Learn to do research: A rebuttal of misinformed analysis

9 07 2009

Ok so maybe this isn’t the best of ideas, but on the other hand I don’t think the article I’m about to tear into was the best of ideas either. On a blog known as Hellforge a writer known as Sol Invictus wrote an article claiming that Fallout 3’s story sucks because it’s not original, and that it’s not original because it relies too heavily on the previous games in the series. Which to me sounds extremely…what’s the word? Ah yes. Dumb. Now maybe this is just the work of one of the NMA (No Mutants Allowed: a Fallout community who has had no end of whining about Fallout 3) crowd being very disenfranchised. Or maybe he thought he had a good point. However there is just one thing that stands out above everything else: A huge lack of research and an even bigger lack of evidence backing up Invictus’ claims. And frankly, that’s what really bothers me. Yes, I understand how easy it is on the Internet to just throw something out there and get a bunch of people to smile and nod and go “yes, I suppose so”. And in fact that’s just what he’s done, with many comments espousing how many plot holes there are in Fallout 3 (as if the other Fallout games didn’t have any). So I offer this rebuttal with actual research done to stand as an alternative to madness that will probably go unnoticed. And yes, there are major spoilers ahead.

(The italics are Sol Invictus’ arguments, the boldface is my counterpoints. I will present his arguments in full so as not to make people think I selectively edited. However here is the link to the actual article http://hellforge.gameriot.com/blogs/Hellforge/Fallout-3-A-Rehash-of-Old-Stories/page1).

In Fallout 1, the player’s original mission concerned that of water purification. The Vault Dweller, as it were, needed to hunt down an elusive device known as the Water Chip in order to purify the irradiated water for Vault 13, whose reserves were quickly dwindling.

Fallout 3’s main plot eventually concerns the purification of water, and its possible contamination by the villains called the Enclave.

Presented as succinctly as possible, SI leaves out a few important facts. First off, In Fallout 1 you’re trying to find the a water chip to help out Vault 13. That’s one Vault. One set of people. In Fallout 3 however, Project Purity is, as Doctor Li puts it, designed to provide “fresh clean water for everyone” and “purify the tidal basin all at once”. Factor in the fact that the Water Chip only regulates the equipment needed to keep the water in V13 pure, and Project Purity was trying to purify water located outside in the Potomac River, it’s a vastly different idea. You’re trying to benefit a whole area in Fallout 3, not just your Vault. And The Enclave’s involvement? Well I’ll get back to them.

As the player nears the end of Fallout 1’s storyline, he or she eventually comes to deal with the Super Mutant threat, an army created and driven by an entity known as The Master. They are created by the aforementioned individual with a virus researched by the military known as the Forced Evolutionary Virus (FEV) in Mariposa Military Base.

One of Fallout 3’s main threats are that of super mutants which overrun the Capital Wasteland, though very little about their motives is explained. They are created through the same FEV in an experiment called the Evolutionary Experimentation Program in Vault 87 for the purpose of creating super soldiers. Little is explained of how a civilian corporation like VaultTec managed to acquire top-secret military research, or why they were allowed to conduct the experiments.

It’s at this point I start to wonder if SI even played any of the Fallout games. Anybody who has even a passing familiarity of the story of Fallout 2 knows that it’s revealed that the Vaults were secretly set up as science, sociological, and other experiments by The Enclave, who were in effect the MJ-12/Illuminati/Shadow Government of the Fallout universe, existing far before the nuclear war. So I don’t see it as too big a stretch that The Enclave gave Vault-Tec access to FEV. As to why they were allowed to conduct the experiements? Once again, Enclave. The Vaults weren’t designed to save anybody, remember? And ok, admittedly not much about the motives of the Super Mutants in Fallout 3 are explained. However it’s easy to find out that

A) They’re using FEV to create more of their kind
B) They’re searching for more FEV by scouring the wastes
C) They might have a slight collective hive-mind mentality (unproven, I’ll admit)

So yes, the Fallout 3 Super Mutants have similar motives, but no clear leader and they’re different from the Super Mutants found on the West Coast in Fallout 1 and 2, and also different from the Super Mutants in Fallout Tactics.

Final Boss Commits Suicide

In the first Fallout, you can talk The Master into ending his own life for the good of mankind by convincing him that his plan to convert everyone into a super mutant — a plan conceived to make the world more hospitable for all mankind is wrong.

As with The Master, you can talk Fallout 3’s President Eden, a ZAX A.I. to self-destruct by convincing him that his plan to kill every irradiated or mutated human with a modified strain of FEV (in order to purify the wasteland and start mankind anew) is wrong and will lead to destruction of mankind, which he has sworn to protect.

