Why “Fallout: New Vegas” Was Important To The “Fallout” Franchise And Why A Sequel Should Be Greenlit | Guest Column

By Wyatt Mineau

Special to InReview

With a potential leak revealing a sequel to “Fallout: New Vegas,” a 2011 Action RPG published by Bethesda, here’s my take on why the first game was so important to the franchise, and why a current-gen sequel would be such a big deal.

Background on the Fallout franchise

Fallout is an RPG series that has been around since the late 1990s. Fallout 1, originally developed by Interplay Productions, was based around an idea for adapting the Generic Universal RolePlaying System (GURPS) for tabletop RPGs into a videogame. To say the game and series has had a lasting impression is an understatement.

Fallout 1 and its sequels are about an America ravaged by the titular nuclear fallouts. Basically, a ton of nukes were set off years in the future, and the setting takes place decades after that in a society still trying to rebuild itself in the midst of heavy nuclear radiation. The world is mostly ruined, technology for the most part is now obsolete, and everybody is trying to find some way to continue living now that they’re just as likely to die of radiation poisoning as they are to be killed by the mutated victims of the fallout. 

The intense, unique and poignant atmosphere combined with an excellently developed gameplay experience features mainstays in the series such as the “S.P.E.C.I.A.L.” character stat system (an acronym for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck), the Pip Boy (which serves as a diegetic user interface) and the Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System, or V.A.T.S. All of this is mixed together and topped with unparalleled writing and has resulted in a franchise that has staying power.

Bethesda Softworks picked up the license to the series back around 2004, when it was in a lull of poor sidebar games compared to the two main releases and, using the Gamebryo engine, released the third main entry in the series in 2008, Fallout 3, to critical acclaim. This is notable because Gamebryo engine has seen use in other popular games such as Elder Scroll: Oblivion and Skyrim.

Reception of Fallout 3 was great, but the experience itself felt poorly handled anyway. Gone was the poignant commentary on consumerism epitomized by Nuka Cola and the Vault Boy along with the deep writing and varied cast, incoming was a focus on turning enemies into Giblets via the Rock-it Launcher and an odd focus on the Brotherhood of Steel. The main character’s dad also takes focus, resulting in a story that was mainly following in one of their footsteps depending on how far into the game you got. 

New Vegas’ place in the Fallout franchise

In 2011, Fallout: New Vegas was released. This entry, also using the Gamebryo engine, was published by Bethesda, but developed by Obsidian Studios, which included staff that worked on the original two Fallout games. What made this game stand out from Fallout 3, as well as other action RPGs at the time, was not only that its writing was superb and deeply engaging, but also that it was developed in less than 11 months. This resulted in the game having a sort of Beta feel to the experience, which, combined with the admittedly testy Gamebryo engine, can be hard to deal with a decade later. Thankfully, mods would go about restoring functionality and what bits of gameplay were lost in the end.

The story in New Vegas focuses on the main character referred to as the Courier, a Mojave Express Delivery-person. Here, Courier is being shot in the head by a man named Benny and the player embarks on a journey to find out why, what’s so important about their delivery, to take revenge, and eventually, to change the New Vegas wastelands. The player eventually ends up participating in an all-out war for the titular New Vegas area waged by three differing factions – the New California Republic, Ceasar’s Legion, and Mr. House, a surprisingly old millionaire that hired said main character for the delivery.

What Bethesda lost in translation in Fallout 3 was back in full force for New Vegas – a wonderfully fleshed out setting, complex and multi-faceted characters and factions such as what remains of the Brotherhood of Steel among others and a game world that is designed to keep the player challenged and satisfied. Gone is the “every enemy is roughly the same level as you” ideology that made the third entry feel like the player was always just strong enough to get by, never feeling too challenged. Back is a more rigid, but still flexible world pathing that encourages you to move through certain areas before making the trek to the titular New Vegas, a large casino-laden city that lights up the sky at any time of day.

Fallout: New Vegas 2 with Obsidian would be excellent

Why would a Fallout: New Vegas 2 game be a big deal? What makes it distinct from the latest two releases, Fallout 4 and 76?

If Obsidian is tapped for the task, they are hot off a great recent lineup. The studio has developed two notable titles since Fallout: New Vegas: The Outer Worlds, another action RPG that reviewed favorably, and Pentiment, a 2022 title that is an RPG with a distinct sixteenth-century European aesthetic.

New Vegas would likely best be developed with the version of the Gamebryo engine used for Fallout 4 given its massive improvements, along with adding back content that was cut because of the tight development schedule. The appeal of New Vegas was mostly from Obsidian bringing back unparalleled writing and a gripping narrative that’s absolutely flooded with great quests, characters, and morality decisions, to a series that hadn’t seen a peak in that area since Fallout 2.

However, it is worth noting that Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart has recently denied that the company has a Fallout game in development, and the leak in question might be alluding to a an update to Fallout 4. It’s likely that this is the case, or the company is intentionally being mum in order to not steal the wind from an official announcement. Nonetheless, this alleged leak has revealed that there is a lot of interest for a sequel to New Vegas, and if Fallout’s developers want to freshen up the franchise, greenlighting that game might be the way to do it.

Wyatt Mineau is a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and is a former reporter for the MCLA Beacon.


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