Back in the Day: Fallout ’97

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Back when I was a kid, before a time when games were catering to every type of genre or blurring the lines between RPGs and first person shooters, I feel in love with a game. By today’s standards it would be considered “ugly” or “simple” but at the time it felt so real to me I might as well have been playing VR. The choices I made felt nearly limitless and the life or death decisions that I made through my journey seemed to have weight. This crowning jewel was the original 1997 release of Fallout.

I first learned about Fallout by reading a PC Gamer magazine. It had a pretty in depth breakdown of how character creation worked and while scanning over the article and seeing how I could create different character types and effect my experience was an idea that really captured my imagination. Don’t want to murder my way through a group of raiders? Build a more social character and I will have opportunities to talk my way out. Don’t want to be a gun toting maniac? Be a more melee or unarmed focused character and punch your enemies into oblivion. I knew right when I put down the magazine that I would love this game.

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It was a few weeks later before I was able to actually get my grubby, teenage hands on the game but I read over that article time and time again to the point where by the time I actually played the game, it felt like I was already acclimated to the process. My first character was a gruff but lucky sniper type with a penchant for trying to do good if possible but only if it didn’t compromise or conflict with the overall mission. And boy was I deadly during that turn based isometric combat. If you were on the map, I was going to put a bullet through you.

Over the course of the game I saved lives, and ended others, all while making life or death decisions about towns like Shady Sands and ultimately I was able to determine the fate of the entire wasteland. It was a gratifying experience, that at the time, felt nearly perfect. I loved the choices and the branching story paths and the fact that sometimes I would be locked into decisions that could not be resolved perfectly or without consequence. It was deep non-linear story that was so completely different than what I had played previously it felt like a complete shock to my system. Having been only exposed to RPGs in the vein of Final Fantasy, or Dragon’s Quest, this felt like an entirely new world and way to experience games.

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While graphically the game has not aged super well, it is still very enjoyable to play. The mechanics will feel very familiar to most people and the overall plot and decisions still hold meaning and weight. The game is much more reading intensive than the modern RPG but if you are willing to engage with the material a little more actively it can still provide a very gratifying and interesting story. And what has become known as the trademarked fallout humor is definitely born in this original. There are moments of absolute absurdity and hilarity throughout.

While what a Fallout game is has changed in the recent years, I will still always hold a special place in my heart for the original. It is not nearly as technically impressive or flashy but there is still something very charming and imaginative that I don’t feel has ever quite been captured on the newer versions. Find Fallout and the other sequels on Steam if you don’t already own them, and be safe out there Vault Dweller!