Never has a video games featured a tag line that is so profoundly philosophical in the world of video games. Some may have come close; others have aped the greater minds and just blurt out quotations that emulate deep thought. We have Andrew Ryans convictions that brought us “Behold…Rapture!” and Sam Fishers over looked but impactful “Your own little Chaos Theory; throw the whole world into war and hope that what comes out the other side is better?” But none of them come close to the quote that has famously followed the Fallout series through the years. Because war never changes, it’s the one unfortunate, inescapable and fundamentally undeniable aspect of human existence. We will always fight, as long as someone disagrees we are destined to fight, even after the nukes rain down, or so it would seem.
“War. War never changes.” So without further ado, I bring you a retrospective review of the years we spent crawling through the wastes together.
Our story starts 80 years after the world as we know it comes to an end. And it starts, as all stories should, with a problem. You are a vault dweller, you were born there, you will grow there, and you will there. At least that’s what you have where told. The year is 2161, south California. Vault 13. Your vaults water chip is broken, without it, the vault will run out of clean water within 150 days and the occupants inside will surely die.
The majority of the game takes place outside of vault 13, from the vault door you must venture across the wild untamed nuclear wastes of America, searching for the water chip that will restore your vault to operational levels, thus ensuring the survival of your people. On your travels you encounter will beasts, savage mutated scorpions and even remnants of the humans locked outside the vaults that where left to die in the strontium rich air. This is the first factor that set Fallout so completely above the competition. For its time, the world was huge, simply prodigious in scope. This was to become a recurring feature in all but one of the Fallout games. The wasteland has seen much iteration by now, each one an improvement upon the previous in various ways, be it in design, size or contents.
Fallout also brought something else to the table that up until then had been mediocre at the best of times, and game crushingly flawed at the worst. But where others had failed, Fallout performed perfectly. I am of course, talking about the RPG elements. Fallout has an in depth character managing system, in which the player allocates points to various skills, essentially teaching your character the traits associated with said talent. If your character has a great deal of intelligence, then you will be able to pick the locks on doors that obstruct your path, open crates that contain loot that will see you right on your journey across the wastes. Or you character could be a bear of a person, and use your mighty strength to crush the life out of your foes with your bare hands, or heft the heaviest of weapons as though they were mere toys. Or if you’re too scared of getting up close and personal and bringing the fight to the enemy, you can instead play as a highly agile gunslinger who dodges all the harm that comes your way, but be careful. All good things come at a price.
To ensure the game was fair and that your character was never OP (over powered) or broken (exploiting skill combos), a great deal of effort was put into balancing out the array of skills your character could choose. If you are indeed a hulking behemoth, rending power armour with your hands, then you probably spent too much time in the gym and not nearly enough time in the library. Putting all your skill points into traits that increase strength will leave your character abysmally dim witted. In short, you’re as thick as two Brahmin.
But adversely, if you spend all your free time swotting out and delving into the archives, you will surely grow weak and soft. It goes without saying, that weak and soft are two traits that you would like to avoid. But what if you’re weak and soft, but incredibly persuasive? What if you can talk your way out of sticky situations instead of having to fight? You may even be able to turn a bad scenario around and come out the victor with a well spun lie here, and a little bit of exaggeration there.
This level of customisation was unprecedented and really gave the game a tremendous amount of depth. Allowing for multiple play throughs that will vary greatly depending on how you build your character, there is entire portions of the game that are inaccessible to characters that lack certain abilities that are directly related to your skills, and let’s not forget that this is a game from the nineties, this was mind blowing stuff.
So, back to the story, long story short. You save the day!! You find the chip and restore the vaults systems to operational levels, supplying the people who reside within with clean drinking water. But it doesn’t end there. Oh no that would be to easy, you are soon tasked with the job of destroying a threat, a threat that puts the entire human race at risk.
The Super Mutant. Ginormous, monstrous travesties that are actually mutated humans. A great many Super Mutants are following an overlord, also referred to as The Master who plans on leading them in a crusade called “The Unity”. The Master was once human, but after exposure to an early version of the F.E.V he was horribly mutated and began to absorb and fuse with his surroundings. Experimenting with the virus that twisted him so, he discoveries the means to create Super Mutants, this begins The Unity plan. The plan is to mutate as many humans as possible, leaving nothing but Super Mutants in their stead. He means to accomplish this by using the F.E.V. The Forced Evolutionary Virus does exactly what it says on the tin, it forces a mutation upon those who are exposed to it or ingest it. Although there is a flaw in the masters reasoning, and you, the player can capitalize on it. Freeing a captured scientist from the Brotherhood of Steel (more on them in the Fallout 3 portion of the retrospective) you help Vree, the rescued scientist come to the conclusion that all super mutants are in fact sterile. Thus robbing them of any genetic future. Faced with this truth The Master realizes that his goal is ultimately for nought. Seeing that his dream is but a lie, and his fiefdom living on borrowed time he decides to Self-Destruct the area with which he merged so long ago. And with his demise, the Super Mutant threat is halted, but by no means thwarted. Without a leader they war amongst themselves, some retreated into the mountains and formed communities where they remained secluded. Others are noted to have banded together and roam the wastelands in bands where they murder and steal, they have even been seen as far away as Washington DC. But for now, the vault and it’s dwellers are safe.
But upon your return to the vault, the over seer thanks you greatly for all you have done and tells you of how you have saved countless lives and protected their way of life, but having spent time outside of the vault you are deemed too dangerous to be allowed back into the vault. You will be lauded as a hero, but cast out like an enemy. With the over seer so close, and the gun at your hip, what choice will you make?