More musings on Fallout 3

20 02 2009

I don’t really mean to talk about Fallout 3 this much but I thought I’d address the problem of people complaining about the lack of scale compared to the other two games. While on the one hand they’re right about the gameworld being smaller and the civilian population being smaller, I feel that Bethesda did this not out of technical limitations, but because they chose to show a much different outcome of the Vault Experiments.

Stay with me on this. Oh and there are going to be spoilers for all 3 games of a fashion, so consider yourself warned. Do not click if you don’t wish to have your possible story enjoyment wrecked like Shea Stadium is now (baseball humor lol).

Fallout 1 and Fallout 2 take place on the west coast of the United States, specifically in Nevada and California. Here the vaults were mostly designed to actually “work” from a humanity standpoint, rather than be the home of goofy pet projects for The Enclave (a.k.a. the Shadow Govt. of the Fallout Universe), with the exception of Vault 12 which never closed properly. But even then the ghoul population of that vault built a decent community so it’s not all a gigantic loss.

Fallout 3 on the other hand takes place on the East Coast of the United States, specifically the area around Washington DC, and a few areas within Maryland and Virginia (at least until the DLC comes about, more on that later). And the Vault experiments there were…shall we say…a bit more eccentric.

Let me just point out the primary vaults of Fallouts 1 and 2 and compare those to the vaults of Fallout 3 and their legacies.

Fallout 1 and 2

Vault 8: Control Vault, designed to open up after 10 years and recolonize the surrounding area. Was equipped with at least one Garden of Eden Creation Kit
Final Legacy: Vault City, a city of about 100 people. Small? yes, but very advanced given their easy access to pre-war tech.

Vault 12: Vault Doors never designed to seal properly. Radiation from the nuclear attack ghoulifies the population
Final Legacy: Necroplois, city of ghouls.

Vault 13: Designed to stay closed for 200 years as part of a prolonged isolation experiment. Experiment fails due to water chip malfunction and a later schism (Fallout 1) that leads to elements of the Vault 13 population following the Vault Dweller to establish the tribal village of Arroyo.
Final Legacy: After the events of Fallout 2 and the usage of the vault’s GECK, the large and prosperous city of New Arroyo is formed.

Vault 15: Intended to stay closed for 50 years and include people of radically diverse ideologies. Eventually used to form the community of Shady Sands through the usage of the Vault’s GECK.
Final Legacy: As of the events of Fallout 2 (2241-2242), Shady Sands is the capitol of the New California Republic, a Federation of towns in Northern California that is the closest one gets to a post-war government system with law and order.

Fallout 3

Vault 87: Designed to research the Forced Evolutionary Virus (the virus that causes all supermutants to be formed), with its population as its test subjects
Final Legacy: The source of all super mutants in Fallout 3, no humans survived. Seems to contain the only GECK in the DC area.

Vault 92: Populated largely by renowned musicians, this vault was a test bed for a white noise-based system for implanting combat-oriented posthypnotic suggestions. However the white noise instead ends up driving the inhabitants mad and plunging the vault into chaos
Final Legacy: No survivors save for a few who escaped (otherwise the character of Agatha wouldn’t be on the outside)

Vault 101: Designed to discover whether people could survive without ever leaving the vault. Of course it turns out that this rule was broken a couple times. Vault of the Player Character
Final Legacy: Eventually becomes a quasi-Vault 13 situation where it’s opened up to the outside world for trade purposes and to save the people still living in it after the events that open the game plunge it into chaos.

Vault 106: Psychoactive drugs were released into the air filtration system 10 days after the door was sealed.
Final Legacy: Everybody winds up dead, crazy, or both.

Vault 108: The vault houses a cloning lab and all residents are clones of one man named Gary. The clones become violent to non-clones, nobody thinks of using euthanasia even when they’re up to Gary 54
Final Legacy: A bunch of mentally defective Gary clones; everybody else winds up dead.

Vault 112: Dr. Stanislaus Braun’s personal pet project, spending 200 years tortuing 10 people with the help of a virtual reality simulator and cryo pods.
Final Legacy: Braun is the only one left, trapped forever in the personal hell he created, thanks to your efforts (hey, I said spoilers).

