Previously, I went over what made the first Fallout game so good and how it separated itself from other RPGs. This time, I’m going over why Fallout 2 took everything from the original and gave the series its distinctive sense of humor.
The success of the first Fallout emboldened the team, encouraging them to get a little more wacky and bold in their designs for the sequel. Chief among these additions are the various encounters The Chosen One could have as they trekked through the Wasteland. My favorites include the bridge keeper, who is a reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail and has robes that have impressive stats, the crashed shuttle that suspiciously looks like one from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the guardian portal encounter. In this one, you get flung back in time and space to Vault 13, the vault your ancestor came from, and observe your surroundings. You can’t interact with anyone, but you can touch a computer, which causes the water chip to break, setting the in motion the events of Fallout. These little touches increases the lore of the series, while occasionally giving your character massive boosts to their stats or inventory. The pop culture sub-references found throughout make the game a bit of an Easter egg hunt, even though you’re in a godforsaken, irradiated hellhole of man’s own making. Fun, right?
The dialogue in the game was also tweaked with increased humor compared with the original. There was the occasional joke thrown in here and there, but Fallout 2 made it almost a prime directive to add in something zany in most conversations. When you activate a computer in the Gecko power plant, you can have a fun interaction that also foreshadows who you will be facing later in the game.
This soldier you talk to is part of the Enclave, the remaining forces of the former United States, and they are ripe with opportunities for ridiculous interactions. For instance, when you arrive at Navarro to get the key to access the final level in the game, you are “greeted” by Sgt. Dornan who is none too impressed by you.
The writers knew that they were going to an army base, so they made the wise decision to not only have a drill sergeant, but one who is so screamingly over-the-top that he is both intimidating and oddly relaxing since he reminds the player that they’re playing a silly game and should just enjoy the insanity of the moment.
The designers also embraced multiple tropes surrounding the port-apocalyptic genre. There was already a Mad Max theme to the game with the leather jacket armor and having a dog companion named “Dogmeat”, but Fallout 2 also included a functioning car, the only one in the entire series. When you traveled from one locale to another, the original music for that sequence was replaced with something that could be found on a road trip playlist. It’s not quite like being a road warrior, but it’s pretty great to be able to zoom around the map in a sweet ride that can somehow hold seven or so companions, including a Super Mutant and a big ol’ robot. That Chrysalis Highwayman was pretty boss, and it made navigating ashes of the West Coast and New Reno a breeze.
The value of the Fallout series is how it balances the dark future it has constructed with the silly, almost immersion-breaking sense of humor. In a world where there are not only Super Mutants that want to mutate everyone into one of their kind, but also the shadowy remnants of the US government that wants to commit a global genocide, it was a great choice to add a little bit of levity to keep it from getting lost in its own seriousness. Fallout 2 found the series’ tone, and it can be felt in every entry since it.