Why Fallout Isn’t Fallout – 20th Anniversary Analysis | Interplay vs. Bethesda’s Fallout


War… War never changes. But game design
does.
Fallout has a long and revered history as
one of the most open, expansive and influential
computer role-playing game series ever made.
Crafted by the geniuses of the now-defunct
Black Isle Studios, the first two games in
the franchise sported an unusually open game
world where you are literally able to go anywhere
and do anything as soon as you leave the starting
area. They were lauded for breaking the chains
so many games shackled their players to, and
constantly begot exploration and exploitation.
You could spend a hundred hours scouring the
wasteland conquering, helping or destroying
the remnants of civilization, or you could
tactically skip all that and beat the game
in about twenty minutes. The games were richly
written and expertly designed sandboxes, and
you’re not going to find many other role-playing
games that allow for such freedom.
But how could such beloved and innovative
game franchise become a rusted husk of itself
over the years, only to be picked up by Bethesda
years later? And what did we gain (or lose)
when the new developers refashioned the game
in their own style? To understand these questions
and surmise their answers, we’re going to
need to dive deep into the history of the
series, and what’s changed over time.
And hopefully by the end of this video, you
will agree with me on the premise that modern-day
Fallout isn’t faithful to the theme and
mechanics of the original Fallout games, and
would be better off had they been.
In the late 1980’s, computer RPGs were blowing
up. Far from the text-based adventures of
Rogue or abstract visuals of Wizardry. Graphics
were improving (but you know, still had a
way to go) and experiences were moving from
the confined spaces of narrow hallways into
immersive, living and breathing worlds where
hundreds of characters and creatures roam
and go about their lives. One of the earlier
examples of this new type of game was Wasteland,
an innovative game Brian Fargo and his team
at Interplay conceived where you roam the
post-nuke American southwest with a team of
Army Rangers descendants. It was compelling
and immersive, and offered a bleak atmosphere
and unique survival mechanics not found in
many games at the time.
Despite its success, interference by publisher
Electronic Arts (yes, THAT Electronic Arts)
helped neuter the release of its sequel, the
third planned entry was cancelled and EA wouldn’t
let Interplay have the intellectual property.
Nearly ten years later, Interplay designer
Tim Cain pitched a new game idea that would
eventually become Fallout. It was originally
going to license the Generic Universal Role-Playing
System (also known as GURPS) for the game,
which helped inform its deep RPG roots.
After much deliberation over the game’s
intended setting (one idea included time travel
and dinosaurs), and with the input of artist
Leonard Boyarsky, the post-apocalypse was
decided upon and the game was pitched as a
spiritual successor to Wasteland. The Fallout
team were media sponges and regularly pulled
inspiration from books, movies and shows during
development.
Inspirations include ‘The Road Warrior’s’
bleak wasteland apocalypse strewn with broken
people and rusted wreckage, the brutal morality
and the cloistered madness of an underground
vault of ‘A Boy and His Dog’, the iconic
retro-future robotics of Forbidden Planet,
the nuclear and crisis imagery of ‘The Day
After’, the “last normal human versus
a harsh new world” themes of the book ‘I
Am Legend’, the chilling black and white
stills timed to a voiceover of ‘La Jetee’,
and the over-the-top laser guns and one-piece
suits of ‘Flash Gordon’. These influences
mixed like a fine cocktail and resulted in
a fantastic unique setting, and to top it
all off, a heavy dose of carefully crafted
dark humor was added — it was “Fallout”
to a T.
Old Fallout games had a carefully balanced
mix of harsh, threatening environments and
enemies and pitch-black humor — some of it
emergent and player-driven like shooting a
guy in the groin and having him shriek in
pain about his family jewels, as well as thematic
gags, movie references and the like. The iconic
Vault Boy illustrations incorporated into
the game’s stat, skill and perk descriptions
and throughout the manual were one of its
most brilliant encapsulations of the game’s
tone. The vintage cartoons depicting violent
or mature acts were charming, instructive
and hilarious.
Part of Tim’s inspiration for the gray morality
the game professed was as a counterpoint to
games like the beloved Ultima series, where
you play the unwaveringly heroic Avatar, and
can’t stray from the path of good and righteousness.
Fallout was one of the earliest games to explore
so many mature themes: prostitution, slavery,
murder, theft, sex, gambling, drinking, drug
addiction and even child killing — much of
which no “reputable” publisher would even
consider putting in a game today. Fallout
went all the way, perhaps a little too far
as European censorship demanded the game be
toned down or be denied an acceptable rating.
This resulted in children being completely
removed for some international releases.
Combat in the game was turn-based, tactical
but also smooth and elegant. It takes just
a few minutes to “get” the system and
its quirks, but proves to be fun and engaging
many hours on. You could use each weapon in
multiple ways, punching and kicking, thrusting
and throwing spears, hip-firing or making
an aimed shot with the Vault-Tec Assisted
Targeting System (or V.A.T.S.). Each type
of attack had different damage capability,
range, accuracy and action point (A.P.) expenditure.
Each movement step cost one AP, opening up
your inventory to use items or equip another
item cost a couple AP, and so you would tactically
plan your movement, reloading and attacks
to maximize each round.
Glazed with realistically modeled character
sprites and marinated in ultra-violence,
Fallout offered visceral deaths, fitting for
the harsh world it thrust you into. Shots
from a Gauss rifle can bust open a torso,
exposing a rib cage and a minigun will churn
its victim into tiny giblets. Whether getting
melted into a pile of goo from a laser gun,
sliced in half, or charred to a crisp, every
death feels both satisfying and appropriately
macabre.
As the plot dictated, you were a Vault Dweller
sent out into the wasteland to find a replacement
part without which your entire community would
perish. The vanilla game demanded you retrieve
this Water Chip within 150 in-game days or
you get the Game Over screen. This was a sticking
point for me and many others as it made an
already punishing game even more stressful.
Later on, even Tim Cain’s team came to this
conclusion and released a patch to greatly
expand the limit so players were able to explore
and discover more of the world without fear
of getting into a place where the playthrough
is incompletable.
Despite this though, the game was near-perfect
considering its era and the technology available
at the time. It was a true open world which
let you do good, evil or ambiguous actions
with consequences but without artificial limitations.
Its Perk system inspired many future games,
including one of Dungeons and Dragons later
features. And expertly crafted quests which
always had multiple methods of approach like
fighting through it, talking your way out
or sneaking around an obstacle — which rewarded
ingenuity and granted the player a sense of
freedom that no other game does today.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Such was the philosophy for Fallout’s anticipated
sequel. Being iterative to a fault and not
breaking much ground in many ways, it maintained
