This post really got away from me. I ended up writing it on and off over the course of a week, and it turned into a gargantuan ramble far bigger than anything I’ve ever put up on this blog. To that end I’m going to be dividing it into three chunks and release each part over the next few days. Today’s installment, naturally, is a giant introduction to the Fallout franchise as a whole and to the premise of New Vegas.
It’s something of a minor miracle that Fallout: New Vegas even exists. The original Fallout (1997) and its sequel (1998) were landmark titles in the world of computer role-playing games, but even they weren’t enough to save their publisher, Interplay Entertainment, from its own internal problems, and the company finally fell apart in the mid-2000s. The Fallout license wound its way into the hands of Bethesda, who quickly set to work on their own reinterpretation of the franchise. The end result was Fallout 3 in late 2008, a great critical and commercial success that sparked the resurrection of the Fallout franchise in the public consciousness. Knowing a good thing when they saw it, Bethesda began looking for ways to give the world more Fallout, and in mid-2009 they struck up a deal with Obsidian Entertainment, an CRPG developer who had never really worked on a AAA title before, to deliver a spinoff title for Fallout 3 on a tight 18-month timeline. Such a project would be daunting for even a large seasoned developer, but Obsidian had two aces in the hole. Not only was Obsidian staffed by a bunch of devs who had actually made Fallout and Fallout 2 back in the ’90s, they had access to all the old design documents and concepts for “Van Buren”, the original sequel to Fallout 2 that had been shelved in 2003 as Interplay collapsed. Taking those rough Van Buren concepts as a base from which to build, Obsidian managed to get the game, originally named Fallout: Sin City before shifting to the more familiar New Vegas, together and out the door for October 19, 2010.
While critical reaction was generally favorable, a lot of fans who had jumped onto the franchise with Fallout 3 found it difficult to acclimatize themselves to Obsidian’s take on the franchise, while fans of the game had their experience marred by the swarms of bugs that even now a decade’s worth of fan patches have been unable to wholly quash. However, as the years have passed, Fallout 3 seems to have aged the worse of the two, while New Vegas has come to be heralded as a classic on par with the original games, if not exceeding them.
I have been fascinated by New Vegas for years, but it was only this past November that I decided to take the plunge. That first playthrough ended up taking the better part a month and became one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in gaming. Despite this, I feel like New Vegas will ultimately be the only Fallout game I will play. While in terms of gameplay New Vegas is a wildly successful merger of the first-person CRPG model Bethesda adopted for their Fallout games with the story-and-choice-focused approach of the older games, the premise and story speak to a fundamental change in the setting. New Vegas is a game that is moving the world of Fallout in a new direction, a direction that even New Vegas‘ own developers seem uncertain in following.