In order to preserve the "discovery" heart of Fallout 2, this walkthrough will attempt to be succinct and avoid or isolate spoilers & metagaming elements.
For brevity, these will be used throughout the walkthrough :
- Hint : light spoiler or meta about easy-to-miss stuff (item, quest, etc)
- Spoiler : full-on spoiler, typically for a specific quest outcome or combat encounter
- Cheese : full-on metagaming. Only is something is interesting enough to warrant the information at all.
- Restoration : content specific to Killap's Restoration Project
- Pacifist : if hardcore isn't hardcore enough for you and you also want to never hit anyone. Yes, it's possible.
Each fight is very easy, however you have to chain them without resting, so your only options for healing are consumables (meh) and skills (first aid, doctor) which are limited in per-day uses. Good opportunity to notice that every successful use of the latter yields XP, so it's an extremely good idea to always use them before resting/traveling.
To properly introduce the very kind of forgiving world of Fallout 2, several hard lockouts are waiting for you, and you can absolutely brick your save. Be particularly mindful of the door that needs explosives, as you only get one go at it.
Generally speaking the temple incites you to use quite a lot of skills, from passive trap detection to active ones (untrap, lockpick, etc). Note that many of them have critical failures, such as premature detonations, so don't set your detonators to 10 seconds.
- Pacifist : animals can't open doors, but you can open/close them in combat. After a round or two being unable to reach you, they'll drop out of combat
The last guy can be rather tough to fight, but he can be skipped if Speech is tagged (regardless of the skill level).
Spend some time talking to everyone. There's no good way to tell who's just there for show and who has actual dialogues or quests. This holds true for the entire game. Non-exhaustive checklist :
- Garden rescue : can't miss them. Take is as slow as you need.
- Dog rescue : he's on the western area. He'll follow you once you get close, but he's not invulnerable.Geckos respawn.
- Combat training : two opportunities to raise your melee skills for free through dialogues
- Maintenance : easy xp
- Hint : you can get a sharper stick with a good perception check and miniquest somewhere.
From here on out, you can rest as much as you want. Take your time finding and solving every secondary quest available in the village, you won't come back to do them later.
Regardless of what you chose to do, the takeaway is that your only lead to saving your village is a water flask that was brought by a merchant that went to Klamath. When you're ready, head there (couple of days West).
- Restoration : you'll probably be ambushed on the way by a disgruntly not-the-Chosen-One. This is your first taste of why optional/random fights should not be taken until well into lategame.
Explore, talk to everyone, figure out & do the quests, etc.
- Thorr's brahmins is a time-sensitive quest. You either do it when he asks, or it's gone
- Restoration : investigate the cabin south-west if you want to be able to solve the brahmin's disparitions questline.
- Some guy wants you to refuel his fire : time sensitive, and somewhat dangerous.
- Find Smiley : pick it up while you're here to get a new location on your map. Not recommended to clear until later, especially if you're playing solo (as you won't care about freeing Sulik much)
- Rats : go to rats area, kill rats. Move down, kill more rats. Take breaks if you need. Be particularly mindful of the two big ones (pipegun to the head is likely your best option) and don't pull PInky with all his horde, he's strong enough to be a threat solo.
- Hint : quite a few excellent (for early game) gear hidden around : knife, gun, ammo, etc
- Hint : that's a beautiful car. And that's a beautiful car part which you should absolutely hang on to.
- Restoration : the brahmins storyline is quite clear to figure out, but the triggers for dialogue are a bit hard to find. You need to find the fake claws AND <look> at some of the brahmins from up close to notice strange markings.
Canon story : find Vic's home and explore it carefully. You may want to gain some skills or tools first. Hang on to the radio you find if you care about RP, as it's the main canonical way to track down Vault 13. Otherwise discard it as it's absolutely no use whatsover.
Unexpectedly : don't start by exploring and talking to everyone.
- Pretty much every kid is a filthy thief working for a filthier fence. Stay away if you can. Seriously.
- Restoration Project offers a quest that lets you get rid of the issue, but is best completed with (very) high speech.
