One of the Greatest RPG's of all Time.
The original Fallout is perhaps one of the most celebrated RPGs of all time. I consider it one of my favorite games, if not my favorite game of all time. I would recommend it to anyone remotely interested in RPGs, great story, characters, and overall quality gameplay.
While it's sequel Fallout 2 was a much more open ended game, this makes the original Fallout feel like a much more focused RPG experience where you don't feel overwhelmed. The story starts you out in a vault after a nuclear war in the 1950's that forced everyone underground. The vault's water chip is failing and the leader of the vault wants you to find another one. I won't spoil anything for you but the story is really interesting and epic. You'll meet a lot of facinating characters with side quests for you to do along the way, and some NPCs will even join your party, such as the famous Dog character Dogmeat. Fallout also has fun allusions to popculture, such as the elvis picture you find by the downed alien spaceship. The RPG element
Character creation is extremely customizable/robust and it's hard to make the same kind of character twice. However, if you mess up in the character creation you can end up with a gimped character that might not do well once you leave the starting area. For instance, if you made a character that has high small arms skill, but has low strength, you can't use the sniper rifle. Just be careful when making a character and perhaps read a guide before getting too far in the game so you don't have to start over. While all of this character creation buisness seems like a negative part of the game, I assure you it's not. You will often want to start over anyway to try out different types of characters. I myself beat the game originally with a character high in charisma and small arms.
The combat is turn based, where you have a certain number of action points before you have to end your turn. These points are used for things like moving, firing, and reloading your weapon. It sounds slow paced but it's very tactical and will keep you engrossed. You can aim for specific parts of the body such as the eyes, groin etc. (tip: shoot rats in the groin ^_^) and the enemies will act appropriately based on where you've hit them. The combat isn't the best part of Fallout, but you can actually get through the entire game i've heard without firing a shot. One of my favorite parts of the game is being able to talk yourself out of pretty much every kind of fight.
The graphics arn't going to impress anyone these days, but the isometric environments serve their purpose. They are highly detailed and believable. The sound is stellar, especially the retro 1950's music - my favorite track being the opening song of "Maybe".
You owe it to yourself to play through the original Fallout at least once to see what all of the fuss is about. With luck you'll fall in love with it like I did and play it over and over throughout the years. Overall this is the perfect example of an RPG done right and it's worth checking out.