​Fallout 2's First Dungeon Isn't All That Terrible

I've wanted to play Fallout 2 for a long time. The reaction I get from people when I say I haven't played it is much like the reaction you're probably forming in your head right now: Oh god, you're missing out, it holds up, do it, etc. The only problem: I kept getting stuck on the first dungeon.

The game might be a massive open-world RPG about exploring a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but at the beginning it's about a dude (or in my case, lady) with a spear going through an ugly cave, swinging her spear at giant ants, and missing. The game starts out by playing a super cool cinematic:

....and then unceremoniously starts you off at a dungeon called the "Temple of Trials." And for the uninitiated player, it is indeed a trial. I've seen people complaining about it online since before I even considered playing the game, and once I finally played it, I saw why.

When I say I got "stuck" on that dungeon in the past, I don't really mean that it was too hard. It was more that I'd kind of make it a little way, start to feel bored, or frustrated, and wander away from the game to play other things.

Yesterday, I decided that enough was enough. Fallout 2 is by all accounts a great game, I'm kind of sick of the big-budget modern stuff I've been playing, and I'm going to give it an honest go. So I buckled down and played through the Temple of Trials. Then, because I wasn't 100% happy with my character build, I made a new character and played through it again.

You know what? The Temple of Trials isn't all that bad. It's not great, and I'd imagine that the rest of the game gets much better (I'm already having fun in Arroyo, hooray Oregon), but all the same…now that I get how it works, I don't hate it.

First of all, character creation. I don't really fuck around anymore when it comes to classic RPGs like this, I'm happy to read whatever online FAQ and just pick the best/easiest thing, since there were so many weird ways you could make a borderline unusable character in these older games.

Here's my build for my character Beatrix:

​Fallout 2's First Dungeon Isn't All That Terrible

That build seems to be the build that the Internet agrees is The Best Way to Go, and it makes sense to me. The Gifted perk lets you get your IN, PE and AG crazy high, which will let you kill people from long distance and talk your way out of just about anything. Plus, a high IN gives you lots of skill points every level, which undoes the penalty that Gifted imposes. Kind of an unbalanced perk, really, but that's okay by me because this game is hard and my time is limited.

Anyway, none of that really helps all that much in the Temple of Trials. The first thing that happens after you go in is you have to fight these ants:

​Fallout 2's First Dungeon Isn't All That Terrible

Those crappy little monsters, along with their scorpion friends, will completely own you until you figure out the trick to beating them, which is: Walk up to them, hit them, then move at least 3 tiles away from them. They'll follow you but won't have enough AP to attack, so you can just hit them, run, wait, hit them, run, wait, until they're dead. Once I figured that out, I never took another hit from a bug.

​Fallout 2's First Dungeon Isn't All That Terrible

​Fallout 2's First Dungeon Isn't All That Terrible

Then come the traps. Beatrix was perfectly capable of spotting all the temple's traps, and it seemed worth it to just hit "disarm trap" until she disarmed each one, since I got 25XP each time I did.

Then came a lock I couldn't pick, and I had to use the plastic explosive hidden in a vase to blow it up. Which teaches about secondary items, how to use an explosive, and leave plenty of time on the timer to get clear.

​Fallout 2's First Dungeon Isn't All That Terrible

Then I made my way to this room with this guy:

​Fallout 2's First Dungeon Isn't All That Terrible

I tried fighting him, and this happened:

​Fallout 2's First Dungeon Isn't All That Terrible

Since I had the build I had, I tried reasoning with him, and was easily able to talk him out of fighting me:

​Fallout 2's First Dungeon Isn't All That Terrible

​Fallout 2's First Dungeon Isn't All That Terrible

​Fallout 2's First Dungeon Isn't All That Terrible

​Fallout 2's First Dungeon Isn't All That Terrible

​Fallout 2's First Dungeon Isn't All That Terrible

And... that's the end of the Temple of Trials.

That final bit teaches something very important about this game, particularly to people who haven't played a Fallout game before: Not only can you talk your way out of just about anything, but usually, the conversation you'll have in the process will be pretty entertaining.

(However, something contrary to RPG logic: It turns out the Charisma stat doesn't really give you extra conversational options, it's the Intelligence stat that does that. Which makes Charisma a lot less useful. That's confusing, as I would've chosen to invest in Charisma if I hadn't known better, then spent hours playing with a character build that couldn't actually do what I wanted. See what I mean about reading FAQs first?)

My verdic: The Temple of Trials ain't all that bad. It teaches players:

  1. Be careful and exploit the battle system to get enemies to chase you and waste AP.
  2. Don't take on more than one enemy at a time if you can help it.
  3. What a trap looks like and how to disarm it.
  4. That lockpicking is useful but a plastic explosive can take down a door if you need it.
  5. That you can talk your way out of anything, and often it'll be more entertaining than fighting.

Sure, it's a bit prickly and unwelcoming, and it doesn't really reflect how open-ended things get in the rest of the game, but I'll actually take it over a super streamlined modern tutorial any day.

I'll be playing more Fallout 2 (hooray!) over the coming weeks and writing about it here. Who knows? Maybe I'll even finish it. Since this is my first post, I hope you'll sound off in the comments about your history with the game, your favorite character builds, and what you made of the Temple of Trials the first time you played.

See you on the wastes.

​Fallout 2's First Dungeon Isn't All That Terrible