- Several areas aren't too friendly with uninvited guests, and there's no way you could survive this level of hostility, so tread carefully.
With that in mind, start exploring and find quests.
- Lara's got a few quests for you that don't involve fighting (at first), no reason to refuse. No time-sensitive things here in spite of the story. Last quest (last two quests in Restoration) involve mandatory fighting. You can get some decent loot, but the risk/benefit ratio is still low.
- Becky's also got a few, but you'll have to risk your inventory every time you go in/out of her bar.
- Hint : there's a ghost appearing at midnight in the southern office, with a short quest & excellent XP payout.
- "Mom" seems to be one of the few good guys around. Help her out. In particular do bring the mechanic his lunch if you ever want to have a car of your own.
- Spoiler : The drunk at mom's has had enough to drink. Sobering him up & listening to his story instead is quite important.
Canon story : go politely introduce yourself to Metzger and his guards. Gain access to Vic (quite a few options) and get him to tell you about the flask.
Head West. It's going to be a long trip, and there's a huge chance that bad RNG encounters will happen. All that matters is your survival.
You'll stumble upon it on your way to Vault 15. Clearly intended by the devs. Be a good player and take the hint.
The main quest here is initiated by red shirt guy. Aggravating though he may be, accept the quest. If it makes you feel better about it, also accept his finger. Before heading out, introduce yourself to the armorer and learn about his kid. Dog ! <3
Wow, check out those bodies !
Unless you're planning on one-man-armying your way through 20+ well meaning and well armed guys, be a good neighbour. Stay civil, inquire about the situation but don't pry strategic information. Agree to help and get back to modoc.
There's a fair chance you might break a leg. Not a very big deal, just make sure you notice if you do, to avoid getting in a fight you can't run away from.
Tell red shirt everything you've learnt. This is where knowing the story of the Den's drunk comes into play. If you haven't already, you just barely have time for the back and forth trip, and it's just as dangerous as the first time. If you check all the boxes, he should agree to peace.
Head into the cave, the ladder should now be visible in the fields. Find a couple of kids playing in a sub area. Hope you were paying attention earlier.
Go back to the guy in charge. Finish the peace treaty, get a ton of XP and an assault rifle. When you're ready to leave, ask him about the kid. This will save you a trip.
With the main quest out of the way, you can do the usual exploring. Be careful however as some benign actions can have dire consequences in this town.
- Someone should be quite happy to get his kid back. The reward is almost certainly better than what you currently have.
- Spoiler: the watch can only be found by exploding the rocks blocking the way in the northern, uh, excrement hole. Due to methane, the explosion will be tremendous : plan accordingly.
Canon story : none, the entire area is side-quest material.
Geographically, you'll probably end up in Vault City first. it's completely fine to explore it first, however the two zones have entertwined quests, and starting with Gecko makes them easier to follow. The main plot revolves around the nuclear power plant needing repairs. It doesn't matter how you learn about it, only what you do about it, and this starts in Gecko.
Finding out about the problem won't be an issue, and eventually you'll end up with knowledge of what part is needed for the repairs.
- Hint : however the best (arguable) outcome goes through an extremely well hidden NPC. There's a sewer-like hole in one of the buildings in the northern parts of town, leading to the Brain of the organization. Fully optional stuff though.
- Hint : lockpicking the doors to a nuclear plant reactor in front of armed guards isn't smart. Ghouls aren't too bright either, you can probably find keys here and there.
Once you know what part you need, head out to Vault 15, gain access to the inner city (lots of ways) and find someone to greenlight the part's requisition.
- Hint : highlight NPCs are Councilor McClure and Lynette. One is a reasonable (good ?) fellow. The other one will give you an urge to pull the trigger up close and repeatedly, but don't just now.
Head back close to the middle area to get the part.
- Hint : while you're there, say hello to the foul-tempered female tech nearby. She needs tools, and you really want to find them for her (if you don't have them already).
