I’ve poured hundreds of hours into the “Fallout” series over the past several years, and it ranks as one of my favorite series of games of all time. Since the move to 3D with “Fallout 3” in 2008, the series has taken a variety of entertaining turns, but to me, each installment has excelled in one area and lacked in others. That’s why I’ve mapped out the perfect “Fallout” game, taking pieces from each of the critically acclaimed games that we have today.
Let’s start with the first 3D Fallout game, “Fallout 3.” Although it suffered from technical issues that are all too common to Bethesda games, it revolutionized the series and was crowned as game of the year by hundreds of media outlets. What stands out to me about “Fallout 3” compared to the sequels, however, is the strength of the main character. “Fallout 3” has the player witness the main character’s birth, snapshots of their childhood and ultimately the decision to leave the vault in search of their father. The game does a great job with characterization and making the player identify with their character, whether through a customized appearance or the nuanced situations that the player guides the main character through as they grow up.
“Fallout: New Vegas” and “Fallout 4” both fell a little flat in this area, however. “New Vegas” establishes the main character as a courier and then drops them into the world, and “Fallout 4’s” extremely limited dialogue system makes it difficult to identify with the voiced protagonist. That leads me to what I think “Fallout: New Vegas” did best, and that’s the story of the game. The main character is given only a minimal amount of attention in order to direct the player’s attention to the city of New Vegas and the massive conflict that threatens to overwhelm it. There are three main factions, the democratic but corrupt New California Republic, the neo-capitalist New Vegas and the slaver army of Caesar’s Legion. Within that framework, there are dozens of smaller factions, ranging from tribes to gangs and small communities, all picking sides or attempting to survive the coming war for Hoover Dam. The main quest, which focuses on getting revenge on the man who shot you and left you for dead, quickly morphs into helping one or more of the factions advance their goals and ultimately deciding which army you will lead into the final battle, which is appropriately epic.
What I loved about the most recent game, “Fallout 4,” is the world building. Post-apocalyptic Boston is the most interesting and well-realized city I’ve ever seen in a video game, and the way that different characters and enemies interact makes it feel like the player is but a small part of a much larger world. Brotherhood of Steel gunships and patrols will engage camps of raiders, and the player might only realize it when they hear the gunshots in the distance or stumble upon the aftermath. “Fallout 4” is also the most technically impressive, as the graphics are beautiful and the whole game runs very smoothly, and not just for a Bethesda game. A shout out should also be made to the combat, which is more fun and rewarding than any previous “Fallout” game.
To recap, “Fallout 3” had the best character development, “New Vegas” had the best story and “Fallout 4” had the best world building and technical displays. What disappoints me is that Bethesda, and to an extent, Obsidian, the developers behind “New Vegas,” have failed to put it all together and make one superior product. The factions in “Fallout 4” feel flat and the story is full of holes, but “New Vegas” was absolutely riddled with game-breaking bugs and glitches. None of this really diminishes the place of the “Fallout” games in gaming canon, but I think there’s more potential here, and I only wish that Bethesda could take advantage and create the “Fallout” game that we’re all really craving.
Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.