So when all’s said and done, here’s our guy. Well, girl. See, I really like the idea of naming the character after my fellow webcrawlers, and Athena both called dibs and did a pretty good job of selling me on the glory that is Athena. So we’ll we’re going to be Athena. Sorry, LightningEllen. I am going to do my best not to drag her name through the mud. But, then again, that’s really going to be up to you guys, isn’t it?
I took the liberty of setting her stats based largely on the skills you folk chose. Since you guys made the strong tactical decision of just being born better than everyone else, we ended up with a lot of stat points to play with, here. Yes, we’re Gifted. That’s going to make us slightly weaker at the very beginning of the game, as our increase in stats doesn’t make up for the decrease in skills, but we’ll catch up.
Red Metal had a great idea of maxing out her Agility. Agility’s one of the most useful stats in the game, determining how many action points you get per turn, and your natural armor class i.e. how hard it is for Athena here to end up pummeled. I only set it to 9, however, rather than the max of 10. There’s a reason for this. A reason that’s not going to come to fruition for a long time, at which point I am going to forget to mention that’s why I did this so you won’t know how smart I am, but there’s a reason for it nonetheless. How about you guys just go ahead and think I’m really smart right now.
We’re pumping Intelligence so that we can
say smart things about videogames boost our skill points per level back up to normal levels and compensate for the lowered rate we see from being gifted. It also plays into our good talking to people skills, as a higher intelligence opens up more dialogue options. Fun fact, if you have an intelligence of 3 or less, you are not smart enough to hold a normal conversation with people. Makes playing the game a totally different experience. Perception, we’re boosting because I took Mishka’s ‘combat skills’ suggestion as a seconding of Athena’s ‘small guns’ suggestion, so we’re rolling with that. Perception impacts a lot of things, but the most important is our accuracy with ranged weapons, so we’ll need that to, you know, actually hit our enemies. Of course, we’re a Night Person, so our Perception and Intelligence are never actually going to be at 8. They’ll be at 7 during the day, and 9 at night. So when we have the choice, we’re going to want to wait to fight and level up at night, because we’ll get better bonuses then.
Strength theoretically isn’t all that useful since we’re never going to not be shooting people in a fight, but all weapons have a minimum strength requirement or else Athena will be shooting like a stormtrooper. For small guns, it hits out at 5. Otherwise, the only thing it will impact is how much we can carry. Charisma doesn’t have very many impacts this game, vaguely affecting disposition and prices, but I still figured that since we’re going to be using our speech quite a bit, it’s still handy to have high. I couldn’t bear to have a third stat at 8, so I left it one point short. I left our Endurance subpar, because we need a weakness somewhere to give enemies a chance, and shunted it into Luck. Endurance determines your rate of healing over time, but since we’re a skilled doctor, it’s not so important, your resistances to things you’ll only see a few times in the game, and your hit points. Luck does exactly what it always does every single game it comes up.
So where does this leave us? Athena’s going to be walking out into the wild, rabid wasteland (seriously, they don’t even have Dragon Age out there) able to handle conflicts in a variety of ways. It’s not always going to be the case that we’ll have to the option both to fight and talk our way through, but one of those two will almost always come into play. With our doctor skills, we’ll be able to recover from anything we find on the wastes that doesn’t kill us outright. This is a solid set of skills you’ve started us out with.
And here I was worried that everyone was going to jerk me around by picking Gambling, Outdoorsman, and Throwing for your tagged skills and leaving me with nothing viable to do.
All right, so just give me a moment to put myself inside Athena’s head, here. Dragon Age is the greatest feat of human… ok, got it.
Today’s the day. I’m following in the footsteps of Talius and my good friend Ed, and venturing out into the world outside. I’m only the third person in the history of Vault 13 to do so. I am probably the best person for this job the vault has, aside from Ed. You should have seen him in action. Total badass. For myself, my time with the vault’s security unit has given me excellent aim with my pistol, although I’ve never had to use it outside of training. My internship with our medical team has likewise left me well prepared to patch myself up, whatever goes wrong. And I’ve always had a natural gift for getting people to see my way, so if there’s anything out there that still speaks english, I’ll be well equipped for them. We have very little idea what’s out there. And frankly, what we do know is terrifying. And the fact that Ed has never returned is… I don’t want to think about it. But still. I’m the best person for the job. I have to do this.
