By Rande Archer
With the recent announcement of the fourth installment of the Fallout series and a release date set this year, several worrying things have shown itself in the released game footage.
The radioactive, unpleasant world known as Fallout has a rich history and lore that was established within the first two games, Fallout 1 and 2. Taking place on the western coast of an irradiated post-nuclear war America, the games follow the stories of the inhabitants of massive bomb shelters who emerge several centuries later to a growing, lively, but dangerous world. The mood, atmosphere, environment, and factions set by these games were extremely beloved among gamers of the late 20th century.
Before going out of business, original creators Black Isle Studios worked on a third installment of the Fallout series with an estimate of 90 percent completion. The studio went under, and the license was later sold to Bethesda. Instead of following the story or using the lore that was established by the first two games, Bethesda wanted to go ahead and establish their own lore on the east coast. But this came at a cost—much of the history and world building of the first two games was largely ignored.
For instance, the general attitude of the wasteland’s inhabitants appeared to accept nuclear bombs to the point that they worship one in the third game in the center of a town. This goes against most logical thinking and established thinking in the Fallout universe, as their world had been razed by nuclear fire. Another issue was that the designs contradicted the lore. Things such as the automobiles that littered the wastes in the prior games were electric motors powered by micro-fusion power cells that eventually died. In the third game Bethesda ret conned these cars as having full-fledged nuclear reactors in the rear ends akin to the Ford Nucleon from the late ‘50s, which used a steam engine powered by the reactors uranium fission much like a nuclear submarine. This made for interesting gameplay, as this turned regular inactive, and dead car husks into portable Michael Bay sets built out of Explodium.
Following this trend, it appears Bethesda has retconned even their own game. Taking place roughly around the same time as the third game, the fourth game will find itself up I-95 in Boston. Despite a minuscule difference in time from the third game, certain art aspects have been changed for reasons unknown. For instance, the iconic 10mm sidearm that was found in the third game was based upon the Colt 6520 10mm handgun found in Fallout 1 and 2. It fit into the world, was based on existing canon, and art-wise was in line with the previous games. However this was changed in the fourth game, despite taking place near the same time as the third game. Its new design reflects a more ‘50s futuristic look akin to a Whitney Wolverine .22 LR pistol from the mid-’50s, rather than the realist Cold War industrial look that the original established firearm had. The assault rifle is now completely gone and replaced with an automatic rifle that looks nothing relatable as the footage shown of it in action and being customized shows it larger than any conventional 5.56 rifle in the games and following a similar design fashion of the new 10mm handgun with a ‘50s pseudo-future look to it.
Now the question may come up: why is this important for the game? Gamers will have to look at this from a chronological way. Most of the players enjoying the games on consoles may never have played the originals. They will only experience the lore and history established by the third and fourth games and possibly Fallout New Vegas, which actually continued the story from the second game. Little changes, such as altering cars or changing art directions, give a false story, and it establishes a new lore that is fundamentally different from the original. What made the original games so amazing was its lore, and its history. It was the world that was built for gamers with reason for everything. Once this is changed to fit a new developer’s idea of how the game should be it, it begins to change the history and feeling of how it was supposed to be originally.
Gameplay-wise, the fourth game looks like it will be a major success, introducing many new world-building features and customization for the player to produce a post-apocalyptic world that suits them. However if Bethesda keeps up this tradition of changing a narrative of a pre-existing world, it begins to tarnish the original vision established by the original creators. Some gamers preferred the New Vegas game over the third game due to its depth and story. The reason was because it was canonically logical, it was set in the same story that was left off in the second game. You saw the factions you fought for. You continued memories of a loved game. If Bethesda is set on creating its own world, then it should give its own title separate from an established classic franchise beloved by many PC gamers. Hopefully the gameplay and actual plot will make up for violations in canon and lore, displacing it from the canon logical time line so that it will be a unique experience rather than a money catcher soaring on past fame.