Fallout

A Growing Problem in Storytelling

Ask any fighter; experience trumps strength, but experience and strength trumps all. This may seem like a strange way to start a piece about writing stories, but as per usual I will do my best to bring it home.

Spoiler(ish) warning for The Last of Us and the Fallout series.

Monsters, mutants, aliens or whatever horrific enemies your protagonists will carve their way through as your story progresses, individually they tend to be pretty static in their abilities. You may get different varieties of said enemies, but typically they’re separate from one another while also working together. You can have the physically weak but fast and numerous ones, they’re good cannon fodder for your characters to mow down. You can have the run of the mill grunts or drones, they’re basically comparable in ability to your protagonists and often make great opponents for them. Finally, there’s the big guys, the lumbering giants that tend to increase the likelihood of character death the second they step on scene. Each of these enemy types has its own strengths and weaknesses, and you can use them to your advantage when trying to tell a compelling story. One type on their own is a predictable affair, two different types requires some thinking and encountering all three becomes a tactical nightmare.

The Locust Horde from  Gears of War  is a great example ,  it’s comprised of lots of different creatures all working together… to exterminate humanity.

The Locust Horde from Gears of War is a great example, it’s comprised of lots of different creatures all working together… to exterminate humanity.

The key issue here is that while they’re typically united in a cause, doing whatever your characters don’t want them to do, these forces are typically comprised of disparate creatures. It’s the Vampire Lord’s undead horde, the Space Pontiff’s interstellar legion or the Orc King’s goblinoid swarm, it’s different creatures working together. If gives your antagonists some variety and keeps things interesting for the audience. This isn’t always the only way to create an antagonistic force, however.

Sometimes, enemies will start as the small and weak creature, then as time progresses they will morph into the typical grunt and then after a long while they will eventually transform into the lumbering brute. It’s a great way to show that the force your characters are facing is a truly homogeneous group, despite their appearances suggesting otherwise. Instead of being a menagerie of strange and horrific creatures that are working together for some random reason, they’re all the same and working together for that exact reason.

While having a unified force, comprised of different sub-categories of creatures that evolve into one another over time, does come with its narrative advantages, it also creates a serious problem. If time is the only deciding factor, then it’s inevitable that your characters are eventually going to have a literally big fucking problem on their hands. To showcase this point, we’re going to be looking at two series - The Last of Us and Fallout.

They’re armored and have ranged attacks, these guys are a real threat.

They’re armored and have ranged attacks, these guys are a real threat.

In The Last of Us, humanity basically gets wiped out by fungal zombies. When a person becomes infected, they start out as a Runner, then after about a month they become a Stalker. After about a year of being a Stalker, they become a Clicker. Then, roughly ten to fifteen years after infection they become a monstrous Bloater. Their abilities change somewhat as they evolve, becoming less human as they change, but the basic idea is that they become more difficult to deal with the longer they’re infected.

You think they could’ve fixed the stupidly sized fire hydrants between  Fallout 3  and  Fallout 4…

You think they could’ve fixed the stupidly sized fire hydrants between Fallout 3 and Fallout 4…

In the Fallout series, most notably Fallout 3, Fallout 4 and Fallout 76, East Coast Super Mutants continue to grow as they age. The FEV mutagen that turned them into Super Mutants continues to change their physiology and while they’re already stupid brutes, eventually it turns them into lumbering Behemoths that are of gargantuan proportions. This worked in Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, because they’re set over two centuries after the world ended and Super Mutants were being created for roughly that length of time - two centuries to turn into a Behemoth isn’t that big of a deal. Fallout 76 changed this, however, because it’s set only 25 years after the nuclear apocalypse and there are Behemoths running around. This latest addition of the Fallout series puts the issue into roughly the same time frame as The Last of Us.

Whether you’re a survivor in The Last of Us or Fallout, you’re logically screwed just by the way in which the creators have crafted the world. Ten to twenty years is all it takes for base enemies to turn into the strongest enemies that’re available, and they don’t even get a say in the matter because it’s a natural process. Every human who is infected in The Last of Us will turn into a Bloater if they survive long enough. In Fallout, every human that’s dipped into FEV will turn into a Behemoth if they survive for long enough. It’s literally only a matter of time in both cases. Since the narratives need these creatures to be the biggest threats in their respective stories, the logical progression of events is that humanities chances of survival continue to plummet the longer the timeline continues. The Last of Us is set 20 years after the world ended, while most of the Fallout series is set centuries after the fact, which is plenty of time in both instances for the vast majority of these creatures to reach their final form.

The thing is, this could actually make your world that much more interesting. Instead of ignoring the rules you write into your own world, you can run with them and create a truly deadly setting that is a serious threat to your characters. In both The Last of Us and Fallout, if things had progressed as they should have, with humanity hiding from their growing problems instead of dealing with them… well, now they’ve got a problem that’s a million times worse. If time is the deciding factor in your enemies strength, then time is the enemy. If simply not dying is all it takes for your enemies to reach ultimate monstrous god mode, something even your protagonist and background characters have managed, then use that to your advantage.

If your zombies or mutants evolve over time, use that to create a story with unique zombies or mutants. If you don’t want your world overrun with final form enemies, then don’t set the story in a time period where that’s the logical conclusion. You’ve still got all the years before that to play with, so go nuts in the safer years. If you want an enemy force that is linked (wherein each creature evolves through each of the different forms) but you don’t want a world that’s inevitably overrun by final forms, then simply don’t make time the deciding factor. Have them get injected with a serum, or have it as some innate biological process that’s triggered when the need arises. However you do it, the golden rule is to keep your world consistent. The less your readers/players/watchers have to question how things work, the deeper they can invest in your world without making excuses for it.

Juvies (the small and fast mobs that swarm) can transform into Drones (the middle ground grunts) in  Gears of War 4 , but that’s as far as the evolution process goes.

Juvies (the small and fast mobs that swarm) can transform into Drones (the middle ground grunts) in Gears of War 4, but that’s as far as the evolution process goes.

This post isn’t about ripping on The Last of Us or the Fallout series, they’re games which means they’ve got more than just narrative issues to contend with. There’re gameplay balance issues as well, which are just as important. The thing is that a simple tweak of the narrative would allow everything to line up perfectly, and then there wouldn’t even be any issues for me to write about. If you’re making a setting, for a book, movie or game, think a little further down the line about where the natural progression of the events you set in motion will logically take things. Who knows, things could actually end up better than you originally expected?

Fallout 76 - a Post-Apocalyptic Playground

I hit level 50 in Fallout 76 recently, so I finally feel ready to write about the game. I’ve explored the world and seen most, but not all, it has to offer. Fallout 76 has been a buggy mess since release, but I’m not going to focus on that. Despite the obvious fact that a game should be as solid as possible upon release, bugs can be fixed and I’m sure Bethesda will get to them all eventually. This write up will be about the game as a whole, so there’s going to be some good as well as some bad.

I was worried when the game was announced, you can even read my initial impressions back here, but this trailer was the major red flag. The lighthearted, “fun” tone is totally at odds with what Fallout has always been about. Well, with what it was originally about. On one of my many Twitter rants, I likened it to the frog in boiling water. Fallout has been changing ever so slightly since Bethesda took over and it’s only now that we can see how far it’s drifted away from its original course. Gone are the days of bleak, gallows humor about the worlds end - now it’s all about the carefree romp through the wasteland with your friends.

Nothing showcases this shift in focus from “the dark horrors of war” to “fun with friends” so much as having the ability to launch nukes of your own. No more philosophical debate about whether humanity deserves to live on as the masters of earth after such a monumental act of collective stupidity as the Great War.  Fuck it, nuke your friends camp for shits and giggles!

Nothing showcases this shift in focus from “the dark horrors of war” to “fun with friends” so much as having the ability to launch nukes of your own. No more philosophical debate about whether humanity deserves to live on as the masters of earth after such a monumental act of collective stupidity as the Great War.

Fuck it, nuke your friends camp for shits and giggles!

Fallout 76 is fun, I’ve played it long enough to get to level 50 and I’ll likely continue to play it, but it’s a kids version of Fallout. Remember when you were a kid and you’d play with whatever toys you had on hand? Leonardo would team up with Cobra Commando to take on Funshine Bear and his legion of Bratz dolls. It was your own version of Toy Story. Well, that’s what Fallout has become. It’s a world that’s pretending to be Fallout, and although it’s got all the right bits it doesn’t make any sense. I’m going to have to tap into some serious lore-snobbery here, but it’ll pay off so just indulge me.

Come on, I had to…

Come on, I had to…

First off, the setting. Fallout 76 has some beautiful looking environments, and they’re all very different from one another. You know when you’re standing in Cranberry Bog as opposed to the Toxic Valley, they’ve each got their own character and it really shows. Appalachia as a whole is a diverse environment and it’s great to explore, the only problem is that it was never hit with a nuclear weapon. For a series about a post-nuclear Armageddon, that’s kind of important. The rest of the world, and every other fallout game, is a radioactive desert due to direct nuclear strikes but Appalachia is lush and vibrant and only received some secondary radiation at worst. Why would you make a game about post-nuclear war, and then set it in the one location that wasn’t nuked?

It looks pretty… but has Fallout ever been pretty?

It looks pretty… but has Fallout ever been pretty?

Originally, the Brotherhood of Steel didn’t even know that Super Mutants existed until 2161 but in Fallout 76 they’re fighting them in 2102. It sounds trivial, but it’s a discrepancy of 59 years. It’d be similar to a historical fiction story about Australia getting involved in the American Revolutionary War, or Israel fighting in World War 2. Sure, all parties are technically around, in one form or another, but it’s a pretty big stretch for them to meet at said points in time. Fallout 76 has had to bend over backwards to try to explain why all these groups and monsters are present when it doesn’t really make sense for them to be.

The Brotherhood of Steel had a chapter in Appalachia who joined via satellite, even though the Brotherhood were traitors who went through some serious character altering shit. Never mind the fact that no loyal military unit would join traitors, why would the Brotherhood want to bring in people who hadn’t been through the same ordeals as them? Ever tried to get into a military bar when you’ve never served? Those motherfuckers are so cliquey they make high school cheerleaders look open and inviting.