First off, President Eden is not the end boss. I’d have to say the end-boss is fighting the rest of the Enclave (which is made more apparent by the massive war waged against them in the Broken Steel DLC). You don’t even “fight” President Eden in the typical sense. And the plans of The Master and President Eden are far different. But again, there’s one thing that completely undoes the point SI is trying to make. See, you don’t convince the Master to kill himself by telling him his plan is wrong. You tell him his plan is incapable of working. See, all super mutants are sterile, so in effect, if The Master turned everyone into a Super Mutant, they’d all die out due to an inability to reproduce. Faced with this evidence, the Master commits suicide. That’s not convincing him the plan is “wrong” in the way you convince that to President Eden his plan is wrong through various methods including a lethal series of paradoxes or just using his destruct code. So, yes, they both might kill themselves depending on your actions. But that’s not enough to say “oh well Bethesda was being unoriginal here”

Finding The G.E.C.K.

In the second Fallout title, the player, grandchild of the original Vault Dweller, has to seek out a device known as the Garden of Eden Kit (G.E.C.K.) in order to save his village of Arroyo from starvation by terraforming the land.

The protagonist of Fallout 3, or Lone Wanderer, discovers that in order for “Project Purity” (which is the game’s main plot) to work, the G.E.C.K. must be used in order to revitalize the destroyed landscape. Therefore, the player has to go off in search for it.

Purifying the water of the tidal basin does not equal revitalizing the destroyed landscape. All it does equal is a chance for humanity to get a better foothold of existence in the ruins of Washington DC, and yes, eventually take back the land if they’re lucky. But that aside let me point out that in Fallout 2, the quest to find a GECK is the call to action and the central part of your hero’s journey. In Fallout 3, it just becomes the next important thing after finding your father and his tragic sacrifice to keep his work out of the hands of The Enclave. But it was trying to find your father which spurred the hero’s journey to begin in Fallout 3, not a search for the GECK.

The Enclave

Both Fallout 2 and Fallout 3 feature the Enclave as the main villain. Despite the fact that they were all but destroyed in Fallout 2, they are brought back as the main villains in Fallout 3, for reasons that make very little sense given the events that happen in the previous game.

So, if we’re to believe SI’s argument, The Enclave only existed on the west coast of the United States. That’s right, the entirety of The Enclave had spent almost 2 centuries hiding out on an oil derrick in the Pacific ocean. Well that can’t be right; after all it was posited that the Enclave had numerous hideouts, and the US Government in the real world has many nuclear shelters and so forth across the nation. Yet we’re made to believe following this logic that The Chosen One (Fallout 2’s protagonist) killed everyone aboard the Oil Rig that The Enclave was using as a base. Except that’s not what happened seeing as how in Fallout 3 it’s recorded (somewhere) that the Enclave’s Colonel Autumn is the son of one of the scientists from the Oil Rig who escaped, and in Greyditch there’s a deceased citizen who used to work for the Enclave in Navarro. So clearly people from the Enclave were able to relocate from the West to the East. I don’t see how that makes little sense. It’s a vast shadow governement, they aren’t going to be confined to just one place. Plus, it makes a lot of sense for them to be setting up shop in Washington DC, the former seat of power in America, in an area where just about every Vault failed spectacularly leaving little in the way of resistance to retaking the area, were it not for the presence of the Brotherhood of Steel that is.

Killing The World With FEV

In both Fallout 2 and Fallout 3, the Enclave’s goal is to ‘cleanse’ mankind by ridding the world of mutants and irradiated humans with a strain of the FEV. In Fallout 2, the Enclave intends to disperse FEV into the atmosphere, while the Enclave in Fallout 3 want to do it through the purified water supply through their perversion of Project Purity.

So basically it’s wrong for The Enclave to have a similar plan that they want to still enact because they’re previous efforts with modifying FEV would have succeeded if someone hadn’t stopped them. Is this really an argument? It’d be like saying the Palestinians are all unoriginal for still wanting their own nation 50+ years later.

The Villain Is An AI

Both Fallout Tactics and Fallout 3 feature an insane Artificial Intelligence as the main villain. How original.

Wrong. In Fallout Tactics the Calculator is in fact a cyborg because it’s connected to many preserved human brains. Also in Fallout Tactics (which by the way many people consistently question the canonicity of), the Calculator used giant robots and other mechanized monstrosities to fight. No such faction exists in any completed Fallout game, in any form really. Except for the large robots that were going to be seen in Van Buren used by the Tibbets Prison AI. But that’s a different story. The fact that this incorrect argument is only one sentence leads me to believe this was not a well-thought-out argument at all and was only put here in the hopes of bolstering the overarching theme.

The Brotherhood Of Steel

In both Fallout Tactics and Fallout 3, the player is forced to join a splinter faction within the Brotherhood of Steel in order to continue the storyline. In the first Fallout, joining the Brotherhood was simply optional. They barely played a role in Fallout 2, and in the design documents of the unreleased Van Buren, they declined in power due to an on-going war with the New California Republic. It should be noted that Fallout 3 takes place many years after the events of Fallout 2, so their presence in Washington D.C. is confusing.

