The History of Fallout

The History of Fallout

The Fallout series is one of the most popular and beloved franchises in gaming history. With tens of millions of sales, numerous awards and a passionate fanbase, it has entered pop culture in a way few other video games have. Today we will be taking a look at the series history up to this year’s release — Fallout 76.

Fallout (1997)

Developed and published by Interplay Productions, this is the start of the Fallout series. Set in a post-apocalyptic America ravaged by a nuclear war with China and other powerful countries with more than a dash of retro-futurism. It tells the story of a Vault dweller who is tasked with finding a Water Chip to save their own home. Of course, things don’t go as planned. The game establishes most of the lore and world that future games would borrow and develop. It sets the tone for the series focus on player choice and expression and an immersive, well-designed and reactive world. It received critical and fan acclaim and is to this day considered one of the finest games ever made.

I personally played it just recently for the first time. While it is clearly aged, especially in the UI and graphics department, the atmosphere, look, writing, and feel of the game is timeless. It is a turn-based top-down RPG—a somewhat rarer bird these days, true, but this is where our beloved series started. Any fan of the series or RPGs in general owes it to themselves to at least try it out, but be warned – it does not hold your hand. The hype is still real and the game is cheap and easy to run. I do recommend using the Fallout Fixt patch though.

Interestingly, Fallout is considered by most to be a spiritual successor to the 1988 role-playing video game Wasteland. It was initially intended to use Steve Jackson Games’ system GURPS, but Interplay eventually used an internally developed system SPECIAL, which is now iconic for the entire series. The Wasteland series is awesome too, so fans of Fallout should take a gander at it.

Fallout 2 (1998)

Fallout 2 was developed by Black Isle Studios and published by Interplay Productions. It is a much bigger and more extensive game than Fallout even though it uses mostly similar graphics and mechanics.  It tells the story of the original hero’s descendant, sent on a quest to save their primitive tribe from starvation by finding an ancient environmental restoration machine, the GECK.

The game is one of the pinnacles of roleplaying in RPGs, with dialogue unique to characters, who distinguish themselves by build, traits, and reputation. It also has a history of achievements and choices. The characters and background NPCs will often remember what you have done within the universe and point it out, sometimes even to gain leverage on the player. It is also one of the games where most conflict can be resolved without combat at all, something worthy of praise.

Gameplay by Mark Chen

It again received critical acclaim and is nearly universally loved by fans of the series.  Still, nothing is perfect: upon release many fans had a hard time warming up to the new, zanier and more humorous style of storytelling and design. Others were bummed out it didn’t really change that much gameplay wise, and was released in a very buggy state. I personally prefer the original’s tone to this one, though that hasn’t prevented me from feeling somewhat awestruck at Black Isle’s  accomplishment with this title. So what I said about Fallout 1 applies here too – all RPG and Fallout fans should try this title. Even if old, the quality shines through. That said, I strongly recommend the Unofficial Fallout 2 Patch be used. It fixes a large number of bugs remaining in the game even after official patches. The Fallout 2 Restoration Project combines these fixes with major modifications and additions and is closer to mod than patch, and makes replaying the title a worthwhile pleasure for those who have already played an earlier version.

Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel (2001)

Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel is a spin-off set in the post-apocalyptic Fallout universe. It was developed by Micro Forté and published by 14 Degrees East.

Unlike the previous two Fallout games, Fallout Tactics emphasizes tactical combat and strategy. Players have much more limited interactions with non-player characters, but they can still trade with them, and some missions include dialogue. Instead of taking place in towns, the game now revolves around missions and Brotherhood of Steel bunkers and strongholds. While this did upset many RPG fans of Fallout 1 and 2, it makes Tactics somewhat unique.

The game was overall well received and some of the fans did eventually warm up to it, though it is today regarded as one of the weaker links in the series. I believe it is worth a shot, especially given how cheap it is, but it’s no flagship. Its status as canon for the game’s universe is in question.

Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel (2004)

As yet another spinoff, Brotherhood of Steel’s gameplay greatly differs from that of other Fallout games. The gameplay is linear, not open-world. Previously visited locations cannot be visited again, and new locations can only be discovered by advancing the story.

Brotherhood of Steel uses many of the same mechanics as other entries in the Fallout series, including the SPECIAL attribute assignment system. However, unlike other Fallout games the values are constant for each character rather than customizable. The skills system also received an overhaul and now acted more like a perks system.

Reception for this title was very mixed. It launched on consoles, sold poorly and is generally considered the weakest part of the series.

Fallout 3 (2008)

For better or worse, Interplay had to sell their IP to Bethesda. The development of their own Fallout 3, called Van Buren was cancelled and unfortunately never saw the light of day.  From what we know, it would have been an ambitious and awesome project, but alas sometimes life works in weird ways. What followed were a few painful years of no Fallout at all…

Thankfully Bethesda was hard at work and made their own version from scratch. Fallout 3 released officially as the first FPS/RPG incarnation of Fallout in a 3D engine. Changes had to be made to a number of core Fallout tenants and gameplay elements, which was a massive move in point of view and scope. The Capital Wasteland became one of gaming’s most iconic locations.

It garnered critical acclaim upon release and was generally seen as a very good title by most Fallout fans. Other fans did note lore and continuity issues and, unfortunately, some reuse of assets and examples of bad writing do exist in the game.  Critics pointed out just how buggy and clunky the game was at times, especially on release. This is one of my own favourite video games and whilst I do see its faults now, it did get me into this series. Though its graphics have aged and some of its systems would strike most people today as weird design choices, it is still a really good game. I strongly suggest fans of the series or people who like other, similar titles give it a try. It may require a bug fix mod these days, but there is a damn fine game underneath and it did deserve its GOTY awards back in the day.