a steady hand and restraint. And with the
added experience and bug fixes to the original’s
engine — arguably a better experience than
the original.
In 1998’s Fallout 2, you play a descendant
of the original game’s protagonist, living
in a village founded by them generations ago.
The sequel has a lot more tribal and primitive
cultures in the setting, reflecting the changes
and rolling backward society would go through
if all their electric conveniences and governments
were vanquished overnight.
There is something truly horrifying when you
are traversing the more dangerous parts of
the wasteland and you realize you have a lethal
amount of radiation and not enough meds or
resources to cure you. Fallout effectively
communicated the horrible reality that is
radiation poisoning: where you’re essentially
a walking corpse waiting for your timer to
run out. Something old-school Fallout fans
will relate.
The “talking heads” of important non-player
characters return from the original game,
and again had so much personality, art and
thought put into them. These were time-consuming
and expensive to develop in the 90s, starting
with hand-sculpted models which were scanned,
rigged and animated to voiced dialogue and
expressions in the game. Obviously showing
its age now, the unusual look of their faces,
along with the uncanny valley animation still
somehow works today. They were some of the
weirdest, malformed and interesting game characters
to date — perfect denizens of the broken
world of Fallout.
The first two game’s success led to Interplay
ordering another game in the franchise, and
the long, arduous road toward a sequel began.
First, a spinoff called Fallout Tactics came
out in 2001 to a lukewarm reception. Removing
most exploration, role-playing and NPC interaction
and instead dropping you into enclosed X-COM-style
missions with minimal base management, Tactics
was a combat-centric sidestep from the series
roots.
Then in 2004, a console-only game called Fallout:
Brotherhood of Steel was released for the
PS2 and Xbox — now scrapping the tactical
combat too for a simple twin-stick shooter
with a rock-heavy soundtrack. This was during
a trend where PC RPGs were on a decline and
console spinoffs of games like EverQuest and
Baldur’s Gate were were developed using
popular brand recognition to attract sales.
A true sequel was on the way but delays and
major changes to the game’s engine, formula
and development staff took its toll on production.
This project is now referred to as ‘Van
Buren’, and though it took heavy strokes
from the first two games, it made sweeping
changes to the combat and presentation. Keeping
the ¾ perspective, but now sporting a 3D
game engine with particle effects, advanced
lighting and the like, Van Buren still *looked*
like a Fallout game. It did however have a
realtime combat system which changed things
drastically. No longer based around turns
and actions points like the original games,
Van Buren seemed to play more like BioWare’s
Baldur’s Gate series, with fast-paced combat
broken up by occasional pauses for specific
actions.
It was ambitious, no doubt taking the massive
scale and freedom of 1 & 2 and thrusting it
into a 3D world with a proposed multiplayer
mode and a completely revamped combat system,
Van Buren was sadly shelved after Interplay
laid off its PC development team. With both
Fallout 3 and Baldur’s Gate 3 cancelled,
and key staff like Brian Fargo and Tim Cain
having left, a year later they struck a deal
with Bethesda (of The Elder Scrolls fame)
to develop a completely new build of Fallout
3.
Being a shell of its former glory, the struggling
Interplay eventually sold the rights to Fallout
to Bethesda in the end for just under 6 million
dollars, with the caveat that Interplay could
develop a Fallout massively multiplayer online
game within a specified time period. A clause
which Interplay did not fulfill and therefore
the rights in their entirety fell to Bethesda
after years of legal conflict.
Seeing the post-apocalypse for the first time
full 3D with the verticality of multi-story
buildings, hills and cliffs is pretty amazing.
A seamless world with no outdoor zones was
a huge step forward, technologically. And
you can tell the new creators of the franchise
took significant care into replicating the
superficial features of the series like the
archetypal green interface, Vault Boy and
the power armor design.
Bethesda Game Studios had been in development
of their version of Fallout 3 since 2004,
two years before their next entry to their
flagship Elder Scrolls series (Oblivion) launched.
The two games shared an engine, technology
and tools between them, and share many of
Bethesda’s mainline series features, as
well as its quirks, bugs and issues. In fact
many have made the argument that Bethesda
played it safe, did what they were comfortable
with and essentially built “Oblivion with
guns” in 2008. Though due to inexperience
with first-person shooters, the basic gunplay
handled poorly compared to any modern shooter
on the market. You got very little feedback
on hits, the zoom level of aiming down sights
was trivial, and you felt like you were missing
shots you shouldn’t have been.
In an effort to stay loyal to the franchise
and to add a difficulty valve for players
less skilled at shooting, Bethesda re-integrated
the VATS targeting feature into the game.
Respectable, but it divided the game’s combat
into two disconnected systems. Some players
didn’t like breaking up the flow of combat
with incessant pauses so they ignored it.
For others though, the game’s crude weapon
handling led to “gaming” the system. Hiding
behind cover, waiting for Action Points to
recover then peeking around to use VATS to
get a few headshots, rinse and repeat. Insufficient
tactical depth of the AI probably contributed
to this problem too, as this wasn’t an issue
in the original turn-based games.
Item stats, skills and the perk system were
redesigned to be more generous, and incidentally,
less realistic. Now even mundane equipment
like baseball caps can add an entire point
to your Perception attribute. Different types
of armor would “magically” increase certain
profession skills or even unarmed combat.
This strayed from the functionality-driven
system of old where items would give you straightforward bonuses rather than unrealistic ones.
Perks are now granted at every level up instead of every three, and many could be taken multiple
times. This seemed rewarding, but also felt
diluted from the original perk design, which
made each choice more impactful.
Fallout 3 borrowed Oblivion’s universal
face system, which was effective at easily
creating hundreds of NPCs and allowed player
customization, but often resulted in people
who resembled burn victims, or just looked
awkward with badly integrated hair.
Interplay’s and Bethesda’s creations feature
vastly different approaches to the soundtrack
and audial atmosphere. All games would open
up to a nostalgic 1950’s-esque tune to introduce
you to the world before the Bomb. But the
in-game soundtrack of Fallout 1 & 2 were ambient,
industrial, and at times, primal. With metallic
sounds like distant screeching metal tubes,
as if hearing the final death throes of a
metal-laden world.
Old Fallout had never made any inclination
to nationalism, Americana or old-timey pride.
As you looked upon the remnants of the United
States, all you saw was a dead nation. If
you listen closely, you might make out the
crackling of what sounds like a Geiger counter,
the simmer of the radiated landscape. You
can almost hear the cries of the long dead,
woven into the many layers of atmosphere and
soundscapes.
Contrasted to New Fallout, you’ll notice
a greater emphasis on the brassy tunes of