The worst part is that they turned the founder of the Brotherhood of Steel into a whiny, idealistic bitch…and turned his son into the hardass who made them isolationist. They weakened the setting as a whole, just to get this game out…

The worst part is that they turned the founder of the Brotherhood of Steel into a whiny, idealistic bitch…and turned his son into the hardass who made them isolationist. They weakened the setting as a whole, just to get this game out…

Super Mutants are present, but they were created before the war because a company decided to test out the Forced Evolutionary Virus on a town. This totally breaks canon because the FEV was taken from them a year before the Great War, and that’s all tied in with the Brotherhood of Steels origins. Similarly, Deathclaws are this mythological nightmare that’s whispered about around campfires in 2161, but decades earlier in Fallout 76 they’re common as mud. How did they even get there? The Enclave are present, and they’re probably the only pre-existing faction that has an honest reason to be present.

But then it doesn’t matter anyway, because all humans and ghouls are dead. Which is the next major issue with Fallout 76, the fact that there are only robot NPC’s. Bethesda came up with a contrived pretext as to why they didn’t need to include human or ghoul NPC’s and it’s weak as piss. A plague killed them all, juuuust before you came out of the vault. The big moral of the story is that the different groups didn’t work together and so they got wiped out one by one - so you should learn to play nice with your fellow Vault Dwellers and develop some teamwork skills.

The second you leave the vault - dead body. And it just spirals from there.

The second you leave the vault - dead body. And it just spirals from there.

We could have come out of Vault 76 at the height of the Scorch Plague - with all the different groups at each others throats while trying to survive or solve the situation. Towns could be getting overrun with refugees, with Responders and the Free-States helping out where they could. The Brotherhood could’ve been fighting Scorchbeasts head on and the Enclave could’ve been trying to help out and profit from the shadows. Hell, even the Raiders could’ve been convinced that it was in their best interests to help out against the larger threat. We could’ve been the unifying element that worked with all of them and saved Appalachia… but instead we walk into a dead world and we save a dead world.

Who gives a shit?

As someone who has written an epistolary novel, check it out here if you feel like, I can tell you that this style of storytelling has some serious limitations. It’s great to find letters and recordings of characters scattered about the world, it can certainly add depth to a setting, but overall it can get real old. The mere fact of the document already existing in the world, means that someone had to make it which means it’s a past tense document that can only ever really deal with the past. Bethesda had to do some narrative acrobatics to have dead characters recording instructions on how to complete missions. But even then, these characters aren’t talking to you - they’re talking to a recorder in the hope that someone, someday, will listen and opt to follow the instructions of a dead person.

Prerecorded Holotape - “Feral Ghouls have overrun the town, go kill them!”

Me - “Why? Nobody lives here…”

Prerecorded Holotape - *No answer because it’s a prerecorded holotape*

The thing is that all these epistolary documents give Fallout 76 a pretty amazing backstory, but that’s not the same thing as a story. The backstory is part of the setting, it’s the worlds history and it’s what grounds the story and gives events and your own actions some weight. Story is what actually happens through the game and although the world of Fallout 76 (despite its inconsistencies) is pretty damn detailed, the story is severely lacking.

Basically, you run around and join all these factions that have been wiped out and you pick up their individual pieces of the puzzle and combine them to “save” Appalachia. Never mind the fact that Taggerdy’s Thunder, a unit of Army Rangers, shouldn’t have joined the Brotherhood of Steel, you can then go and join the Brotherhood of Steel through them. There’s no connection to the original faction 3000 miles to the west, because the satellites went down ages ago, and everyone in Appalachia is dead. But, somehow, you can still call yourself a part of the Brotherhood of Steel. Cool, in that case, can I be a Viking? They’re all dead, and I’m in Taiwan, but apparently time and distance don’t really matter for membership these days.

The Brotherhood could’ve been any military based organisation, they were already “Taggerdy’s Thunder” so they could’ve just stayed that and there wouldn’t have been an issue.

The Brotherhood could’ve been any military based organisation, they were already “Taggerdy’s Thunder” so they could’ve just stayed that and there wouldn’t have been an issue.

The thing is that the bones of a great game are here, they’re just buried under this weird mutant flesh that doesn’t look right. The Scorched are a kinda cool faction… they’re basically just feral ghouls who can use weapons, but over all the idea is pretty good when you take into account the fact that the plague can affect other creatures too. And Scorchbeasts are awesome, as long as you look past the fact that they’re basically just bat versions of Skyrim’s dragons. The automation that Appalachia was going through before the Great War makes for a great setting. Not only are there still robots buzzing around the dead world, but you can explore what was happening as miners were losing their jobs left and right to robots.

Not only that, but there was political upheaval on a grander scale as well, and that’s why we had the Free States - a group of secessionist survivalists who built bunkers and fled from the world. Also, the Responders were a great faction, they were emergency services personnel who banded together to help people and they kept helping them long after the Great War ended. Even the Raiders had a cool twist from the usual bottom feeders who raid out of necessity. They were the rich elite who were just a bunch of dicks, raiding Appalachia from a luxury resort in the mountains because they felt entitled to what everyone else had. Then there’s the Mole Miners - miners who were trapped underground during the Great War. They’ve mutated into hunched over freaks who need breathing apparatus just to survive, and they’ve got some weird connection with Mole Rats. The makings of a great game are here, Bethesda just didn’t follow through with it.

The Snallygaster is one of the few original creations for Fallout 76 and it’s legitimately awesome. This thing is terrifying to behold!

The Snallygaster is one of the few original creations for Fallout 76 and it’s legitimately awesome. This thing is terrifying to behold!

It’s pretty obvious that Fallout 76 was a cash grab, rather than a true attempt to make something creatively original or worthwhile. You can see it in the reused assets from Fallout 4, the factions and creatures included for brand recognition at the cost of lore integrity, players replacing NPC’s as a way to get out of having to pay people to write and voice NPC dialogue, you can see it in the repetitively mundane and inane fetch quests and you can certainly see it in the micro-transactions. This is surface level Fallout, a shallow attempt to cash in on the brand name and I’m honestly glad it’s failed so spectacularly. If a company as large as Bethesda can fuck up this bad, and have fans turn on them so readily, it should serve as a warning to others to take their series’ more seriously.

For the most part, the game is passably fun. The core mechanics of Fallout 4 are there, with a lot of varied biomes and great gun play. I personally love running around as a survivalist, collecting scrap and working on my base camp. Because Fallout 76, more so than any other modern Fallout game, is a sandbox. You run around and play make believe, and it’s a fun way to kill a few hours. Try not to worry about the fact that the world doesn’t make sense, just enjoy your time there. I’ll keep it, but Far Cry New Dawn just got announced and so I’m already thinking of picking up Far Cry 5 in preparation for that. I’m someone who has played the Fallout series since the late 90’s, and Fallout 76 is already falling off my radar… that’s not good.

Far Cry New Dawn is to Far Cry 5 what Fallout 76 is to Fallout 4 - an extension of the game with a lot of reused assets. The only difference is, Ubisoft don’t treat these projects as a chance to save money - rather as a chance to get great content out quickly. It worked for Far Cry Primal, which had basically the same map as Far Cry 4, so it’ll work here too.

Far Cry New Dawn is to Far Cry 5 what Fallout 76 is to Fallout 4 - an extension of the game with a lot of reused assets. The only difference is, Ubisoft don’t treat these projects as a chance to save money - rather as a chance to get great content out quickly. It worked for Far Cry Primal, which had basically the same map as Far Cry 4, so it’ll work here too.

There’s a bunch of other titles in the Fallout series that generally aren’t considered canon; Fallout Brotherhood of Steel 1 & 2 and Fallout Tactics. I think Fallout 76 will end up being considered like them. It’s fun, the bugs will be fixed, but overall it weakens the series as a whole and should probably be kept at a distance. I seriously hope that Bethesda learn from their mistakes and try harder, instead of just shelving the series to let things cool off. Because I always want more Fallout, most of us do, but that doesn’t mean that I’m willing to accept shit just to get it.

Congratulations Fallout 76, you’re among good company…

Congratulations Fallout 76, you’re among good company…

Fallout Deconstructed - East Coast Super Mutants

(You can check out my previous look at West Coast Super Mutants here.)

When Fallout 3 was released in 2008, Bethesda set the series on a course that would take it in a whole new direction. Some would call it a derailment, and that the calamitous train wreck has been skidding to an inevitable halt ever since, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that by setting the series on the East Coast, as opposed to the West Coast where the original creators had first developed the series, they were given an open field to create their own unique spin on the series. Except they didn’t really do that, and one of the areas that this is most obvious is with the Super Mutants.

East Coast Super Mutants can be broken into three distinct factions; the Vault 87 Super Mutants from Fallout 3, the Institute Super Mutants from Fallout 4 and the Huntersville Super Mutants from Fallout 76. While the West Coast Super Mutants have a rich backstory and deep roots within the lore of the series, their East Coast cousins were given a bare bones backstory that barely justifiied their existence as cannibalistic monsters that exist purely for your character to kill without a second thought. They’re just there. They want to kill you. You’d better kill them.

KILL. LOOT. RETURN.

KILL. LOOT. RETURN.

East Coast Super Mutants are each created with a variant strain of the Forced Evolutionary Virus, it’s a little narrative element that allows Bethesda to tweak their appearance a little in each game. As video game graphics improve, development teams and artistic styles change, it’s inevitable that creatures will start to look a little different. It also allows these Super Mutants to be a little different from those Super Mutants, which gives you a little wiggle room in terms of the lore. A variant strain of FEV accounts for all of this. It’s probably the greatest choice Bethesda made in regards to their inclusion of the Super Mutants, which… is saying something.

East Coast Super Mutants have lost all sexual characteristics, they’re more green in color and their mutations look more uniform and less haphazardly deformed than their West Coast kin. While they’re all still drastically stronger than humans, the intelligence of West Coast Super Mutants depended on their levels of radiation exposure, but the Vault 87 Super Mutants are uniformly stupid (bar one) while the Institute and Huntersville Super Mutants are still fairly intelligent. While they’re all sterile like those on the West Coast, East Coast Super Mutants have the unique trait of continuing to grow as they age. This results in the gargantuan, and painfully stupid, Super Mutant Behemoths.

Do they explore the existential horror that goes along with never dying but continuing to grow while becoming every more senile?   No…

Do they explore the existential horror that goes along with never dying but continuing to grow while becoming every more senile?

