This is the moment that I realized that I would not finish Fallout 2.
It has been a long time coming. I love the game, don’t get me wrong, and I have played it through probably four or five times during my life. I have fond memories of playing Fallout and Fallout 2 on my grandparent’s midlevel Windows 95 computer sometime during the late 90s/early 2000s. The game was hard, I cheated often, and I always felt like the most badass survivor in the wastes. I recently purchased both games from GOG.com in order to rekindle these feelings, and more than that, to make a blog post where I talked about why I love the games so much. And, probably, that blog post in coming the in the future, but I am pretty certain that I’m not going to finish Fallout 2.
The reason is both simple and complex. The short version is that I don’t like the game.
Let me be clear: I love the setting. I love the story. I love every little bit of writing, plotting, characterization, design, and everything else that makes up the game. I just hate the game mechanics. More specifically, I hate the way that combat works. It is in times like this that I really understand the ludology vs. narratology debates.
I, Rupert, the Chosen One of my village, took my friends Vic, Cassiday, and Sulik down into an abandoned mine that we had purchased from the mayor of Redding, a small mining community with a serious Jet problem. Vic is a repairman who I rescued from slavery. Cassiday is a bartender with a heart condition and a mean sawed-off shotgun. Sulik, my first companion, the body in the pool of blood there, has a more complex story. He was an indentured servant in a small-town bar when I met him. On inquiry, the owner of the bar explained to me that Sulik had done an immense amount of damage to the bar after finding out that his sister had been kidnapped and sold into slavery.
So I helped him pay for his freedom. We went looking for his sister. He carried a big hammer and would wail on man, mutant, and animal in order to close the distance between himself and his sister. The moment he died was tragic, and so I reloaded. Then he died again. And again. I actually played the above fight for about an hour, trying different ways to complete it, but Sulik always died. I can’t imagine playing the game without Sulik.
I know that I could leave and come back later at a higher level. I know that I could do a number of things to make the encounter less difficult. I even know that I don’t have to do the encounter at all. But the whole game is really a lesson in frustrating mechanics, and ultimately it comes down to the fact that the mechanics of the game will not allow me to have the story I want. The narrative I desire doesn’t even exist in the game–Sulik’s sister, and the storyline that goes along with her, was never programmed into the game. It is impossible for Sulik to be happy.
So maybe it’s better this way. I imagine the story goes like this: Sulik died quietly on the floor, his guts opened by some foreign beast he had no name for. The Chosen One, Vic, and Cassiday went along in their lives. The Chosen One saved his village. But they did all of this without me, or at least they did this time. This time, I don’t have it in me.