War never changes, but Fallout does. While every game in the Fallout series has maintained a shared post-apocalyptic universe filled with Super Mutants, radiation, and vault suits, the first two mainline titles were a far cry from what fans now expect from a modern Fallout game.
But the original two Fallouts are more than worthy of going back to even this many years later, even if you are a fan of the modern games and have never played a more traditional CRPG.
Key Info Up Front
- Genre: Post Apocalyptic CRPG
- Platforms: PC
- Developer: Black Isle Studios
- Publisher: Interplay Productions
- Release Date: 1998
- ESRB Rating: Mature
- Price: $9.99
Fallout 2 History and Overview
The developers of Fallout 2 were presented with the challenge of following up on the first game’s successes, which was both commercially and critically a hit. The first game managed to create an expansive open world that encouraged players to explore it and find their own stories within its morally ambiguous sandbox.
The sequel had to be bigger, expand the lore of the setting, and still make money as the first game did. To make those goals even more complicated, it was released only one year after its predecessor.
During its development, the creator of Fallout, Tim Cain, left the company before the game was finished to found his studio, Troika Games. Through interviews, various members of the original development team have since revealed that because of financial troubles at Interplay Productions, production of Fallout 2 began before the first game was released, and the studio was only given roughly nine months of total development time.
To make the game a reality, many developers were moved over from the team working on Planescape: Torment, and the entire team having to go through a lengthy period of extensive crunch.
Despite these hardships, the game successfully achieved those lofty goals, and its reception at release was largely positive. Positive reviews praised the game for its impressively large world, complex narrative that branched and reacted to players’ decisions, and its captivating characters.
Some critics also praised the game for not changing the core elements of the first Fallout that had made it successful, while more negative critics said that the game didn’t evolve enough from the first, was plagued by bugs, or lacked graphics UI elements.
Fallout 2 has been hailed as one of the best RPGs ever made in the years following its release. It was nominated for various RPG of the year awards the year it was released without winning any, but it has been well hailed in more modern lists.
Fallout 2 Plot
Unlike the Fallout titles released since Bethesda Studios purchased the IP in 2007, Fallout 2 is a direct sequel to the first game. This does not mean that you have to play the first game before the second, but it does mean that they take place in the same region with some characters referencing previous events. So, if you want to get the full experience, running through the first Fallout before its sequel is a good idea.
The story of Fallout 2 begins in 2241, or around 80 years after the first game. The player controls a character known as the Chosen One, a descendant of the player character in the first game. The game’s main questline centers around a small town known as Arroyo, suffering a terrible drought that threatens to kill everyone there. Arroyo was founded by the player character of Fallout 1 after the game’s conclusion, so the connections between the two are pretty strong right out of the gate.
To try and bring an end to the drought, the player is sent to get their hands on a device that can somehow turn sections of the irradiated wasteland into a vibrant oasis. The device is called a Garden of Eden Creation Kit. As important as their quest is, the player is sent out into the wasteland with hardly a clue where to find a G.E.C.K., a Pip-Boy, a jumpsuit, a flask, a spear, and some pocket change.
From there, the player travels to Vault 13 to find the G.E.C.K. only to discover that the vault’s inhabitants and their villager friends were all kidnapped by a remaining cell of the United States government known as the Enclave. The Enclave plans on using them as test subjects to develop an airborne virus that will target and kill all living creatures with mutated DNA, allowing them to conquer the wasteland for themselves.
The main questline of Fallout 2 then tasks the player with stopping the Enclave and doesn’t get much more complicated than that. However, Fallout 2‘s plot is still exceptional for two key reasons. The first is the level of player choice that is accounted for in the questline’s design. Players can approach its objectives in numerous ways depending on how they’ve built their character, allowing for true player expression and deep immersion into the game’s story and world.
