Fallout is one of my favorite franchises, and has remained as such ever since I played the original Fallout when I was young. I was absolutely captivated by this world’s unique and dark aesthetic. It was nothing like anything else I had played up to that point. Sure, Fallout is yet another post-apocalyptic RPG at first-glance, but it’s atompunk and 1950s American aesthetic is what makes it stand alone, allowing the series to make its mark in gaming history as something iconic.
Although Fallout began things as an isometric RPG, made to be a spiritual successor to the earlier Wasteland series, Fallout has seen forays into other genres over its lifespan. Today, it’s perhaps best known as being an action-RPG, ditching the isometric aesthetic for a full first-person RPG, which has accelerated the popularity of the series to new heights.
In fact, one of the more recent games in the series, Fallout 4, is currently the best-selling game in the series, after it was given a big blowout at Bethesda’s E3 showcase in 2015.
So where to next? Every Fallout game focuses around a specific locale, so we have to move on to somewhere different in the next title, right?
Can Fallout use a non-American locale?
For a series so intertwined with retro American culture, we can obviously narrow down our choices to locales within the United States itself. As much as Fallout China or Fallout Russia sound like a fun romp, the core themes of Fallout are based around things like the Vaults and its pre-war America.
Although, to be fair, there’s an argument to be made for Mexico or Canada.
In the lore of Fallout, Canada was actually annexed by the United States in the year of 2066, for the purpose of harvesting its vast resources.
In Fallout 3’s DLC titled “The Pitt”, the Canadian city of Toronto got a brief name drop in the form of “Ronto”. Apparently, “Ronto” is large enough to be mentioned as far south as post-apocalyptic Pittsburgh. A humorous reenactment of Canada’s annexation is showcase in a random encounter in Fallout Tactics in a likely non-canon random encounter (seen above), in a game with dubious canonicity in the first place. That’s all we really know about Canada in the Fallout universe, however.
Mexico on the other hand was not annexed by the United States in the Fallout universe and was instead invaded by the U.S. in 2051, in an effort to ensure oil refineries kept running due to the increasing scarcity of resources. Due to meddling experiments releasing by the Enclave, Fallout’s remnants of the American government, we know in lore that post-apocalyptic Mexico has “irreversible ecological damage” in many of its beaches, which has caused the waters to be “saturated with toxic waste, and highly radiated sea life.”
Mexico is mentioned again in Fallout: New Vegas by the Danny Trejo-voiced companion Raul Tejada, who claims that Mexico City was victim to nuclear bombardment as well — although he believes it wasn’t hit as hard as Fallout 3’s Washington D.C. for instance.
Although we don’t have a ton of information about Canada or Mexico, I wouldn’t put the idea of visiting these locations entirely out of the question. It’s clear that there are stories to be told in both of these places, with huge potential for interesting environments and characters.
However, it doesn’t feel quite right to base an entire title in the series in one of these places when a lot of Fallout is fixated on America’s society before the nuclear war. If we ever see a future game that takes place in the far south or far north of the United States, I’d hope the developers would consider a DLC in these countries.
What’s been established so far?
So what places should we focus on in the United States? Well, we know what not to focus on based on the games we’ve already gotten.
The original two Fallout games were the only instance in the series where two games took place in the same area. Of course, this is due to Fallout 2 being a direct sequel to Fallout. Some of the same towns were present, but the world was drastically different, with there being an 80 year gap between the games.
Fallout primarily focused on Southern California, while Fallout 2 expanded the map some more into the rest of California. We visit places like San Francisco and even an offshore oil rig in the sequel.
Speaking of Fallout: New Vegas, the game takes place in the Mojave Wasteland — AKA, Nevada. When the protagonist wakes up in this game after being shot in the head, he finds a wasteland full of the ever-changing world that began in the first few Fallout games. While New Vegas isn’t a direct sequel to the original two games, it’s the closest we’ll get, as several characters reference events set in motion by the original two protagonists and the people they’ve met. One DLC for New Vegas took us to a place outside of Nevada — Utah in Honest Hearts.
