It has been 25 years since the first Fallout game was released in 1997 by Interplay Interactive. The series has come a long way from its isometric RPG beginnings. From traveling the capital wasteland to exploring the wild lands of Appalachia, Fallout has taken us all over America and told some incredible stories. This is a look back at my love of this storied franchise and what I hope the future will hold.
Falling In Love With The Wasteland
Like many people from my generation, my introduction to the world of Fallout was through Fallout 3. I remember my friend bought the game for me on Xbox 360 for my 16th birthday in the summer of 2009. I was an avid RPG fan of games like Baldur’s Gate and Dungeon Siege. However, since switching to a console from PC gaming, I had not really fallen in love with an RPG for a long time. I even shelved the copy of Fallout 3 because at the time, I was completely engrossed in the hype leading up to the release of Halo ODST, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I didn’t have time to focus on all 3 games so it sat on my dresser for months. That was until I met my now wife high school girlfriend, and she insisted that I play it. She was an avid fan of Fallout and was determined to make me a fan as well.
Like any teenage boy when a pretty girl asks you to do something, I obliged her request. Every Saturday, she would come over to my house and we would take turns playing and exploring the Capital Wasteland. I quickly found myself losing hours in the world of Fallout 3. It quickly went from us working on a joint save to me having a separate save where I would make the opposite choices that we made in our joint save. Blowing up Megaton for the first time made me realize how much my decisions impacted the world around me.
It really felt like you could do anything in Fallout 3, but it was not without consequence. It reminded me of why I fell in love with RPGs in the first place. The mixture of RPG meets FPS helped pull me out of the Call Of Duty cycle that I had fallen into. It was not that there weren’t amazing games to play, it just felt like none of them were drawing my attention until then. While Fallout 3 renewed my love for RPGs Fallout New Vegas, is what elevated the franchise to be one of my favorites of all time.
Split Decisions In The Vegas Strip
Fallout New Vegas is by far one of my top 3 RPGs of all time. Obsidian created a masterclass in storytelling, and branching narrative with Fallout New Vegas. Not only this, but the spaghetti Western stylings of the weaponry blended with influences from a variety of historical time periods. From the Roman-influenced Caesar’s Legion to the 1930s-style gangs that rule the Vegas strip. You truly never knew what you would find next in the Mojave wasteland. From a vault filled with lethal plants to a vault filled with a bunch of clones named Gary. Fallout New Vegas doubled down on the weirdness of the Fallout universe.
Exploration was meticulous, yet well-thought-out. As you progress through New Vegas’ main story it takes you through a wide majority of Mojave without it feeling linear. While some open-world games feel like they force you to go in one direction, or punish you for not exploring under every rock. In New Vegas, you could do as much or as little of the side content as you pleased. But, you would often find yourself being drawn into side quests without even realizing it.
Some side quests even tie into the main storyline and provide extra context for characters. This was beautifully done in the expansions, as you get to go face-to-face with legendary characters such as The Burned Man. A disgraced former Legionary who was believed to be long dead. This form of lore crossing made almost every piece of DLC feel important. It didn’t feel like Obsidian cut content from the game that could have improved the story. It felt more like you were playing into the legends you heard about in saloons throughout New Vegas.
The ending to New Vegas wasn’t perfect. But I have never seen a game at that point that had so many different outcomes. The 2-minute recap at the end of the game that showed all the factions you helped or left behind felt like an incredible wrap-up for your journey. The fact that your ending story could have so many different aspects to it due to the wide variety of factions contained within New Vegas blew my mind at the time. How if you did one thing for the NCR it would negatively impact your standing with the Legion or Mr. House viewed you. Eventually, once you chose a side you would have to deal with the repercussions of that choice. Whether it was not being able to enter NCR-controlled territories or Legion camps. To this day, there was something so mischievous about being able to dress up in an NCR uniform and sneak around their bases. New Vegas set the bar high for what I expected from an RPG and still remains to be one of my favorite RPGs of all time.
The Hype and Excitement Of Fallout 4
The hype leading up to Fallout 4 will forever be burned into my memory. That initial E3 reveal, just knowing finally that the game was real and we would be playing it before the end of the year. The launch of Fallout 4 will always be in my heart as it was one of the last physical midnight launches that I attended. I remember lining up with 200+ other people in my small town outside our only EB Games to secure a copy of Fallout 4. Those launch parties were special, spending hours before the launch camped out and talking about all our favorite things about Fallout. It is a feeling that I miss in modern gaming, and the fact we don’t have midnight launches like that anymore feels like we lost an important part of gaming culture with these launches.
