Fallout 2’s First Dungeon Isn’t All That Terrible

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:

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 ok 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:

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 will 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.

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.

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

I tried fighting him, and this happened:

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

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 have 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 verdict: 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 will 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 favourite character builds, and what you made of the Temple of Trials the first time you played.

See you on the wastes.


  • Looking forward to the articles. Such a brilliant game, if you don’t turn out to be a porn star in Reno I’ll be disappointed

  • The temple was a case of executive meddling. It really shouldn’t have been there, there are better ways to teach a player. The temple, as you sad, turns people off before all the fun stuff starts.

  • This is one of the greatest games of all time, played it back when I was in high school when it came out. I look forward to reading about this. Easily in my top 10.

  • I love it when you have low intelligence, soo low that your character’s conversations are Ugh, Drool, and *wander away*

  • Yeah, I actually went to play it recently, and then gave up because that first dungeon seemed so boring, perhaps I will have to battle it out and give it another go.

  • The temple was easy. right click on punch to switch it too kick and save after every battle, Did it first go on normal. This is my number 1 game of all time so much to see and do and getting that perfect ending for all the towns was one of the hardest things ive ever done in gaming. Make sure to play it on normal, Its no fun on easy :3

  • This has been my problem in trying to play it. I’ve never plated beyond the temple. I give up and move on to something else more intuitive before long, pretty much the same as you Kirk. One day I’ll give it another bash but I find it hard to get in the mood for it. Maybe once Wasteland 2 comes out I’ll be more in the mindset to play it through

  • Such a good game, still so disappointed we didn’t get a proper fallout 3 and instead of oblivion with guns.

    • In contrast, I’m glad Fallout 3 or ‘Oblivion With Guns’ exists – the world is much better for its existence. Maybe the scant handful of No Mutants Allowed fanboys hunkered down in their little bunker would be happier with the distinctly lacklustre Van Buren version as their revered ‘true’ Fallout 3, but I think the rest of the world got a taste of Fallout’s signature world that they otherwise wouldn’t have thanks to Bethesda and it does what it does very well. VATS as the turn-based/real-time hybrid is such a huge difference to combat that it saves it from Oblivion’s ham-fisted and woeful combat mechanics, preserving more of the feel of Fallout than anyone might have expected.

  • Can’t wait for the next part of the article, have no idea why but very interested!

  • Make sure you are all patched up
    The “Trunk separating from the rest of the car” bug is as annoying as hell!

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