mid-20th century music on the radio (likely
influenced by the popular radio stations of
Grand Theft Auto), with ambient music featuring
cinematic strings with hints of flutes and
drums, sometimes even sounding like patriotic
marching tunes. It relies too heavily on real-world
instruments, and feels too familiar… too
comfortable… too orchestral.
Then there’s use of “oldies music” in
the Fallout games. Old Fallout only played
1950’s-style songs during a pre-war video
or during the intro. Afterward it wouldn’t
be referenced again. Humming to Bob Crosby
while firing nukes at supermutants in New
Fallout was pretty funny the first time you
did it, but it dilutes the game’s atmosphere,
making it charming and quaint — like a “GTA:
Mad Max Edition” of sorts.
Bethesda has a track record of underperforming
but underwhelming technical prowess, and Fallout
3 was no exception. The lighting system was
way too ambient and lacked almost any trace
of shadow maps or proper obfuscation even
at nighttime. Everything just fell into a
gray monotonous tone, only to be detailed
by grainy overly-contrasted textures. The
original games weren’t exactly known for
cutting edge graphic fidelity, but Fallout
3 was in many ways an eyesore from an aesthetic
standpoint.
Possibly to compensate for the grey color
palette, a green filter was used in nearly
every area of the game. You could make the
case that green is commonly associated with
poison, rot or illness — fitting, but a little
over the top.
Bethesda had been moving toward tighter and
more linear stories that continually pulled
you toward your next objective. The stricter
narrative and forced scenario design proved
antithetical to the very core of Fallout games,
peaking in one of the more notorious mainline
quests which leads you through a fort manned by children.
The only options were to convince them through having a high Speech skill, having a particular perk, or performing the quest
they demand you to do. You are mystically
stripped of any intimidation or combat capabilities
while in Little Lamplight, breaking immersion
and disappointing fans of the original games
where one could threaten, kill or attack anything
in the wasteland without limitation, but not
without consequence.
I can’t stress enough how scenarios like
this and others, where the developers take
your agency away from you and tell you what
you need to accomplish — sometimes outright
barring other areas off with invisible walls
or insurmountable odds — just acts as a rap
on the knuckles of players, rather than giving
them challenging opportunities.
2010’s Fallout: New Vegas is widely considered
a throwback to the Old Fallout game design
philosophy, and with good reason. Many of
the original Black Isle Studios developers
had gone on to work at Obsidian Entertainment,
who were hired on as the developers of the
Fallout 3 spinoff game, New Vegas. As you
might expect, the game has an overarching
gambling and casino theme, especially in the
titular city of New Vegas, where the bright
neon lights shine and corruption and addiction
could be felt in the darker street corners.
Black Isle veterans like Josh Sawyer (who
worked on the Icewind Dale series) and Chris
Avellone (one of the directors of Fallout
2) were more familiar with the old-school
RPG design pillars so pervasive of the original
Fallout games. Unlike the design team of Fallout
3, which was composed of later Elder Scrolls
and first person action game designers.
In this unusual twist of events where original
designers had to follow up a reboot of the
franchise they worked on, New Vegas is a curious
beast. Utilizing the game engine and toolset
of Fallout 3 (for better or worse), the game
borrowed significant worldbuilding and characters
from the cancelled Van Buren project (of which
Avellone wrote much of years prior). In a
second chance to revive the “Fallout 3”
that never was, New Vegas was a lot riskier
and innovative than its Bethesda-developed
predecessor.
Introducing a more open world, unshackled
from the overbearing scenario and mission
design of Fallout 3, and the re-introduction
of Tagged skills and the Reputation system
from Fallout 1 & 2 were welcome ones. No longer
tied to the omnipresent “Karma” system
where everyone magically knows your moral
character before meeting you, you could now
earn brownie points or notoriety with individual
factions like towns, gangs or organizations
— adding a deeper weight of responsibility
to your actions as well as blurring the line
between good and evil.
Some skills were overhauled in New Vegas,
including Speech. No longer did it roll the
dice with your stats and skills as a bonus
and compare it to the difficulty of the task,
Speech became a binary skill gate. If your
Speech skill exceeded a predetermined number,
you succeed, else you fail. While I can see
why this change was made to deter the “quicksave,
quickload, repeat-type” players. It’s
a controversial change that many including
myself weren’t completely on-board with
as it removes guesswork, unpredictability
and immersion knowing that you simple need
“X of a given number” to succeed — no
matter what.
One of the greatest offerings of New Vegas
was ‘Hardcore Mode’, a simulationist difficulty
mode which makes hunger, thirst and sleep
real factors that you had to worry about and
regularly maintain. Recovery items would work
slowly rather than instantly, radiation was
a bigger threat as you would rid of it slower
and you would get much more of an intake from
dirty water, as well as the risk of permanent
companion death rather than them simply getting
knocked out. Hardcore Mode was a legitimate
step forward for those wanting a gritty post-apocalypse
simulator.
Unfortunately, a combination of Bethesda’s
infamously buggy engine, toolkit, and a team
less experienced with them, New Vegas had
many technical issues, as well as a frankly
glum aesthetic. Replacing Fallout 3’s constant
green color filter with a brown one, the game
apparently aims to steal the “Brownest Game
Ever” crown from the likes of Red Faction:
Guerrilla and Resistance 3 — perhaps as a
rebuttal of the endless green-tinted grays
of Fallout 3. The notorious bugs and quest
issues that surround pretty much any game
Bethesda is associated with still plague this
game too. Sometimes non-player characters
will do odd or random things, get caught between
quest triggers, or badmouth another character
as if they aren’t in the room while they
are actually two feet from them. Funny, for
sure. Immersion-breaking? Absolutely.
Another bugbear I have with the game is its
heavy sense of “Wild West” in every aspect,
which though a unique twist to the franchise,
gives each area and encounter a milder and
almost nostalgic Western tone, rather than
the harsh reality that is Fallout. It definitely
adds some color to many places, but the continual
barrage of southern accents, cowboy hats and
six-shooters got under my skin a bit after
a while. Yes, Vegas is in the American Southwest,
but I didn’t need that fact pushed down
my throat at every opportunity.
Even if the game had a weak introduction and
the mainline quest wasn’t particularly compelling
either — All in all, despite some rough edges
and arguably weak narrative and setting details,
mechanically speaking, New Vegas is the marriage
between Bethesda’s 3D reboot and its old-school
roots. Role-playing and player agency was
re-emphasized through more intricate scenario
and quest design, your actions were felt much
more strongly throughout the wasteland due
to the Reputation system, and the game world
threw the doors wide open to you — a grand
first step toward the glory days of the original
games.
A half decade after New Vegas’s release
we finally got a follow-up, this time from