Ok I thought the previous argument was the weakest, and then I saw this one. First off, Van Buren has zero impact on anything right now unless elements from it were utilized in Fallout 3 or the upcoming Fallout New Vegas. So making a conjecture like that is simply misleading. The Midwestern BoS from Fallout Tactics are canon now, however, thanks to a Terminal note in Fallout 3, so I’ll address that. That game takes place in the 2190s, Fallout 2 takes place in the 2240s, and Fallout 3 is in 2277. Speaking of 2277, according to the BoS Terminal in Fallout 3, the Midwestern BoS are a small detatchment in Chicago refusing to accept the orders from the West Coast BoS, so they’re rogue. Apparently having fallen from grace. So I don’t see what the problem is there. And then there’s the apparent confusion over why the Brotherhood of Steel would send anybody Eastward. Well now, wouldn’t you think the technology you could salvage from The Pentagon, the most defining symbol of the American Military there is, would be worth sending a team to investigate? I certainly think so. Simply put, I don’t see where he’s going with this, especially since in Fallout Tactics you start as an initiate working your way up the ranks, and in Fallout 3 you’re mostly on your own except from having BoS data resources helping you locate the GECK mostly because the BoS is still fighting The Enclave and don’t want them to do anything with Project Purity that would be bad for the citizens of what’s left of the DC area. You’re not really with the Brotherhood, more alongside them. And Broken Steel does allow you to sorta take that relationship and shank it in the back.

Similarities to FOBOS

Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, or FOBOS as it is known is an immensely unpopular action game that took apart the Fallout setting for the purpose of making Interplay a quick buck by being released as a generic console title.

That being said, the game shares similarities with Fallout 3’s plot, in that both games feature a Vault full of FEV, which by all accounts in the original RPGs are a rare, classified substance, and both games feature a Brotherhood of Steel elder forming a splinter faction in a location remote from the organization’s headquarters, against council orders, in order to deal with a Super Mutant threat.

And once again non-canon elements are brought in in an attempt to slight Fallout 3. And once again he is wrong. I’ve already addressed the FEV vault “inconsistency”, and I have not seen a single example thus far that provides evidence of the BoS in the FOBOS game being a splinter group. However maybe he knows something I don’t, so maybe I’ll let that one slide. Furthermore, while Elder Lyons in Fallout 3 does make the decision to fight the super mutants rather than salvage all the tech he can while not caring about the populace, and his support is cut off by the Lost Hills Elders back west, he is still recognized as BoS by them and the Citadel (former Pentagon) is recognized as his HQ. The circumstances are again, far different than the simple version trying to be made here.

So let me sum up my thoughts. I don’t have anything against someone saying the story of Fallout 3 isn’t good. Granted it has problems. But to act like it’s not original because it relies on the pre-established setpieces of the games preceding it in the stories is at best saying that building a universe to make multiple titles out of is unoriginal, and at worst it’s just grasping for straws trying to make tenuous connections, DaVinci Code-style. Now I’m sure I could’ve just put most of this into a comment on the posting itself, but this is my corner of the internet and I’d rather not bother poking the already enraged masses who are nodding their heads despite a concrete lack of evidence, research, or even good arguments. Fallout 3’s story is original in that it takes a pre-established setting and places it on the other side of the continent in far bleaker conditions. It needs those previous connections so that you don’t feel detatched from the rest of the universe.

That said, I do hope that at some point they do something with The Commonwealth. At least, more than they did with The Replicated Man quest.

So I know this was particularly longwinded and I apologize a bit, but I guess it was one of those moments where you can’t stop yourself because someone is “wrong” on the Internet. I’d like to thank The Vault (fallout.wikia.com) for being such a wonderful comprehensive resource for me to look at. I’d also like to think it’s ironic that SI gave thanks to a member of the site’s community for bringing his points to his attention, yet again, if he had actually taken the time to be more thorough in his research, perhaps I’d be more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s right in saying Fallout 3 didn’t deserve an award for having an original story, despite the fact that the group that gave out that award consists of industry professionals, and thus I’d think they might know if a storyline is original enough or not. Especially since it’s not an adapted story, and thus that sort of limits your options. In fact, one of the other contenders for the “Best Original Story” award of 2008 was Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway. A World War II Game. I could’ve sworn given how many of those we have the originality of such would be far more diminished than the 4th Fallout game (FOBOS doesn’t count nothing about it has been made canon). But hey, what do I know?

(EDIT: I know I didn’t fully cite my sources, so I guess it’s a bit ironic)
(EDIT EDIT: When I tried to point out some of the gaps in logic in the discussion on this article in The Vault my comments ignored or removed. I’m guessing by the person who posted it to begin with, who is the contributor who assisted SI in the article. I guess he got tired of defending his exceedingly wrong position.)




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