here not just one degree of freedom but also all the consequences killing kids had in previous fallouts), outdoor tents from the Great War still standing (with functional computers!), removed the rich variety of random encounters (where you would meet merchants, hermits, travelers, farmers, people fighting each other, and enemies. In most cases you could TALK to people) in favor of randomly spawning enemies that mindlessly rush at you, they made a FPS that sucks at being a shooter (in terms of aiming, enemy AI and in use of your stats and skills), introducing minigames when I have invested in my character’s skills, and I could go on in both major flaws and nitpicks all day long.

    Also, the red dot traveling the world map was great, how can you not like it?

    May 15, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    • Just wanted to say, great post. You pretty much hit every nail on the head that you needed to, though in truth you really could continue on about Fallout 3’s problems well beyond what you mentioned.

      Many gamers and most of the press are no longer familiar with how games used to be, where your logic and intelligence were rewarded. Nowadays everything is handed to you on a silver platter, because gameplay systems have become so heavily simplified that something as simple as a non-violent interaction with the world requires special scripting. RPGs are about universal rule systems that govern the entire game world, not just combat; Fallout is one of the few I’ve seen to ever really have a rule set that carries through just about every aspect of the world. Half the fun of Fallout is just finding new ways to complete objectives, or asking “can I do it this way?” Usually, the answer is yes, and that’s really what separates the older Fallouts from Fallout 3.

      May 16, 2011 at 1:44 AM

  12. Richard

    Personally, I recommend going back and finishing Baldur’s Gate 2.

    BG1 is skippable, in my opinion. It’s missing a lot of the stuff that made BG2 amazing (banter with your party members, a truly memorable villain, a plot that’s explained by characters instead of a random letter in a drawer).

    The only real drawback to either game is that since it uses the AD&D ruleset, combat and skills are fairly clunky to understand. You can just play the game and let all that stuff go on behind the scenes, but if you’re trying to decipher why things work the way that they do, you’ll have some trouble, especially since a few of the item descriptions are inaccurate or misleading (i.e. -2 penalty to THACO, when it should be +2 penalty).

    One other really nice thing about BG2 is that it’s very moddable, and there’s a surprising amount of fan-made content. Hell, one of the guys who made the game even released an “alternate ending” mod, which is always nice.

    May 15, 2011 at 10:57 PM

    • Johan

      I might be one of like, 3 people who enjoyed BG1 over BG2. As I said above I had an enormous hurdle to get over just to get into it, but I much enjoyed the BG1 villain over BG2. Well, more the BG1 “driving force” since I guess Sarevok was the villain, but the driving force in the PC’s blood made for a much more interesting antagonist than an elf who teleports all over the place and steals your soul. Yeah he was tragic in his own right, but he just didn’t hook me like the dreams did in BG1.

      May 16, 2011 at 1:23 AM

      • TSED

        I like BG2 more as a game, but I like BG1’s story – and DEFINITELY in favour of its villain – by a fair margin.


        BG2 is much more polished, much more refined, and even substantially more satisfying. Taking out a mine full of kobolds or an entire bandit camp feels impressive, but not nearly as impressive as battering your way through an entire personal army and then murderizing a full grown DRAGON in its own lair.

        At least twice.

        The characters in BG2 are more interesting because they actually have personalities other than their soundsets, actually have comments inside of the dialogue, so on and so forth. I was always sad that Alora never made it into BG2, though, or that Tiax was only a bit-roll.

        Anyway, compare the villains. You spend half of BG1 simultaneously hunting down AND running away from Sarevok. He has personally destroyed your life and you don’t know why. You’re having these really weird dreams… Eventually, everything comes together, and your rapid growth in power results in destabilizing Sarevok’s power base. The climax of the game really isn’t the final confrontation with Sarevok, but the unveiling in the Duke’s palace. The end boss fight is more a denouement, because you’ve ALREADY WON. You’re just making it more final, and preventing the villain from coming back later. Even in that, though, tons of characterization can be found. I don’t want to pull out a whole literary analysis of it though, especially since I haven’t played it in some time (~8 months, it was semi-recentish).

        BG2, on the other hand… It has a competent villain, but he’s no where near as intimidating. I think it’s the character design and the voice. The voice ACTING is superb, but Sarevok’s was genuinely intimidating. Irenicus’ is just impatient. He’s a good villain, but there isn’t nearly as much terror as Sarevok. He’s just TOO competent at the beginning – he’s captured you, he pulls why-can’t-I-do-that magic out of his hat in literally every scene he’s in, so on and so forth. Sarevok, on the other hand, is mysterious. You don’t know what he’s capable of, meaning you don’t know if you can defeat him or not. Irenicus gives off the impression that you need to bring a bigger sword, but Sarevok makes you wonder if a sword can even do the job at all.

        My personal reactions to the villains, at least.

