This week my column talks more about the Fallout 4 intro, and also about encumbrance. This was a hard column to write. I needed to stay on topic and not lash out every time one of Bethesda’s awkward, idiotic, or amateurish attempts as faux-worldbuilding came up in conversation.
Well, that’s fine for a column where you need to stay on topic, but this is my blog and I don’t need to hold back.
The new Fallout games are set 200 years after the bombs fell, over a century after the first game. And its set 3,000 miles away. And yet check out all these Fallout 1 ideas they thoughtlessly dragged along:
Bottlecaps as money: This makes sense as an ad-hoc currency when crawling out of the rubble and trying to build a new society a generation or so later. (Although I’ve always wondered why they didn’t use the existing coins, since coins will be more numerous, more durable, harder to “counterfeit”, and come in various denominations for convenience. Bottlecaps work if you’re basically rural farmers. But once you’ve got working machinery, some other system will arise.
Leftover food: Uh, no. Fallout 1 had almost no food from the old world. There was, I think, a box of macaroni someplace. And there was still Nuka Cola. But now we’re something like 150 years after Fallout 1 and suddenly every container is overflowing with still-edible prepackaged goods.
Jet: No Bethesda. Jet is not a pre-war drug. Jet was made in the aftermath. You can even meet the kid who invented it. It’s part of the ugly, seedy world that replaced the plastic, idyllic old one. And again: It was a west coast thing.
Supermutants: Created in a lab in southern California. But now they’re everywhere.
Radscorpions: Radscorpions were – and I hope Bethesda doesn’t find this concept too confusing – irradiated scorpions. Like, a species that was indigenous to the setting of Fallout 1 became mutated. But now I guess the whole world is just a copy of SoCal. If the first game had been set in Anchorage and Fallout 4 was set in Florida, then in this game we’d be wading through swamps, fighting irradiated polar bears.
The weather: Fallout 1 was set in a desert. So then Bethesda moves the game into a temperate climate, but makes it look like a desert anyway.
Brotherhood of Steel: I guess they also migrated 3,000 miles to the east coast. Whatever.
Deathclaws: They migrated northeast too? Okay, fine.
Molerats: Sure. I guess they migrated, too. Why not? How about The Hub? How about Killian’s Shop? Why can’t that migrate, too? Maybe that could be a chain of shops that somehow operates across a continent in a world with no long-distance communication or stable currency. Shit, why don’t we just say Vault 13 migrated?
Bethesda has done to Fallout what JJ Abrams did to Trek: They saw all the adventure and laser fights and assumed that’s what it was all about. They mistook the surface for the core.
At least they’ve embraced their brainless aesthetic and gave Fallout 4 a sense of fun. Fallout 4 is at least smart enough to not ask us to take this circus seriously. And despite my bellyaching, that change in tone really is a massive improvement. The worst part of Fallout 3 wasn’t its relentless stupidity, but its inept pathos and pretensions of being something more than a supermutant shooting gallery.
I’m sorry. I lost my chain of thought. Were we talking about Fallout 3 again? What was the question?
A look at the main Borderlands games. What works, what doesn't, and where the series can go from here.
A look back at Star Trek, from the Original Series to the Abrams Reboot.
Trusting the System
How do you know the rules of the game are what the game claims? More importantly, how do the DEVELOPERS know?
A video Let's Play series I collaborated on from 2009 to 2017.
Bethesda felt the need to jam a morality system into Fallout 3, and they blew it. Good and evil make no sense and the moral compass points sideways.