- Spoiler : a kid has lost his teddy bear near the city's entrance. Find it for him, then listen to his bubble speech. You can't find the tool until you do, even if you know it's there. Optional, as the tool is generic (if rare).
Back to Gecko. Get into the control room of the central and do the repairs somehow.
- Good office worker : use the computer, duh.
- Hint : ABC
- Spoiler: don't aggravate the army. It's quite out of the way in the dialogue path, but it's not there for fun.
- Dumb office worker : run in the core room of a nuclear reactor to do it manually.
- Smart office worker : get someone else to do it for you
Look at that, you fixed it ! After a few seconds, every should start congratulating you (don't leave too early) then offer the next quest : use an advanced computer to optimize the reactor. Guess where you'll find one ?
Back in Vault 15, you'll now need to become a full fledged citizen. Again, plenty of ways. The official one (standard test) has ridiculously high standards, so you may want to use alternative means. If you're playing a good guy, your buddy will set you up.
- Cheese : abusing combat mode lets you enter restricted areas. Once in, you're good.
Once inside the vault proper, the doc and his assistant offer a few quests (some now, some later) on the first floor. The second floor is essentially 8 rooms + a hall, each with hidden or hard to access items. Pick locks, force doors, etc. Pretty much same on the third floor, except it has stuff with dialogues too. Optimize the data.
- Hint : you'll find stuff that seem important yet without foreseeable use. Do keep.
- Hint : the computer can freshen up your PDA, uploading a lot of new locations to your map. Merely a convenience as they are all reachable already.
Back in Gecko, be a smart office worker.
There's a tech up north in desperate want of a super toolkit. He's also the only source of the one piece needed to repair the car all the way back in The Den. Who do we know around here who's also talking about tools ?
You can play (and get addicted) to Tragic the Garnering. Mostly for flavour.
The mayor is a recurring character from Fallout 1. He has a story to tell, and would like to hear yours.
This is the end of the early game of Fallout 2. You now have a decent level (8-12), at least two good armors (gift from Modoc & looted in the vault) and enough guns/ammo to hold a while. If you're not playing solo, you should also have found 1-3 companions up until now.
Once you're done with the secondary (and small) sidequests in Vault City, the story also takes a turn from purely linear (tracking Vic) to more open-ended (various leads to Vault 13).
You'll probably want to head back to the Den to get the car soonest, but you'll need two thousands dollars (cash) first. You likely don't have it yet, so that's probably your next milestone. Redding is your best best, as it offer gambling (infinite cash with high enough skill) and a merchant with a large amount of cash.
A note on fighting
You may have noticed that nothing (except optional rats/insects) so far involved any fighting outside of purely RNG encounters on the worldmap. Fallout 2 can actually be quite neatly split into early/mid/lategame that way :
- Early game areas and quests only have very sideline fights that you chose to engage with (and can run from). The one exception to this is Kaga from Restoration Project.
- Mid game ones will strongly incite you to fight in at least some of the quests for each area. The fights are generally advertized (no sudden ambush), but may not be avoidable for 100% completion, or may be difficult to disengage from. You'll also interact with "neutral" NPCs that could turn hostile, along with many others, if you're actively looking for trouble.
- Late game will shove hard fights down your throat in every area. Some areas are dungeon-like more so than city-like. Avoiding fights will require massive knowledge of the game (albeit possible without cheese). Almost every such encounter should be assumed to potentially 100->0 your character in a single round if you take a chance and luck isn't on your side.
Overall, RNG map encounters should be the #1 source of wipes at every level, if simply because they put you out in the open against a random guy that shoots first. There's just no way to become immune to a lucky crit before you can act, or to RNG encounters at all, not even with a car, maxed out Outdoorsman, etc.
This is mitigated during the early game through only having relatively tame encounters (the RNG is map location based, not level based), and during lategame by being a relative powerhouse (and avoiding a few deadly areas).
Now that you've reached the midgame though, avoiding map encounters should be a huge priority. Don't travel if you don't have to. Don't dawdle in areas identified as dangerous. Don't travel without your car. Don't lose your car.