No…

The weird thing about East Coast Super Mutants is that they’re all basically created as monsters for your characters to kill. Whatever paper-thin story is attached to them is there to justify their presence, rather than add any depth to them as a faction or build the greater story of the series. Gone are the Super Mutants who were created to replace humanity as superior mutated beings, now we have literal man-eating monsters who have no leadership, no background and attack you because that’s just what monsters do. Bethesda have included the odd intelligent Super Mutant in each of their games, but it’s always an aberrant being who has no clear reason for being smarter and less violent than their mutated brethren. They’re 2D monsters that want to take over the radioactive wasteland, because that’s the surface level villainy that Bethesda deals in.

Don’t get me wrong, Erikson is a cool character… but he’s literally made calm by a mist that turns humans savage and violent.   Zero sense = made.

Don’t get me wrong, Erikson is a cool character… but he’s literally made calm by a mist that turns humans savage and violent.

Zero sense = made.

Vault 87 was built in D.C., which places it in the Capital Wasteland of Fallout 3. The original clandestine project of Vault 87 was the Evolutionary Experimentation Program (EEP) where researchers would test the effects of a unique strain of FEV on the inhabitants of the vault. How Vault-Tec got their hands on FEV we’ll never know, but they did. So there. The main thing with Vault 87 is that these experiments were going on before the Great War, as noted by pressure for results from Mariposa and Vault-Tec’s head office. Vault 87 was directly hit by a nuclear weapon during the Great War, and so the inhabitants were sealed inside and unable to leave due to extreme radiation.

Obviously, the mutation process didn’t always go according to plan…

Obviously, the mutation process didn’t always go according to plan…

All of this is problematic, for various reasons.

First of all, why were there people living in a Vault before the Great War began? You fled to a Vault in the event of the Great War kicking off, you didn’t just rent a room and live there for the great views. When Vault Dwellers were snatched away to be experimented upon, the researchers tried to cover up their deaths by listing them as “Undefined/Unexplained.” After dozens of unexplained deaths, you’d think the other Vault Dwellers would catch wise and just leave the Vault, especially if the Great War hadn’t even happened yet.

West Coast Super Mutants had a military base under their control, so their heavy weapons made sense.   But this?

West Coast Super Mutants had a military base under their control, so their heavy weapons made sense.

But this?

Second, the Vault was directly hit by a nuclear weapon so the Vault door was damaged and could no longer be used. The inhabitants of Vault 87 weren’t so much “safe” in a Vault, as they were “trapped” in one… but they kept on doing the experiments anyway, I guess? The only way in and out of the Vault was this emergency exit that links to a cave system known as Little Lamplight. The problem here is that children have been living in Little Lamplight since the Great War, and if that’s the only exit from Vault 87 then how have the Super Mutants been kidnapping people and bringing them back to the Vault for 200 years? How are there kids living in the only exit from the Vault? It doesn’t make any sense.

Either those wooden supports survived the direct nuclear blast… or the radiation wasn’t bad enough to stop someone setting them up afterwards.

Either those wooden supports survived the direct nuclear blast… or the radiation wasn’t bad enough to stop someone setting them up afterwards.

And that’s the main thing, Vault 87 is the source of Super Mutants in the Capital Wasteland. The original test subjects must have overthrown the scientists at some point and escaped the Vault, somehow, and started bringing Wastelanders back to the Vault to put through the same process that they went through. Never mind the fact that there’s no logical way for them to come in and out of the Vault, they’ve been going out into the Capital Wasteland and kidnapping people for 200 years because that’s just what they’ve always done? There’s no leadership directing them, they locked up the one Super Mutant smart enough to be a leader, so how and why have they maintained this bizarre mission for over two centuries?

Who put the radiation signs up?

Who put the radiation signs up?

Even worse than the Vault 87 Super Mutants of Fallout 3, are the Institute Super Mutants of Fallout 4. They’ve been plaguing the Commonwealth since the Great War, and it’s only after you access the Institute that you discover that they’re to blame… but their reason for creating the Super Mutants are as weak as the milk of human kindness.

Test tube Super Mutants… why?!

Test tube Super Mutants… why?!

The Institute have been experimenting on FEV since the Great War, they tweaked it around a lot to see what different results they could get and after they were done with each experiment they dumped the test subject on the surface. At a certain point they decided that they’d learnt all they could from FEV, and so Wastelanders that were kidnapped and replaced with Synths were mutated with FEV simply to get rid of them in a fashion that was useful. That’s right, instead of getting rid of their experiments after they were done with them, and even after they’d learnt all they could from FEV, the Institute was growing the Commonwealth Wasteland’s Super Mutant population one Super Mutant at a time by letting them loose on the surface.

As far as reasons for a species to existence go, this is an absolute joke. On the one hand the Institute claims to want peace for the Commonwealth and strives for the betterment of mankind, saying that they’re humanities last and best hope. On the other hand they’re dumping mutant monsters on the surface… because reasons? It flies in the face of the Institutes entire character as a faction, and it’s an absurd reason for the Super Mutants to exist in Fallout 4. They’re nothing more than rampaging monsters that have no way to increase their own population, they only ever grow whenever the Institute does another experiment and dumps more of their number on the surface.

They have an innate understanding of crafting armor and defenses… somehow?

They have an innate understanding of crafting armor and defenses… somehow?

We could of had something of a culture for the Super Mutants that hinted at their true origins from within the Institute. Super Mutants could all whisper of the white rooms of their birth, the Institute labs, followed by magically appearing on the surface after they were teleported there. Super Mutants could pray for more of their number to appear before a big battle or after a terrible defeat. Anything at all to hint at their origins but also to hint at some sort of culture beyond being man-eating monsters. Because as it stands, they’re literally just created for shits and giggles. The Institute creates them to cause problems on the surface, they have no deeper purpose beyond being there for your character to kill.

The Huntersville Super Mutants of Appalachia from Fallout 76 are just as weak in terms of story as the rest of their East Coast counterparts. Despite the fact that the military seized control of the FEV experiments from West-Tek a year before the Great War, and built the Mariposa military base specifically to house and research FEV, West-Tek decided to experiment on the town of Huntersville by dumping FEV into their water supply. Why build an underground military base to contain a virus on one side of the country, and then dump it into a town’s water supply on the other side of the country? I get that you need to do research on the virus, but those seem like mutually exclusive approaches and one of them is being conducted by a company that shouldn’t even have the virus.

Along with this, it was just the towns original inhabitants that were infected, because there are terminal logs that tell the story of how the FEV was neutralized by the researchers after the Great War. Once those original Super Mutants are all dead, that’s in for the Huntersville Super Mutants. Considering the real world town of Huntersville only had a population of 73 in the last census, how many Super Mutants could their possibly be in Appalachia? I’m sure each player will kill dozens, if not hundreds, of Super Mutants while playing Fallout 76… how many will we have to kill before their set and non-renewable number is inevitably wiped out?

In terms of the lore, the Huntersville Super Mutants don’t only not work well with the lore from Fallout 1 and 2, but they don’t even work with Bethesda’s own lore from Fallout 3 and 4. If East Coast Super Mutants continue to grow and turn into Behemoths as they age, and we’ve already got Behemoths in Fallout 76 which is only 25 years after they were created, then why aren’t half the Super Mutants in Fallout 3 and 4 Behemoths as well? If it takes less than 25 years to turn into a Behemoth, and both those games are set over 200 years after the Great War, then both the Capital Wasteland and Commonwealth should be right-royally fucked by Behemoths.

Look at its form, it doesn’t even look like a mutation… It looks like it was born like this.   West Coast Super Mutants were visibly imperfect, which was the whole point!

Look at its form, it doesn’t even look like a mutation… It looks like it was born like this.

West Coast Super Mutants were visibly imperfect, which was the whole point!

This is the problem with Bethesda, they’re so focused on brand recognition that they’re refusing to move away from what made Fallout great in the first place… even when it doesn’t make sense. They don’t want to take a risk and try to make anything original and great, so instead they’re pandering to fanboy nostalgia and casual gamers with the attention span of gnats. They’re like the old royalty of Europe who were so obsessed with the purity of lineage that they started inbreeding, and before they knew it they had these mutated freaks on the throne who shouldn’t have existed. That’s what Fallout is today, it’s still Fallout but it’s a little too much Fallout with not enough fresh genes in the mix to make it something good, let alone stable. We’ve got Deathclaws, the Brotherhood of Steel, the Enclave and Super Mutants where they shouldn’t be, all because Bethesda is too scared to try something new.

Instead of going out and trying to find a girlfriend, and risk rejection, Bethesda just stays at home and bangs its cousin…

Radiation ain’t the only thing that causes mutations…

Radiation ain’t the only thing that causes mutations…

Fallout Deconstructed - West Coast Super Mutants

When Fallout first arrived back in 1997, it was the Super Mutants that were the primary threat in the Wasteland. But the Super Mutants actually had an appropriately horrific and sordid history before the events of Fallout 1, and they would continue along this trend for over a century until Fallout: New Vegas. The Super Mutants, like the Brotherhood of Steel, have deep roots within the Fallout canon that stretch back to before the Great War. These roots were tapped into by the original creators, and largely ignored by the developers that followed. Because of this, there are primarily two distinct types of Super Mutants - West Coast and East coast. This post will focus on the original, and the best, West Coast Super Mutants.

They’re big and they’re heavily armed.

They’re big and they’re heavily armed.

Standing on average at ten and a half feet tall, Super Mutants tend weigh in at around 800 pounds, or 363 kilograms, of pure muscle. Although typically greyish/green in color, there was an elite faction of West Coast Super Mutants, dubbed ‘Nightkin’, who have blue due to prolonged use of Stealth Boys. Super Mutant mutations have done away with recessive genes that generally cause genetic issues in humans, and their DNA has been modified to bring about the optimum combination of traits on a genetic level. They heal from wounds much faster than humans and are all but immune to radiation and death from old age. When they’re created perfectly, a Super Mutant maintains the intelligence they had in their former lives as a human and tends to begin life as an all round superior being.

Lou - super intelligent, well spoken, and a leader of the Super Mutants.

Lou - super intelligent, well spoken, and a leader of the Super Mutants.