Bethesda again. Fallout 4 hones in on storyline,
shooting mechanics and adds base-building
and expanded crafting to the mix.
Bethesda attempts another personal story,
but instead of the “following in your father’s
footsteps” plot of Fallout 3, this game
puts you in the shoes of a pre-war civilian
who is ushered to a vault right before the
bombs hit. You lose your house, spouse and
the world as you know it within the first
few minutes of the game, and the narrative
pushes you on to find your stolen baby as
the main quest.
But The Last of Us this is not. The plot setup
is so sudden and forced, you don’t build
a connection to or care about any of it, and
you’ll easily get distracted by everything
else in the game world and lose sight of what
is supposed to be your character’s only
connection to their past self and identity.
Though an interesting angle to take and I
applaud its creativity during the character
creation sequence, this intro is ultimately
weak in my book because (A.) it fails to emotionally
invest you in the story and paints your adventure
into a corner, and (B.) the nuclear war is
over in an instant through cinematic time
lapsing — trivializing the catalyst for the
entire series’ setting.
Tinkering with guns, armor and building settlements
are easily the biggest innovations it brought
to the table. This was clearly influenced
by the popular trend of survival, exploration
and crafting games like the multi-billion
dollar franchise Minecraft. And honestly,
it’s probably the most fun to be had in
the game, but it can lead to lollygagging
around for in-game months, rather than what
should be the pertinent mission or danger
at hand.
All games have this problem of the player’s
actions being inconsistent with the situation
the game presents, and has been coined “ludo-narrative
dissonance” by analysts in the past. But
whereas Fallout 1’s imposing time limit
was off-putting to casual players, Fallout
4’s complete indifference to sidesteps off
of your main mission is laughable at times.
Though commendable work went into revamping
Fallout 4’s out-of-VATS combat in this game,
with slicker shooting mechanics developed
with the help of former Bungie staff, character
progression was stripped down even further,
revealing a system streamlined like their
previous game, Skyrim. It was busier to look
at and basically built your character around
perks entirely, further simplifying the game
into a first-person shooter with RPG elements,
rather than the other way around.
A perfect example of this simplistic design
philosophy Bethesda is enamored with can be
found in the revamped Radiation system. Compared
to the creeping threat of rads in the earlier
games, where you only get text hints of the
radioactive nature of each area. Radiation
poisoning was an insidious and creeping death,
just as it is in real life, sometimes living
with few symptoms for days without realizing
you had a lethal dose.
As well as the big number popups every couple
of seconds in radiated areas as introduced
in the last two games, Fallout 4 removes radiation
as a meter entirely, instead making rad poisoning
simply a minus to your maximum hitpoints.
This not only strips any semblance of realism
of rad poisoning but is immediately applied
and metered.
A weak conviction to the setting plagued this
game. Buildings stand strong with mostly-intact
paint, museums are barely scathed, food is
intact and edible tucked in nooks and crannies,
most NPC’s clothes are in good condition
with little wear and tear, barbecues aren’t
rusted out and lawn furniture are mostly unscathed
from lifetimes of oxidization, guns and ammo
in sewers and other nonsensical places, you
get the idea. Compare Fallout 4’s world
with present-day Detroit and honestly it doesn’t
look all that bad…
And we’re expected to believe in this world
two whole centuries after a rain of atom bombs?
I don’t think so.
The addition of a fully-voiced protagonist
led to simplifying dialogue trees and narrowing
the variety of choices you had during conversation,
leading to the game having “Mass Effect”
morality — where you really only have good-spirited
dialogue interactions, with only a couple
edgier or snarky responses as alternates — a
stark contrast to previous games which allowed
controversial or heinous acts and dialogue
options.
This led to a tremendous backlash from hardcore enthusiasts interested in the
role-playing aspects of the series.
Bethesda also ignored many of the advancements
of New Vegas, namely the Reputation and Faction
systems. Instead, you are given fewer main
factions, including the Minutemen, an on-the-nose
reference to colonial American militia. The
problem with this particular faction and the
new settlement system led to the player building,
customizing and maintaining various settlements
and their inhabitants, becoming sort of a
post-apocalyptic superintendent who must babysit
the colonies of the wasteland — a far cry
from the “lone wanderer” role you played
in the original games.
I believe the Old Fallout setting succeeded
through its equilibrium — a delicate balance
of post-nuclear horror, retro-futuristic nostalgia
and dark humor. The designers at Bethesda
took the inspired source material and translated
many of its iconic setting elements to the
new games like Nuka Cola, Vault Boy, and many
of the gun and armor designs, but they did
so literally and mechanically, missing the
heart and soul of the originals.
In other words, New Fallout’s setting contains
more or less the same components, but mixed
in different quantities. And if you’d ask
a bartender about mixing drinks, they’d
probably tell you that mixing the same ingredients
in numerous ways will come out with wildly
different results.
The world of Fallout is broken. The nuclear
apocalypse was a reset button for humanity
— which has regressed back to its primal
nature. Civilization has become savage, tribalistic,
and brutal.
The original team at Interplay and Black Isle
Studios understood that concept and let it
pervade throughout the Fallout setting. Little
of this was communicated through the Bethesda
games. They were cleaner, orderly, and they
were too busy trying to tell their story to
allow you the freedom to tell your own.
Old Fallout showcased a world whose ethos
was shattered by the nuclear bomb. New Fallout
let you build a gun that fired nuclear bombs.
Old Fallout’s world was persistent, and
challenged and threatened you but ultimately
bent to your will with enough skill and effort…
New Fallout’s world revolved around you
— welcomed, guided and worked to bend you
to its will, like you were just a passenger
on a tour they had planned out for you…
None of these entries are bad games, and there
are aspects to love about each of them, but
it’s clear to me that the series has shifted
gears, and in some ways for the worse. The
future of Fallout looks more like a first-person
shooter/explorer, rather than a tactical survival
RPG.
We can hope someone picks up the mantle and
leads us to the greatness that was Fallout
in its prime once again. I’d rather not
let the series wither away as a husk of its
former glory, and instead give us another
journey, one which explores the landscape
and ethics of a post-nuclear world once again.
I hope you found this video informational.
What are your thoughts on the way Fallout
has changed over the years? Are you an old-school
purist who shakes their head at Fallout 4’s
missteps, or do you like the changes Bethesda
has made over the years? Or perhaps you’re
itching for Obsidian to return with a follow-up
to New Vegas? Let’s discuss in the comments.
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100 thoughts on “Why Fallout Isn’t Fallout – 20th Anniversary Analysis | Interplay vs. Bethesda’s Fallout

