Going back, it's just as good
I find that going back to the first game in a series after I’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable experience with a modern iteration is rarely profitable. I have a friend who is a huge fan of the first Silent Hill game who insisted that my love of Silent Hill 2 would wane once I had played the pre-pyramid head original. He was wrong, and I was disappointed. However, after a few first fumbling mouse clicks while trying to learn how to walk and interact with the world, I fell in love with the original Fallout game.
The world is the world of Fallout, devastated, desolate, and deviant. Everything from prostitutes, gangs, and cannibalism are scattered throughout this first dark vision of the post-apocalyptic world (a phrase, I might add, that as a theologian I find to be terribly inaccurate. The Apocalypse is a revelation from heaven, not the end of the world. Anything that is really post-apocalyptic is something that takes place after a revelation, not after a destruction, but I digress).
The freedom you have is comparable to what you experience in Fallout 3, making some choices that affect large populations of people, and others which are tightly focused on only a few characters. You can be “good” or “bad” which affects how people react to you. You can have travelling companions who help you out with combat and carry your extra equipment. You can read up on the history of the world and experience the first utterance of “War…war never changes.”
The game has its drawbacks. You can seriously hurt yourself at the beginning of the game by giving yourself useless skills. You need small guns no matter what you do, because rats don’t want to talk to you no matter how high your charisma is.
I got this game from GOG.com before steam had it for sale. It crashed a number of times on my windows machine, but that was OK, because the cardinal rule of this game is “Save Often, and save in multiple slots.”
I’m staring Fallout 2 now and hoping I enjoy it as much as I did this first entry in the series.
One last word, and I’m done. Some elements of the Fallout Universe that are very prevalent in Fallout 3 (Nuka Cola, the Enclave, Radio Stations) either don’t exist or are only subtle background elements. I was somewhat disappointed with this, but that’s the danger of going backward. Still, this is such an excellent game it is worth the few bucks it costs on GOG.com and Steam.