Overseer Jacoren is the first person I see after saying goodbye to my family. He’s usually been a kind and gentle leader, although he does make some really hard decisions I don’t agree with sometimes. He hands me a small pack of tools and supplies, and begins running me through the facts of this case. It’s good to have a refresher before stepping into the field, even though this is stuff that I already know.
Our water chip, which is a vital part of the machine that makes our water safe to drink and makes living in the vault possible, broke. We don’t have a replacement, and the system it managed is too complicated for us to build a workaround.
We’re running out of water. Even though we’ve been rationing it strictly ever since the chip broke, we still only have exactly 150 days worth of water left. After that… I don’t want to think about after that.
We know that Vault 13 is located in what used to be called California, before the war. There’s another vault, Vault 15, to the east of us. It would be a couple of days’ travel by foot to get there. Most vaults were supplied with a backup water chip. Ours wasn’t, we don’t know why. This vault should be. My goal is to go there and bring a chip back.
Other than that, we have no idea what’s out there. Or really, if there even is an ‘out there’. Until recently, nobody’s been outside the vault, and none of the others that have been sent to find it have returned. All we know, is that’s it’s almost certainly deadly. The world’s not supposed to be safe again for another 116 years.
I steel myself. I don’t want to go out there. But I have to do this.
This is only the third time this great vault door has been opened in 84 years. I have no idea what the world’s like, after the bombs.
The door opens. I prepare to step out into the post-apocalyptic world for the first time.
Oh my god, it’s worse than I feared. Much worse. I knew this would be hell, but this, this is just too much for me to bear. The post-apocalypse…
the entire world is underground! You maniacs! You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!
So, here we are. In a cave. Underground. An auspicious start to this journey. The only real notable things in sight are the vault door (locked), the computer (rejects our login. Overseer’s keeping us out here), and a skeleton (Ed’s).
Nooooooooooooooo! He was such a total hunky badass, too! Just like in Dark Souls! Why is it that all of our best friends always die?
Seriously, I’m torn up by this. So torn up that I totally forget to loot his corpse. I mean, Athena totally forgets to loot his corpse, out of respect and mourning for her dead friend. Anyways, Ed’s here to showcase two things, 1) That you’re not the first person to be sent out of the vault looking for the water chip, which while my narration was clear on, the game’s intro doesn’t give you any hint to. 2) Let you know that the Wasteland is going to be a horrible place that will chew you up and spit you out if you give it half the chance. It’s really unclear what killed him, aside from possibly the rats that infest this place, but I’ve got my theory. If I had remembered to loot his corpse, we notice that he was carrying some of the same things that were given to us when we left the vault, missing largely a bunch of bullets and the most valuable parts of our inventory. My thought is that he ran into some toughs somewhere soon after leaving the vault, got in a firefight, and lost. They took the stuff they could sell off him, then somebody who grew up in Vault 15 (given that they’d have to know where Vault 13 was) brought his corpse back to his home for proper treatment, but left it at the door because they couldn’t get in.
In any case, first things first, let’s take stock of ourselves. We left the Vault with a combat knife that will probably never be used, a 10mm Pistol with a single bullet that will be our main rat-killing tool because this is a western CRPG and those always start with the hero fighting rats every single times, two flares which theoretically would increase our accuracy in dark places like this blasted cave but practically will be sold as soon as we’re able, and 4 stimpacks and a first aid kit, for patching ourselves up after our inevitable firefights.
Now that that’s said and done let’s get out of here. As I’m walking out, a few rats (see?! What did I tell you?) start some fights with me, but all they do is wander into point blank range and die when I shoot them. I’ll illustrate the combat system sometime, but we’ll have to do that later. I’m not going to give ratbattles the dignity of being our test case.
In any case, two bullets and two dead rats later, I make it to the end of the cave, where our dear Athena sees sunlight for the first time in her life. And what do you think about that, Athena?
I had heard stories about this. When the earth was young, God, angry and vengeful against the people that turned on him, placed a giant ball of fire into the sky that shoots radiation into anyone underneath it. It would be my first challenge to face in this blighted land.
