So last time, as Red Metal so correctly put it, we fell victim to what’s sure to be our nemesis this run, poor stability. And I found that I had completely forgotten to save since the start of that run. Is that the death knell of our playthrough? Would we ever be able to bring ourselves back to the state we once were?
Well, yeah. We weren’t exactly that far in. Just a few minutes later, I had rebuilt our character, did all the same stuff, and got us back to right to where we were. Well, most of the same stuff. There were a few things I did differently.
First, we had a random encounter on our way to Shady Sands, wherein Athena almost tripped up a cliff somehow, then complained that the government wasn’t doing it’s job. Welcome to a day with my clients.
When we got to Shady Sands, we picked up on the same radscorpion and raiders quest hooks as last time. We continued on that line a bit, and spoke with Razlo and Jarvis. Razlo’s the resident doctor of Shady Sands, currently tasked with helping Seth’s brother Jarvis fight of that nasty case of Radscorpion stabbing. We could royally piss him off by asking what someone with his education is doing in a place like Shady Sands, but Athena is much too suave for that.
The most important thing we did in Shady Sands last time was have Ian join our crew. We could do it the exact same way this time, just by being very charming, but one of the best things about Fallout is how there’s multiple ways to do pretty much everything. Since we have to do it again anyways, let’s take the opportunity to exercise that.
Also, it lets us drag Athena‘s good name right through the mud. Man, I’m really enjoying naming this character after her now.
First thing first, we need money. I start by selling the flares the Vault left us with to Seth. Doesn’t quite get us enough, so Athena begins robbing the town blind. Well, as much as she can. People in the post-apocalypse don’t exactly have much. What she does find, she sells right back to the people who own them. Aradesh pays top dollar for his own knife. It fits his taste exactly, oddly enough.
Then, when we get 100 bottlecaps, we hire Ian. We didn’t have to buy his services last time, thanks to our awesome speech abilities, but that’s his asking price. For 100 caps, Ian is our friend for the rest of the game, ready to die for us if need be.
Of course, once a character is your companion, they’re happy to share everything they own with you. They completely don’t mind you opening up their pockets and swapping things out. So when Athena not only takes back the 100 caps she just gave him but makes him pay the 63 caps he was already carrying for the pleasure of her company, well, he’s all too happy to oblige.
Thus accomplished, we set out of town, heading for Vault 15. On the way there, we run into a random encounter. Those radscorpions that have been plaguing Shady Sands. Apparently, leaving the safety of the town walls means there’s nothing stopping them from just walking up and bugging me. But on the plus side, dealing with some man-sized super-poisonous scorpions means I have a good chance to explain the combat system in Fallout!
It’s actually really simple. If you’ve played any game that has the word “Tactics” at the end of the title, you’re going to be very familiar with it. Basically, it’s a turn-based system wherein whenever your turn comes up, you get an amount of “action points” equal to your Agility stat. Those action points determine how much you can do in a turn. You’re on an invisible hex grid, and it costs one point for every hex you use. Beyond that, you can have two items at the ready at any given time, and they’ll each take a specified amount of points to use. Most small guns cost five points to fire, meaning that if we took Red Metal’s advice and started with 10 Agility, we could fire twice per turn. Stimpaks, the healing items of the game, cost at least two and up to five points to use, with the more you have available to spend lending to improved healing. Usually, we’ll have a weapon in one slot, and a stimpak in the other, but if we’re so inclined, we can use any item or skill aside from conversation we would be using outside of combat inside of it as well. It’s not always useful to do so, but aside from enabling the use of weapons, being in combat largely only changes the real-time world into a turn-based one, so if we were wanting to escape or unlock doors to safety, we could do that as well. We also always have the opportunity to open up our backpack for four action points, in which we can change our equipment or use as many items on ourselves as we’d like.
We only ever control our PC, so even though Ian’s on our side, he’s still under the AI’s control, so we’ll still need to live with his decisions. Which is why we are NEVER EVER EVER GIVING HIM A BURST-FIRE WEAPON. A lot of our decision-making centers around how we’re managing our defense and position. The farther you are from an enemy, the less likely they are to hit you, while the more you can force them to move, the less action points they’ll have available for their own attacks. However, any action points you don’t spend at the end of your turn get added to your Armor Class, improving your overall defense/dodgability. So, positioning and whether to move or not plays a pretty constant part in the mind. Are you better off moving away from the gunman to reduce his accuracy, or letting those action points boost your AC instead? Do you want to completely book it away from the melee attacker, or are you willing to only move by half in order to take that point-blank shot with a near perfect chance to hit?
Also, yes, you’re remembering correctly, there is indeed a Fallout Tactics. If you switch it to the right mode, it uses basically this combat system here. So yeah, that Tactics comparison, it’s strong.
In any case, the radscorpions take a beating. Largely from Ian. So far, as it turns out, the experienced caravan guard is a lot better in a fight than the vault dweller who’s only ever gunned down rats. As an AI player, he’s able to break the rules, and can occasionally fire twice even though he shouldn’t have the AP for it. He’s more accurate than Athena too. The scorps largely target her, and manage to nail her once, although luckily, she’s not poisoned by it. She gets in a few hits, and with Ian paving the way, they manage to take the two of them down. Athena celebrates by ripping off their tails and shoving them into Ian’s pockets.
