Fallout (computer game)

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Fallout box art

Original box art

Developer(s) Black Isle Studios[1]
Publisher(s) Interplay
Designer(s) Christopher Taylor
Tim Cain
Series Fallout series
Engine Fallout engine
Version 1.1 (21 November 1997)
Platform(s) MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS
Release date 30 September 1997
Genre(s) Post-apocalyptic CRPG
Mode(s) Single player
Rating(s) ESRB: M (Mature)
USK: 16+
ELSPA: 15+
OFLC: M15+
Media 1 CD-ROM
System requirements
10+ MB free space, mouse[2]
Pentium 90 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 2x CD-ROM, SVGA, SoundBlaster-compatible sound card.
Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, DirectX 3.0a or 5.0, 2x CD-ROM, SVGA, DirectSound-compatible sound card.
PowerMac, 16 MB RAM, CD-ROM, System 7.1.2.

Fallout is a computer role-playing game produced by Tim Cain and published by Interplay in 1997. The game has a post-apocalyptic setting in the late 22nd century, though its story and artwork are heavily influenced by the post-World War II nuclear paranoia of the 1950s.

The game is sometimes considered to be an unofficial sequel to Wasteland, but it could not use that title as Electronic Arts held the rights to it, and, except for minor references, the games are set in separate universes. It was also intended to use Steve Jackson Games‘s GURPS system, but that deal fell through, forcing Black Isle to change the already implemented GURPS system to the internally developed SPECIAL system.

Critically acclaimed, the game inspired a number of sequels and spin-off games, known collectively as the Fallout series.


Gameplay in Fallout consists of traveling around the game world, visiting locations and interacting with the local inhabitants (usually in real-time). Occasionally, inhabitants will be immersed in dilemmas which the player may choose to solve in order to acquire karma and experience points. Alternately, the player may choose to ignore requests for help, in which case he or she has the option of choosing to act on behalf of an opposing faction, or act purely in self-interest. Experience points may still be rewarded if the player acts for an opposing interest or in self-interest. Ultimately, players will encounter hostile opponents (if such encounters are not avoided using stealth or diplomacy), in which case they and the player will engage in combat.


Combat in Fallout is turn-based. The game uses an action point system, wherein, each turn, multiple actions may be performed until points no longer remain in the pool. Different actions consume different amounts of points, and the number of points that can be spent may be affected by such things as drugs and perks. The order in combat is determined by the Perception attribute. Characters with a higher value in this attribute will be placed at an earlier position in the sequence of turns.

Players may engage in melee or ranged combat, including the use of energy weapons and bare-handed fisticuffs. Each weapon/combat type has an associated skill, which is based upon an attribute, and may be further enhanced or diminished by perks. Players may equip at most two weapons, and the weapon being held is activated by clicking on its icon using the mouse. Opposing characters will likewise be equipped with such weapons; animal combatants will engage in melee combat.

Combat animations are usually of a humorous or comic nature, evoking the slapstick fighting in animated cartoons of the ’40s and ’50s. Characters, when on fire, dance around in flames until they fall to the ground. When incinerated, they fall to the ground in a pile of dust.

Character development

Character development is split into four different categories: attributes, skills, traits and perks.

Basic attributes

The protagonist is governed by the SPECIAL (an acronym for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck) system designed specifically for Fallout, and used in the other games in the series. Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck are the seven basic attributes of every character in the game, and are used to determine the character’s skills and perks.


There are eighteen different skills in the game, ranging in value from 0 to 200 percent. The starting values for Level 1 skills are determined by the player’s seven basic attributes, and initially fall in a range between 0 and 50 percent. Every time the player gains a level, points are awarded that can be used to improve the character’s skills (equal to five points, plus twice his Intelligence attribute). The player may choose to tag three of the eighteen skills. A tagged skill will improve at twice the normal rate.

The skills are divided into three categories:

  • Six combat skills: Small Guns, Big Guns, Energy Weapons, Unarmed, Melee Weapons, Throwing.
  • Eight active skills: First Aid, Doctor, Sneak, Lockpick, Steal, Traps, Science, Repair.
  • Four passive skills: Speech, Barter, Gambling, Outdoorsman.

Books, although scarce in the early game, can be found throughout the game world that also improve some of the skills permanently. However, after a skill reaches a certain level, books no longer have any impact. Some NPCs can also improve skills via training. How high a skill can be developed is affected by the character’s attributes; a character with a low Intelligence will not be able to boost their Science rating as high as a character with high Intelligence, for example.

Some skills are also improved by having certain items equipped. For instance, a lock pick improves lock-picking skills. Stimulants can also temporarily boost player’s skills; however, they often have adverse effects such as addiction or withdrawal. As skills grow higher in rating, they begin to cost more skill points to increase.

Traits and perks

Traits are special character qualities which often have profound effects on gameplay. At character creation, the player may choose two optional traits for his character. Traits typically carry benefits coupled with detrimental effects; for example, being “small stature” improves sneaking and stealing ability, but negatively affects heavy weapon skills and maximum carrying capacity. Once a trait is chosen, it is impossible to change, except by using the “Mutate” perk which allows a player to change one trait, one time.

