A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game
Fallout 2's gameplay similar to the original Fallout. It's a role-playing game with turn-based combat, where the player plays the game in the pseudo-isometric view.
Fallout uses a character creation system called SPECIAL. SPECIAL is an acronym and initialism of Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. These are the seven basic attributes of every character in the game. They are used to determine the skills and perks of the given character.
Books found throughout the gameworld can also improve Small Guns, First Aid, Science, Repair, and Outdoorsman skills, up to a maximum of 91% skill value; books are scarce early in the game, and the max cap can prevent their use later on. Vault City and San Francisco are good sources of books.
Lockpicks can make it easier to open locks; note however that not all doors have the code script required for all lockpick types, and the bonus may vary. Normally +20-40%, it can range from +10-50%. Some skills can also be improved while having certain items equipped. (E.g. equipping a lock pick would improve lock picking skills.) Stimulants can also temporarily boost player's skills; however, they often have adverse effects such as addiction and withdrawal. As Skills grow higher in rating, they begin to cost more Skill Points to increase.
At character creation, the player may choose 2 optional traits. Traits are special character attributes, such as 'Skilled' (which drastically increases the player's skills, but adds an extra level before the player may choose each perk), or 'Jinxed' (enemies have a greater chance of critical attack failures, but so does the player). A Trait normally contains one beneficial effect and one detrimental effect, and are listed below the Perks section in the character sheet. Once a Trait is chosen, it is impossible to change, except by using the "Mutate" Perk which allows the player to change one Trait, but only once.
"Perks" are special elements of the leveling system. Every 3 levels (or every 4 if the player chose the "Skilled" Trait), the player is granted a perk of his choosing. Perks grant special effects, most of which are not obtainable via normal play in the game, such as letting the player take more actions per round. Unlike traits, most perks are purely beneficial - they are usually offset only by the infrequency of accquiring them.
Fallout 2 features a much wider array of items, weapons, and armor than Fallout. Most of the items from Fallout returned, but had alternate and upgraded forms: the minigun, for example, is now joined by the Avenger and Vindicator miniguns. Item prices were also increased at stores, making scavenging for items more important. In addition to old, upgraded weapons, several new weapons were introduced for all branches of combat, thus making no one combat skill the best, and allowing the player to be powerful with any firearm. The range of enemies was also increased to a wider diversity. The end result is a much more complex combat environment.
Skills start off at a lower rate than the first game, and the various skills are also more important. Previously, skills like Unarmed, Doctor, and Traps were used sparingly, but now, all skills are useful to a degree. The maximum level of a skill was increased from 200 to 300. Another notable change is that a skill, after reaching 100%, requires more than 1 skill point to increase, up to 6 skill points per 1% (2% if the skill is tagged) increase after 200%. The Unarmed skill in particular was made much more sophisticated by adding different types of Punches and Kicks depending on the player's Attributes and skill level. Several new Perks were added while most others were retained, allowing a greater degree of customization. The 'Friendly Foe' perk in Fallout is now a default feature in Fallout 2.
Karma is accompanied by Reputation, and while Karma affects the player on a whole, Reputation affects how the player is received in a single town. While Karma is achieved by doing good things and killing monsters, Reputation grows based on how the player helps the city, usually by completing subquests. By nature, Reputation and Karma tend to grow parallel to each other. As in Fallout, good/evil characters react differently to players with different Karma. Also, the player can acquire certain titles (Gigolo, Made Man, Slaver) based on their actions that also affect the game and how others react to them.
Recruitable NPCs were very simplistic in the first game, and the only control the player had over them was to designate a specific weapon for the NPC to use and how far away they should stand. In Fallout 2, team NPC control became much more sophisticated, with NPCs being able to gain levels, equip armor and be issued orders before and during combat, ranging from when to run away to when to heal themselves, as well as ordering them to holster their weapons. The NPCs also possess distinct personalities and characteristics, similar to previous games. The recruiting process has also been made more complex, with some NPCs refusing to join the player if he has negative Karma or before a certain quest has been completed. Finally, there is a limit to the number of NPCs a player can recruit (depending on the character's Charisma), as well as a larger number to recruit (over a dozen).
In the original Fallout, subquests in the towns and cities were usually solved within that city, with only a few subquests requiring the player to travel. The cities, fairly isolated except for caravans, were concerned with their own problems. In Fallout 2, however, the cities have a great deal of contact with each other, and with the sole exception of Klamath, actions in one city will affect the state of another, and subquests will often require the player to go back and forth from location to location to kill enemies and deliver messages and items.
The game's overall subject matter was generally more mature, with drugs and prostitution becoming major elements of the setting. The use of strong language remains uncensored, with an optional dialogue filter. During the course of the game, players can join the Mafia, become a porn star, get married and subsequently divorced, and prostitution is a strong recurring theme in the game. Slavery also becomes an important subplot, and players can either side with the Slavers or join their opponents (such as New California Rangers) who try to stamp slavery out. NPCs can be bought and sold as slaves during the course of the game.
Speedrunning is much more difficult than in Fallout. In Fallout, players could go straight to the Military Base, destroy it, then travel to the Cathedral and do the same. In Fallout 2, the final areas cannot be accessed until a computer part from Vault 13 is found, and Vault 13 in turn cannot be found until one of two quests have been completed, thus requiring a great deal of fighting that requires a higher-level character to survive. (Note: It is possible to bypass Vault 13 and the computer part quest with a 'Stupid' character by using Psycho to lower your intelligence temporarily). Also, while the player can recruit allies for the final encounter, there is no way to completely avoid the final boss battle in Fallout 2 -- again, encouraging combat and making a speedrun difficult. In spite of these factors, the game was completed in 17:51 on a video posted on the Speed Demos Archive website.
The fact that in Fallout, Fallout 2 and Fallout 3 the player characters are raised in an isolated community works with the plot structure, allowing the character to be as ignorant about the game world as the player would be and explaining why the map the character starts with is almost completely unexplored.
Fallout fans are generally divided in their opinions of Fallout 2. The most common complaints involve the voluminous amount of pop-culture references throughout the game, many of which are extraneous and forced; the exaggerated "adult" content such as the porn studio in New Reno, or even New Reno as a whole; the lack of a true Fallout atmosphere when compared to the original game; and especially the overall lack of advancement over the original in terms of graphics and gameplay. There have also been some complaints about the game's relatively arbitrary end boss, Frank Horrigan.
Other fans argue that Fallout 2 goes above and beyond the ideas and promises of the original. With a level of content many times that of the first Fallout, and no "ticking clock" main quest hanging over the head of the player, some feel that Fallout 2 fleshes out the concept of a truly open-ended roleplaying experience to an extreme that the original was unable to achieve.
Most fans can agree that Fallout 2 is fun for what it is, but nowhere near as groundbreaking as Fallout was. Still, Fallout 2 is considered one of Black Isle Studios' better RPGs by most critics, and is generally respected in the RPG community.