“Welcome to the Wasteland.” – back of the box.
The Fallout franchise has had such an interesting history behind it. The series spawned two critically acclaimed PC RPG titles, and one stinker that’s best to ignore. The true third title in the PC series was canned by Interplay quite far along into its production for reasons that very few will ever know.
So instead, we get this game. Is it a good title? Not really. Before I start with the review though, let me rip apart some of the ‘quotes’ on the back of the box as they’re all not exactly the truth:
“Outrageous arsenal of weapons…” – “outrageous” defined as 10 melee weapons, 20 ranged weapons, and a bunch of useless grenades and explosives. Unlike other games that the Baldur’s Gate engine powers, these weapons have absolutely no modifiers or bonuses, so once you’ve seen one cleaver or plasma rifle, you’ve seen them all.
“Choose from three unique and customizable playable characters.” – three unique, one of which that sucks. And once again, unlike the other games with this engine, your character doesn’t get stronger or more powerful as you level. Your strength is only based upon the weapons and armor you get, as well as the very limited set of skills that all players will choose as they play.
Enough of that. On to the review.
Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel is based on the 2001 Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance graphic engine. While it was very impressive back then, times have changed. The world itself is still a detailed one, filled with gritty textures and a post-apocalyptic look overall, but it gets very boring seeing it over and over again throughout the course of your adventures.
The lack of different monster models don’t help matters any either. Over the course of the game, you’ll face rats (normal and mutated), scorpions (normal, mutated, and the kind that can toss radiation around), ghouls (all shapes and sizes), and some kind of ogre things. Other than the occasional robot tossed in, that’s about all you’ll face the entire game.
The player models are well done for the most part, and like in the Baldur’s Gate engine its based upon, anything you wear/equip is shown not only on the inventory page, but on your on-screen avatar as well. They animate well for the most part, but it’s nothing fantastic.
Two things to keep in mind: First off, this game is very, very bloody. Some of the levels you wander through can be outright disturbing to look at. While some can simply say that this is a post-apocalyptic world, that defense only goes so far. In addition, some of the off-color moments that you can see in this game are quite disgusting to watch as well.
On the flip side, as in all Fallout titles, the opening cinema is very well done, showing the shattered possibilities of a world gone through nuclear devastation. The chapter breaks are done in this same quality as well, giving you something to look forward to in this otherwise graphical so-so title.
One last thing: This game is way, way too dark. I know it’s the post-apocalyptic future, but come on. There are lots of bottomless pits in this game, and at the default darkness settings, you’ll have lots of fun falling into them. Expect to crank up the brightness (thankfully there’s a feature for doing so provided in the options menu) just so you can see.
Unlike the graphics, the sounds of Fallout stand out in a positive sense. The voice acting (short of the always-cursing Cyrus) is excellently done. They sure seem to curse a ton in the future, but other than that it works.
The music (when you hear a soundtrack anyway) is surprisingly good. It’s basically a hard-rock soundtrack, giving you something to jam to when you fight the many bosses in this game. When you aren’t doing combat though, you’ll end up listening to what amounts to ambient music/noise, which works surprisingly well.
Another thing that works well in this game are the controls. The left analog moves you around, the right rotates the camera, A shoots, B charges up special attacks (useless), Y jumps (which you’ll be doing lots of), and X lets you use things in the world. L uses Stimpacks (healing items), while R locks onto the nearest target. White and Black change your current weapon (max of up to three), left and right on the digital pad control your map settings, while up and down on the pad modify your stance (also useless).
The controls are simply laid out, and even the most inexperienced player will very quickly understand what you need to do. If you don’t like the default controls, change them entirely to your liking. You have that option.
Remove the randomized enhancement features that made the other hack-and-slash titles like Baldur’s Gate enjoyable and instead insert scripted power up items in unchanging locations, and you’ll get Fallout.
Yeah, you read that right – the entire reason you play these types of games has been removed. In short, you’ll find no sharpened cleavers, modified machine guns, or rocket launchers that can shoot faster or cause acid damage. All you’ll find are the same plain generic guns, knives, bats, and armor the entire length of the game.
The worst part of this? The game seems to taunt you, sometimes putting multiple copies of the same weapon or piece of armor in the same level. It’s like the designers either wanted you to have a greater chance of finding their carefully hidden minor weapon/armor upgrade, or they wanted you to curse at them over a lack of goodies in their game.
That, in short, is a very large chunk of the Fallout experience. And ultimately the main problem with it as well.
If you haven’t played a Baldur’s Gate clone before, what is this game exactly? You’ll basically wander from location to location, killing everything in your path, collecting the occasional piece of (redundant) loot, and gaining levels occasionally. There’s some big evil person you’re out to kill at the very end as well.
To do so, you’re given three characters (initially) to choose from: Cyrus, a foulmouthed warrior; Nadia, a dual-wielding powerhouse; and Cain, the only mutant who’s ever attempted to enter what is basically an anti-mutant order.
Each of these three warriors is imbued with a slew of skills and powers that you can power up as you gain levels. From being able to do more damage per shot, to a greater chance of a critical hit, to even absurd powers like being healed by radiation, you’ll find many ways to use your bonus points every time you level.
There’s one slight problem – unlike the other titles using the Baldur’s Gate engine, you’ll find that these skills quickly become useless and pointless.
See, the other games used your skill points to make your weapons/spells more powerful. They’d do more damage, have a larger area of effect, even enable the spell to last longer or be cast more often. In Fallout, you’ll simply do 5% more damage with your guns/swords/bats, or have a 5% greater chance to do a critical hit. When your average gun does at most 100 damage (short of a few much higher level weapons), you simply don’t see the damage increase. Mobs drop in the exact same number of hits.
In short, your power is directly related to the weapons you find scattered in treasure chests. You won’t get weapons off of mobs, as they don’t drop anything but cash/ammo. Just in treasure chests.
That is the major flaw with this game.
As you move forward, unmotivated by the lack of getting anything new and interesting in the weapons/armor department, you’ll quickly find the generic story of ‘save the world again’ doesn’t really keep your interest. You’ll move forward level after level, occasionally getting a new gun, which you’ll always use until you find a replacement a few levels later, killing everything in sight.
Continue until you finish the game. Or put it away in utter boredom.
You’ll find yourself hard-pressed to finish the game once, much less multiple times. Sure there’s four different difficulty levels and six characters to play as (three of which are unlockable), and even a two-player mode, but the game itself is boring and gives you little incentive to move on to the next area.
If only the weapons and armor were randomized like all the other Baldur’s Gate type titles… These types of games need the ‘what’s around the next corner’ feeling, and this one simply doesn’t have it.