Perks in the game are special elements of the level up system. Every three levels (or every four if the player chose the “Skilled” trait), the player is granted a perk of his or her choosing. Perks grant special effects—most of which are not obtainable via the normal level up system—such as letting the player perform more actions per round. Unlike traits, most perks are purely beneficial; they are usually offset only by the infrequency with which they are acquired.

Karma and reputations

The game also tracks the moral quality of the player character’s actions through a statistic, called Karma, as well as a series of reputations. Karma points are awarded for doing good deeds, and are subtracted for doing evil deeds. The effect of this statistic during the course of the game is minimal; however, the player character may receive one of a number of “reputations”, that act like perks, for meeting a certain threshold of such actions, or for engaging in an action that is seen as singularly and morally reprehensible. The three reputations a player may receive in Fallout are:

  • Berserker – received for killing a large number of innocent people. This reputation makes it easier to deal with the darker elements of society.
  • Champion – the antonym of Berserker. This reputation is received for standing upon the side of justice and killing evil-doers. It makes it easier to deal with good-natured people.
  • Childkiller – received for killing three or more children. If this occurs, a band of bounty hunters will set out to kill the player character.


The protagonist of Fallout is an inhabitant of one of the government-contracted fallout shelters known as Vaults. In subsequent Fallout games, he or she is referred to as the Vault Dweller.

The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world following The Great War, a nuclear war that occurred on October 23, 2077. Lasting less than two hours, the war caused immense destruction. Before The Great War were the Resource Wars, during which the United Nations disbanded, a plague rendered the United States paranoid, and Canada was annexed.

The game takes place in 2161 in Southern California and begins in Vault 13, the protagonist’s home. Vault 13’s Water Chip, a computer chip responsible for the water recycling and pumping machinery, has broken. The Vault Overseer tasks the protagonist with finding a replacement. He or she is given a portable device called the “PIPBoy 2000” which keeps track of mapmaking, quest objectives, and various bookkeeping aspects. Armed with the PIPBoy 2000 and meager equipment, which includes a small sum of bottle caps, which are used as currency in the post-apocalyptic world (They also appear in the sequel, Fallout 2, though the institution of a more conventional form of hard currency has rendered them worthless, as the player character remarks upon finding a hidden stash of caps), the protagonist is sent out into the remains of California to find another Water Chip.

The player initially has 150 days before the Vault’s water supply runs out. This time limit can be extended by 70 days if he commissions merchants in the Hub to send water caravans to Vault 13. Upon returning the chip, the Vault Dweller is then tasked with destroying a mutant army that threatens humanity. A mutant known as “The Master” (previously known as Richard Grey) has begun using a pre-war, genetically engineered virus called Forced Evolutionary Virus to convert humanity into a race of “Super Mutants”, and bring them together in the Unity, his plan for a perfect world. The player is to kill him and destroy the military base housing the supply of FEV, thus halting the invasion before it can start.

If the player does not complete both objectives within 500 game days, the mutant army will discover Vault 13 and invade it, bringing an end to the game. This time limit is shortened to 400 days if the player divulged Vault 13’s location to the water merchants. A cinematic cut-scene of mutants overrunning the vault is shown if the player fails to stop the mutant army within this time frame, indicating the player has lost the game. If the player agrees to join the mutant army, the same cinematic is shown.

In version 1.1 of the game, the time limit for the mutant attack on Vault 13 is eliminated, allowing players to explore the game world at their leisure.

The player can defeat the Master and destroy the Super Mutants’ Military Base in either order. When both threats are eliminated, a cut-scene ensues in which the player automatically returns to Vault 13. There he is told that he has changed too much and his return would negatively influence the citizens of the Vault. Thus he is rewarded with exile into the desert, for, in the Overseer’s eyes, the good of the vault. There is an alternate ending in which the Vault Dweller draws a handgun and shoots the Overseer after he is told to go into exile. This ending is inevitable if the player has the “Bloody Mess” trait or has accrued significant negative karma throughout the game. It can be triggered if the player initiates combat in the brief time after the Overseer finishes his conversation but before the ending cut-scene.

Recruitable NPCs

The player character and his party of NPC followers visiting the Hub.

The player character and his party of NPC followers visiting the Hub.

A diverse selection of various recruitable non-player characters (NPCs) can be found to aid the player in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Unlike in Fallout 2, there is no limit to the number of NPCs that the player may recruit in Fallout. NPCs’ statistics and armor remain unchanged through the entire game; only their weapons may be upgraded.