We travel until morning, and make it to a small shack in the middle of nowhere at the location Vault 15 was supposed to be. Inside, there’s nothing but a ladder leading down. The rest of the shack has been stripped bare. We take the ladder, and find ourselves in familiar territory: a big dumb cave filled with filthy rats. They bite me. Putting my rabies shots to the test. At the end, we see the door to Vault 15, blasted right off its hinges.
Vault 15 is definitely the worse for wear. It’s been uninhabited for a few decades, after whatever strife they originally had that apparently ruined a lot in it, and general disrepair, looting, and cave-ins have ruined a lot of the rest of it. All the vaults on the west coast have the same layout, so Athena is right at home here, even though pretty much everything is broken and gone. So at home, she’s able to find a secret locker near the entrance that apparently decades of looters have missed, and pockets the six flares inside. Other than that, this is the Silent Hill version of your standard vault. Everything is inexplicitly covered in rust, and every passage in and out is broken.
Also, there are rats everywhere. Most of the time, they don’t pose a problem, thanks to a fun bit of game mechanics. Specifically, the mechanic of sequence. The order of turns in combat. See, Athena has a high perception, which gives her a high sequence, meaning her turn will usually come very early. However, the first round in combat is a little different, in that it allows the actor that initiated combat to move first, before putting the rest into sequence order. So what often happens is that a rat sees us, initiates combat, and gets to move first for doing so. They move up right next to us, but run out of AP to attack, then it’s Athena’s turn. Then, assuming the rat survives, a new round starts, following normal sequence rules, and Athena gets her turn before the rat. So the rat spends its entire initial turn moving into point-blank range, then Athena gets two turns in a row to kill it. Here, the game starts giving us new, stronger rats to battle, in the form of the lesser mole rat, which is a fatter, pinker rat, and the pig rat, which is an even fatter, even pinker rat, but between Athena’s two turns in a row and Ian’s overall competence, we really don’t have much to worry about.
Vaults have three floors. You use an elevator to get between floors. Pretty easy, right? Except the elevator’s completely out here. Luckily, Athena’s resourceful, and has a rope she totally didn’t steal in Shady Sands. She lashes that, and she and Ian use it to descend the elevator shaft.
The second floor is the residential floor. Again, it’s largely looted, and there’s not a whole lot left here. There are a few important items, though, that I’m pretty sure were left by the looters rather than the vault residents themselves. I find a few bullets for a gun we don’t have yet in the middle of a caved in hallway, and a rope and a leather jacket in a locker in one of the dorms. The leather jacket is our first real bit of armor, and nearly doubles our AC. Pretty handy to have, for some of what we’ve got coming up. Not here though. Those rats couldn’t endanger us if we had all our limbs tied behind our back. The rope gets us down another floor, through another ruined elevator shaft.
The third floor down is where it’s at! This is where we’ve been going for! The most important part of this vault for our quest! See, this is where the armory is! Well, I suppose also the water filtration system that has the water chip that’s going to save our vault and everything in it and make it so we can survive this blasted hellscape in peace, but come on. Is life really worth living without things that go boom? That’s the first place we head.
It seems the looters didn’t make it down quite this far, because there’s some real things of value, here. Two grenades, which we’ll be selling, a bundle of dynamite, which will see some use very soon, and an SMG. Bombs in this game tend to be very useful, even though we suck with them. We can use them to blow open doors, blow up people’s pants, assassinate people without anyone knowing who did it, and a whole bunch of other fun applications. The SMG is largely exactly the same as our handgun in terms of ammo types and single-fire damage. The only real differences are that it holds much more bullets, and it has an optional burst-fire mode. Ian! No! Stop looking at it! Bad Ian!
Oh yeah, and we also find the water chip, too.
Buried under several metric tons of caved-in stone.
Yep. Looks like we’ll have to find our salvation somewhere else.
So our expedition here turned out to be total bunk. But did you expect any different? Did you really expect us to be able to end the game in our second area? Yes, if you know what you’re doing, you can totally beat Fallout with only visiting two areas, but shhhhhhhh. Sure, our only lead turned out to be completely and utterly destroyed and we’ve got no clues as to where else we can find another one, but it’s not all bad. C’mon. We’re Athena. We can talk and/or shoot and/or doctor our way through anything. There has to be another one out there. And we’ll find it.
The trip back is largely uneventful. As our introductory dungeon, Vault 15 was incredibly straight-forward. Aside from needing ropes to progress, there weren’t anything more than the basic shooting and looting deals here. Future dungeons will give us a bit more interactive features to play with. We leave the same way we came in. All the rats that would have given us guff are already dead, so we go unmolested. We’ve earned enough XP to level up, but level ups are going to be stronger for us at night, when our intelligence is higher, so we leave the area and travel a bit back towards Shady Sands first, stopping in the middle of the night to improve ourselves. I bump our science skill up a bit, because it’s going to come in handy pretty soon for a quick little quest but also because computers are pretty bombin’. You can play video games on them and everything. I put the rest of the skill points we earn into our shooting and talking skills. Then it’s back to Shady Sands for us. What goes on there? We’ll find out next time.