Here’s something that I’ve heard a lot: “I enjoyed the first Fallout the most, but the second game is probably the better game.” Thing is, I played all of the Fallout games (including the newer ones) for the first time within a span of a year or so, meaning there’s no nostalgia in how I view a game like Fallout 2. While a lot of older games are just objectively better than their newer equivalents when compared side by side, Fallout 2 is a mess of antiquated mechanics, frustrating quest design, and endless bugs. There’s no place in gaming for such a disaster of a game, and I’ll never understand why it’s so revered.
I’ve never actually made it to the end
I’ve tried to force myself to slog through Fallout 2 on at least 4-5 different occasions, and yet I’ve never actually beaten the game. Compare that to the first game, which I’ve played through 3-4 times to completion for my own personal enjoyment. This most recent attempt to get through Fallout 2 was using the GOG version of the game, though I’ve tried the physical version and an assortment of different mods/patches to try and make it a more enjoyable experience. Nothing worked; this game simply isn’t worth playing through anymore.
It lacks focus
The first game had clearly-defined goals. Fallout 2, however, adds more sidequests and enemies, and all this really does is to distract you from your goal of finding a GECK (which, like the water chip from the first game, is really the whole purpose of your journey). Eventually you’re so caught up in everything that you totally forget about what you’re looking for, and even if you do remember, there are only a few ways to actually find it, all being easy to miss; while the dialogue in the first game often led you to where you had to go, the dialogue in Fallout 2 sends you in circles rather than nudging you in the right direction. It was only when I looked online that I realized that there were a few different ways to find the GECK, all being roundabout and unintuitive. Basically, you run around doing random sidequests until you accidentally stumble on something that leads you to it.
And then… nothing?
Like your quest to find a water chip from the first game, you eventually have to deal with some kind of looming threat to the world before finishing the game. This requires using a tanker ship, so I went to talk to the captain. He refused to talk to me until I did a sidequest for someone on the ship, so I looked around and discovered that no one on the entire ship would give me a sidequest. Someone had given me a quest there earlier, but they were no longer anywhere to be found, so I wandered around, trying to do some other quests in the hopes that I’d magically stumble onto something that’d let me progress. I had no such luck.
Instead, the game proved its bugginess
Fallout 2 had already proven itself to be a buggy mess by this point; for some reason, the game would spontaneously crash during combat if I did certain things, meaning saving in combat was dicey because I could easily end up in a situation where the game crashed no matter what. This actually happened on a few occasions, requiring me to reload an earlier save. However, the crashing was only a problem in the middle of combat, never happening in normal gameplay.
That is, until I was trying to find a sidequest that’d let me finish the game. I eventually ended up with a quest to kill someone, so I went and reverse-pickpocketed several timed explosives on him. Unfortunately for me, that wasn’t enough to kill him, so I went the old-fashioned route and shredded him with a machine gun, saving before combat to be safe. Fallout 2’s combat mechanics are so slow, however, that I eventually decided not to bother with the quest, opting instead to reload my pre-violence save and do something else. Reloading the save, however, crashed the game. I tried over and over again before giving up, realizing that this game is simply too buggy and unstable to be worthwhile.
Fallout 2 has poor combat mechanics
The original Fallout’s combat is one area where the game showed its age, yet it smartly avoided drawing too much attention to it; encounters were usually small in scope, with the larger ones being exceedingly rare. This made the slow-moving combat system bearable and even enjoyable at times. Fallout 2 tends to have a larger number of enemies per encounter, though, meaning that traveling from point A to point B and getting into an encounter with some radscorpions means waiting a minute or two for 8-12 enemies to slowly shuffle into position. That one to two minutes isn’t once per fight, either—that’s once per turn. You take a few shots, then wait another minute or two for everything to move. Even worse, you’re not able to exit out of the game or load an earlier save while this happens. The game takes all control away from you. Basically, Fallout 2 takes everything that was wrong with the first game and accentuates it while downplaying the focus (and by extension, the story) that made the first game so great.
The character at the top of this review, the one who joins you to find his sister, is doomed to sadness. That’s because his sister doesn’t actually exist in the game, never having actually been added. These kinds of unfinished elements seem to exist all throughout the game. In fact, as I wandered around the game world, I couldn’t help but become overwhelmed by just how much was left unfinished or unpolished. Fallout 2 is astoundingly sloppy, from slaves who inexplicably can’t be liberated after you kill their captors to “escort the caravan” missions randomly ending (without pay) because you interacted with an unrelated merchant. Enemies sometimes teleport, NPCs constantly block you into buildings (sometimes becoming stuck and forcing you to load an earlier save), and you can even have all of your followers disappear forever if you do a certain quest. It’s just unprofessional how many problems this game still suffers from.
The graphics are the same as the first game
Maybe they’re not great, or even good, but passing up a game because of the graphics is always a bad idea. Besides, there are so many better reasons to pass up playing Fallout 2 that you don’t even need to bother hating the simplistic graphics. They can be charming in their simplicity, though.
The music is also similar to the first game
Mark Morgan did the music for Fallout 2, and it’s a lot like the music from the first game: atmospheric, percussive, and moody. Exactly the kind of thing that suits the game, though like the original Fallout, it’s definitely not the kind of thing you’ll find yourself humming. Unless you’re really talented at humming.
Here’s what you should do: