RR: Fallout New Vegas: A Strange History of Survival by Joseph Davis


Released October of 2010, Fallout New Vegas was the highly anticipated follow up to Bethesda’s Fallout 3. While published by the beloved, though derided company, the development was primarily handled by Obsidian Entertainment, the studio forged from the ashes of Black Isle Studios, a subsidiary of Interplay Entertainment. Before Black Isle was officially founded, the team worked on the original two Fallout games, before the studio went under, and eventually became Obsidian.

Before Black Isle vanished, morphed if you will, it was working on a 3rd Fallout game, a project with the code name of Van Buren. This project was to be a re-imagining of Fallout, still holding true to its isometric role-playing game roots, but being re-built from the ground up with a new engine, a fresh look, and a new region to explore, the Midwest. It told a story of surviving in the region around the Grand Canyon, a battle of Hoover Damn, discovering General Maxson’s Bunker, fighting off Caesar’s Legion, and exploring New Canaan.

After Bethesda released Fallout 3 in October of 2008, the game grabbed a whole new audience, and divided the old fan base. Many were just happy that the series survived, while a very vocal few felt the changes ruined the original feel of the series. These changes weren’t just in the mechanics of the game, which were an even more dramatic departure from the originals than the under-the-radar squad tactics game Fallout Tactics. Fallout 3 traded in the isometric turn base, for a 1st person adventure role-playing game with time-freezing V.A.T.S.


The lore had also been deeply changed, setting staples like the Brotherhood of Steel and Super Mutants had their origins, purpose, and basic execution completely altered. The game met with massive success, prompting incredible sales across multiple consoles, despite the egregious bugs in the game, even preventing the PC version from running for the majority of people for almost a week after launch.


Almost exactly two years later, Fallout New Vegas was released. The game was lauded as using the beloved engine of the new fan-base, but the writers of the old. New Vegas included new mechanics like aiming, allowing for slightly less reliance on V.A.T.S. for some players, and an improved cohort system, dividing up followers into two varieties, allowing for two companions most of the time.


Fallout New Vegas was set in the Mojave Wasteland, in the area around New Vegas, the surprisingly well-preserved ruins of the old-world city, and the conflict between Caesar’s Legion, and the New California Republic. The conflict over ownership of the Hoover Dam, a source of power that could make whichever faction controlling it exceedingly powerful.


Many of the elements from Van Buren made their way into New Vegas, as mentioned above Caesar’s Legion, and the Hoover Dam, but others such as the Burned Man, Joshua Graham. A NPC that was intended to be a companion in the original Van Buren, instead relegated to a major NPC in the DLC release Honest Hearts.


Fallout New Vegas has a sordid place in the series’ history. On one hand, it’s a well-written story with deep links to the games that birthed the series, even featuring Michael Dorn reprising his role as Marcus, a Super Mutant companion from Fallout 2. It includes a more accurate to setting Brotherhood of Steel, and shows the rising power of the NCR along the West Coast.


This positive legacy is, however, tempered by the even more obvious and disruptive bugs and glitches than Fallout 3 ever had. The game was designed as a sandbox experience, on a game engine the developers weren’t familiar with, in a time table that didn’t grant them enough time to properly fix the problems with the game. This led to a mess, that still remains not fully fixed. The game will glitch out on the player for seemingly no reason, causing either crashes, or corrupted situations that are next to impossible to fix.


All in all, Fallout New Vegas is a symbol of survival, much like the NCR of the game. It shows that the perseverance of the designers and writers paid off, and that they were able to share at least some of their vision with the world. When Bethesda teased the release of Fallout 76 before E3, before we even knew what it would be, there was a cry for them to “… bring back Obsidian to make a New Vegas 2”.


This year will be the 10th anniversary of Fallout 3, and the 15th anniversary of the cancellation of Van Buren, the game that was to be Fallout 3. Obsidian has been doing incredibly well sticking to their CRPG roots with the Pillars of Eternity series, but there’s always hope in the community for the phoenix-like return of Obsidian to the wastes, continuing the story of the West Coast, and how the Wastelands are doing.


Fallout 76 comes out November 14, 2018, after being announced at the E3 Conference in June of 2018. You can find Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Steam, and can be found digitally on Playstation’s NOW service.

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