  1. Here are some suggestions for those looking for games with that "Oldschool Fallout" feel:
    ATOM RPG: http://store.steampowered.com/app/552620/
    UnderRail: http://store.steampowered.com/app/250520/
    Wasteland 2: http://store.steampowered.com/app/240760/
    NEO Scavenger: http://store.steampowered.com/app/248860/
    Age of Decadence: https://www.gog.com/game/the_age_of_decadence

  2. Gonna have to disagree with you champ. Bethesda taking the reigns brought the series to heights it would have never achieved as an isometric RTS. Sure fallout 4 was narratively a bad move but the universe is better, and the art direction is more iconic than ever. Fallout 76 is a great idea in theory (minus the lack of NPCs) but it turned its back on the original fanbase of single player, lore, narrative and freedom loving players. I still love fallout 3 and new Vegas and I’m super excited for Outerworlds.

  3. Those pics of modern Detroit just aren’t fair to use lmfao. Really does look like that place was hit by a nuclear apocalypse.

  4. I will never get the fanaticism over 1 and 2. Neither feel good to play and are better off as light lore reading. Never could make any progress in 1 without dropping it and got bored of 2 in 10 or so hours.

  5. tbh I've been playing them since the original and I don't mind a SLIGHT deviation from survival RPG in that I'm not really tryin to worry about going poop and drinking water all the time when I'm trying to enjoy a huge open world

  6. How is NV more open world than 3 is? The main quest of NV has you follow a road around the map and everywhere else is filled with really powerful enemies to make sure you are following it.

  7. I was playing fallout 1 the other day. I walked into the wrong part of town in the hub looking for clues for the water chip because the game doesn't hold your hand what so ever, anyway I walked into a crack head house and there was a shoot out. I lost two companions to some nameless junkies with shotguns.

  8. They should hire you or the writer of these script, as a game visionary consultant.

  9. Just waiting for bethesda to sell the rights for fallout back to obsidian so we can get actual good fallout games from now on.

  10. You are doing God's work, laying out the issues that the older fans have with the newer entries in a concise and efficient manner.

    Thank you for this.

  11. To all the fans of the old games, seriously consider checking out the design documents or Retcon Raider's videos. The writing and quest design is superb and blows the Bethesda games out of the water. I am seriously frustated that the series lack a proper third game, it just feels a bit hollow.

  12. First of all Fallout 4's base building was an idea taken from a FNV mod basically without any changes and was just as completely disconnected from the rest of the game.

  13. Fallout NV is a Fallout, ironically with no bethesda staff that design it

  14. Bethesda already completely butchered the franchise. First it was Fallout 3, then 4 and then .. 76 .. Worst shit ever made.

  15. I remember playing FO4 on launch night… and man that disappointment has stuck with me. It immediately felt… empty. As soon as I got the power armor, I was desperately trying to find something to "hook" me to the game to no avail. Forced crafting system, boring story, character progression too ez, and everything you mentioned.

  16. So we all gonna ignore how pointy the chics tits are at 2:39 ?

  17. My thoughts on fallout are: Fallout 3 and 4 are great games, but they aren't fallout games.

  18. I still feel FO peaked with FO2, and has been on a stready decline ever since.

  19. If only he knew what was coming when he made this video ……..

  20. Tag yourself, I'm the vertibird glitched/stuck on the roof 27:18

  21. fallout 3 was fine. Different but fine. 4 was a dumpster fire.

  22. Although I understand what you’re getting at, I have to disagree regarding the implementation of an old timey America feel in the 3D fallouts.

    Firstly, I feel like it would be quite a plausible scenario for the survivors of the bombs to try to grasp what they can of their old world, or the world they never knew, if only as a means to help them feel like they’re from somewhere; that somewhere being gone but it’s still somewhere. People tend to be attached to their origins.

    Secondly, I feel it adds a marvelously absurd tone to virtually all of the players actions. Perpetrating genocide with Something’s Gotta Give playing in the background adds to the wonderfully nonsensical and absurd aspects of human nature that we see while playing fallout, but also that triggered the most important event in the fallout canon, the nuclear war. If you elect to role play as an « evil » character, it also makes it feel as though history is repeating itself, especially in events such as those in the Dead Money DLC in NV, as you can nuke America to the same tunes as did your predecessors.