Fallout: New Vegas (2010)

New Vegas was an ambitious project by Obsidian Entertainment, a studio which has some veterans from Interplay and other famous RPGs of its day. After the successful Fallout 3, and considering the pedigree of many of the designers at Obsidian and the awesome Las Vegas locale, people were awaiting a masterpiece.

Due to time and budget constraints, however, Obsidian was unable to polish their game. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Bethesda, Black Isle and Interplay alike, but those studios fail to understand what polish means. Problem is, the launch of New Vegas, with sundry bugs, glitches and an odd performance, only made things worse—and the game got a lot of launch flak for it. People just don’t like how often this happens to Fallout in general.

Gameplay by Alexander Yordanov, showcasing funny dialogue

Once the dust had settled, patches and DLC arrived and the fans got to fixing the bugs…well, my was there a fine game beneath it all. So fine that, despite the disastrous launch and launch day drama, New Vegas is now seen as one of the strongest of the Fallout titles, which is saying a lot. Taking up the mechanics and RPG elements from Fallout 3 and enhancing them further for one of the deeper roleplaying and story-based experiences in gaming, it is one awesome game.

I still prefer the Bethesda take on Fallout: the world is more organic and interesting. That is, of course, their forte as a studio. But I must admit that the writing chops in New Vegas and the level of detail paid to its roleplaying systems is damn fine. This one is highly recommended, but do save yourself some pain and try the PCgamingwiki article on it when you have problems.

Fallout Shelter (2015)

Another spin off title, this one’s all about building and managing your own Vault! Players perform the role of Overseers and lead a Vault, building scavenging and resource gathering. It is a simulation/management type of game made originally for mobile devices. But the quality of its quests and events, as well as the light RPG mechanics tied to different characters and survivors, are what make it stand out.

Being free to play and a lot of fun to boot, it was a great warmup for the launch of Fallout 4, even if it does lack depth. It will bring you joy for sure, but do not expect it to be as replayable as other titles in the series.

Fallout 4 (2015)

Fallout 4 is the most recent mainline entry into the series, and in some ways the most controversial. It was developed by Bethesda, and was well received by critics, if not by all fans. It is also probably Bethesda’s best-selling game to date and the most successful of the series in terms of pure sales.

It cleaned up many of the issues people had with Fallout 3 and New Vegas. The shooting mechanics, for starters, received a major overhaul, with veterans from id Software (DOOM, Quake, Wolfenstein 3D) helping to make them much better than they’d been in previous titles. The Creation Engine’s ability for interaction within the world and its many numerous props finally saw a use as crafting became a key component for the game, with players having the ability to create their own villages and encampments in the Boston wasteland.

Why the mixed reception among fans though? Well a part of that is down to a… less than smooth launch. While perhaps superior to the launch of Fallout 3 or New Vegas, this one too was incredibly problematic, and was replete with bugs and issues seen in older Bethesda titles rearing their ugly head. Other gamers weren’t thrilled with the design choice to make the player character voiced as it interfered with their roleplaying. What’s more, the dialogue had to be simplified to some extent and writing and canon issues showed up again. Indeed it is a flawed title in many ways.

Despite these issues great and small, many love the game, which has caused a bit of a rift within the community. For them the immersion, density of the location, new mechanics and better AI are great inclusions. I myself fall in this camp as I love the game to bits despite its issues, my overall favourite Fallout game to date. With all that said, I strongly recommend people check out Fallout 4. Who knows, you may be like me and love it despite its flaws. Or you may hate it, but have it expose you to other titles in the series which you might enjoy more? In my opinion, this is a win-win situation.

Fallout 76 (2018)

This is the one we are waiting for, this November 14th. The first official multiplayer Fallout title. This is something Fallout is yet to see so everyone is wondering – how will it work and play in reality? With a world four times the size of Fallout 4’s and set in West Virginia, hopes are high that this will be another one for the ages.

An interesting tidbit is how following the announcement of the game, there was a burst of interest in tourism in West Virginia. The website “West Virginia Explorer” reported a fifteen-fold increase in site traffic in the days after the announcement, whilst management of the Camden Park amusement park said there was an increase in people looking to purchase park merchandise.

The Fallout Modding community (Always and Forever, we hope!)

A common theme for Fallout titles is just how moddable they are, especially the recent games. Bethesda and Obsidian like to encourage gamer creativity and have managed to nurture an incredible community very few games, nay, franchises can match in dedication. Some modders manage to fix issues and optimize the games, whilst others rebalance or create new mechanics. Worthy causes. But some manage to create new quests, locations, and maps. For the intrepid gamer there is not only a wild west full of opportunity, there are hundreds if not thousands of hours of extra, free content just waiting to be played. Not all of it is professional quality, true… but some is and even when it does lack polish it has pure soul and love thrown into it.

And with this we conclude our brief look into the Fallout franchise. A legend of RPGs and Open World games, it has carved its rightful place as one of gaming’s most beloved. It is not always a smooth ride, but this is one of the games every gamer must play.

Nikolai Petkov
Nikolai Petkov
Nikolai Plamenov Petkov is a young 20-year-old gamer (and student) from Bulgaria. Nikolai is one of the winners of the SAPPHIRE Nation's Editors' Casting contest.




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