***

So as you can see the Vaults in the DC area failed spectacularly from the standpoint of saving humanity, but after all, the Vaults were never intended to save anyone. And in fact there may be a more sinister reason for the Enclave putting vaults that were designed to fail spectacularly around the nation’s capitol. Doing this would eliminate any possible presidential line of succession in a post-war world, leaving the Enclave as the last “true” elements of the US Government when they returned to take power.

Whatever the true reasons, the lack of thousands of vault citizens recolonizing the area equates to a lack of cities on the level of Shady Sands or Vault City within the Capital Wasteland, especially with the obvious lack of a Garden of Eden Creation Kit in just about every single Vault in the area (as mentioned, all game data points to Vault 87 being the only Capital Wasteland Vault to have a GECK) Of the two major “friendly” cities in the area, Megaton is formed by citizens denied access to Vault 101 by using the remains of a crashed commercial airliner, and Rivet City is formed by Navy personnel aboard the washed up remains of a decommissioned Aircraft Carrier; neither town being anywhere near the size of even Shady Sands. As for other “towns” in the area, Paradise Falls is a Slaver base built into the remains of an outdoor mall, and Tenpenny Tower is a large luxury hotel inhabited by stuck-up rich people. More on them later.

Furthermore there’s also the fate of Vault 87 to consider. In Fallout 1 the player has to end the threat of The Master’s Super Mutants. In doing so he destroys most of the remaining FEV in the area and thus no more Super Mutants can be made (they have to be dipped in FEV because a side effect of the mutations is sterility, same with ghouls being sterile from all the radiation they’ve been exposed to). In Fallout 3 however Vault 87 provides a seemingly endless supply of FEV for the Super Mutants to replenish their ranks, and their presence alone makes the formation of any sizeable community difficult (as seen by the few remaining citizens of Big Town being backed into a corner between Super Mutants and Slavers), especially in the blasted out ruins of DC. And the Brotherhood of Steel alone cannot turn them back, no matter how much they’ve tried.

Of course the biggest problem here is the ultimate lack of any unity among anybody out in the wastes. The elements of the Brotherhood of Steel who came to DC are split apart by a conflict of interest, the raiders, while not in any unified body themselves, are possibly more prevalent than regular citizens. The group with the most weaponry, skill, and numbers outside of the BOS are Talon Company, a group of bloodthirsty mercs who are really not much better than raiders and mutants they fight. And things just get even worse when the Enclave show up. In short the law-abiding citizens and people working towards reconstruction for all are outnumbered seemingly 5 to 1 by the less savory elements, even when the less savory elements are matched up against each other.

Take for example, the case of Tenpenny Tower. Inhabited by essentially a bunch of WASPs who think they’re better than everyone in their big secure tower. Opposing them is a ghoul named Roy Phillips who claims he just wants to live in the tower, but if you help him move in there, even peacefully, it turns out he just murders all the humans. And this highlights the problem. People in the Capital Wasteland are so ruled by fear and mistrust that they cannot possibly work together to survive. In effect, the Capital Wasteland shows the ideal worst-case scenario of the post-war world. The human population is scarce and squabbling over what’s left. The only real headway seems to be made through extremely small groups of people, like the townspeople of Arefu and the cult of hematophages (vampires but not really) known as “The Family” working to look out for one another (assuming you broker that deal between them, that is). Other than that though people are loathe to trust outsiders (except you of course since as the player character you’re automatically kind of like Jesus but not in a sacrilegious way).

In fact it’s almost as if Bethesda chose to represent the Eastern part of the US as a mirror image to the Western half, with the east now being the lawless frontier while the west is more civilized (in a mirror of early America). A place where hope is the only thing that will save you…only hope has officially packed up and left.

ONE LAST NOTE: In reference to my previous musings on History in the Fallout Universe I just realized that there is no Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the Capital Wasteland, thus further lending theory to the belief that the Vietnam War never happened, or the US didn’t play the huge role in it that they did in our universe.

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