I love the Fallout universe. I love it more than the Wasteland universe and I have about 40,000 hours logged on Wasteland 2 Director’s Cut on Steam (thisisaliebuttherearealotofhours) so that’s some example of how much I love it. Fallout and Fallout 2 are incredible games. But here we hit a problem…
Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas and Fallout 4 are also incredible games. But they’re also bad. They’re all set circa 200 years after the Great War of 2077… except no they’re not. In the first two games, people are rebuilding. It’s been less than 100 years since the Great War, and there are new towns, there is fresh water, and there are mutants everywhere. In the Bethesda games, it should at least look like 200 years have past, or at least 100 years of rebuilding. And what does it look like?
It looks like maybe 30 years have passed, tops. Cars still have intact windows and paintwork that hasn’t entirely flaked off; light bulbs still work when connected to suspiciously-still-functioning power grids; freshwater sources are still blighted by severe radioactivity that would simply not affect freshwater sources after two centuries; turning on a cathode tube television set covered in moss yields a Please Stand By message even though there’s nobody broadcasting one, and even if there were, just like the radio stations they would be able to broadcast new programming.
The aesthetic is beautiful, don’t get me wrong. I love it. When Fallout 4 released I turned it on and I fell in love with it another time. 3 and New Vegas were pretty, but they suffered the PS3/360 era problem of MAKE EVERYTHING GREY AND BROWN – 4 has colour. It has character and charm and it looks gorgeous. But it still looks like it’s taking place 30 years after the bombs, not 200.
So if Bethesda had say, set their games in 2110 instead of 2270 onwards it their aesthetic would have made sense. But since they haven’t, it doesn’t. It’s jarring. I notice it when I play the games despite how good the games are - I mean come on, Big Mountain was probably the best expansion to any game ever. “Do I hear the pitter-patter of tiny many-penised feet?” - I laughed at that so hard that Paul had to bring me water because my throat went hoarse. The stories, especially in New Vegas (less so in 3 and 4) are engaging and entertaining and the arching plots (when they don’t glitch) are deep and well executed.
They’re all really, really great games. But they’re bad. And it’s because of the very aesthetic that makes them unique.