10 years late, 2 days early

Today, 10 years after its release, I’ve completed Fallout 2 at last.  (As I said a few entries ago, I played it near release but was stopped dead by the difficulty with being a melee specialist in the end game.)   Even as technologically dated as they are, the last few cinematic cut scenes’ artistic quality made the trip fairly worth it.

Now, if all goes well, I get to play this in 2 days:

That is amongst the best (in terms of thought-provoking art) game trailers yet released, pointing to an excellent website, as is fitting for what’ll quite possibly be a legendary game: Fallout 3.

Fallout 3 won’t resemble Fallout 2 as heavily as the die hard Fallout fans would like, but after slogging through Fallout 2 for the past few days all I can say about that is good riddance. Even with the unofficial patch applied, Fallout 2 had a number of unfortunate crashes, save game corruption, and other bugs which can be downright game-breaking.   On my list of unforgivable sins:

  • Items in Fallout 2 can fall behind things extremely easily.  If it’s something you can click through, like a body, you need to mouse hunt in a painful manner to find them.  If it’s a click-blocking prop, like if you accidentally drop something behind that container you’re searching, kiss that item goodbye forever.
  • In many places throughout the game, doing things out of the developers’ intended sequence risks killing whole plot lines.  For example, I optimized a power plant, and because I brought up the dialogue option too early I was no longer able to inform the nearby city it was ready to share its power.  An end cinematic informing me that the city withered and died because of its lack of power just rubbed salt in the wound.
  • There’s a general issue with the way Fallout 2 employs an isometric perspective in that visibility is blocked constantly.  Your character might be able to see that enemy in the hall in front of them, but you can’t – you have to enter combat mode just to get an outline of them.  At points, this makes it difficult to open doors that were not properly coded to stay visible as you approach it from the other side.  (A small circle around your character always makes the terrain in front vanish, and this eliminates the door you’re trying to interact with.)
  • The friendly characters that join you have serious holes in their AI.  For example, they’re unable to properly assess when attacking will harm you more than the enemy, even with “make absolutely certain I’m not in the way” selected in the combat options.  Other times, the friendly characters will just stand there, ignoring the monster trying to eat you not 10 feet away.  They may have charming dialogue, but they’re often more of a hindrance than a help in combat, with a feeling of genuine pleasant surprise erupting whenever they do something right.

These glitches turned a 2 hour run through the final maps in the game into a 6 hour fiasco – it didn’t help that a save game representing 2-3 hours of play became corrupt during the final boss fight.

Still, the game has style, fun, and a killer backdrop, and that’s probably why I was able to dedicate this last week to finish the game even after several abortive attempts at character creation.  As the end credits rolled, I found myself unabashedly choked up about the excellent cinematic conclusion that (as in Fallout 1) touches on your characters’ impact to the various parts of the game world.

I’m definitely looking forward to Fallout 3’s release, not only because it can harness this moving feeling, but also because it’s using a completely different (and well tested via the Elder Scrolls series) engine and a different approach: in a very real way, the flaws of a game 10-years old yet still stellar game make the game coming out in two days seem all that much more promising.

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