  23. I would agree with most of it however I would like to point out that switching off the radio in f3 and f:nv makes those games mood a lot more like the classic games. Especially in New Vegas where you can listen to the classic, unsettling themes of f1, and f2.

  24. 7.6K dislikes, howdy do Bethesda Drones. I actually spoke to one of the Devs of fallout ( or he claims to be one ) and he said the comic book Hard Boiled was also an inspiration.

  25. I played the original Fallout games and I've played the new Fallout games. I love them both. But Fallout 4 was pretty much shit.

  26. Great video. Old Fallout was so much more dark and gritty. And imo just an overall more immersive experience compared to the new games.

  27. I'd like to see something like classic fallout but on the fallout 4 engine

  28. Good video but the music and cowboy theme complaints were way too nitpicky.

  29. Both 3 & NV max sneak lockpick and speech and you are god before the tilde key

  30. bethesda saved fallout with 3, without that we would never get new vegas. franchise would probably died with interplay

  31. All i got from this video was "old good, new bad". Its called progress. Which is why Bethesda can give a fuck less about you and other crybaby neckbeards for not making Fallout how you want it. Meanwhile their making all the money with "Shitty" games that took over pornhub.

  32. I'm not being funny, but, if it was not for Bethesda, the Fallout series would be not be as recognizable as it is today.

    I'm not sorry, but you can't argue that fact, period.

    Everything past Fallout New Vegas though, was shit in my own opinion.

    If it was not for Bethesda, I would not have known anything about what the game series Fallout was.

    I'm 24, and when I was young I was playing games on the computer as early as 2001 and I played quite a few point and click games.

    Things like Broken Sword, shit like that, and I never heard of Fallout.

    Here in the UK anyway.

    So whatever ill feelings you have against Bethesda, they brought an invaluable spotlight to the Fallout series, that you can't argue, so it's immaterial to to complain and moan about that point.

    Bethesda should not have stripped the freedom from things that you could do in the past games that I have now played, that si the one things that is quite annoying in a game, especially when they worked perfectly well.

    Having said that, the stuff that they have done past Fallout 3, and Obsidians Fallout New Vegas, I think is trash.

    The amount of shit that was dumbed down, and all the cheap gimmicks, gives me the same feeling I had playing Halo 4, and I played Halo CE when it was just released.

    It did not feel like a Halo game, the same as Fallout does not feel like a Fallout game.

    Also, I like that you used the Kingdom Under Fire ambiance music at 18:53.

    It was and is, still my favourite game to date and hearing that soundtrack brings back memories and pure nostalgia.

  33. I enjoyed all the Fallout games – its cool to break down changes and express indifferences, but they're all really fun and a part of our gaming experiences. It's not like any of you didn't finish playing Fallout 3, New Vegas, and Fallout 4 haha.

  34. I feel like Fallout 1/2/Tactics have aged poorly. I think their story is pretty fucking solid don't get me wrong, but for me going back and playing Fallout 1/2 is pretty hard because the combat is just, well, bad. There's no other way to put it.
    Fallout 3/New Vegas do enough good to shine brighter than the previous ones, I feel.
    I also think it's unhealthy to compare games to the series and not appreciate the game for itself. I know you said that "none of these are bad games" but I really don't think you should focus ONLY on the fact that they are Fallout games, and only compare them to Fallout games.
    In a world where no other Fallout exists Fallout 4 is an ok game, but in context of the series it's terrible.
    I think both of those points of view are valid, but it's really important to separate a game from it's series when you look at it sometimes.
    I don't compare a Picasso painting to the rest of his work outside of seeing trends and what visions he had, for the most part I treat each piece of art as an individual because that's what it is, an individual piece of art.
    I understand that's harder to do when the games are in a collective series and are meant to have ties to eachother but every game still has it's own heart and soul, and while I don't think comparing them is a bad thing I do think people do the games a disservice.
    I won't advocate people change their opinions, you like what you like and I have no issue with that, but I think far and wide if we FIRST judged a game by itself and only later as a series than we would appreciate games more as a whole.
    Of course there are exceptions. Comparing something like Street Fighter 5 to 4 is extremely straight forward, but comparing something like Morrowind and Skyrim, or Fallout 1 and New Vegas, it's too big of a jump in design philosophy for me to have the comparisons in a series context matter more than just looking at what the game has to offer.

  35. your playing the radio as an example but not the background music so that point is very inaccurate and not valid in any way

  36. Fallout 1 and 2 have the best soundtracks I've ever heard

  37. You forgot to mention how Bethesda changed the look of weapons and armor in Fallout 4 from old Fallout's sci-fi thematics to "jury rigged" looking weapons. Just compare weapons: Gauss Rifle used to be a futuristic almost alien like weapon and in 4 it looks like a bunch of batteries strapped together. The Super Sledge was a high tech tool that stored kinetic energy for later use, in 4 it's just a rocket strapped into a sledgehammer. Power Fist while still kinda doing the same thing now looks like a construction toy rather than a tactical looking glove.

    Either way Fallout 4 did something very interesting with it's storytelling that flies through most people's heads and that how it shows how corporations collectively helped doom humanity and how morbid the old world was, not just Vault-Tech. Corporations shifted from designing chemical treatments to help treat people with Alzheimer and Parkinson to start developing a chemical weapon. It showed a time of war within the civilization and gave more story to pre-war. The previous games didn't give much detail about pre-war other than bombs fell now it's like this.

  38. I get what some people are saying but you can't just put all the blame on Bethesda. There's a reason why they can't put very dark things into the game. It's not that they find it uninteresting it's because they would get their asses sued. Times have changed don't you guys remember the Hot Coffee controversy back in 04? Fallout is a mainstream game now everybody knows what Fallout is and a game that's this famous can't go around killing kids. But they fucked up the rpg elements so you can pressure them about that

  39. This video has over a million views. Does anyone think someone noteworthy at Bethesda has seen this?

  40. At this point I have to wonder what even is Fallout at this point? Thus far it has had two isometric RPG games, three FPS/TPS games with dramatically different levels of RPG elements, a strategy game, an MMO, a mobile game, and whatever the hell Brotherhood of Steel is.

    The first game will always be the true Fallout to me. While it had its share of problems, almost everything else was perfect in my mind; brilliant characters especially the villains, a great atmosphere. All of it. It is THE Fallout game.

