SPOILER ALERT!: I won’t be going out of my way to spoil major plot details, however, due to the nature of these articles, some details are going to be discussed. You have been warned.
Beep beep, get on board! I like to think that I’m a pretty big fan of Fallout, the several thousand hours invested in Fallout 3, and New Vegas, would surely attest to that fact. The unfortunate fact of the matter is, however, that my knowledge and play time of the earlier games is severely lacking. I’ve an extensive knowledge of the Fallout lore, but it’s for having spent countless hours scouring wikis, forums and other bastions of information. I wasn’t exactly a fan of tactical, turn-based RPG’s when I was playing Fallout 3 for the first time, and so I never went back to explore the beginning of the series.
Years later, my tastes have broadened, Fallout 4 is on the near horizon, and I’m itching to get back into the wastes for another few thousand hours. Over the next few months in the lead up to Fallout 4, I’ll be playing the entire Fallout series from beginning to end for your amusement and my own. Along the way, I’ll also be looking at each game critically, seeing how it fits into the overall series and what it’s like to play them today. I start my journey as a simple Vault Dweller.
After the brief introduction, I headed out east in search of my prize and was greeted by the cramped, rat-infested halls of Vault 15. I hadn’t exactly traveled far, but I must have been playing for at least an hour or so by this point; the game is definitely showing its age and coming to grips with the controls took some time. My character, CrunkKing69, hero of Vault 13, stood gaunt in the doorway and armed himself with the trusty dagger he’d brought along. He’d make short work of the vermin that–JESUS CHRIST, WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT THING.
Yeugh. I knew the graphics were going to look a little dated but holy hell, that molerat looks like an animated turd. Comparatively, it’s also way bigger than how I’m used to seeing them in Fallout 3 and New Vegas. Well, no matter – it and every other living thing in this place are merely living chunks of XP, shuffling toward their doom. After wiping their innards from the blade of my knife, I was sad to discover that Vault 15 was a bust in every sense, offering up no clues as to the location of the chip. I headed south to a settlement I passed along the way, coming upon a dilapidated building surrounded by some ragged looking tents. Armored men carrying automatic weaponry roamed the area, a group of them congregating by the door of the building. As I approached them, one turned to me and asked, “Do you wanna party?”
Why, yes I do sexy strange–wait, what?
Turns out that’s Raider talk for “Put your weapon away or my friends and I will beat you to death.” I tried to say hello, and then they surrounded me and beat me to death. No matter, it happens pretty often in the Wasteland; a minor setback at best. I’ll just relo–…. right. 1997. No autosave.
Rest in peace, CrunkKing69, you magnificent bastard.
Thinking back on CrunkKing69’s untimely demise, the Raiders may have killed me but the true cause of death was hubris. Trying to take on an entire camp of Raiders, and with a knife no less! That might fly in the fancy world of Fallout 3 but the original game is clearly not fucking around. I need a character that treats rough and tumble as a warm-up and packs a punch like a megaton blast. However, I also want them to be unassuming; I’ve learned about not waving my weapons in the locals’ faces but I need to do more to ensure their passivity. I’ve gotta put up a front of total innocence and nothing’s more innocent than a child. Since I can’t be an actual child, I’ll just do the next best thing and reduce my Intelligence to 3. Everybody, meet HELK:
I AM HELK.
The developers of the original Fallout actually accommodated for having a total simpleton for a character and, being a better class of RPG, this can be explained however you want. HELK, for instance, never mentally developed past the age of two but more than made up for the fact by growing until he was roughly the size of a ‘roided up Deathclaw. Being the only one in the vault with even the slightest chance of surviving the Wasteland, the Overseer begrudgingly sent him out in search of the Water Chip. Confidence is pretty low in HELK, the Overseer even had the engineers draw up a diagram for the big luggamajug because they couldn’t trust that he’d remember what it looks like. The desperation is visible on the Overseer’s face:
“Just… please don’t eat it once you find it, okay? Can you do that HELK?”
Knowing that Vault 15 was pointless and not wanting to take on a whole Raider camp again, I headed to the other area I passed on my initial route to Vault 15 and ended up in Shady Sands. With my weapons safely sheathed, I approached the friendly door guards who quickly and accurately assessed me as an idiot. Speech options just aren’t really a thing at Int 3, the most my character can usually stammer out is vague noises that sound like either agreement or disapproval. In order to progress I kind of just have to gurgle and blow raspberries at people until someone correctly deciphers my nonsense and tells me what to do. One of the Shady Sands guards, for instance, correctly interpreted my enthusiastic shouting as a desire to go beat the piss out of Rad Scorpions with my bare fists for awhile.
“SCORPIN,” indeed, my friend.
I spent a good hour bashing in the exo-skulls of Radscorpions, though even HELK isn’t powerful enough to just blitz through an entire cave full of them in Fallout 1. After offing seven of them and exhausting my stimpacks, I had to retreat back to the town in order to lick my wounds and restock. Communicating to the townsfolk that this is what I needed to do, however, was impossible. Every person I spoke to in the town immediately disregarded me as an idiot and refused to deal with me, sending me away at the first utterance of HELK’s garble. Shady Sands, it seems, is not very tolerant of the simple minded; in fact, the Wasteland can be incredibly cruel to someone without basic communication skills. I stumbled from settlement to settlement, taking the odd handout from a few charitable souls who paid me for the scraps I could find around the wastes. I was otherwise shunted back out into the harsh wastes as soon I opened my presumably malformed mouth.
YOU GIVE HELK WATER CHIP?
It was while I was exploring the ruins of a ghoul settlement that I encountered a group of Supermutants. Maybe everything is just bigger on the West Coast than it is on the East because GODDAMN, these things are way bigger than the average mutie in DC. In them I sensed a kindred spirit, however, as I, too, am big, dumb and only vaguely man-like – perhaps they’d feel the same way? I remember that the Supermutants from Fallout 3 could speak, maybe they’d be willing to help me in my quest to– shit, VATS has been activated. SHIT, ONE OF THEM HAS A MINIGU–
Goodnight HELK, you sweet, violently stupid prince.
Alright, I’m only five hours into Fallout 1 and it’s clearly a lot more unforgiving than the titles I cut my teeth on in this series. I’ll take a moment or two to gather my wits, roll a new (sensible) character, and then I’ll throw myself back into the wasteland. Tune in next week for a proper look into how the first Fallout game started a rabid fandom nearly twenty years ago that still persists to this day. Who knows, maybe I’ll even find the Water Chip instead of another gruesome death?