Things don’t always go perfectly, however, and when an inferior Super Mutant is created they still get all the physical traits but they lose most of their intelligence. A primary drawback of the mutation process is that the Super Mutants are made infertile, and despite not dying of old age they are prone to senility. Along with this, those elite Nightkin who turned blue due to prolonged use of Stealth Boys also developed some serious mental disorders as a result of being invisible for such long periods of time. Super Mutants may be strong and near unkillable, but they’re also deeply flawed and imperfect beings. They’re less a genetically viable race and more super solider mules that’re created specifically for war and not much else. They may be well suited to the harsh life of the wasteland but they don’t exactly have it easy. It’s not just their genetic drawbacks that make this the case either, because they’ve got quite the checkered history.

The Nightkin… most of these guys were batshit insane.

The Nightkin… most of these guys were batshit insane.

Before the Great War, in 2073, there was a company called West-Tek that was researching a way to make the American population immune to any sort of biological attack that might be instigated by China. This was called the Pan-Immunity Virion Project, or PVP for short. It was an attempt to fill out an individuals DNA to make them immune to any sort of pathogens. While it did work, there were some noticeable side effects among the animal test subjects. Both the test subject’s size and intelligence dramatically increased, as well as their aggression levels. The virus was re-dubbed the Forced Evolutionary Virus, or FEV for short, and the scientists began delving into these side effects. It didn’t take long for the government to notice the possible military applications for this project and so they seized control of the project, to capitalize on these possible applications as well as from fear of potential espionage.

All roads lead to Mariposa…

All roads lead to Mariposa…

Mariposa Military base was built specifically to house and work on the FEV Project. And nine months before the Great War, at the start of 2077, the military started doing human testing on military volunteers. The horrors that transpired within Mariposa were such that once the military personnel stationed there learnt of their extent, they executed all the scientists involved and went rogue. This is the beginning of the Brotherhood of Steel. The Great War kicked off a few days later.

Decades later, in 2102, a man by the name of Richard Grey breaks into Mariposa Military Base to try to discover the source of the brutal attacks on his caravans. While most of his group is killed, Richard is knocked into a vat of FEV and spends a good while submerged in the mutagenic goop. He may have fallen in a man of rather dubious character, but upon his eventual escape he became the unhinged mutant freak known as The Master. He started out absorbing the flesh and minds of anything that wandered into Mariposa while simultaneously merging with the base’s computer network via a neural up-link. Eventually he started experimenting with the FEV, “dipping” other humans into it and studying the results. This is the birth of the Super Mutants as we knew them in the first Fallout game.

You can bring a plank of wood to a gun fight when you’re a genetically superior being…

You can bring a plank of wood to a gun fight when you’re a genetically superior being…

The Super Mutants were mostly dumb, brutish hulks that increased in size and strength but also lost most of their intelligence. A rare few, roughly one in six, were able to retain their intelligence though, and so The Master theorized that the deciding factor was the subjects radiation exposure. He himself was originally an exile from Vault 8, far to the north, and so his radiation levels were far lower than most wastelanders. Subjects with minimal exposure to radiation tended to yield far better results than those who had a lifetime of radiation stored in their flesh. For anyone who knows Fallout the meaning of this should be clear, those who lived in Vaults would make far better Super Mutants than those who grew up in the Wasteland.

In 2155, with the aid of a cult he’d aligned himself with, Richard Grey would eventually move south to the L.A. Boneyard where he would take up residence in a Vault of his own. Super Mutants are great and all but even the intelligent ones couldn’t do what a fanatical human cultist could; infiltrate wasteland settlements and bring them down from within. And what self-respecting villain would forego the chance at an underground lair? Eventually The Master would build a cathedral atop the Vault and forevermore the cult was presented as an honest religion dubbed “Children of the Cathedral.” Few knew of the Cathedral’s connection to The Master, his Super Mutant army or his grand designs of wasteland Unification.

Would you want to be part of any Utopian plan that this thing cooked up?

Would you want to be part of any Utopian plan that this thing cooked up?

The thing with the Super Mutants is that they’re a direct threat to your character, the Vault Dweller, and his whole community Vault 13. The Master and his Super Mutants are looking for pure humans with minimal radiation exposure, which means that the Vault Dweller’s Vault is a prime target. With this in mind, even if you complete your initial goal of repairing your Vault’s water purification chip, you’re sent back out to take care of the far more dangerous threat that The Master and his Super Mutants pose. To keep this from spiraling any further, in 2161 the Vault Dweller eventually destroys Mariposa as well as the Cathedral and The Master’s Vault beneath it. The source of the Super Mutant threat, as far as the wasteland is aware of, is taken care of.

After the events of Fallout 1, the Super Mutants are scattered. Many form roving war-bands or even armies of their own, going on to become a scourge on the wasteland. A massive force wanders across the mountains far to the east, which leads to the events of Fallout Tactics. For the most part though, with their creator dead and their sole method of their creation seemingly destroyed, the Super Mutants faded into the background of wasteland normalcy. Like humans, some were good, most were bad and they just started living life as best they could. A prime example of this was the town of Broken Hills, a mining town comprised of humans, Ghouls and Super Mutants. Broken Hills was founded by a Super Mutant and a Brotherhood of Steel Paladin, a sure enough narrative nod to the fact that the conflict between the two factions was a thing of the past by this point. Life was never easy in Broken Hills, and tensions always ran high, but the town could survive as long as level heads prevailed… and as long as there was still uranium to mine.

Spoilers - the uranium eventually, inevitably, ran out.

Spoilers - the uranium eventually, inevitably, ran out.

Jump forward to 2236, five years before the events of Fallout 2. The ruins of Mariposa are discovered by the Enclave. They’re a faction that’s a continuation of the US government, so they’ve got access to some seriously high-tech weapons and armor, as well as all the old pre-war records. With the aid of human and Super Mutant slaves, they begin excavation of the ruins and eventually discover some of the still-potent FEV. Mutations begin to occur among the human slaves, as well as some of the Enclave personnel and eventually Mariposa is abandoned. After a slight altercation with a squad of Enclave soldiers left behind to kill everything within the base, the new Super Mutant community begins in earnest. Remnants of the first-generation Super Mutants, as well as the newly created second generation, just wanted to stay down in the ruins of Mariposa and live in peace… and they did… until the Chosen One, the protagonist of Fallout 2, showed up.

By the time of Fallout: New Vegas, in 2281, the Super Mutants have openly been a part of the wasteland for over a century. They’re not exactly accepted, often being treated worse than Ghouls, but they’re not instantly shot on sight either. Sometimes a Super Mutant might live peacefully with humans, or they might live together in their own Super Mutant communities and try their best to maintain peaceful relations with their human and Ghoul neighbors. They’re just trying to survive in the wasteland like everyone else, some may do so as peacefully as possible while others take a more violent and selfish path.

Broken Hills may have died, but it’s Super Mutant founder, Marcus, moved to the Mojave Wasteland and started over.

Broken Hills may have died, but it’s Super Mutant founder, Marcus, moved to the Mojave Wasteland and started over.

This is the thing about Super Mutants, they’re not just mindless monsters for your characters to kill. They’re an imperfect species that’s going to die out unless they find a way to propagate, either through use of FEV or by solving their sterility issues. In Fallout 1, 2 and New Vegas (and Tactics, as well, if you accept it as canon) they’re a fully fleshed out and flawed people that have drives and a history of their own. They’ve got a sorry past, being created by The Master as tools to bring about his demented vision of a genetically unified wasteland… but they’ve moved beyond that. They’re not all good and they’re not all bad, neither are they haphazardly created idiotic brutes that eat humans... like Bethesda turned them into on the East Coast.

Okay… technically, the split-personality Super Mutant Dog/God will eat corpses, but they’re just such well written characters!

Okay… technically, the split-personality Super Mutant Dog/God will eat corpses, but they’re just such well written characters!

Take a look at my break down of East Coast Super Mutants here.

The True Horror of Vault 11

Anyone who has played a Fallout game knows of the dickish douchebaggery of Vault-Tec - the pre-Great War American company that was meant to protect people but ended up experimenting on them. Long time fans will also be aware of Vault 11, of Fallout New Vegas, which has arguably the most fucked up vault experiment ever conceived.

In Vault 11, the residents are told that they need to sacrifice one of their members each year in order to survive. When the first Overseer comes down at tells the first batch of people, who had just escaped a nuclear apocalypse, this, they get pissed and force him down into the sacrificial tunnel. From that point forward, whoever was elected Overseer was effectively being elected to make the sacrifice. So unlike in every other vault, and unlike in every other democratic society, you really did *not* want to get elected leader of the vault. 

That’s… odd.

That’s… odd.

By the time your character gets down there, the vault is, as usual, in ruins and you see rotting election banners all over the place. Except, instead of people trying to get themselves elected they're trying to get the other guy elected. You make your way through the vault and see all the nasty tricks that people pulled to try and avoid being elected Overseer. Eventually, after going through the sacrificial chamber yourself and coming out alive, you find out that all the residents had to do to escape was to *not* sacrifice someone.

They figured it out eventually, but arguably it was too little and far too late.

They figured it out eventually, but arguably it was too little and far too late.

By the time they'd figured this out though, there were only five residents left, and four couldn't live with the guilt so they killed themselves. It's peak Vault-Tec maliciousness and makes you wonder if the CEO of Vault-Tec was that proverbial kid that your parents stopped you playing with after all those pets on your street started showing up dead. It's horrific, and you can understand why four of the five that got out alive couldn't go on living with what they'd done.

But the thing that gets me, that sent literal shivers down my spine - is a coffee mug.

When you're walking down into the sacrificial tunnel, where countless people have gone to their deaths, you walk down some stairs and there's this door. There's a blood stain on the floor, which speaks to the less than voluntary nature of the sacrifice, but there's also a coffee mug.

Rusty and forgotten, this tunnel hasn’t been opened in years… but what’s that?

Rusty and forgotten, this tunnel hasn’t been opened in years… but what’s that?

Now, to me, there's a whole story right there. While many of the Overseers were forced down there, one of them went down there on their own. Maybe they'd just finished their breakfast and then they set out to commit suicide so that all the people who’d elected them could live. However it happened, the person was still drinking their cup of coffee when they went down to die.... they got to the door and realized they wouldn't need the mug anymore, so they tossed it on the ground and went on to their face their end.

But… why?!

But… why?!

Who the hell brings a coffee mug to their execution?! It reminds me of that story from the French Revolution, about that dude that was reading a book while he was being put into the guillotine. He's in the line waiting to have his head chopped off, but he's just reading a book, and when it's his turn he just calmly puts the book down and goes to get executed. 

