In another episode of “Clueless Gamer” on Late Night, host Conan O’Brien tried out the video game Fallout 4, as the audience watched him stare at his character’s mesmerizingly magnificent backside. But there’s more to the story than booties in tight armor suits.
The Fallout games have been around since 1997, and even though the series took a 10 year break until 2008, the hype around the universe never went down. 2010’s Fallout: New Vegas sold 1.8 million copies in its first week, a high mark for the series in 2010. But Bethesda Softworks’ new game, Fallout 4, sold more than 1.87 million digital copies alone three days after its November 10 release, according to research from SuperData Research. That’s more than $100 million in revenue, and we’re not even talking about copies bought at GameStop, Target, or other retailers.
Fans of the Fallout series have eagerly awaited Fallout 4, so they could dive once more into a world where survival is uncertain. But for many others, the latest version of the postapocalyptic role-playing game will be their very first Fallout experience. Here is what you need to know before entering the hostile region of the Commonwealth — and why this series is blockbuster for the game industry.
Fallout before the bombs fell
The Fallout story is set in an alternative history timeline after World War II. The characters’ lifestyle and the décor of homes and buildings appear consistent with the 1950s, but we notice that inhabitants have robots helping them around the house and computers ranging from simple terminals to artificial intelligence. However, televisions and radios remain suited for ’50s. This is because the technology that allowed us to improve these tech gadgets were never invented.
With each Fallout comes a new storyline, but all the games are connected through a complicated history of wars, various groups looking to control the world, and hard choices to make for the greater good (or yourself, should you please in a selfish manner).
A hundred years later, the fossil fuels used to power the electronics are almost gone, creating tension between China, Russia, and the United States. This scarcity start the Resource Wars in 2052, leading up to the Great War in 2077 between the three major powers. The conflicts result in China invading Alaska and the U.S. annexing Canada.
Before the Great War, the U.S. government retreats to an offshore safe zone on an oil rig. The government becomes known as the Enclave, and it would represent the antagonists throughout the games as it tries to take over the world. In the anarchical world, nations are free to use their nuclear powers. The Great War lasts two hours, as nuclear bombs hit the planet. In its wake is a devastated and irradiated Earth.
However, humanity survives, thanks to the 122 vaults, or underground bunkers, built by the U.S. government. The catch is that only 17 of them were actually meant to protect people. The remaining facilities are for conducting social experiments on inhabitants. For example, one vault has its door left purposefully open to expose the people inside to nuclear radiation. This transforms them into monsters known as ghouls. They go on to form the city of Necropolis.
In each vault is an Overseer, who is in charge of making all major decisions for the population inside the bunker. In the Fallout games, the main character’s purpose is often to save his vault or retrieve a stolen or missing item. The story gets more complex as the player encounters villains and monsters and has to decide whether to save himself or the world.
In every Fallout, the player can also receive help from the Brotherhood of Steel, a group of ex-U.S. Army officers who control the mutant population. They collect pre-War technology, which they use to create energy weapons and powerful and resistant armors. The Brotherhood was formed to save society after they discovered that the Enclave was experimenting with the Forced Evolutionary Virus, a powerful radiation disease that transforms people into supermutants.
The games all share a common history, but the players will get to touch upon several themes in the Fallout series.
Fallout: 150 days to save Vault 13
The first Fallout game starts in Vault 13 in 2161 in Southern California. The main storyline begins when the Overseer sends the main character, the Vault Dweller, in the Wasteland to find a new Water Chip, which is responsible for water recycling and pumping machinery in the vault. The bunker has just 150 days left before the water runs dry.
The Vault Dweller travels to Vault 15, the closest known vault, which might be able to provide a chip. The player quickly finds out the vault has been destroyed and the remaining survivors formed a town called Shady Sands. Upon his arrival, the main character may defend the settlement from a group of raiders. Through the Vault Dweller’s travels, the players will be able to complete quests that will help Vault 13 while still looking for the chip, giving more time for the player to complete the quest before the drought. Once the player has found the chip and returns to Vault 13, the Overseer says the amount of supermutants seen in the world is abnormal and sends the main character on a new quest to figure out why.
With the help of the Brotherhood of Steel, you discover a prototype vault with a character named the Master, who was administering the Forced Evolutionary Virus, or FEV, to humans so they would transform into supermutants. After completing the quest, the Vault Dweller returns to Vault 13 only to find out the Overseer does not want him to come back inside because he wants people to stay in the vault and preserve its isolation.
Fallout 2: The Garden of Eden
Taking place in 2241, Fallout 2 focuses on the Chosen One, a descendant of the Vault Dweller in the previous Fallout. This time, the player is in charge of saving his village, Arroyo, from drought and has to retrieve a Garden of Eden Creation Kit, or GECK. The Chosen One heads for Vault 13, where the GECK is supposed to be. He finds the vault empty of human life and returns to his village. Unfortunately, Arroyo has been captured by what is left of the U.S. government, the Enclave.