The second key aspect of its success is its side quests. Fallout 2 largely requires players to complete side quests as they travel throughout the wasteland like the first Fallout. These side quests carry most of the burden of exploring the game’s setting and give players meaningful choices to make in smaller stories that impact the world and its characters. Many side quests also leave room to be more reactive to the player, making them feel personal and incredibly realistic.
Fallout 2 Gameplay
Since Fallout 2 is an RPG, fans of the genre will recognize many aspects of it, like morality-driven choices, roleplay opportunities, and different class build options. However, it is a Computer RPG, or CRPG, which means that fans of the modern games may take some time to get used to its different perspectives and gameplay style.
The immediately apparent difference because of Fallout 2 being a CRPG is that the game is presented in a near-isometric perspective from above the character, with characters taking up the entire screen when the player talks to them. To control their character, players have to click around on the environment, which is a very different play style from Bethesda’s titles’ first or third-person perspective.
Another big difference is that combat in Fallout 2 is entirely turn-based and uses an Action Point economy to determine exactly how much characters can do during their turn. This allows combat encounters to demand more tactical thinking from the player and requires them to take full advantage of the skills and abilities of their build to survive.
This system makes combat extremely deep and allows players to carefully plan their moves on every turn, even if it is slower than the combat in games like Fallout: New Vegas or Fallout 76. It also removes the need to be good at shooting from a first-person perspective, which helps make the game play more like a traditional RPG, which can be good or bad depending on the player’s preferences.
Skills and Attributes
Like other Fallout games, making a character in Fallout 2 begins with customizing one’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attributes. These attributes are then used to derive the character’s different stats and proficiency with skills at the start of the game.
There are a few sparse ways to raise a handful of one’s attributes hidden throughout the wasteland, but most the first 40 points that the player gets to spend in them are paramount for determining how their character will play during the game.
Strength is a critical attribute for any builds that plan on taking many hits or want to take full advantage of the game’s melee combat options, whether that be melee weapons or unarmed strikes.
On top of that, Strength also determines every character’s maximum Carry Weight, Maximum Hit Points, how far they can throw weapons, and how heavy of weapons they can use.
So, even if you aren’t making a melee character, Strength can still be an extremely useful Attribute to put at least a few points into to make things a bit easier for yourself.
A character’s Perception is all about how they perceive the world around them. It impacts the dialogue options that are available to the player, the distance players start from enemies during random encounters, the player’s place in the turn order in combat, and how far away they can use ranged weapons.
It also impacts skills like lockpicking and healing, so really, just about every build should use Perception. The only ones that shouldn’t are if you want to specifically roleplay an oblivious or visually impaired character, which can still be fun as long as you don’t mind waiting a while for your first turn in combat.
This attribute is the measure of your character’s stamina and physical fitness. So, if you plan to live very long in the wasteland, you’ll want to invest in bumping up that Endurance. It impacts how fast your character heals, contributes to your hit points, and determines resistance to Poison and Radiation.
So, Endurance is another Attribute that every build can get a lot out of but can be left a bit lower if you want to focus more on killing enemies before they can hit you rather than surviving those hits.
Your Charisma measures how well your character can interact with other players. A higher Charisma influences the reactions NPCs have to the character, how big of a party they can take into the wasteland with them, and how good of prices they get when purchasing and selling items.
Charisma will also influence your dialogue options, helping you persuade or intimidate NPCs to change their minds or influence them to make different decisions.
Intelligence is the intelligence of your character. This knowledge is embodied in a few different ways for a character, including having a higher chance with knowledge-related Skills, unlocking unique dialogue options, and giving the player extra Skill Points to spend whenever they level up. This makes the Attribute a solid investment for outside combat when players need to heal or repair equipment.
This Attribute quantifies your character’s coordination and comfort in their body when moving. Both your character’s number of Action Points and their Armor Class are derived from their Agility.
This is because a higher Agility allows them to move faster and get more done during their turn while also helping them dodge attacks to avoid taking damage.
Luck can be a hard Attribute to pin down, as it influences the player’s chance to score Critical Chance and the digital dice the game rolls in the background. So, if you play a character with a higher Luck, your character will have more success overall, even though it won’t be in one specific area of your character’s abilities.