This whole line of thinking was sparked from a single coffee mug that was laying in a place that by all rights it shouldn't be. It was just a coffee mug but it had me turning into Lady MacBeth screaming "Out, dammed spot! Out, I say!" for a long time after I left Vault 11. The journal entries and posters flat out tell the story, but the coffee mug makes you pause and wonder… and that’s the haunting horror of Vault 11.

It can't have been unintentional that the coffee mug was left there by the games developers, it had to have been left there on purpose. It's great storytelling like that which has people making the claim that Fallout New Vegas is still a better game than Fallout 4. Although I prefer the setting of 4 (I never really liked the Cowboy ascetic in New Vegas) I have to say that I definitely preferred the story of New Vegas over 4. 

One item can spark a whole story in the reader/viewer/gamer who is taking in your story, you don't even have to explain it. If you put some thought into what conclusion you want them to arrive at, you can work it so that they end up there without you explicitly directing them. It's a fantastic bit of storytelling and world-building, and for something so small it's amazing how long it's stayed with me.  

As the world ended outside Vault 11, countless people would’ve killed to get in. At the same time, everyone inside the vault would’ve killed to get out.

Thank you, for your sacrifice…

Thank you, for your sacrifice…

Fallout 76 - Overcrowded No Man's Land

It's been revealed that Fallout 76 will be an always online multiplayer game, which means you're not able to play offline or alone. To reinforce this, there are no human NPC's that will be present because every other human you meet in the game will be another Player Character. Whether those players are role playing as Raiders, Traders or Scavengers, every interaction you have with another human will be an interaction with a real human.

That 3rd character is wearing a Pre-War Power Armor under-suit, they could have at least given it a color scheme change to differentiate it from the Brotherhood of Steel.

That 3rd character is wearing a Pre-War Power Armor under-suit, they could have at least given it a color scheme change to differentiate it from the Brotherhood of Steel.

Now, Fallout 4 copped some grief over it's voiced protagonists. A lot of people didn't like the scaled down response ques that had them saying something wildly different from what they expected. But it seems that in order to correct this, Bethesda have gone and taken out all the NPC's that you can interact with. How many dialogue choices can you have with a human player character? Wouldn't they just let you talk to them via a microphone? With all the human NPC's gone, who are we going to be talking to? I guess we could chat with a Robot or a Super Mutant, but neither are going to be giving us any kind of decent conversation. For a series that revolved around fantastically deep dialogue to convey it's characters, story and themes, this is certainly a strange move for Bethesda.

Can I talk to the Giant Mushroom Sloth? Because I'd really like to know what the hell it's doing in the ruins of the United States...

Can I talk to the Giant Mushroom Sloth? Because I'd really like to know what the hell it's doing in the ruins of the United States...

Being forced to interact with other people is another "interesting" move. I know a lot of people play video games for the competition and the team work, but a lot of us play games specifically to get away from people. I am an introvert, I will happily say that I play games to escape and recharge. While I will no doubt try out Fallout 76, I am unsure how I will be interacting with it's always online, forced multiplayer elements.

The developers are saying that there's going to be safeguards in place that stop people from griefing other players. This is good, on one hand, but on the other it raises the question - why even put forced multiplayer in then? I can see myself running around Fallout 76 and either avoiding other players or just outright ignoring them. I don't care if that other player wants to kill me, trade with me or if they want to team up and go questing together - I just want them to fuck off. 

This is my Fallout... walking through the ruins, alone. 

This is my Fallout... walking through the ruins, alone. 

I play games to get away from people, and if Fallout 76 refuses to provide me with a way of doing that then I'm probably not going to be spending much time with it. I get enough grief dealing with people in the real world, I don't need to be getting shot in the head by some 12 year old twitch gamer from Liverpool while I'm trying to relax at home. I don't care if there's a whole crew of player controlled Raiders that're approaching me, if I've got an option to avoid interacting with them then I'm going to take it. Which brings us back to the question of why they even bothered to include multiplayer?

If other people are in my game, then they're an annoyance. At worst they're going to be forcefully initiating some form of interaction, violent or otherwise, while at best they're going to be buzzing around trying to coerce me into interact with them. Even if they have to get through some anti-harassment safeguard to initiate combat, they'll likely be trying to get me to bring down that safeguard so they can get the experience they want - PVP. Again, as much as I want the option to opt out of interacting with other players, having that option there makes the multiplayer aspect of Fallout 76 pointless.

What do The Chosen   One  , The   Lone   Wanderer & The   Sole   Survivor all have in common?

What do The Chosen One, The Lone Wanderer & The Sole Survivor all have in common?

If I don't want to interact with this other player but they're buzzing around because they *do* want to interact with me, nobody is going to be having a good time. Nobody is getting what they want from the game because we're being forced together when we've got woefully different play styles and reasons for being there. I don't understand why they couldn't just let the multiplayers play online while letting the solo players play offline. Well, actually... now that I've written it out I'm betting it's for financial reasons. They'll probably provide solo-servers down the line, for a fee. 

Dying doesn't do anything anymore because you just respawn, so how exactly is it dying? If previous Fallout games, your protagonist never died because if you were killed you reverted back to your last save and tried again. But in Fallout 76, because it's always online you can't do that. Instead of dying and reverting to a point where you hadn't died yet, you die and just keep on going. How is death dealt with in the game? Other series have lore reasons for why characters can respawn, but Fallout is going to have to come up with something original to justify this game mechanic. Which raises the question of continuity, if respawn technology is present in Fallout 76, why isn't it present in all subsequent Fallout games? This all seems like minor points to niggle over, but death is a pretty important component in terms of game play. Apparently you don't even lose your gear when you die, so again - what exactly is the point of multiplayer? That was half the point of killing enemies in previous Fallout games, so you could get their stuff.

Great settlement... but what player will actually want to stand at a guard post like an NPC Settler would? 

Great settlement... but what player will actually want to stand at a guard post like an NPC Settler would? 

Settlement building is back, but it looks like they can be destroyed by random mobs and other players. Part of the appeal of Fallout 4, at least for me, was being able to run around on Survival Mode and set up little supply caches. Survival Mode was hard, and it made sense to set up outposts that you could travel between, they gave you a safe haven to rest and recuperate before setting out once again. But if bases can be destroyed by other players, who can now literally nuke the game world, then what's the point? Why bother wasting time and effort to build something that can be torn down or outright destroyed in a mushroom cloud? 

If the guy in Power Armor in the trailer couldn't survive this, why can the players?

If the guy in Power Armor in the trailer couldn't survive this, why can the players?

I could understand it if Fallout 76 was a hardcore Roguelike game, where you get one life and if you die you lose your character. I would hate it, but at least it would be better than this half/half game they've got going at the moment, where I can opt out of interacting with other players but I'm still forced to see them impotently scamper around my world. Not only are there people in my game that I don't want to interact with, but they've replaced the human NPC's that I actually enjoyed interacting with. It's almost like Bethesda replaced all the human NPC's with other Player Characters so that they didn't have to waste time and effort on creating compelling NPC's for your character to interact with. 

I'm worried that Fallout 76 will turn into this... a dudebro game that's basically all about running around Power Armor, just fucking shit up.

I'm worried that Fallout 76 will turn into this... a dudebro game that's basically all about running around Power Armor, just fucking shit up.

I guess you could say that I should just change my expectations, appreciate the game for what it is and play it the way it's meant to be played. But, how about no? Fallout has always been a solid single player experience, but Bethesda are attempting to make it a multiplayer experience now as well. In their misguided attempts to get the best of both worlds, it seems like they've created a misbegotten bastard mule of a game that will likely suck at both. But I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

However it turns out, the fact is that I'm skeptical and not at all excited. I was at the midnight launches for Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas and Fallout 4 and I'd pre-ordered each and every one of them. I won't be pre-ordering Fallout 76, I won't be buying it as soon as I'm able and I certainly won't be at the midnight launch. That is a terrible state of affairs for someone who has been a fan of the Fallout series for two decades.  

At least the setting looks nice...

At least the setting looks nice...

The Brotherhood of Steel

Anyone who has read this blog, or spoken to me on Twitter, knows that I have a love/hate relationship with the Fallout series. I am a diehard fan from the late 90's but I've watched as the series has gone down some creative roads that I don't agree with. It's not all bad, far from it, but there's enough there to elicit a sigh and get me shaking my head.

The Brotherhood of Steel is one such aspect of the series that I find troublesome. They were fantastic in Fallout 1 & 2 because they played their part well, primarily because they had a thematic role to play. But in subsequent games they became that friend that hangs around after the party is over... it's nice to see them but at a certain point you just want them to bugger off. If you haven't already, go check out this blog post for a broader view of the Fallout. This post is going to focus purely on the Brotherhood of Steel. 

Walking tanks or tin cans of 'Strange Meat', depending on your size and strength. Either way, they're heavily armed and armored! 

Walking tanks or tin cans of 'Strange Meat', depending on your size and strength. Either way, they're heavily armed and armored! 

The Brotherhood of Steel has its roots in the Mariposa Military Base. During the months leading up to the Great War, the soldiers stationed at Mariposa witnessed the horrors preformed by scientists who were experimenting with the Forced Evolutionary Virus. When it was discovered that the scientists were using military "volunteers" for the experiments, the soldiers executed the scientists. Three days before the Great War broke out in October of 2077, the soldiers announced to the outside world that they were seceding from the United States of America. They received no reply. The soldiers figured that if an entire military base going rogue and deserting their post wasn't the most pressing issue for the government, then something bad must be happening. With this in mind, the soldiers rightly called their families inside Mariposa just two days before the Great War broke out.

Now, beyond a really awesome origin story this part of the Brotherhood's history is important for a few reasons. First, it separates them from the United States. Unlike the rest of the soldiers who survived the Great War, they are not remnants of the United States Military because they seceded before the Great War began. Because of this they're not bound by that old doctrine anymore, they are their own faction. They weren't bound to help other survivors or help rebuild the United States. By going rogue they freed themselves of any obligations to anyone else, but that also meant that they were entirely on their own. This is the inception of their isolationism, one of the beliefs that would end up defining them. 

