Where to start with this game...
'It's a classic' would be a good place to start, I guess. I have no problems say that from the outset. It's only taken me 15 years to get around to play original Fallout, but I can see without a shadow of a doubt why it's so highly regarded.
Before you play this game make sure to download the Fallout Fixt mod, which is a very comprehensive community mod which fixes a lot of the bugs, and more importantly the resolution for modern monitors. Without this patch you'll more than likely experience a horrible rainbow pixalation effect during videos and gameplay.
Fallout is a turn-based RPG series which offers you various ways to tackle the game. Do you want to be a stealthy person, creeping around, pick pocketing your way to glory? Sure, why not! Do you want to be a smooth talking kinda guy who can talk his way in and out of trouble? Go on, be that guy! What about a bookworm who can use his brain to solve puzzles. Yup! And of course you can be a mix of all three, as well as a gun totting maniac! YEE-HAW!
For my playthrough I used one of the pre-set characers (Albert) who was a Lawyer in a previous life and was set up with high charisma and speech skills. This opened up different dialogue trees throughout the game, which was nice.
Anyway, I enjoyed this game - I enjoyed it a lot. The characters are great, the voice acting (while limited) was pretty nice (though it did give away who the 'important' characters were) and the story itself was pretty deep. The game starts, as always, with you the 'Vault Dweller' leaving your vault for the first time to explore the wastelands. You're tasked with bringing back a water chip to save your vault before everyone dies of thirst!
There's a time limit to this, which (for me) cast a sense of urgency. Normally in Fallout games (Fallout 3 and New Vegas) I'm guilty of just going 'WHEEEEE' and exploring everywhere and not really caring what I'm doing. Yet in Fallout there's no time to explore, you've got to save lives!
... if you want to.
You see you don't NEED to save their lives, if you don't want to. In fact, you don't HAVE to do much in Fallout if you don't want to. It's not a narrow pathed experience, you can pretty much choose how you deal with the events in the game (and the end game cutscene will reflect on this at the end). A lot of games claim to be an open experience, and the actions you take reflecting on the game world, yet here's a game from 1997 which actually does that. I'm not sure it even heralds that fact that it does this. It just gets on with being a pretty damn good game.
This brings me on to another aspect of the game - the many different branches of the game. People react to you differently depending on what you're wearing, what you're wielding, and what you're intelligence or charisma is. I find that amaizng now (in 2014), so I can only imagine how mindblowing it was back in 1997 when the game was released. The 'simple' graphics by today's standards shouldn't distract you from what is a very complex game. There's a lot going on under the hood of this game and at times perhaps too much.
My eyes were really opened up to this towards the end of the game when I was struggling with killing a certain mob. I had went about it 'head on' and was killed a number of times. Yet, after a night's sleep I came back with a different approach, a more sneaky ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥s approach and it was so much easier, and strangely satisfying. I had killed the guy and he had never even seen me.
OK, sure the wastelands were plunged into another 100 years of nuclear fallout in the process, but hey... I KILLED THE GUY!
However, even with the Fallout Fixt mod, the game can be prone to crash now and again. I'm not sure if it's the game's memory file getting too big or a conflict with Steam Overlay (wouldn't be a first), but towards the end of the game (and a lot of different quest outcomes) it started to become slightly unstable. So save REGULARLY!
Which brings me on to another thing. This is an 'old school' game. It will not autosave for you, you must take control of your own save files. If you die you won't be taken back to the next/recent checkpoint... you'll have to load up from the last point you saved.
This was the only thing I didn't like, but in the end I learned to live with it and it made me realise how pampered I had become as a gamer. I didn't have autosaves and 10 minute interval checkpoints when I was a kid and I still played games all the time back then. Yet, here I am as a grown man crying about dying and having to go back 20 minutes in the game because I had forgot to save... a lesson in life this game has given me.
Also, this game is tough. REALLY tough. Depending on how you build your character, or which character you choose. You will die a lot.
So in closing...
If you're looking for an old school RPG experience than I'd recommend giving Fallout a try. I appreciate at time of writing they're no longer available on the Steam Store, or GOG, but hopefully they return one day, as they deserve to be played.