Right. Okay. That places us onto the world map, just outside Vault 15. Those of you who have played the later games in the Fallout series after Bethesda’s picked up the reigns might be used to a detailed and vibrant world where there are new things to see all over the place. Not so out here in California. In fact, this game world, if you look at the total real estate, is largely empty. You can stop anywhere you want on the world map, but unless you’re having an encounter or have made it to a Location, there’s very little to do. The total nuclear war has not been kind to this place, and has left it very, very desolate, and you’ll spend in-game days traversing the world map without finding anything except for empty ruins.
In any case, the only two place we have on our map right now are Vault 13 and Vault 15. We don’t have what we need to get into Vault 15 yet. There’s a merchant you can run into out here that will escort you to exactly where you need to get to go, but that’s a random encounter and I have horrible luck getting it to pop, so I just head out to where I know it’s at. It’s directly on the way between Vault 13 and Vault 15, so it’s impossible to miss unless you wander around first before heading to Vault 15.
Shady Sands. Immediately upon approaching the gates, Seth, captain of the town guards, takes issue with my having my gun at hand. You can have two items at the ready at any given time, meaning that you don’t need to go into your backpack (potentially costing action points in battle) to get to them. You have one of those active, meaning it’s only a click away from being used. I still had my gun active from the fight with the rats, which means, in essence, I was walking around with my gun in my hand. People take issue with that this game. I holster it (switch over to my other ready item) and enter town.
Katrina the town greeter, which is apparently a thing, is the first to… greet me. Go figure. I get the deets on things from her. She’s mostly a tutorial character, and explains some key gameplay elements such as how to barter with people and how to heal yourself, but the most important stuff for our purposes deal with the town itself. Shady Sands is populated by former residents of Vault 15. Some time ago, within Katrina’s lifetime at least, the vault was attacked by probably raiders, they couldn’t make contact with any of the other vaults, and they all left in order to live out in the wastes. A bunch of them founded Shady Sands here. She thinks that Vault 15 likely still has that water chip, but anyone that’s tried to loot the vault either hasn’t been able to get in or hasn’t made it back.
In any case, talking to her is a sidequest, sorta, and the game gives us a bunch of experience for completing it. Talking to her is as enlightening as killing ten of those rats back at the cave!
We also talks to Seth the guard, who claims that Shady Sands is a peaceful, idyllic agricultural community, and if it weren’t for the town being constantly under attack by raiders and radscorpions, things would be pretty dandy. Clues us in for two of our upcoming sidequests. I take a moment to play with the game’s barter function. In Fallout, you can buy, sell, and trade with nearly anyone, not just shopkeepers. Not everyone’s going to have an inventory, and values vary greatly between people, but if you’re up for it, most everyone’s up for a good trade. Bottle caps are the post nuclear currency du jour, as they’re backed by the major merchants of the area and civilization now lacks the technology to produce more of them, but really, you can usually trade in anything you can carry. I’ve spent plenty of time paying for things with guns or drugs, these games. In any case, Seth has a rope. We’re going to need rope. If we were wanting to play honestly, we’d just buy it off him here. But you know what? Screw paying for it.
Seth suggests I talk to the village leader, Aradesh. We’ve got some errands to run first. One of the random NPCs is very friendly in greeting me as I approach, then tells me to bug off when I try to talk. Random responses in this game can be very odd.
First, I head into a building that seems to be a bunkhouse for the town’s guards. They don’t like me. They don’t want these ‘outsiders’ taking advantage of their small town way of life. Even though pretty much everything is a small town in the post-apocalypse. It does give us a good picture of what buildings in this town look like. Shady Sands is pretty low-tech, as much as most every settlement in this setting, but they do seem to be in rather good condition. All the buildings are made from adobe and seem to take a definite southwestern style, they all seem to have the basic amenities, and the seem very deliberately designed. Shady Sands seems a lot better put together than the ramshackle towns and scavenged cities we’ll be seeing in the rest of the game and series. Well, aside from the fact that there’s only like two toilets in the entire town. In later games, Shady Sands actually grows into one of the most successful settlement in post-apocalyptic America, and just from their design here, you can see elements as to why.
In any case, one of the guards is an outsider himself, and he’s a bit more friendly to Athena than most. Ian here was a caravan guard from the Hub. Got himself injured on the job, and he stayed in Shady Sands to recuperate. Ended up really liking the place, so he stayed on with the town guard, and earns his keep defending the town from those aforementioned raiders and radscorpions. We talk with him a bit about the cities and raiders around here. He’s a worldly man who obviously knows his way around a gun. We could use his experience, so I ask him to join us. He offers to do so for 100 caps, but Athena’s so good at talking to people, we’re able to negotiate him down to helping us out for a share of the loot. Spoiler: Ian will get no loot.