Second, the Brotherhood of Steel and the Super Mutants are intimately tied. The Master's Super Mutants come from Mariposa Military Base... which is exactly where the Brotherhood of Steel came from. They're tied because they have the same point of origin. It could be said that the only reason there are Super Mutants on the West Coast is because the soldiers who went rogue didn't finish the job they started. They may have killed the scientists, but their horrific discoveries were still there and the ability to continue their genetic experiments was just waiting to be picked up by another. The Master's Super Mutants and the Brotherhood of Steel aren't just random enemies, they're linked by a common origin and this is what makes them fantastic foes.

Third, and finally, the Brotherhood learned what happens when technology is allowed to fall into the hands of those too immature, stupid or callous to use it properly. They saw the horrific experiments that were being preformed in Mariposa, they witnessed the Great War first hand, and that's why they're so obsessed with technology. They don't just hoard technology because they like big guns; they have a zealous respect and reverence, even fear, of technology and thus they think they're the only one's who can be entrusted with it. The Gun Runners, the Gunners and Talon Company, they all know about weapons and a few even know how to manufacture them. The Brotherhood is more akin to the Children of Atom. They're a religious organisation that is fanatically devoted to technology and advanced weaponry.

When things settled down after the Great War, the soldiers traveled south to the Lost Hills bunker to establish themselves and start anew. The journey took several weeks and many soldiers, as well as members of their families, died or were killed along the way. This is another contributing factor to their isolationism; they were hounded by scavenging survivors on their initial journey through the wasteland. This was their exodus from their old lives, and it left them scarred both outside and within. 

Lost Hills Bunker - home of the Brotherhood of Steel

Lost Hills Bunker - home of the Brotherhood of Steel

Once at Lost Hills bunker, the brotherhood went quiet for a while, turning inward to establish and define themselves. They were out in the wasteland, scavenging or trading for supplies and tech but they were largely minding their own business. Their first real big foray into the Wasteland was in 2134, 57 years later, when a group of Brotherhood Knights snuck out of Lost Hills to go explore the Glow for lost technology. The reason they had to sneak out was because the Brotherhood Elders had initially refused their request to leave Lost Hills. So already at this point we're seeing their character being formed, and the internal conflicts that arise between a desire to collect outside technology and a desire to isolate themselves. Somewhat fittingly, the Knights who stole away in the middle of the night never returned home. 

By 2050 the Brotherhood noticed that a group of raiders known as The Vipers, originally Vault Dwellers from Vault 15, were gaining a bit of power in the region. By 2055 they began going after the Vipers directly, not out of any sense of obligation to the surrounding Wastelanders but more to protect their own interests. The Vipers were a massive group of raiders, a veritable army, and they posed a threat to the Brotherhood. It was only after the war with the Vipers that the Brotherhood officially set up a trade relations with the outside world, a full seventy-two years after their inception.

In 2161, a year before Fallout 1 begins, the Brotherhood came across the corpse of a Super Mutant and this was their first real clue that some nasty shit was going down. It wasn't until the Vault Dweller arrived in 2162 that they realized that the dead Super Mutant was intertwined with their own origins. The thing is, they almost didn't learn any of this because they tried to scare off the Vault Dweller by giving him an impossible mission to complete. When he finally did complete the impossible mission, he found out that he was the first outside to be admitted into the Brotherhood of Steel in *decades.* That's how isolationist they are. Once they learnt that the Super Mutants were originating from Mariposa Military Base, their own point of origin, they decided to help the Vault Dweller. 

All this ties together really well, we've got a faction that has firm roots and motivations in the Wasteland. They've got an enemy that's not just an opposing force but an enemy that could arguably be said to be of their own creation, one that they are responsible for.

After the events of Fallout 1, the wasteland starts to evolve and the New California Republic is formed. Thanks to their part in the war against The Master, the Brotherhood of Steel is invited into the NCR and given control of the lands around Lost Hills, which becomes the state of Maxson. But the Brotherhood haven't changed, they're still the same techno-hoarding zealots they always were. A growing faction within the Brotherhood wanted to open their doors to the outside world, now that the NCR was formed, and invite new blood in. This was too much of a radical change in thinking for the elders so they sent these Brotherhood members off in airships to chase down the remnants of the Master's Super Mutant army across the eastern moutnains, effectively exiling them.

Obviously things do not go well for them, hence the story of Fallout: Tactics

Obviously things do not go well for them, hence the story of Fallout: Tactics

By the time of Fallout 2, in 2242, the Brotherhood is a shadow of its former strength and influence. While it was once a powerhouse of advanced technology and research, its isolationist ways weakened it and crippled its reach. The NCR had grown into a powerful new nation, because it was looking ahead. Most of those beyond the NCR typically regressed, or evolved, into tribal societies. Either way, the outside world was changing with the times. The Brotherhood was a small state within the NCR at best, because it was stagnating and always looking to the past. In a world that was progressing, the Brotherhood of Steel was being left behind.

This is one of their bases... the dude isn't even wearing Power Armor! 

This is one of their bases... the dude isn't even wearing Power Armor! 

All this makes thematic sense, because it's a natural progression of events. The Brotherhood doesn't want to grow; they're stuck in the past and they want to hoard technology and keep out the filthy outsiders who they abandoned and who subsequently hurt them so badly during the Brotherhood's exodus. This has very real repercussions however, because you cannot isolate yourself and hope to advance - that's just not how it works. The Brotherhood never advanced, and they never made anything new, they only ever gathered the best technology that the old world had to offer. That strategy gives you an edge for a while, but eventually the rest of the world catches up. And while the Brotherhood were focusing on hoarding the rest of the world was focusing on advancing. By the time the Brotherhood realized what had happened, it was too late for them to do anything about it because they were set in their ways.

This was all Interplay/Black Isle who put this together, so it was the original creators taking their story to its logical conclusion. When Bethesda took over however, they wanted to set their story far away from the originals but they didn't have the courage, or lacked the originality, to properly divorce themselves from the original setting. They wanted the creative freedom that distance provided, but they also relied upon preexisting content as a crutch. They wanted their cake and to eat it, too. Because of this, Bethesda made it that in 2254 the Brotherhood traveled across the wasteland to the East Coast for three reasons. First, they were to search for the members they'd sent after the remnants of the Master's Army some 90+ years earlier. Second, they were to search Washington D.C. for advanced technology. Third, they were to respond to reports of Super Mutant activity on the East Coast.

All of this is simply weak storytelling. Bethesda should have made wholly new factions for their game on the East Coast, but instead they decided to drag factions and creatures from the West Coast. The Brotherhood of Steel had faded into obscurity by the time of Fallout 2, when they didn't even have the manpower to help the Chosen One defeat the Enclave. They weren't even mentioned in the end credits because they simply weren't important anymore. With that in mind, how does it make sense that they have the manpower to mount an expedition across the continent twelve years later? They get to D.C., and yes there are Super Mutants, but they're not the *same* Super Mutants that share an origin story with the Brotherhood of Steel. The Brotherhood is in D.C. fighting a totally different breed of Super Mutants because... apparently that's just what the Brotherhood does?

Elder Lyons and the Lyons Pride Unit... you could not get anymore knightly if you tried.

Elder Lyons and the Lyons Pride Unit... you could not get anymore knightly if you tried.

I have to pay respects to the Outcasts in Fallout 3 though. Bethesda knew enough to know that not all members of the expedition would be cool with their Elder's new humanitarian bent, and so they split away and became a traditionalist faction. The Brotherhood in Fallout 3 are basically knights in shining armor battling monsters, while the Outcasts are the xenophobic techno-monks that want nothing to do with you. Which of them sound more like the real Brotherhood of Steel?

Funny how they're 'Outcast' for being more traditional...

Funny how they're 'Outcast' for being more traditional...

When Obsidian Entertainment, basically a new company comprised of the original creators of Fallout 1 & 2, made Fallout: New Vegas, they knew they had a problem with the Brotherhood. This was a faction present in 2281 that was meant to have been little more than a shell of its former self in 2242. So, why were they still around? New Vegas is a lot closer to Lost Hills than Washington D.C. is mind you, so at least it made sense for them to be present in the game. Obsidian knew they had to incorporate Bethesda's ridiculous contribution of the Brotherhood being powerful enough to travel all the way to the East Coast, so they worked with what had been dumped in their lap.

The Brotherhood of Steel in Fallout: New Vegas is a faction in hiding. The once powerful group who battled raiders and Super Mutants was now cowering in a bunker, because it was at war with the NCR. Their repressively isolationist and technology hoarding ways brought it into direct conflict with the NCR, a nation that was interested in advancing the world. The Brotherhood might have advanced weaponry and power armor but the NCR had thousands upon thousands of soldiers, who were all similarly trained as Brotherhood Knights. Their devotion to technology was so all-encompassing that an Elder, who was a Scribe and not a Knight, had them try to hold a facility against the NCR that any solider knew to be almost indefensible. The NCR crushed the Brotherhood in the New Vegas region and they've been in hiding ever since. 

This is how they greet you. Still the same old anti-social assholes. 

This is how they greet you. Still the same old anti-social assholes. 

You can talk to the Brotherhood, even join them if you help them out enough, but even they're starting to realize how untenable their situation is. They're at war with a nation that has the manpower and weaponry to wipe them out, and they're so isolationist that most people end up having kids with someone they're more than a little related to. The Great War was 204 years earlier at this point, and with minimal fresh genes being dumped into their gene pool since then there has to be some serious in-breeding going on. You can broker peace between the Brotherhood of Steel and the NCR in New Vegas or you can wipe them out, either way they're not doing real well.

If they're allowed to stay in New Vegas after the events of the game, they just patrol the wasteland, taking advanced technology off whoever they please. Because they haven't changed at all. 

If they're allowed to stay in New Vegas after the events of the game, they just patrol the wasteland, taking advanced technology off whoever they please. Because they haven't changed at all. 

By the time Fallout 4 happens in 2287, the East Coast Brotherhood of Steel and the Outcasts have reunited and headed north, from Washington D.C. to Boston. They've been bringing in fresh blood for years, recruiting talented wastelanders who show the qualities they look for in their members. They've traveled north to destroy the Institute and their Synth creations, which sort of makes sense, but also doesn't for a few reasons.

You have no idea how much I groaned the first time I saw this thing fly over. 

You have no idea how much I groaned the first time I saw this thing fly over. 

First, the Brotherhood's isolationism isn't just a story element that needs to be worked around to make them a viable faction - it's an integral aspect of their character and history. Recruiting wastelanders willy-nilly does "solve" their numbers issue but it's not something that's meant to be solved. It's an inherent flaw in their organisation and belief system. Bethesda didn't evolve the Brotherhood of Steel by opening up their ranks, they destroyed it.