    Fallout 2 had a lot of improvements but I find that I hate it as much as I love it. Characters I found were not as consistently good and while companions like Marcus and Myron were great to interact with, I would have preferred a smaller amount of well developed companions over the numerous boring ones. The fourth wall breaking was amusing at first but started to get a bit ridiculous after a while and the overall mood of the game didn't feel as consistent as the first. Ultimately they seemed to take the approach of more=better. In my opinion the only reason the game is so good is because it's built on the solid foundation of the first.

    I am completely apathetic to Fallout 3. I can't think of many positives about it other than it reviving the series. Even the many negatives such as ruining the BoS, the hideous graphics, and the atrocious combat I am indifferent to simply because I do not care about the game.

    New Vegas unfortunately suffers from many of the same graphical and gameplay problems as 3 though they could be rectified with a remaster. It's a shame because I can clearly see how good the game is but no matter how hard I try I just cannot get into it.

    My most controversial points are certainly on Fallout 4. I was expecting very little from the game and it is probably because my standards were so low that Fallout 4 became my second favourite game in the series. It further removed itself from the RPG genre and forced a narrative on the player. That said it is a dramatic improvement on the third game, both in its graphics and gameplay as well as setting. The BoS in 4 is more consistent with their portrayal first game than any other main entry game (their attitude is as it should be albeit expansionist instead of isolationist due to the events of the third game). Power armour works as it should and Super Mutants are slightly less orc-like though more improvement could be made on this front. I am probably one of the few people that liked the voiced protagonist and backstory though it really should have been an optional feature (I personally roleplay better this way, I find it easier to immerse myself into a character rather than have a silent blank slate that is supposed to reflect whatever I want. I acknowledge not everyone is like this). The world feels full of life and the East Coast definitely has a different feel to the West but I personally prefer it to a sea of brown.

    I have little desire to play the other games. I personally feel there is no longer such thing as a "Fallout" game. Rather all I want at this point is a good game in the Fallout setting. I would love a return to the depth of the first two games and NV but only if the effort is put in to make it so, something Obsidian could handle. I have my doubts that Bethesda could pull it off but if they decide to make a more linear Fallout I would be fine with it so long as it has a good atmosphere, the setting and remain faithful to the source material.

  41. Fallout 3, New Vegas, and 4 are awesome. The old games were garbage. I think Bethesda did an amazing job with them.

  42. You're saying you don't want goofy 50's music blasting while wacky face NPC's with party hats run around with rocket launchers and mini nukes?

  43. Luckily, most of the issues with later games can be solved with mods.

  44. I hate fallout 4 and the only thing that I hope stays from it is the power armor system and the better gunplay. Everything else can die I hate the weapon customization and I hate hate hate the settlement system

  45. Sadly I was too young for the first two Fallout games. Here in Germany fallout 3 massively censored so I didn't play it back then. Even when Fallout New Vegas released, they censored it only to uncensore it one year later when the goty released. It was then when I bought my first Fallout game, New Vegas. At first I was a little bit turned off by the game because compared to oblivion, which I had played before, i was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of possible ways to finish quest and the overall complexity of the world. But after a few hours I got into it, and from that point on I was hooked on fallout. And when they announced Fallout 4 I was so hyped and really couldn't await the release. But then it was released, I put it in my ps4, loaded up the game but was mildly disappointed at first but still hyped. But the more hours I invested into f4 I started to feel bored. Everything was so dumbed down and a lot things were missing which I thought would be carried into the game from New Vegas. The main questline, the repeating quests (save this game settlement, go defend the settlement, go there kill x amount of x enemy faction) were really disappointing and I just put the game down after 60 hours or so, didn't even finish the main quest, because I found it kind of boring. And since then I never walked back to Fallout 4, but have replayed Nev Vegas and all of its Dlc two times again. Let's hope the new game from the New Vegas creators will be good, because so far it looks very promising

  46. Fallout 4 was just so bland I liked the look and improved shooting and aiming but the story was stright forword with no other out come either side with one or the other at the end new vegas was so much better as far as stoy and character building and factions

  47. Amata was my first video game crush. Sad that you could never be with her no matter what you did

  48. Why Fallout isn’t Fallout? Ungrateful jackasses who can’t move on from the past. “I scored four touchdowns in a single game!”

  49. Fallout new Vegas is my favorite fallout. It’s got the best of both worlds and I absolutely loved it.

  50. I'm just here to listen to all the great things about Fallout:New Vegas.. I beat Fallout NV when I was younger. A year ago, I ran through everything again on my XB1. Such a classic. (Notice how we are talking about NV? Bethesda hold my beer. Fallout 76)

  51. If it’s fallout I’m in and to everything you said war. War never changes

  52. I say i blame Pete Hines in all of it's entirety, not Todd. He explicitly stated that he hated long dialogues which betrays the intention of every Fallout game concept in the first place.

  53. I have not played Fallout 76, but I have loved 1, 2, 3, New Vegas and 4. They were all fun in their own way. The great thing is that projects like Atom RPG can revive the original style of Fallout. And eventually another independent developer will be trying to bring back the style of 3 and New Vegas, or the style of 4.

  54. I don’t like how the minutemen are unkillable in Fallout 4. Immediately takes away a choice that could be made in the game.

  55. I think what turned me off the most about the Bethesda games (well, other than the shift from isometric to FPS 3D) is the soundtrack. The original Fallout had a really eerie vibe, in large part because of the haunting music. You don't have that with the Bethesda games, the vibe for those is almost jaunty. Really wrecks the immersion for me.

  56. On the topic of critiquing Fallout 4, it has to be said that the vagueness of the conversation prompts often led to players not really being sure what their character was going to say. The "sarcasm" prompt was particularly nasty with this, since it seemed to randomly hop from good natured kidding to coldly dismissing the person being talked to and everything they stand for. (Try it on Nick Vanentine sometime…some of those comments are incredibly harsh.

  57. Imagine being a company famous for a franchise and the best most acclaimed game within the franchise is the only one you weren't involved with… O nonono LMAO

    Edit: and then, you fallout76 your remaining fans and you finish them off by canvas bagging their cadavers. Beautiful.