Long before Bethesda got their hands on the IP, the Fallout IP was given to Micro Forte, who made Fallout Tactics, more so of a tactical game with RPG elements here and there. Emphasizing squad-based combat and strategy, Fallout Tactics had a massive map that spanned from places like Springfield in Illinois to as far west as Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain. Fallout Tactics has a generally dubious place in the canon of the series, and has even been claimed to be non-canon by game director at Bethesda, Todd Howard.
Bethesda’s first entry in the series with Fallout 3 depicted Washington D.C. in a desolate state. The in-game map spanned through parts of Virginia and Maryland as well. One of the DLCs, “The Pitt”, allowed players to travel to Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania as well.
To wrap up the last two, Fallout 4 takes place primarily around post-apocalyptic Boston, with other places in Massachusetts, such as Springfield, being present in the Nuka World DLC. The Far Harbor DLC, however, takes place in a small island off the coast of Maine.
The poorly-received Fallout 76 takes place in West Virginia with an expansive map, using many areas from the state as well as its deep history with cryptids to enrich its world.
For our short list then, the Fallout games have primarily visited California, Nevada, the District of Colombia, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, and West Virginia. A good amount of variety at first glance, but there’s plenty more to explore.
Where should the series go?
There’s plenty of locales the series should go, but I want to focus on the main ones that I think are the most likely for series to visit.
I’ll get my homer pick out of the way first, especially after sharing the image above. There’s definitely enthusiasm around a New York-based Fallout game. Although New York has been seen in post-apocalyptic form numerous times in dozens of forms of media and even other games like Tom Clancy’s The Division, the Fallout series could provide a unique take with it’s themes and mechanics.
I want to point out that there’s a bit of a myth, urban legend, Mandella Effect or all of the above in the Fallout community in regards to New York. A lot of people believe that New York is just a crater after the nuclear strikes in the Fallout universe, but this is entirely unfounded and false. There is no evidence in the lore to back this claim up, and I have no clue where it came from.
A Fallout New York has a ton of potential, though. It’s in a central location between Bethesda’s last two entries in the main series — Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, allowing them to set the game in between the two, or perhaps even right after the two games. It’d allow for the carry-over of characters, but more importantly, factions from the previous two games — namely the East Coast Brotherhood of Steel.
One of the most iconic and known features of New York City are the subway stations. Fallout 3 had a plentiful amount of these stations and tunnels, allowing the player to traverse long distances beneath the city. In a Fallout depiction of New York, the developers of the game can reuse this idea on a grander scale, taking the power of the current consoles we have in mind to allow players to snake through New York City’s subway system. (Filled with Rad-Rats, surely)
Speaking of using the power of consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, New York City could be properly depicted unlike Boston in Fallout 4. Infamously, players would receive heavy frame drops when walking into downtown Boston in Fallout 4. On the Series X with FPS Boost, though, Fallout 4 runs flawlessly in downtown Boston. I’d love to see a Fallout game where we can have a big city to roam around in without any hitches in performance. A New York-based game on this set of consoles is absolutely the opportunity for it.
Is there any credence to a New York-based Fallout game, though?
New York City is name-dropped plenty of times in the 3D era of Fallout, but all references to it refer to the city before the nuclear war, never post-war. Perhaps this is where the “New York is a crater” myth stems from?
There is a big piece of evidence for a New York-based Fallout in the form of a video about the history of Bethesda Game Studios. Lead Designer and Leader Writer Emil Pagliarulo, who worked on Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, spoke on the possibility of a New York setting for the franchise. During their early planning for Fallout 4, New York was a possible location for the game, with even a physical design document being made for it. However, the developers would later choose Boston instead, shelving the New York idea.
Maybe I’m being a homer as a native New Yorker, but returning to this idea is ripe for potential on the next-gen consoles. While Boston barely ran at times on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, utilizing more powerful consoles for a New York setting just seems fitting.
The Windy City has a role in the mostly non-canon Fallout Tactics, where a chapter of the Brotherhood of Steel emerge in the region after crashing their airship near the city’s ruins. This depiction of the Brotherhood of Steel is far different than any other depiction in the franchise, which is largely why it has since been de-canonized.