        May 16, 2011 at 8:27 PM

      • Richard


        I felt like Sarevok was flat, and you barely even saw him at all for too long. You see him randomly kill Gorion at the start of BG1, and then you only see random letters from him for quite a while. Plus, his motivations weren’t very complex: he wanted to be a god, because… why not? It’s not a bad motivation, but overall, Sarevok was just “the big guy in spiky armor who wants to become more powerful”, which isn’t terribly original. I never felt like he was that threatening, because aside from that little performance at the start of the game, where he took out a wizard by outnumbering him, he barely ever really DOES anything that you can see.

        Irenicus, on the other hand, shows up in the intermissions between chapters in Baldur’s Gate 2, and you get a sense for just how dangerous he is. *MAJOR, MAJOR, MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD* His SOUL was stolen from him by the elven gods as a price for his arrogance. He hurts you in a very personal way, taking away Imoen, forcing Yoshimo to betray you and die, poisoning you, stealing your soul and that of your sister, and ultimately going to war against the elven city, which basically put him toe-to-toe with the avatars of the elven gods. And at the end of the day, when you finally take him out, he drags you to hell along with him, just to spite you.

        May 17, 2011 at 8:12 AM

      • Zekiel

        I preferred BG2 to BG1, but I did think BG2 for all it’s awesomeness lost one of the most interesting things that BG1 had – the ability to wander off and explore an open world if you wished. About 70% of the world was available to you right from the beginning of the game. Granted, trying to venture into most of it was a death sentence, but it was very clear where the game expected you to go, and the fact that initially stepping off that path was suicidal felt appropriate given how dangerous the Sword Coast is supposed to be.

        The other thing BG1 arguably did better than its successor was keeping up a sense of menace – the bounty hunters that kept popping up (and were gratifyingly varied) kept reminding you of the main plot, and it really felt like you’d achieved something when you finally started taking the fight to them in the bandit camp or the Iron Throne tower.

        I agree that Sarevok was a great villain (and had the advantage that he had a personal connection to you, unlike Irencius). But I’ve never come across voice acting as chilling as David Warner playing Irenicus. The way he was presented (through seeing his home at the start of the game) was a very effective way of getting inside his skin and made him one of the most effective villains in any game I’ve ever played.

        May 23, 2011 at 8:05 AM

        • Richard

          *More spoilers, of course*

          My take on it was that Sarevok threatened you, but Irenicus actually HURT you. Losing Imoen and Yoshimo make you really hate that bastard, since they were valued members of your party, to say nothing of all of the other ways he jerks your chain.

          June 18, 2011 at 10:23 PM

  13. Scott (Duneyrr)

    I had similar experiences when I played Fallout 1 the first time (oh, about… 14 years ago). It was pretty much as you described and I put it down for a while until my older brother beat it and gave me a few hints.
    After a few weeks, we had beat the game several times with different character builds and skill-sets. There are precious few games that will allow you to make a character that is incapable of speech because of a low intelligence stat.
    Honestly, give it another try. There are some moments that will frustrate, but many that will click and make you feel like you really accomplished something.

    On another note, I’ve been doing some retro-gaming myself! TSED suggested one of the Wizardry games (specifically Wizardry 7: Crusaders of the Dark Savant). Playing Wizardry 7 might be a bad idea. The game is huge and hard. If your going to play a Wizardry game, play Wizardry 8. Better interface, easier, smaller, MUCH better graphics and sound. It’s also fully voice acted with very good voice acting! The plot might not make a whole lot of sense and the characters are strange and the combat can get overwhelming and tedious, but it is entirely possible to beat; which is very unlike it’s predecessors.

    Also, if you like real-time strategy, try Homeworld. It’s pretty easy to learn and rather innovative so you should have fun. Beware, though, the game is deceptively brutal. Resources are limited and you start each new area with whatever you had in the last one, so choose your battles carefully and try to lose as few ships as possible.

    If you liked Oblivion and haven’t played Morrowind, play Morrowind. If you liked Morrowind and haven’t played Daggerfall don’t play Daggerfall.

    Anachronox is a marvelous game. It’s a witty, wierd and wonderful RPG that should have done far better than it did. It’s buggy, though, so watch out. This game would get my top recommendation if you have already played Morrowind. (Have you played Morrowind yet? You should do that if you haven’t.)

    Galatea is not a mainstream game and I’m sure few people you know, if any, have even heard of it. It’s not even really a game!
    An interactive fiction game by Emily Short from 2000, Galatea is simply a dialogue between you and another character. This doesn’t sound interesting, but if you have ever wanted to feel that meaningful NPC interaction can actually occur in a game, YOU NEED TO PLAY THIS. It takes some getting used to the commands if you don’t play a lot of IF games, but it’s well worth a look. Please be aware that there are MANY endings (I’ve found over 50 so far).
    An online version is here:

    Here are some even older titles that are still great:

    Sim City 2000, in my opinion, is the best city management sim that has ever been. Of course, I am rather biased because I am a simple man with a simple mind and I don’t enjoy managing things with spreadsheets.
    It’s the kind of sim more akin to the Roller Coaster Tycoon style where, yeah, you can plan it all out to give you the best results, but you can also build and learn on the fly and still end up being successful… until the riots start!