So, with that, we have an ally. Easy enough. Until the end of the game or he dies, whichever comes sooner, Ian will take our orders, will join us in our battles, will keep us informed of this world that’s so new to us, and will generally do whatever we need to see our mission through safely. He will be an honest and earnest ally for as long as we’ll have him. He’s completely computer controlled though, which leads to… problems. Do not give him a burst-fire weapon. DO NOT GIVE HIM A BURST-FIRE WEAPON. Ian is notorious for gunning causing more player deaths than the enemy once he gets an SMG in hand. Dude will just blind fire right into the middle of whatever melee you’re in.
Anyways, Seth mentioned that we should talk with the village leader, so I head to Aradesh’s house next. Before we reach him, though, we bump into his daughter, Tandi.
Fallout does a unique thing with some important characters and also Tandi. Rather than just leaving you staring at their character sprite, they made clay models of them and have some really crude stop motion animation of them talking to you. They’re also voiced. It’s really nothing to write home about today, but back in the day, it was a really neat thing to see. It also lets you see their disposition for you just in the way they look at you, so hey, gameplay feature, too.
In any case, Tandi is young, and in a small farming community, so of course she’s bored. She has a longing to leave for some more populated place but doesn’t have a drive to, at least not alone, but she does want some more excitement in her life. Is really excited to meet some genius, incredibly beautiful and charismatic wanderer in a vault suit that recently came to town. Oh wait, that sounds familiar…
I smell something good coming from the kitchen. I tell the woman working in there so. She responds that she is going to tell all her friends about how nice I am. That’s… that’s a thing.
Following, we talk to Aradesh, in another one of those ‘Talking Head’ dialogues. Now, Shady Sands has a very ‘cultural’ feel to it, and Aradesh is where it comes through most strongly. They’ve got a very southwestern look to their structures, a few villagers mention worshipping ‘Dharma’, and once Aradesh starts talking, he’s got an accent, and a look, that’s really hard to place. They’re mixing elements of a few different cultures into what’s become Shady Sands. You may have noticed that they’re not very keen on outsiders here. That’s where that comes from, too. In fact, if we piss Aradesh off enough, he’ll kick us out of town. This lasts just long enough for us to walk back into town, but I’m sure it’s the thought that counts.
Aradesh doesn’t really have much to do with us right now. Tells us a bit about Shady Sands, and prompts us along the sidequest to take care of the radscorpions for them. We could theoretically finish that now, but practically, we need some more hardware to make a good run at it, so it’s tabled for now.
One interesting point for discussion, something Fallout does that I haven’t seen very many other games try, you can ask certain characters about things that aren’t dialogue options. Open up a menu, type it in, and if it’s something they know about, you get a bit of extra dialogue about it. It is never, ever necessary, but it does help make the world seem a bit bigger.
Of course, the way it’s implemented doesn’t always make sense.
Anyways, after talking with him, I head to the side of town with the farm. There’s exactly two things we want here. One of which is one of those quests we beat as soon as we find out about them, such as talking to Katrina, but we don’t have the stats for it so I avoid it like the plague. Aside from that I just wander into a random house up here, make my way to the bookcase, and
steal totally don’t steal a rope and an outdoors survival guide. Instead, we mysteriously find a rope and guide that are exact copies of the ones in the bookshelf. Go figure! The guide takes some time to read, but grants a small, permanent boost to our abysmally low Outdoorsman score. The rope is what we really came to Shady Sands to get. We’ll need it for the next step.
End then, shortly after, the game freezes up as I’m walking through some corn. And I realize I never bothered to save! Yeah, the Fallout series sneers at your pedestrian concepts of ‘stability’ and ‘bug-free’ and the first game is no exception. I can not think of a single game with ‘Fallout’ burned onto the cover that isn’t buggier than Bear Gryll’s dinner. Even disconsidering that we’re playing the game on a computer that’s so far beyond anything anybody dreamed of at the time it was made. But that’s a good time to end our post, anyways. Join us next time for more ratbattles!