  58. The background music in Fallout 4 is just awful. It sounds too "happy", even the combat ones. I had to mod it to remove all vanilla background music and replace with 1 and 2's music to set me in the mood for the game.

  59. i think fallout 4 made a lot of good steps, the visual changes and changes to combat were great. Even made VATS feel more balanced due to both VATS and real-time combat felt equal, but honestly that's it. Everything to do with the story and gameplay around the narrative failed so hard.

  60. Crafting was inspired by Fallout NV settlement mod. This was mentioned by bethesda.

  61. I can't watch this video, it just made me sad, reminds me how fallout used to be..

  62. I like to rate a game's fullness, and how well the experience fits by how many mods I have installed.
    My New Vegas install sits at 15 mods, most bug fixes, and some neat guns which fit into the story.

    Fallout 4 sits at some 91 mods. How's that for a complete experience?
    Games which feel complete don't get modded from me. S.T.A.L.K.E.R Being one example of a game I ran through purely vanilla, barring some patches to fix CTD's and bugs, which to be frank, Stalker is known more than most Bethesda titles. But something in the way Fallout 4 is made forces me to get more dark and ambient music, forces me to add more and more immersion enhancing mods further I go along, forces me to add mods which add greenery into the 200-year-old dry steppe, mods which fix many of the Bethesda bugs, mods which fix up the laughable track selection, mods which make Power Armour less of a joke you can collect armies of, mods that build on the experience, on what a Role-playing game is ought to be, mods like alternate starts, which make you not start out of the vault, or be in the vault, they, in short, give you what Bethesda has been taking away with 3, and now utterly removed in 76; a role-playing game.
    And that makes me really angry.

  63. I also wanted to say: As a non American and a fan of first two Fallout games, it’s exceptionally funny to me how they made the later titles overly patriotic even though the USA wasn’t even a thing in the source material.

  64. Your video is spot on. I was waiting for a continuation of Fallout 1 and 2 for years. Then we got Fallout Tactics, which was somehow disappointing to me. Then we got Fallout 3 but I was too busy with my life at that point, still played it, found it great at first but the awe faded fast, even though it wasn't a bad game. It was absolutely not comparable to F1 and 2, which were among the best 10 PC games ever created.

  65. 29:01 wait that's it. We're not gonna cover dlc or anything? Wasn't far harbor supposed to be really good like on the same level as New Vegas?

  66. I never played the Interplay Fallout games, but I love Fallout 3, NV and 4.

    I think you’re missing the point of the story and themes in Bethesda’s Fallout universe.
    Fallout, under Bethesda, is NOT a watered down version of a what used to be a grittier, harsher post-apocalyptic game.

    Bethesda’s Fallout is supposed to be sort of an alternate universe that is based on an idyllic mid 20th century vision of the future, that has been destroyed and corrupted by nuclear Armageddon.

    The culture depicted in the game is mid 20th century culture, but with technology having evolved in the way that mid 20th century sci-fi envisioned. The apex of that culture and tech is reached the day before the bombs fell.

    As for the game not being harsh and gritty enough: I can remember stepping out of the vault in Fallout 3 for the first time and being gripped with confusion and despair.

    I had almost no idea where to go or what to do. I was faced with a vast landscape where everything seemed to be tainted by radiation. It wasn’t until I reached Megaton and started completing quests that I finally felt some small sense of security.

    As for the shooter mechanics, it wasn’t a first person shooter. It was the first ever game to combine elements of a first person shooter into a real-time RPG with a massive open world.

    The. First. Ever.

    As for the atmosphere, if you turned off the radio you could hear background music that indeed was dark, depressing and atmospheric. The radio offered a needed reprieve and comfort during your journey through the vast wasteland.

    And what other single player RPG offers such opportunities for role playing as Fallout does? The Elder Scrolls does. Plenty of MMOs do. But there aren’t many other single player games that put as much of an emphasis on role playing. In this case, roleplaying can be defined as the ability to play the game your way using a character that you created within the bounds of the game world and the progression system. Not many franchises give you as much freedom and choice as Bethesda RPGs. And not many devs give you the ability to use mods to vastly expand what can be done.

    Bethesda didn’t take the Fallout franchise and water it down. They took it and made it their own in a clever way.

    I’m sorry if it wasn’t to your liking. But like I said, I never played the originals, so maybe I’m wrong.

    Edit: I just wanted say that it is valid a criticism of Bethesda’s games, that they give you only a very limited ability to role play as a bad guy or a villain who justifies his actions only to himself or that revels in chaos and the suffering of others. That’s not just a weakness of Bethesda’s Fallout but also TES as well. But very few games come as close as Bethesda RPGs do in this regard.

  67. Say you did have a combat option at little lamplight. Great, you killed maccready, the gate is still closed. You talk about realism but they aren't going to open the gate because you killed the guard at the front.

  68. you say "if it ain't broke don't fix it" then complain that Bethesda played it safe with fallout 3
    EDIT:and then praise fallout nv for changing the system

  69. 18:25 I’m sorry you weren’t allowed to slaughter a cave full of children

  70. Okay let's be real… utterly hate what they did to fallout but if it wasn't from bethesda money, the fallout franchise would've died, I mean, interplay was breaking down already.
    We may hate what happened to fallout (I'm talking to you 4 and 76) but at least we can have chances to fix it in the next years

  71. 2019: Oh!! You have no idea what Fallout is right now!

    B a t t l e R o y a l e

  72. In little lampt light, threatening attacking or killing wouldnt help at all
    You kill him? Well now you have no one to open the door
    You attack him? He probably wont let you in then
    You threaten him? Why would he let you in? You cant actually follow your threat because your stuck out there
    Also your literally complaining that you cant murder children. Amazing

  73. As for a 2 decade fallout player… this was THE best analyse and critique of the fallout games! You spoke from my hearth with words and arguments I couldn't find! Thank you!

  74. well….tbh little lamplight is manned by children and killing kids is kinda disturbing

  75. I think this analysis is very wrong about new vegas. I have played every single fallout game and in my opinion new vegas is extremely faithful to the narrative and choice based system of the originals. New vegas is far from Narratively weak and it is actually very similar to fallout 2 in a good way

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