Fallout 4 is coming on November 10th, and the masses are practically salivating at its impending release. Bethesda has rightfully milked this hype for all its worth. We’ve received seven videos documenting your character’s attributes. A lot of new screenshots give a bigger sense of what we can expect from the apocalyptic northeast. Two companions have even popped up as special guests in the very entertaining Fallout Shelter app. On top of all of this, many sites have dedicated time to documenting what makes Fallout 4 so different. It has a fully voiced protagonist, you can romance companions, build your own community, the world is massively detailed…the list seriously goes on and on. There’s no doubt that Bethesda is putting their all into making this game their biggest ever. It may borrow a lot of inspiration from Fallout 3, but it’s clear that the goal was to take everything to the next level.
As any fan knows though, Fallout used to look much different. It’s not just the technology behind it getting better. The gameplay, setting, characters, and so much else changed when the property moved from Black Isle to Bethesda. Late bloomers (such as myself) prefer what we have coming out now. However, new isn’t always the best, and there’s a dedicated group of gamers that steadfastly stand behind those games of old. These are fans that experienced this amazing series in its completely original form, who now believe that Bethesda is ruining what made it special. All opinions aside, it’s important to know history, regardless of its relation. You can’t call yourself a Fallout fan without experiencing both sides of this post-apocalyptic coin. The isometric adventures in the west on one side, and the first/third person romps on the east (and central-west with New Vegas). I used the excitement of Fallout 4 to look back at the game that made me a fan, Fallout 3. Now it’s time to remember the last numbered entry of the pre-Bethesda era: Fallout 2.
In many ways, Fallout 2 is very much like the original game. The comparisons even go as deep as the protagonist. 80 years after the Vault Dweller changed a devastated California wasteland, the village of Arroyo sends the Chosen One out to fix their drought. The Chosen One is a direct descendant of the Vault Dweller and their journey to retrieve the G.E.C.K. (Garden of Eden Creation Kit) is a foretold prophecy by a village shaman. Continuing what Fallout began, who the Chosen One meets, where they go, the places they change, and their gender, is entirely up to the player to decide. Certain quests are taken that can end with entire communities getting wiped out, while others lead to those same areas reaching prosperity. The region as a whole responds to your actions, and certain groups can view you as a hero and others a villain.
The biggest changes Fallout 2 brought were what you’d expect from a follow up that came exactly one year later. Where you travel, despite featuring some previous locations that have changed in eight decades, is much larger. Fallout was exclusively in Southern California and featured fictional locations. Fallout 2 covers the entire state and includes places like San Francisco and Redding, and then expands to the adjoining states. Arroyo is located in Southern Oregon and New Reno is (surprise surprise) in Nevada. In reality that’s over 120,000 square miles, which the game shortens considerably since your primary mode of travel is feet, but it still takes a lot of in game time to move across the map. This is why Fallout 2 lets you rebuild a car and use it for travel, a feature that hasn’t been reused since the maps became smaller and fast travel became much…faster.
Fallout 2 was a welcomed step towards more mature territory as well. Okay, the apocalypse already is not for kids, but this game brought on many more adult themes and elements. Like sex! Prostitution is a recurring theme throughout the story and you can even become a porn star. Drugs are really big too, specifically the original creation Jet. Jet is a big problem in New Reno and your character can join that drug empire, making it into a huge epidemic. Keeping with the “create your own story” theme, you can also work towards making a cure for addiction. Lastly, there’s slavery, which existed before but became much bigger in this game. You can join the Slavers and turn the wasteland into your own personal harem, or can side with the New California Republic and bring justice to this lawless land. All of these features would come back in future games and it’s already known that Fallout 4 will continue the trend.
Even though each Fallout game is lead by a single protagonist, they can take with them a specific roster of companions to help their mission. Companions are extremely helpful for survival and have existed since the very beginning. However, in the context of the first Fallout, these characters were little more than extra bodies to kill people or carry your things. Fallout 2 went a necessary step further by giving them more personality and legitimate purpose to your story. You could also tell them to do more stuff, really giving the game a greater RPG feel. As Fallout grew and changed companies, these ideas grew even further, and now the relationships with these characters actually feel real. Fallout 4 will introduce the ability to romance your partners, and that’s something fans have particularly wanted. Who’s to say love can’t thrive in time of nuclear war?
Fallout 3 was the first game I played and I absolutely loved it. I’ve had it in my library since it came out, but it wasn’t until 2014 that I dedicated time to diving back into this series history. That’s when I downloaded Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics in an effort to learn where these incredible games began. They were as excellent as expected, however, getting used to the isometric playstyle was difficult as I haven’t played many games like that. There’s no hand holding either. In Fallout 2 especially, you’re at a distinct disadvantage in the very first battle. From then on it just gets harder and harder. You really need to work before you can actually hold your own in combat. I’ve died more than a handful of times at random bandit encounters while traveling throughout the California/Nevada/Oregon region. Once you’re experienced enough and have strong gear, there’s nothing more thrilling then besting a whole group single-handedly. Unfortunately I took a break from Fallout 2 to play a few other new games that came across my lap, but have full intentions to finish my Chosen One’s story very soon.
It’s clear as day that Bethesda plans to take Fallout to even greater heights. They won’t stop with Fallout 4 by any means, and you can expect the inevitable spin-offs and Fallout 5 to be even more advanced. However, after experiencing the brand in pre-Bethesda ownership, it would be awesome to see them take a step back to that era. V.A.T.S. is a great way to honor those games, but I’m talking a new entry (or even a remaster) where you go back to the west with that top down view. There’s a lot of potential here for something special, and Bethesda would make a lot of longtime fans happy by doing this. Until that day comes though, if you’ve never played these Black Isle games and consider yourself a fan, you absolutely must.
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television editor. Every Saturday afternoon you can read his video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.