The above Attributes can all have a massive impact on how Fallout 2 plays out, which is one of the best parts of making a character in the game. For example, one of the most fun builds to play is one with an extremely low Intelligence score as it modifies every dialogue option with usually hilarious results.
The Attributes also impact the player’s Skills, which determine what actions they can perform and how effective they are with certain objects and weapons.
Skills reflect how your character will play and can be raised by investing Skill Points every time your character levels up. However, some Skills can also be leveled up by finding and reading an associated book that can be found in the wasteland. These Skills are in the table below and their associated Attribute.
Perks and Traits
The other two things that define one’s character in Fallout 2 are Traits and Perks. When players make a character, they have the option to choose two traits that each come with a positive and negative impact on the character.
When the player levels up, they can select a Perk called “Mutate!” that can be used to swap out one of the Traits.
This system is great at allowing players to customize their character right from the start of their playthrough, and they can drastically change how one has to approach their time with the game.
The Traits in Fallout 2 and their effects are:
|Makes the death animations of enemies more violent and gory.
|Increases your Strength by 2.
|Decreases your total Action Points by 2.
|Helps you recover from becoming addicted to Chems faster.
|Doubles the chance of becoming addicted to a Chem when you use it.
|Increases your Healing Rate by 2.
|Makes your resistance to poison and Radiation 0.
|Decreases the Action Point cost of Throwing and gun attacks by 1.
|Stops you from aiming attacks.
|Increases your chance of getting Critical hits by 10%.
|Decreases your total damage by 30%.
|Increases all of your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Attributes by 1.
|Decreases all of your Skills by 10% and the Skill Points you get every time you level up by 5.
|Increases your Barter, Doctor, First Aid, and Speech Skills by 15%.
|Decreases your Big Guns, Energy Weapons, Melee Weapons, Small Guns, Throwing, and Unarmed Skills by 10%.
|Increases your damage with melee attacks by 4.
|Decreases your chance of getting a critical hit by 30%.
|Increases the number of critical failures that characters around you suffer.
|Increases the number of critical failures you suffer as well.
|Increases your Sequence value by 5.
|Gets rid of your character’s natural Armor Class.
|Increases your chance to hit with a one-handed weapon by 20%.
|Decreases your chance to hit with a two-handed weapon by 40%.
|Makes characters of the opposite sex favor you more.
|Makes characters of the same sex favor you less.
|Increases the Skill Points you get perk level by 5.
|Makes the player have to level up one more time to unlock a Perk.
|Increases your Agility Attribute by 1.
|Decreases your Carry Weight.
Every few levels that a character gains, the player can pick a Perk to add to their character. These Perks further define what a character is good at by modifying various parts of the game to better define what they excel at.
Most Perks also have a level requirement and certain Attribute or Skill levels that players have to meet before they can take the Perk. Some of the Perks even have multiple ranks that can increase the Perk’s effect.
Fallout 2’s Place in the Series
With the change in style present in modern Fallout titles, Fallout 2 holds a special place in the series. Not only is it an essential part of Fallout‘s origins, but it is commonly seen as the peak of the series’ early style. A large part of this reputation is how many new items were added to the pool.
This gives players a ton more options to use, but it also helps balance out all of the combat skills so that every character build is as viable as the others. Fallout 2 also brought numerous new enemy types, making combat in it much more varied and intricate than the first Fallout title.
Fallout 2 also stands as a testament to the potential of Fallout‘s setting. The game’s various questlines and deeper characters, especially the companion NPCs that players can take along with them, the world of Fallout 2 feels more alive and real than most in the games industry. The player’s interactions with the NPCs and companions are also influenced by mechanics like Karma and Reputation, making the world feel reactive to the player’s actions.
Among the Fallout community, Fallout 2 is also regarded as one of the more mature entries in the series because of the subject matter and themes it tackles throughout its quests. This brings more variety to the quests and gameplay and lets players explore topics that most games don’t cover in much detail.