Through various missions, the Chosen One is able to activate a ship that will take him to the Enclave’s offshore oil rig. The main character soon discovers that the Enclave has captured the inhabitants of Vault 13. They have been used as test subjects for the FEV. The Enclave’s purpose was to contaminate all humans with the virus so they would be the only humans left, as the Enclave has been protected from the radiation since the Great War. The Chosen One manages to save Vault 13 and Arroyo and destroys the Enclave’s oil rig.
Fallout 3: Finding my father
This time, the player finds himself in the East Coast in 2277, in what used to be Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. The main character is from Vault 101, a nuclear shelter designed to protect people. The vault has been sealed since the war started 200 years ago.
However, the Lone Wanderer’s father, James, escapes the vault one day, leaving the main character behind. The Overseer sends forces after the player, forcing the Lone Wanderer to leave the vault and look for James. After journeying through the Capital Wasteland, the Lone Wanderer saves James from Vault 112, where Dr. Braun, the vault’s Overseer, trapped him in a virtual reality program. James, who is a scientist and a doctor, was searching for the GECK to complete a water project he had started with his late wife, Catherine.
The player will once more encounter the Brotherhood of Steel, who will help them fight the Enclave. They send Colonel Autumn, the commanding officer of the Enclave’s Department of the Army in the Capital Wasteland, to kill James. The Lone Wanderer is captured and discovers the president of the Enclave is actually a supercomputer, whose goal is to infect the water with the Forced Evolutionary Virus. The player will have to decide on convincing the president to self-destruct or to simply leave the base.
Fallout: New Vegas is left for dead
In Fallout: New Vegas, the player controls the Courier, who searches for the gunman who shot him in the head and left him for dead in the Mojave Wasteland. The story takes place in 2281 in Nevada, California, and Arizona. Here, three powerful factions try to control the Hoover Dam, which supplies the Southwest with power and clean water.
A robot named Victor finds the Courier in the desert and brings him to Doc Mitchell, who will help him get back on track. The Courier, who used to work for the Mojave Express, goes on a mission to find his killer, who also stole a package containing the Platinum Chip he had to deliver in New Vegas. The main character finds himself in a conflict opposing three different factions. The player will have the option to choose who to help, which will influence the rest of the game. The Courier may also help his would-be killer, Benny, to take over New Vegas thanks to the Platinum Chip. This tech is a data storage device with a program allowing robots like Victor, called Securitrons, to have better combat capabilities.
The ending will vary according to the player’s decisions, showing who will take over Hoover Dam, New Vegas, and the Mojave desert.
Fallout 4: time travels
Fallout 4 begins in the morning of October 23, 2077, with a couple and their baby preparing for an event at Veteran’s Hall. Their morning routine is interrupted when a Vault-Tec representative comes to inform the family they have been admitted into Vault 111. The family then rushes to the bunker as a news flash informs them of an imminent nuclear attack. They are saved in extremis and put into cryosleep.
They awaken 200 years later by two unknown individuals who are trying to take the baby, Shaun, away from one of the spouses. When the spouse resists, one of the strangers kills them (depending on your initial character selection), taking Shaun with them and sending the main character back into a deep cryosleep. Once the survivor awakens again and escapes the cryo tube, the character goes on a mission to find Shaun and avenge their spouse.
Fallout’s gameplay features
From the beginning, Fallout was designed to be an open world role-playing game. The games send the player out into a hostile world to explore the universe and find tools, weapons, and other resources necessary to survive. As the story unfolds, the character levels up and earns skill points to distribute in S.P.E.C.I.A.L. categories. The games rely on the system called S.P.E.C.I.A.L., an acronym for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. In Fallout 4, players can choose from a combination of 275 skill points and attributes. In past games, players used to be able to earn karma points based on actions taken throughout the game, but the feature has been removed from Fallout 4.
Since Fallout 3, the series has included features such as real-time combat and a third person perspective. Fallout: New Vegas brought a new way to attack called Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System or V.A.T.S., which lets the player slow time down to better target the weak parts of the enemies’ bodies, transforming the game into more of an RPG and less of a shooter.
In Fallout 4, the player can choose a male or female character and customize their appearance. The game also offers a system that will allow gamers to craft weapons and armor by using items they find in the Commonwealth, Fallout 4’s setting. The character will be able to build settlements and fortify them with prefabricated structures using specific items. These settlements can grow, and players can bring in NPCs, or non-player characters, to populate them and create businesses.
Another particularity of the Fallout games is the use of NPCs as companions during missions. In Fallout 4, the character can choose one to come on quests. They cannot die and the protagonist can become romantically involved with them, whether they are male or female. There is a German Shepherd called Dogmeat, who is also present throughout the game. He fetches items and performs tricks as well as helping in combat.
Finally, the character in Fallout never goes exploring without a Pip-Boy, which is a wrist device allowing the player to check on the map, quests, items, skills, weapons, and armor. If players want to immerse themselves in the game universe, Fallout 4 offers a companion mobile app that can serve as a real-world Pip-Boy.