Part of this is still canon, however. As mentioned in Fallout 4 by the Brotherhood’s Lancer-Captain Kells, there still was a Brotherhood airship that crashed near Chicago and formed their own chapter, cutting themselves off from the rest of the Brotherhood of Steel. However, none of the actions that chapter took in Fallout Tactics are mentioned, and instead is left at just the mere existence of it.
Beyond that, post-war Chicago has only been mentioned again in Fallout: New Vegas via way of potential companion ED-E. We learn that ED-E was a robot being sent to Navarro in California, where the Enclave was based during Fallout 2. ED-E was supposed to receive repairs at an Enclave outpost in Chicago before moving on westward.
Even with these flakes of information, these are great starts for something bigger than that!
With the Enclave and the Brotherhood of Steel both canonically present within the region, it’s just ripe for a story based around them conflicting once again. Not to mention how interesting of a city Chicago can be, with it’s numerous landmarks. A mainline Fallout game has never been set in the Midwest before, so Chicago would be the perfect opportunity to do so. If the next Fallout doesn’t want to go full concrete jungle with its downtown area with New York, Chicago would be the next best bet.
I know, kind of an odd choice.
When I was reading through the design documents for Fallout Van Buren, I was absolutely fascinated by the world they had in mind for Colorado in the Fallout universe.
My wish is for the Fallout series to someday return to Van Buren’s design documents for a fully-fledged Fallout title. There’s a lot there that’s just sitting untouched in terms of usable lore.
Many parts of Van Buren’s lore were reused in Fallout: New Vegas, including Caesar’s Legion. In New Vegas we learn that Caesar’s Legion had captured the city from a tribe called the “Hangdogs” — a tribe of people who learned to live with the numerous feral dogs that had since arrived in post-war Denver. The Legion wiped out this tribe and assimilated them, despite suffering many losses in the process. The Legion now canonically retrieves its best canines from Denver, which still has feral dog packs roaming the city.
Caesar’s Legion is an iconic faction in the Fallout series from the well-regarded Fallout: New Vegas, known for their brutal and archaic methods, delivering a darker tone with their very presence alone. With how highly regarded Fallout: New Vegas is, using Colorado as an outlet to do an indirect sequel while incorporating or reworking much of that long lost Van Buren lore sounds like a match made in heaven.
And hey, they could use another John Denver song to market it, right?
Fallout’s silent future
It’s worth briefly talking about what’s next for the Fallout franchise from here.
After Microsoft purchased Zenimax Media for $7.5 billion in 2020, Bethesda and by extension, the Fallout IP, are now under the Xbox umbrella. As much as many PlayStation fans wish to keep an open mind, this likely spells out the end of any future Fallout titles appearing on the platform. While Bethesda has shown thus far under Microsoft that remasters are fair game to appear on PlayStation, future titles will strictly be exclusive to Xbox and PC.
However, despite Fallout 76 making a decent comeback thus far, it’s not quite the game fans of the franchise wanted. Neither was Fallout 4, for many. Despite being the best-selling game in the franchise and introducing many people to the IP for the first time, Fallout 4 strayed more into the realm of a FPS with RPG elements, rather than a pure RPG like the titles prior. “Great game, bad Fallout game” is the moniker often used to describe it.
It’s partly why fans are so desperate for a Fallout 3 or New Vegas remaster. Seeing Skyrim get yet another remaster is simply frustrating for Fallout fans who want to enjoy their RPGs properly once again.
Consider also the fact that Fallout 3 is highly inconvenient to play in 2021. The standard PC version of the game requires the player to jump through some hoops to even get working on modern hardware, while the Game Pass for PC version isn’t quite up to snuff either. In fact, playing Fallout 3 on an Xbox Series X via backwards compatibility may indeed be the best way to play it in our current age, since there aren’t any hiccups with the game, at the cost of losing mod support.
Although passionate modders have taken to remastering Fallout 3 in the engine of Fallout 4 (seen above), the silence from Bethesda or even Xbox in regards to the Fallout franchise feels deafening. With many of the franchise’s brainchilds under one umbrella now with Xbox owning Obsidian, InXile, and Bethesda, it’d be shocking to not see a potential Fallout production within the coming years — especially with a TV show based on the series on the way as well.
So I’ll continue hoping that we’ll get something to whet our appetites...sooner than later, at best.
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