The game includes strong language throughout its script. Still, it also allows players to join the Mafia, get married and divorced, film a porno, and make decisions regarding prostitution, drug addiction, and slavery.
Because of this, Fallout 2‘s place in the series is solidified as the entry that is the series at its peak to fans that appreciate its older style of gameplay. Its mature themes and open nature also has made some fans think of Fallout 2 as the best representation of the series’ unique take on the post-apocalypse.
To this day, many players still return to Fallout 2 for the first time or to take a trip down memory lane. The game has supported years of additional playthroughs thanks to the number of different builds and options when making a character.
Closest Alternatives to Fallout 2
If you’ve already played through Fallout 2, or decide to check it out and want more games that are similar to it, here are my favorite close alternatives:
- Developer: inXile Entertainment
- Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
The first Fallout game was heavily inspired by the first Wasteland game, and it is easy to see why. The Wasteland trilogy is one of the best CRPG series ever released. The games feature a similar play style to Fallout 2 with a slightly different take on the post-apocalypse.
Even better, the series is available on PC and consoles including the Nintendo Switch, although you can only play all three on PC and Xbox One. So, if Fallout 2 sounds great, but you’d rather take it on the go or sit in the comfort of your couch, Wasteland is exactly what you’re looking for.
- Developer: Harebrained Schemes
- Platforms: Mobile, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Shadowrun Returns is one of my all-time favorite CRPGs, and that is largely because of the amazingly unique Shadowrun universe. The setting was popularized through the tabletop RPG, and Shadowrun Returns translates that style of gameplay to the video game very well.
With turn-based combat, impactful decisions, and deep characters, there is plenty to love in Shadowrun Returns for fans of Fallout 2. And, if you play on PC, there is a deep library of mod campaigns as well to keep the game going long after its original campaign.
The Age of Decadence
- Developer: Iron Tower Studios
- Platforms: PC
The Age of Decadence is a severely underrated CRPG from 2015. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world that is almost entirely barren of magic.
Fans of Fallout 2 who are interested in seeing a fantasy rendition of the apocalypse will love this game’s setting, its non-linear storytelling, and its quests that can be completed in a variety of ways depending on the player’s build.
Divinity: Original Sin II
- Developer: Larian Studios
- Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
This title is not only one of the best CRPGs ever released, but, I would argue, one of the best video games of all time. Every situation and combat encounter has numerous outcomes and decisions for players to make. The world is filled with intricate stories and characters to be discovered organically.
The game’s scope is incredibly broad, while its combat system is one of the most balanced and varied I have ever come across. One of the best parts, however, is that the entire game can be played in up to 4-player co-op.
Players can even disagree with one another or split up and travel sections of the world separately. I immensely enjoyed playing Divinity: Original Sin II by myself, but playing through it again with a friend made it one of the best video game experiences I’ve ever had.
Question: Is Fallout 2 Worth Playing Now?
Answer: Yes, Fallout 2 is very much worth playing now. Its older approach to gameplay may take modern fans some getting used to, but its strengths far outweigh its clunkier aspects or learning curves.
Question: How Long is Fallout 2?
Answer: Playing through just the main questline and required parts of Fallout 2 takes around 31 hours for most players, while anyone who wants to see everything in the game can expect to invest around 85 hours.
Question: Did Fallout 2 Sell Well?
Answer: Whether or not Fallout 2 sold well can be hard to piece together, as its official sales numbers have never been explicitly shared. However, when it was released, it charted at number three for video game sales, and it is widely thought that the game performed well.
Fallout is one of the most iconic video game franchises of all time. Its various releases have evolved alongside the greater video game industry, making the series a fascinating microcosm of the evolving trends of RPGs.
Regardless, the game manages to still be more than worth playing since it still offers excellent gameplay, a captivating story, and mechanics that even modern Fallout titles can’t provide players.