Fallout 4 marked some big changes in the series, though some changes were less welcomed than others. Such as the changes made to the dialogue options. There were also many great improvements and features that came with Fallout 4. From stomping around in massive suits of customized power armor, with fully customizable weapons. To build settlements through scavenged material found throughout the world. This is coupled with a great cast of supporting characters such as Nick Valentine the Synth detective, or Macready the grumpy mercenary who players would remember as the mayor of Little Lamplight in Fallout 3. Was Fallout 4 a much more casualized and less punishing Fallout experience? Absolutely. But more of my friends picked up Fallout than ever before and the endless discussions about the game will always stick with me.
Fallout 4 will always have a soft spot in my heart personally. When it launched I was a new father and I was working two jobs in order to support my family. To say my gaming time was limited was an understatement. So I often would sneak play time in when my daughter was napping which was frequent as she was only 5 months old at the time. My wife has numerous pictures of my daughter napping on my chest as I am playing Fallout 4. Those moments will stick with me for a long time, even now as my daughter turns 8 this year and enjoys a wide variety of games. I hope one day that I can share Fallout 4 with her and she can fall in love with it just like I did.
Fallout 76 Misses The Mark
I was one of the few people that was actually excited about Fallout 76. I understand many people’s reservations about an online-focused Fallout title. A series that was known for its barren wasteland, and loneliness becoming a co-op-focused experience could be disastrous. Unfortunately, the co-op aspect of the game was possibly one of the smallest issues the game faced.
Fallout 76 launched with a wide array of game-breaking bugs, coupled with a serious lack of meaningful content. The state of the game was a major turnoff for many, then even if you stuck out the performance issues the content there felt hollow and empty. With all of the storytelling being told by audio logs and computer logs, there were no NPCs outside of robots you could purchase gear from. At launch, I was not sure that even Bethesda could turn this disaster around.
After the disastrous launch, Bethesda began tackling the massive pile of critiques from players and reviewers. The addition of NPCs and companion quest lines quickly made Fallout 76 “feel” like a proper Fallout game. With extensive base building brought over from Fallout 4, coupled with the cooperative online play, the community went wild. Quickly Reddit and other gaming forums began to fill up quickly with people building impressive marvels, from small cottages to massive and expansive fortresses. As well as players showcasing some of the quests and characters that had been added to the game. Slowly, players began to come back to Fallout 76.
Now fast forward to 2023, and Fallout 76 has a wealth of content packed to the brim with memorable characters. The launch of the free Pitt expansion brought players back to the familiar world from the Fallout 3 DLC of the same name. Alongside this, there are consistent title updates, a battle pass, and community quests for players to participate in. As well as the much expanded main campaign, as well as base building and end-game content like you would expect in an MMO-lite shooter. There is no excuse for how Fallout 76 launched. However, I tip my hat to the team behind the game because they never gave up on it. They addressed player feedback and crafted what at one point was a barely playable mess into one of the better MMO-lite RPGs on the market.
The Uncertain Future Of Fallout
With a massive roadmap ahead for Fallout 76, as well as Starfield launching this year and Elder Scrolls VI coming sometime after that, it feels like we won’t see a Fallout game for a very long time. Could we possibly see a whole generation of consoles that do not have a Fallout game on them? It certainly feels like a possibility at this moment. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. There’s no shortage of talented studios that make up Xbox Game Studios. It feels like there are plenty of opportunities to continue or spin off the franchise is just a game pitch away.
With studios like Obsidian and In-Xile in the Xbox Game Studios family, it feels like a missed opportunity to not let them take a stab at the franchise. I am not saying Bethesda should pass off doing Fallout 5, but what if Obsidian made Fallout New Vegas 2? Or if In-Xile could make a top-down tactics-style game like the original games? The possibilities seem like they could be endless. I understand these studios will have their own ambitions, and I would not want a scenario where they are forced to make these games if they have higher aspirations. But it feels borderline tone-deaf to possibly let Fallout as a franchise stagnate with the last release being Fallout 76 in 2018.
As a massive fan of this franchise, I hope that Bethesda and Xbox find a way to bring a new Fallout experience to fans sooner rather than later. While the upcoming Amazon series is an exciting prospect, and Starfield will undoubtedly fill that massive Bethesda RPG itch. I have my fingers crossed that some sort of Fallout project is being worked on behind the scenes because this franchise is special to so many people.