CSG Retrospective – Fallout
Bethesda managed to make Fallout a household name and turned it into a bankable franchise, but very few people actually think about the complicated history behind the series. The Fallout franchise was originally owned by Interplay Entertainment with the first game being developed by Interplay themselves and the second one being handled by their in-house developer Black Isle Studios. Both games are RPGs where the player explores the wastes of the American West Coast; players can help solve the dilemmas of characters all across the wasteland to earn experience points and other rewards. In addition, Fallout and Fallout 2 are turn-based RPGs that utilize an isometric perspective as opposed to being a real-time first person shooter RPG like the Bethesda Fallouts. Both games were very successful for their innovative role-playing elements and clever writing.
Following the release of the first two Fallout games, a couple of forgettable spin-offs were released. After the spin-offs, Black Isle Studios planned out the development of a third entry in the series that they code-named Van Buren. However, development for Van Buren ceased in 2003 due to financial difficulties and the project never saw the light of day. Six years later in 2008, Bethesda released Fallout 3 to critical acclaim, thus opening the Fallout series for thousands of new players. Fallout 3 was then followed by Fallout: New Vegas in 2010 and the hugely popular Fallout 4 in 2015 plus a mobile game called Fallout Shelter.
Bethesda officially obtained the rights for the Fallout IP after a lengthy court case against Interplay Entertainment. The whole case began when Bethesda licensed the rights to create a Fallout MMO which they commissioned Interplay to complete. Bethesda claimed they were not fulfilling the development terms of the MMO and sued Interplay for the infringement. The court ruled in favor of Bethesda, letting them not only retain the rights to the series, but also the exclusive rights to produce their own Fallout games. With all the rights now secured, Bethesda dumped the MMO project and took new liberties with the franchise.
Since Bethesda claimed the rights to the Fallout series fans have been split about which Fallout games they like. The old school fans from one end of the spectrum despise how Bethesda stripped many aspects of the originals away. While fans on the other end of the spectrum view the originals as being irrelevant. Of course, I am grossly simplifying these fan opinions, I do not claim to speak for either end nor are these the sole arguments they use against each other. In fact, there are many fans like myself who fall into a gray area who are fond of parts of every Fallout game.
Now I will be honest, I never completed the first two Fallout games, but I think I played enough of each one to understand why fans of the originals would have problems with the Bethesda versions. What makes them so great is that they offer a lot in the ways of character building and quest completion.
All of these things are the main driving forces behind the originals. Every quest can be completed differently; they change organically whenever you make certain decisions which is played down significantly in Fallout 3 and 4. On top of that, every quest you complete for certain groups influences your reputation in the wasteland which will either make you the most loved, hated, or morally ambiguous thing in the wastes. Character building is amazing as well since the game encourages you make multiple character builds to spice up the way your character gets things done. You can create a character with low intelligence to illicit new responses from NPCs or you can create a character with high charisma to resolve conflict without resorting to bloodshed. A lot of these features are downplayed in Fallout 3 and are completely absent in Fallout 4.
I noticed this a lot as I was playing through Fallout: New Vegas recently and I believe that is what makes it stand out so much more compared to Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. I am not surprised either seeing as New Vegas was developed by Obsidian Entertainment, a team that consists of a lot of the same people who worked on the originals. I will not go into any more detail about New Vegas because I already reviewed the game back in February. So if you want to know my full thoughts on it click on this link to check out my review.
All of this does not mean I hate what Bethesda has done with the series. I believe they are to be commended for making Fallout more accessible to people. They did their best to make Fallout 3 faithful to the originals and it is usually the first Fallout game people have played nowadays. I admit it was my introduction to the series. Furthermore, I don’t see the switch from a turn-based RPG to a real-time first-person shooter as being a problem, if anything it has actually made the game much easier to play. I just think Bethesda has been dumbing down a lot of the complexity of Fallout and making the series too reminiscent to their Elder Scrolls games.
They also seem to be more interested in placing quantity over things to do over quality of story. For example, Fallout 4 basically rehashes the same story from 3 and the choices you make during the game seem inconsequential to the fate of the wasteland. Many of the quests are also what you would see in a standard RPG like fetch this, fix that, or kill this. Normally, this is not a big deal, the problem is that they are constantly being generated by Bethesda’s broken Radiant quest system making them monotonous. It is as if the game can never end and you must keep on playing forever without enjoying the pleasure of starting a new game with a brand new character. Every now and again you get an interesting quest, but you quickly forget everything you have done in that quest in favor of mindlessly protecting another settlement from raider attacks. New Vegas works so well because it combines the best of both worlds; it blends the clever writing of Interplay’s Fallouts with Bethesda’s gameplay engine, making it a deep RPG that is easy to get into.
I write this article to not bash on Interplay or Bethesda. I merely write this article to look at how far the Fallout series has come and express my gratitude to how inspirational these games have been to me. My only fear for the series is the sacrifice of intricate questlines for tedious busywork. I think it may have a bleak future if this occurs and I really hope that Bethesda collaborates all the time with Obsidian Entertainment to turn Fallout games into rich RPGs once more. So here is a toast to you Fallout. I wish you a big and bright future. Thank you for all the good memories.
Source: Fallout Wiki