  • Ian, found in Shady Sands, is the first recruitable NPC that the player meets. He is an experienced traveler and gunman. Ian can equip any pistol or SMG, and wears a leather jacket.
  • The player first meets Tandi in Shady Sands. She is bored with the town, and yearns for excitement. She is eventually kidnapped by the Khans, and the player may choose to rescue her. After she is rescued, she will follow the player anywhere as long as she does not return to Shady Sands, thus functioning as an unofficial recruitable NPC. Tandi appears again as a Mayor of one of the towns in Fallout 2.
  • Dogmeat is the only nonhuman NPC that the player may recruit. Dogmeat can be found in Junktown, outside of Phil’s house, preventing him from entering his house. The player may attract Dogmeat by either wearing a leather jacket or feeding the dog an iguana-on-a-stick. After that, Dogmeat will follow the player. Dogmeat also re-appears in Fallout 2 as an easter egg and a recruitable NPC.
  • Tycho is a former Desert Ranger, now living in Junktown. He can wield rifles, shotguns, and spears.
  • Katja may be recruited in the library in the LA Boneyard. She can fight unarmed and wield pistols and SMGs.


A number of well-known actors were cast as voice-talents for this game. The game’s narrations were done by Ron Perlman. The game’s prologue, which he narrated, featured one of the foremost iconic catch phrases of the game series — “War. War never changes”. He was re-invited to narrate Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics, and Fallout 3. Other appearances included Richard Dean Anderson as Killian, David Warner as Morpheus, Tony Shalhoub (credited as Tony Shalub) as Aradesh, Brad Garrett as Harry, Keith David as Decker, Richard Moll as Cabot, and Tony Jay as The Mutant Lieutenant.

Black Isle intended to use “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” by The Ink Spots for the theme song, but couldn’t license the song because of a copyright issue.[3] This song was later licensed by Bethesda for Fallout 3. The song “Maybe” by the same artists was used instead for the original Fallout theme song.

At one point in Fallout’s development, in Junktown, if the player aided local sheriff Killian Darkwater in killing the criminal Gizmo, Killian would take his pursuit of the law much too far to the point of tyranny, and force Junktown to stagnate. However, if the player killed Killian for Gizmo, then Gizmo would help Junktown prosper for his own benefit. The game’s publisher did not like this bit of moral ambiguity and had the outcomes changed to an alternate state, where aiding Killian results in the “good” ending.[3]


Fallout made #4 on the list of top games of all time produced by PC Gamer in 2001. It made #5 on the IGN list of the top 25 PC games of all time (IGN’s list), and is usually placed in similar lists. It also won the award of “RPG of the Year” from GameSpot, and has since been inducted into their “Greatest Games of All Time” list.[4] Fallout made #55 on IGN‘s 2005 top 100 games of all time,[5] and #33 on IGN’s 2007 top 100 games of all time.[6] It is notable that all review scores for Fallout are consistently high and none are lower than an 8, with the only criticism involving its graphics. One notable criticism, however, has passed through the fan base, and that is that while the character creation allows for an extreme amount of variance, some of the skills and optional attributes are useless. Also, the early game can be very difficult for non-combat-oriented characters.

Influences and references

Fallout draws much from 50s pulp magazines, science fiction and superhero comic books. For example, computers use vacuum tubes instead of transistors; energy weapons exist and resemble those used by Flash Gordon; the Vault Dweller’s main style of dress is a blue jumpsuit with a yellow line going down the center of the chest and along the belt area. Fallout’s menu interfaces are designed to resemble advertisements and toys of the same period; For example, the illustrations on the character sheet mimic those of the board game Monopoly, and one of the game’s loading screens is an Indian Head test card. The lack of this retro stylization was one of the things for which the Fallout spin-offs were criticized, as retro-futurism is a hallmark of the Fallout series.[citation needed]

Fallout contains numerous Easter eggs referencing 1950s and 1960s pop-culture. Many of these can be found in random encounters, which include a vanishing TARDIS from Doctor Who (complete with sound effect), and a massive footprint that resembles Godzilla‘s, referring to the short animation “Bambi Meets Godzilla“. Another reference comes in the form of a quotation: in the Old Town district of The Hub, an insane man named Uncle Slappy wanders in perpetual circles calling out non-sequiturs, one of which is “Let’s play Global Thermo-Nuclear War!”, a reference to a similar line in the 1983 film WarGames. The game also refers to other pieces of fiction, including Robin Hood.

There are also many references to post-apocalyptic science fiction, such as Mad Max or the infamous post-apocalyptic musical and detective movie Radioactive Dreams. One of the first available armors is a one-sleeved leather jacket that resembles the jacket worn by Mel Gibson in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. A player wearing this jacket can get a dog, named Dogmeat after Mad Max’s dog, to join the party in Junktown.

Although the time frame of Wasteland is completely different from Fallout—and despite the fact that the game’s designers deny that Fallout or Fallout 2 take place in the same universe as Wasteland—there are many references to the events and the style of Wasteland in the Fallout series, which is why Fallout is sometimes regarded as the spiritual successor to Wasteland. For example, the protagonist can meet an NPC named Tycho, who mentions that he is a Desert Ranger and, under the right conditions, will talk of his grandfather, who told him about Fat Freddy, a character from Las Vegas in that game.


See also

External links


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