Second, the Brotherhood is all about collecting and hoarding technology. The Institute is arguably the most technologically advanced organisation in the Wasteland and the Brotherhood just... blow it up? How does that line up with their character, or history, at all? They're techno-centric zealots, not techno-phobic Luddites. Wouldn't an organisation that is fanatically dedicated to securing advanced technology want to secure all the technological advancements that were created by the Institute? Wouldn't an organisation that has historically had issues with manpower look at technology that can literally create soldiers from nothing and at least entertain the idea of utilizing it? If anything, the character of Danse just proves that Synths can make fantastic Brotherhood soldiers.

Even on death's door he's gives a rousing speech about why he's a dedicated Brotherhood solider. 

Even on death's door he's gives a rousing speech about why he's a dedicated Brotherhood solider. 

Third, the Super Mutants present in the Commonwealth are different from those present in the Capital Wasteland because these ones were created by the Institute with experiments on FEV. They're even further removed from the Super Mutants created by the Master, so why exactly are the Brotherhood fighting them? Bethesda turned the Brotherhood's xenophobic views of *anyone* not part of the Brotherhood into a xenophobic view of anyone that isn't *human.* There's a big difference there. The Brotherhood fights Super Mutants in Fallout 4 because that's just what they're there to do, to kill anything that isn't human.   

If the Brotherhood had stayed true to their roots and stayed isolationist and continued to hoard technology I could get behind their inclusion in Fallout 4. The Brotherhood taking out the Institute just so they could utilize their Synth-creation technology would have been a fantastic twist for the organisation. The chance to create an endless army of Synths who are fanatically dedicated to the beliefs of the Brotherhood, how could any Brotherhood of Steel member realistically pass that up? That sort of technology would allow them to scour the ruins of the old world and establish themselves, and their beliefs, as the central power. If the only thing keeping them in check was their lack of manpower, what would happen when that was no longer an issue?  

If you don't think something like that would happen, take a look at one of the endings that can happen in Fallout 1 if you happen to kill a key character. 

"The Brotherhood of Steel, under new leadership after the death of Rhombus, becomes an overzealous, techno-religious dictatorship. In 20 years, the Steel Plague devastates the newly formed New California Republic, and starts a Dark Age that could last a thousand years."

The Brotherhood of Steel are not knights in shining armor, they're not the police, they're not human-purists and they are certainly not the good guys. They're a faction that turned their backs on their fellow countrymen in their darkest hour, and when they found themselves pitted against other survivors of the Great War they isolated themselves and turned inward. They do not trust anyone outside their ranks and they do nothing that doesn't further their own goals, which often bring them into conflict with any and all outsiders. They're a religious organisation whose beliefs are incompatible with the outside world and in the long run these beliefs were meant to spell their doom. 

The Brotherhood of Steel is a faction that had a time and a place where they were designed to make sense, and taking them outside of the parameters of either weakens the series as a whole. The Brotherhood of Fallout 1 & 2 isn't the same Brotherhood present in Fallout 3 & 4. It's not an evolution of the organisation either, but a heel-face turn designed to shoe-horn a previously important faction into the narratives of the sequels. In Fallout 1 & 2, the world is advancing while the Brotherhood is left behind, in Fallout 3 & 4 it is the world that's stagnating while the Brotherhood advances.

The Brotherhood of Steel was meant to be a faction that perpetually looked to the past in favor of reaching for a future. They were meant to fade from relevance and memory until all that remained were mentions of them in the history books. At least, that's what was meant to happen until Bethesda got a hold of them...

 

Fallout 76

Whelp, I was totally wrong about Fallout 5!

I'm actually okay with this, any new Fallout game is sure to be something interesting so I'm pretty keen to see where this goes. I've seen a few sources stating that this will be an online game, which is something I am decidedly against. I'm fine with a little co-op, but not fully online like Elder Scrolls Online or anything like that. I know Bethesda has been making the series more of a Shooter, but it's an RPG at heart and I'd hate for it to turn into something akin to Destiny.

Now, gameplay interests me less than the story does, so let's dive into that!

We've got a time and a date, 27th October, 2102!

We've got a time and a date, 27th October, 2102!

The first big shock is that the game is set in 2102, a full 59 years before the first Fallout game was set. Which actually makes sense, because this game is about Vault Dwellers from Vault 76 which was mentioned in Fallout 3. Vault 76 was a control vault, where there were no crazy experiments and people were just meant to leave and reclaim the surface world after 20 years. The more astute of you have probably already noticed, if the Great War was in 2077 and this is set in 2102, that's 25 years! Why the extra 5 years? Who knows... but I'm sure we'll find out. 

Vault 76 actually had numerical importance for the United States of America.

Vault 76 actually had numerical importance for the United States of America.

Vault 76 was dubbed after the Tercentenary of American Independence, which actually makes perfect sense in thematic terms. You'd want your control vaults, those who are intended to be used to reclaim the United States, to be as patriotic as all hell. These are the people that are going to go out and take back what's rightfully theirs, so you'd want them to be as pumped up as you can make them. It's a small detail, but I like that it builds the narrative.

Ron Perlman shows up again... 

Ron Perlman shows up again... 

A minor point here, but this guy is the same guy who narrated Fallout 1, 2, Tactics & 3, and was the news reader in Fallout 4. What he's doing speaking in front of a vault I don't know, maybe he's playing a different character? Also of note in this scene, is the Zetan space ship just below the television. Also, the television is in color - a first for Fallout.

Reclamation Day!

Reclamation Day!

Seems like their was a big party and everyone has already left the vault. Since we already know that Vault 76 was a control vault, the Vault Dwellers would have been preparing for this day since they entered the Vault. That banner, and the general festivities, is rather indicative of their outlook and motivation. They're pumped and they're headed out to retake America. I doubt it goes well, since we know what happens in the future and we've never heard of these guys. They're headed out into a nuclear wasteland full of monsters... what could possibly go wrong?

Retro!

Retro!

That Pip-Boy looks a little different to what most people are used to, but that's because it's an earlier model. This Pip-Boy was used in Fallout 1 & 2, the only difference is that the screen was reversed with the buttons and dials. This was done because back in the day of Fallout 1 & 2 you never saw the device on your arm and it made sense to have the layout with the buttons on the left and the screen on the right. But if the device is designed to be worn like a watch, on your off-hand, you'd want the buttons and dials on the right so that you're not reaching over the screen. This same issue arose in Fallout 3 before the developers managed to get it right in Fallout 4. So while this Pip-Boy looks a little different, it is clearly meant to be a throwback to the earlier Fallout games.

Now, there were a few plaques in the teaser but they're hard to get a decent screenshot of, but basically their awards for 'Best Haircut' and 'Best Halloween Costume'. Besides this, there are two that stand out. I can't get screenshots but I can transcribe them.

"Excellence in Bravery - In recognition of the canned mystery meat experiment. You volunteered to eat when no one else would. We are proud of you and glad you are not dead."

and
 

"Outstanding Achievement Award - In appreciation to your commitment and dedication to our isolation program. Sacrificing many so some can live."

That first one sounds like a joke but that second one sounds ominous as fuuuuuck... While it's probably related to the extra 5 years they spent in the vault, who knows what went on in there? I'm sure we'll find out though! 

In terms of the outside world, there's a few things we can speculate. Judging by the song in the teaser "Take me Home, Country Roads" performed by John Denver, I'm pretty sure that the game will be set in West Virginia. Which works, because it's East Coast - Bethesda's territory, and it's close to Washington D.C. which is important for one reason.

Vault 87 Super Mutant concept art.

Vault 87 Super Mutant concept art.

Bethesda made their own Super Mutants for the East Coast. As we discovered in Fallout 3, East Coast Super Mutant come from Vault 87 and started appearing in the Capital Wasteland in 2078, a year after the Great War. With Fallout 76 being set 25 years after the Great War, it's no stretch to imagine Vault 87 Super Mutants crossing the border from Washington D.C. into Virginia. They're big and stupid but they're hard to kill, so they should make for good bullet sponges.

Ghouls, Ghouls everywhere...

Ghouls, Ghouls everywhere...

Ghouls are going to be in Fallout, that's just a fact. Despite how much it grinds my gears, prolonged exposure to radiation causes people to turn into Ghouls in the Fallout universe. There may be some stuff to do with the FEV (Forced Evolutonary Virus) in there, I'd be happy with that, but I'm pretty sure it's just the radiation. Anyone who has played the series will know that a lot of Ghouls were alive before the Great War, and that the radiation gives them a very long lifespan. If we're playing a character who was around before the Great War, or is the child of someone who was, then it's not inconceivable that we've got some Ghoul family out there in the Wasteland. Just because it's Fallout and we need some enemies to mindlessly kill, I'm sure there will be plenty of Ghouls who have gone Feral and will attack us on sight.

Deathclaws, a pain in the arse where ever you are.

Deathclaws, a pain in the arse where ever you are.

Deathclaws could actually be present, in a fashion. I've covered this in a previous blog post, but Deathclaws were actually created before the Great War to supplement human soldiers on the battlefield. It's just that the Master, on the West Coast, found and messed with them a bit using the FEV. I'd hazard a guess that we'll see Deathclaws, but a much less advanced version of them, more akin to their Pre-War genetic design. 

Robots will be around because they are robots and have always been around, the same with Raiders. Besides that, I'm sure we'll get the usual mutated wildlife present in Bethesda Fallout games - Yao-Guai and Mole Rats, and maybe some mutated version of an animal local to Virginia. I don't know, I'm not American, what the hell lives in Virginia? (A quick Google search just revealed it's basically Mountain Lions and Wolves, which would both be badass for a Fallout game.)

In terms of factions, I am praying to the gods of old that we do not even hear, let alone see, the Brotherhood of Steel. Those incestuous techno-priests are all the way on the West Coast at this point, and they don't even control the area surrounding their base until the 2150's. The Brotherhood of Steel didn't even encounter a Super Mutant until 2161, so there's no way they can be all the way out here. I'm okay with another faction that is a remnant of the United States military, but I just really do not want to see the Brotherhood of Steel. They shouldn't have been in Fallout 4 and they sure as hell don't belong in Fallout 76. 