    TIE Fighter is a very solid space flight/dog-fighting simulator where you play as the bad guy! It’s got a neat story and it’s full of good fast-paced fun! They need to make more games like this.

    Descent. I am terrified by this game. If you haven’t played Descent, you are missing out on something big. You might love it or hate it, but there is just something about this game that is missing from every game that has come since. I can’t put my finger on it, but maybe you can.

    Betrayal at Krondor is an excellent RPG. Sadly it is rather dated but it is still far from unplayable… if you don’t mind the characters looking like they just came from the local Renaissance festival. The combat has some neat tactical elements and the puzzles and riddles were pretty good. The story is nice as well. It was based in a world from some book series and the author liked the story so much he adapted it into a book!

    If you really want to give it a shot, Wizardry 7 really is a fantastic game that has some very impressive NPC interaction. (NPCs travel throughout the world and attempt to achieve their own goals on their own! You might finally have cracked a tough puzzle to get some treasure, only to find that one of your rivals had gotten there a day before, took the prize, then was killed and had the item stolen!)
    It is almost impossible to beat, though, so be prepared to either restart many, many times or read a lot of material to get through it.

    May 16, 2011 at 12:00 AM

    • TSED

      Haha, that’s amazing. I have never played Wizardry 7 with an adult mind (I’ve had difficulties getting it working again) and when I was trying to finish it, I was only between the ages of 8 and… 12? Can’t say. It’s quite some time ago.

      Anyway, I had no idea about the NPCs doing their own things. That’s amazing. Why don’t modern games have that?

      May 16, 2011 at 8:50 PM

  14. Will

    I would just like to say thank you.
    It is a brave thing to actually put up some criticism of the first Fallout with the zealot clerics of the church of Fallout all around the web.
    I’ve never been able to get into the early Fallout games for these reasons and a few more. You are right, its apples to oranges.
    Good to know not everyone worships Fallout 1.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:13 AM

    • Ateius

      I agree. The post actually closely mirrors my own experience with Fallout 2 (though I stuck with that game for a good 6 hours, since it was one I chose to entertain me on a long journey) which I can never relate without being shouted down by diehard fans.

      May 17, 2011 at 1:49 PM

  15. I’ve actually been writing an LP of Baldur’s Gate 1 on my blog, for the last few months. I’m in the final chapter now. Short version:

    The game can be brutally, randomly hard, especially if you don’t exploit things like infinite creature summons.

    There are a few occasions when choices you’ve made previously come back to bite you in the ass, but they are fairly minor (“You’ve killed my brother, prepare to die!” – an easy fight with a melee NPC).

    Some of the 2nd edition stuff is weird – the higher your armor class, the worse off you actually are, and vice versa.

    Dialogue is fairly straightforward, you are usually given a choice to be polite, rude or neutral, but it rarely matters and when it does, it’s usually the best to pick the polite option.

    There is virtually no dialogue with your party members. At all.

    Overall, I’d say you can skip it and jump straight to BG2.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:17 AM

  16. Mormegil

    Syndicate. This is the retro game you need to play. Writing? We don’t need no stinkin writing. Just miniguns and guys in trenchcoats.

    I don’t totally disagree on fallout – I have fond memories of fallout 1, 2 and tactics but going back to 1 and 2 is so hard these days. I’ve already explored those worlds pretty thoroughly so that side of things is done and the turn based combat is so slow (I found that more recent turn based games like temple of elemental evil and silent storm were much more engaging gameplay wise).

    May 17, 2011 at 2:58 AM

  17. Chris

    Actually my favourite was Fallout 2. In my opinion it fixed many of the problems of Fallout 1. Haven’t played much Fallout 3, but it really annoys me when I am 1 meter from a bad guy and I miss with a pistol even though he was in my cross hairs, not because I am bad at FPS games, but because it is an RPG and I don’t have enough skill yet. I can accept a missed shot more in 2D.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:55 PM

  18. Monkey Zodo

    If you didn’t like running around pointlessly for some rope to go down an elevator shaft only to find another rope downstairs for going down yet another shaft, then finding out it was a huge was of time, never play runescape unless you’re looking for an instant headache.

    August 1, 2011 at 4:53 AM

  19. I enjoyed playing through Fallout 1, but I confess I had the game on Easy and I consulted the guide on the Fallout Wiki on more than one occasion.

    It’s more playable than Morrowind, but still has flaws. Many flaws that were indicative of the age. New Vegas was a great marriage of the freedom of these old games with the systems of Fallout 3. You can make choices, interesting ones, but you are rarely stuck.

    September 3, 2012 at 7:19 AM

  20. Yult

    The only way to know what a Fallout world would look like, would be to create one. I guess ill go bomb D.C. now. For Science.

    October 9, 2012 at 7:40 AM

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