pop culture | no politics
We're one day away from the next chapter in the Fallout series and I couldn't be more excited. Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas gave me countless hours of entertainment and produced some fantastic moments that are among my favorite memories in video games. So I challenged myself to narrow it down to the five best moments I've had in the Fallout universe and this is what I came up with.
I’m not usually a big fan of RPG games, and a large part of that is because that I hate spending time picking the skills that my character will have throughout the duration of the game. It’s always felt unnatural, tedious, and extremely time-consuming. Unfortunately by the very nature of the genre an RPG has to have these annoying segments, and I really appreciated how Fallout 3 handled theirs. As a teenager your character is asked to take the Generalized Occupational Aptitude Test or G.O.A.T. which asks you a series of abstract questions that will determine what kind of person you will be. This works on so many levels and is infinitely better than simply giving you a menu screen with a set number of skill points to assign. It’s so relatable, your character and his/her fellow teens stress about the test just like we all stressed about similar tests when we had to to take them at their age. Just like them we don’t exactly know how our answers will affect how things turn out and that’s what makes it so great. It’s such an effective narrative device that really strengthens the bond we have with our character that we’ve literally known since birth. Taking the G.O.A.T. was definitely a highlight of Fallout 3 and I’m looking forward to seeing what creative way Bethesda comes up with to determine skills in Fallout 4.
Obviously Fallout 3 wouldn’t be much of a game if the protagonist couldn’t summon the courage to exit the only home they’ve ever known. Vault 101 is a dark and dingy place, but it’s relatively safe and familiar. The biggest worries there are surviving the occasional radroach and avoiding the vault’s biggest bully Butch and his gang of Tunnel Snakes. Nobody knows what exactly exists outside of it, which makes leaving it’s confines such a dramatic moment in the game. There’s a thousand different deaths waiting in the Capital Wasteland but there’s answers out there too. And because the outside world is destroyed the gamer feels the same sense of wonder the character does as this post-nuclear war is as foreign to us as it is to the character we are controlling. The entire Vault 101 segment is so well-handled, opening with your birth and closing with your introduction to the outside world which is another birth in its own right.
Fallout: New Vegas’ Mr. House is a polarizing character, his methods are questionable and his motives are as cloaked in mystery as the man himself. Throughout the game your only interaction with him is via an image on a computer screen but it’s not until the game’s end that you learn the truth about the man you’ve been taking orders from all this time. Deep in the guts of his secure New Vegas penthouse is where the real Mr. House lives, it turns out he’s a 261 year old shell of a man that cannot exist outside of his medical chamber. Upon discovering his secret the player is left with the choice of killing him, leaving him as he is, or opening the chamber which is a delayed death sentence for the man. It’s such an unexpected reveal and certainly makes Mr. House one of the most interesting characters in the franchise’s history.
I’ve always felt underpowered while roaming the Capital Wasteland, it seems like around every corner lies a super mutant or Enclave solder that has way more firepower than I do. I’m not complaining, facing long odds is a big part of what makes these games special. And the game long struggle you face in Fallout 3 really makes you appreciate the appearance of Liberty Prime, a building-sized combat robot that comes to the your aid as you approach the game’s climax. Suddenly the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor as Liberty Prime mows through your enemies with ease, clearly a path to the game’s conclusion while pronouncing “Democracy is truth, communism is death” in a calm robotic voice. It’s unbelievably satisfying to not just have the situation evened up, but to have things dramatically turned in your favor. I felt indebted to the robot and one of the saddest moments of the game was seeing him self-destruct. Plus he looks like a Transformer from the 1950’s. Fallout 3’s ending disappointed a lot of people and I understand why, but Liberty Prime makes the penultimate act leading up to it one of the most bad ass moments in the series.
Fallout 3 is all about the choices you make and how they play out over the length of the game, and you’re faced with arguably your biggest decision early on. The first settlement you visit after leaving Vault 101 is a town called Megaton, which happens to be constructed around an undetonated nuclear warhead. Naturally the townspeople want the bomb disarmed and ask you to use your talents to do so, but a shady guy in the local bar is offering you a ton of money to set the thing off instead. Currency is scarce in the Fallout world so the temptation is great, but you also have witness firsthand the daily lives of these people as they go to their jobs while their children play outside. In a world devastated by nuclear war Megaton is one of the few locations above ground that is starting to heal, the townspeople have carved out a small slice of how life was before the world was destroyed. My first play through I did ethical right thing and chose to disarm the warhead but I couldn’t resist playing the game again just to see how the other path played out. It’s not a matter of simply setting the bomb up to detonate, the game makes you an active participant by giving you a front row seat as it forces you to push the button, ending the lives of the town’s population in the name of personal gain. And if that wasn’t gut-wrenching enough, you’ll run across the mutated version of a survivor if you should visit the town’s ruins. The large sum of money you now have is great, but even the most coldhearted gamer had to feel guilty after making such a selfish decision.