Besides that, anything could happen... almost. The fact that this is set in the past likely means there's going to be some sort of downer or subversive ending. We can't really do too much in the past because it'll affect the future too much, which is already set in stone. I'd say that any sort of events in Fallout 76 will be extremely localized so they're not able to reach out and affect the surround areas. Not even Washington D.C., which is right next door. It could be that we'll see some large scale events, it's just that they're so far back before Fallout 3 that they're no longer an influence in the region. Whatever happens, we know that the Vault Dwellers of Vault 76 do not achieve their dream of reclaiming the wasteland. 

It's big and it's empty, even 185 years after they set out to reclaim it...

It's big and it's empty, even 185 years after they set out to reclaim it...

I'm excited. As long as there's still a focus on single player I'm keen to play this game and see what they do in the wake of a far more recent apocalypse. 

My thoughts on Fallout 5

With talk of another Fallout game being on the horizon, I figured I'd throw out an idea of what I'd like to see. Anyone who has played Fallout knows that there's always rumors of another Fallout game on the horizon, so this is more of a thought experiment than anything else. With that in mind, while I prefer the Fallout games made by the original creators; Fallout 1, 2 and New Vegas, I'll take the Bethesda games if I've got no other choice. 

I think the whole East Coast vs West Coast set up is a fantastic way to keep the works of the two development teams separate. As much as Bethesda probably wanted the distance to differentiate themselves, it's become more about them not being able to sully the works of the superior development team. Bad enough they've watered down almost every aspect of the game and story...

Sorry! I'm bitter and rambling.

Because money comes first I'll just assume that Bethesda is making the next Fallout game and that it'll be located on the East Coast. We've already had DC, we've recently had Boston, and now we're at a point where we're running out of iconic East Coast American cities. Miami, maybe, but there was a Fallout Tactics 2 game that was going to be set there. With that out of the way, I think the only other realistic East Coast city for the next Fallout game to be set in is New York City.

Some concept art from a lost Fallout sequel.

Some concept art from a lost Fallout sequel.

Now, obviously NYC got nuked to shit during the Great War. If China was going to war with the United States then NYC is the first place they'd atomize back to the stone age. The fix here is that the United States of the Fallout universe is insanely advanced, just look at Boston's skyline in Fallout 4 to see what I mean. With NYC having a population nearly double that of Boston, it stands to reason that it would be a gargantuan cityscape that once dwarfed all others. Im picturing a skyline so tall that the nuclear blasts didn't even reach halfway up the buildings.

When NYC gets hit, it gets hit *hard*

When NYC gets hit, it gets hit *hard*

Along with this very vertical map, I imagine there wouldn't be much of the usual blasted wasteland that is so iconic to Fallout and other nuclear war games. They'd have to include Central Park, but there's a lot of other greenspaces in NYC that could feed this need for radioactive desert sands. Finally, a lesson I think the developers should take from Fallout 4 is that just because the city is next to an ocean, that doesn't mean you have to devote a quarter of the game map to being under water.

We get it... there's a lot of water. We can just look at it, we don't need to actually go out there.

We get it... there's a lot of water. We can just look at it, we don't need to actually go out there.

Anyway, my final idea for NYC would be the headquarters of Vault-Tec. The main Vault where they ran the experiments upon all other Vaults across the United States. This thing would be massive and it would take up most of the NYC underground. As high as the skyscrapers stand on the streets above, that's how far beneath those same streets the vault would go. 

Just picture a massive vault having been broken into by that crater.

Just picture a massive vault having been broken into by that crater.

Because it's Fallout, there's going to be Ghouls everywhere, and because it's Bethesda there's going to be Super Mutants and Deathclaws and Brotherhood of Steel... despite all that making no damn sense. Since it's NYC we'd need to get the giant rats, that were once so iconic to Fallout 1 and 2, back into the series. No, not weird looking Mole-rats, actual mutant rats like we finally saw in Nuka-World. We'd need mutated creatures unique to the New York region as well, it can't all be the same madness otherwise what's the point?

The big power players, and probably the antagonists, would be Vault-Tec themselves. They'd have pre-war tech, as well as the mass advancements they've developed since, that would make the Institute look about as threatening as an orphanage of sick children. People were worried about the Enclave, well Vault-Tec are the ones that supplied the Enclave. When Vault-Tec decide it's time to take back the world, they do so in force. Pre-War mercenary armies that were frozen on ice, and safely housed robotic juggernauts that could take on any behemoth that spawned from the radioactive goop. The Brotherhood has one Liberty Prime... Vault-Tec would have ten.

Trash-strewn streets, crumbling towers above... NYC would be hell. 

Trash-strewn streets, crumbling towers above... NYC would be hell. 

Whatever the story would be, I would hope that Bethesda takes a leaf out of Obsidian's book and makes the world of Fallout 5 one that's full of grey. No black and white, no easy answers... just a quagmire of tough calls and unforeseen consequences. Heck, maybe your character is actually with Vault-Tec and you're part of the effort to take back the world. It'd let your character be new to the world, so the player could learn alongside them, and it would be a fresh take on an old setting.

This is just a random idea I had, it's probably way off the mark. I'm okay with that. Whatever the story may be, we're up to our 5th installment in the main series and there's still a lot of answers we've yet to receive. Let's head to New York City and lets unravel the mysteries of Vault-Tec, it's been long enough.  

Whatever they do, I just hope that Bethesda don't pull a Dark Souls 3 and end the series with more questions left unanswered than otherwise. 

Fallout, Halo and Gears of War

Contrary to the popular opinion of most fans, I actually really enjoyed Fallout Tactics. Whether you prefer Fallout 4 or Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout Tactics was a step away from the norm that brought a breath of fresh air to the franchise while simultaneously expanding the lore. Fallout Brotherhood of Steel can still go die in a ditch though...

Seriously, how do you fuck up Fallout?

Seriously, how do you fuck up Fallout?

What was great about Fallout Tactics was that it took a series that was originally a single character experience and made it squad based. You weren't just a Vault Dweller or a Chosen One, you were an entire squad within the Midwestern Brotherhood of Steel. One on one, or one on many, combat is great; it's always fun to rush into a mob of Super Mutants with a Minigun and just tear shit up... but Fallout Tactics required, well, tactics. 

Holding the high ground is very imporant... even against Baby Deathclaws.

Holding the high ground is very imporant... even against Baby Deathclaws.

The setting was roughly the same, the world of Fallout Tactics sort of did away with the Retro Futurism typically found within the Fallout franchise and went with straight Futurism. The key element that differentiated it from the rest of the series was the fact that you had a whole group of soldiers to work with, which gave you gameplay options. But it wasn't just an option, you actually had to rely on setting up your squad strategically for an encounter otherwise half of them were likely to end up as ground chuck. It terms of gameplay you could switch between turn based and real time strategy, which allowed you to set up for those aforementioned encounters and slow things down to act with a bit more precision... or to go in guns blazing. It was a great game, and if you're a fan of the series then I wholeheartedly recommend you give it a go.

Lots of Easter Eggs in this game. You could even find Riddick... and Harold... and Vault Boy!

Lots of Easter Eggs in this game. You could even find Riddick... and Harold... and Vault Boy!

Now, let's take a slight jump to Halo and Gears of War. Both are Microsoft franchises and both had exactly the same story in their initial trilogies. Humans have been at war with (Covenant/Locust) for a while, eventually humanity discovers that the enemies have been having issues with zombies (Flood/Lambent) and soon these zombies start infecting humanity as well. Eventually humanity finds a way to not only push back the (Covenant/Locust) but the (Flood/Lambent) as well. They've seriously got the exact same story, it's just that one's a bit more sci-fi while the other is more of a gritty war movie.

So many Spartans in one place... how can they lose?!

So many Spartans in one place... how can they lose?!

The reason I bring this up is that the Halo franchise eventually got a Real-Time Strategy series called Halo: Wars. You played as this group of humans that were flung far off into the galaxy where they went on this whole adventure that didn't really have any impact on the greater plot of the original trilogy. The game was pretty well received, it was Halo after all, and eventually it even got a sequel.

Now we get to the crux of this whole blog post - this is exactly what Gears of War needs. Fallout got a squad based tactical role playing game while Halo got a real time strategy game. Gears of War needs something similar, because if it can work for Halo then it can most certainly work for Gears of War.

The story of Gears of War allows for this, perfectly. Gears are soldiers that fight in squads, for the survival of all mankind, against the ever encroaching hordes of Locust. These monstrous humanoids can pop up anywhere from below the ground and have a tendency to attack in mass with a retinue of horrifically gargantuan beasts by their side. The entire series you've fought through campaigns with squads of 2-5 members, so the tactical squad based combat would suit. Also, there have been countless massive wars fought with primarily infantry units in the series canon... because it's right there in the name - Gears of *War!*

Delta Squad rolling strong!

Delta Squad rolling strong!

Seriously though, the way the creators have woven perpetual conflict into the very fabric of the setting is fantastic. 

For those who don't know, there's actually a few comics and novels set within the Gears of War universe. They really flesh the setting out a whole lot more than the games ever do, I cannot recommend them enough. My point is that there are countless conflicts within the timeline of the original trilogy that could be the basis of an entire games worth of content, or you could just do like Fallout and Halo did and create an all new campaign in a previously unexplored area.

I would literally burn down an orphanage full of sick children to get a game set in the early days of the Pendulum Wars. You'd start out fighting the Indies (other humans) then somehow get lost down in the Hollows and end up fighting the Locust long before the Human/Locust War ever even began... and you'd know your characters are all going to die at the end because you already know what's going to happen in the future!

Oh man, that'd be so cool.  #nerdgasm

The thing is - this idea isn't even mine. There was actually a game like this already planned for the Gears of War series, it's just that it was never completed. There's a very basic version in the video below, with a lot of assets taken from the original trilogy. Take a look and see for yourself, at the very least the idea has merit. 

It worked for Fallout and it worked for Halo, it could totally work for Gears of War as well. At some point the series should take a small step away from 3rd person shooters and into the more complex realm of real time strategy or squad based tactics games. It might not have the same capacity for multiplayer that the core games do but the series is certainly robust enough that it could manage a strong single player experience.

As I've previously stated, Gears of War is one of those series that I love, it's my Star Wars and/or Star Trek. I not only hope to experience it for years to come, I hope to see it diversify what it has to offer and spread out into different game types. 

What we really need is a Gears of War role playing game... but that's a post for another day.