Over the course of the past year I’ve been working my way through the newer Fallout games specifically Fallout 3 and New Vegas. I finished Fallout 3 a couple of months back and when I say “finished” I mean 95%+ of all the content, I completed every expansion pack except for Mothership Zeta, visited nearly every location in the world maps (184 out of the 200+ excluding Zeta) and generally lost myself in what is in my opinion one of the finest role-playing experiences to be had.
I didn’t always feel this way about Fallout 3, like many I played it when it first came out and meandered through it for a few hours before losing my way and getting rather bored trawling through endless metro stations. I decided to pick it up and give it another crack several years later and have never looked back since.
I’m not sure whether its myself that changed or not but this time the games magical atmosphere enthralled me and I can say happily I loved every minute of it. The dawning realisation that Fallout 3’s strength is not in it’s rather mediocre storyline but the sandbox and open world game play. This game has that incredibly hard to come-by feeling of authenticity that allows the game through your imagination to create it’s own believably unique stories from your actions with your character and the decisions you make throughout playing.
An Authentic World:
The authenticity of Fallout 3’s world is achieved from a variety of factors and surprisingly barely any of them from actual talking NPC characters. Most of the atmosphere is created through the futuristic 1950’s themed timeline that emanates charm, naivety and an innocence in stark contrast to the brutal and barbaric post-war world.
The world is also sentimental which on a personal level is quite touching. Imagine if the world had been destroyed and your a generation of survivors who have only known the wasteland of the aftermath, how would the ruins of the past world seem to you? Would the world before Armageddon seem alien to you or comforting? To see the pre-war world frozen in time as the atomic bombs hit, families huddled in their homes, people going to work, people packing their bags in preparation of the nuclear war but clearly too late, you wander the wasteland of the old world and can’t help but be touched by the sentiment created by Bethesda. Pompeii and it’s destruction at the hands of Vesuvius draw eerie parallels, today you can still wander the ruins of the city and see it’s citizens frozen in time by the molten ash flow that covered them.
If there were anyone who worked on the Fallout games (both Fallout 3 and Obsidian’s New Vegas) who’s hand I’d like to shake the most it’s those responsible for the creating the myriad of untold stories that litter the wasteland and these people as much as anyone help forge that authenticate world.
Times such as walking into a shack and seeing a skeleton in a bath-tub…with a toaster are moments of genius that will stay with me. It leaves you wondering, who was that person? Why did they resort to suicide? Were they a good person or bad? Your imagination goes into overdrive and it fleshes out the world beautifully.
Now I’m not going to write an article on Fallout without mentioning the original Fallout games. These of course made a lot of what Bethesda built upon when making FO3, and not everyone thinks that they went in the right direction. Fallout 1 and 2 are brutal games and the world is darker and grittier then that portrayed in FO3 that’s for sure. New Vegas goes some way to fixing this, being an all round darker game but since I’m still currently playing New Vegas I’ll not comment much on it until I’ve completed it.
I can say that I’m a little ashamed at having not finished the original Fallout games and I will be fixing that when time permits, nevertheless having played Fallout 1 upon it’s release I loved it and it’s influence over all post-apocalyptic games since is apparent (as in-turn is the Mad Max influence over the Fallout universe).
Much of the character in Fallout stems from the excellent and original branding established mainly in the original games whether it’s Nuka-Cola, Robco or Vault-Tec or the imaginative array of narcotics and drugs such as Mentats, Jet, Pscho and Rad-X. They are so shoved in your face whether through subliminal advertising in game through posters and artwork or constantly seeing their logos on items and in-game memorabilia that sometimes I have to pinch myself to realise Nuka-Cola doesn’t actually exist and that I can’t just go and buy a bottle!
Probably every main brand in Fallout has some part to play in FO3 and that’s one reason I love it. Whether it’s visiting the Nuka-cola plant and hacking into long abandoned employee terminals or collecting rare Nuka-Cola Quantums for a obsessed fan out in the wasteland you learn about the brand and it’s history and what kind of business they really were. It’s infectious and as of right now my phone is proudly sporting a Pip-Boy HUD picture and my desk has a bobble-head on it.
One thing Bethesda really “hit the nail on the head” with is the remarkable V.A.T.S system which integrates first-person real-time combat with a turn-based location targeting system. Quite simply, it works and works marvellously. With V.A.T.S combat plays out cinematically akin to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves famous arrow view camera. It never ceases to be entertaining to watch limbs and heads explode and even eyes pop out! The violence of the originals was left in place because the Fallout universe is brutal and quite rightly doesn’t shy away from adult themes. It’s no kids game and as such emphasises the brutality of a world in a post-apocalyptic environment rife with slavery, raiders, cannibalism and mutated horrors.
I could likely go on far more about the Fallout games and quite possibly will later on when I complete New Vegas. Fallout 3 is a hidden gem in my eyes, it received wide acclaim but perhaps unjustly less so then the Elderscrolls games like Oblivion and Skyrim. It’s likely a topic for a whole new blog but Fallout 3 surpasses the post Morrowind Elderscrolls games in doing what any good RPG should do, creating a believable authentic and original world that you can escape into, and more so Fallout does it with a dry wit which doesn’t take itself too seriously, something Skyrim most certainly did do.
To end on, below are some of my end game character stats from FO3, Garviel the wasteland wanderer was godlike by the end but this certainly didn’t detract from the fun, “one-shotting” heads off with a scoped magnum never did get tiresome!