Content of the article: "Raiders and the Tone of Fallout"
I was in the shower earlier–no, really–and was thinking about the history of Fallout. Not the history of the game franchise, though that comes later, but the fictional march of ages that occurs within the games themselves. I realized that, for me, raiders are a symptom of what is tonally wrong with Fallout 4. It may not be wrong for you, dear reader, and that's fine but let me explain my thinking.
In the early isometric games, the world was truly a wasteland. In the first game, you emerged from a vault, knowing nothing about the world or the dangers in it. Your character was as naïve about the world as you were as the player. In the second game, your character was part of the wasteland but as a group of isolated primitives barely eking out an existence.
In both cases, there was a sense of wonder as you set out into the world. There were mutant animals (and mutant humans, as you'd discover), burn out wrecks of towns, and humans living a hardscrabble existence however they could. Life was desperate, dirty, messy, and often short. The tone of the games conveyed this.
Fallout 3 and New Vegas moved things forward into the ruins of civilization. This was novel and has a lot to recommend it. I might prefer the barren desert vistas outside Vegas but I didn't dislike the Capital Wasteland. It was novel and fresh and moved the series forward.
There have been a lot of words written about how the look of Fallout 4 doesn't really match the facts of the fictional history. Bodies remain in diners that are supposedly open for business, everything is run down, and no one owns a broom. A lot of it doesn't make sense. And that's because Bethesda is trying to map a specific tone from the older games onto a fictional situation that doesn't fit. It's been many decades. Surely things should be better?
While thinking about all this, I realized that raiders are part of the problem for me. In New Vegas, you had organized gangs that threatened you and it was pretty neat. It had already moved the narrative in a particular direction though and one that changes the tone of the games pretty substantially. In the older games, you set out into an empty wasteland, lousy with mutated creatures to meet and die horrifically to. You had the sense that you might be the only human for miles. Sometimes, when you ran into a single human or small group of them in a building somewhere, it was with surprise. Sure, sometimes those humans were hostile raiders but part of what made that horrible was the implication that these people cared more about improving their lives at the expense of others than the fact that humanity was on the brink of extinction.
It isn't an accident that the plot in Fallout 4 revolves around a potentially apocalyptic event: the replacement of humans with synths. It presents an apocalyptic plot because the world of Fallout 4 is no longer post-apocalyptic. Sure, the world is shit. It's hostile. There are horrible mutated creatures. But left to their own devices, humans don't really feel like they are on the brink of extinction. I can't step out my front door without tripping over another human, usually one that wants to kill me for my underwear. And I have a 10mm for that guy.
In the end, I still enjoy Fallout. I'll play the next one! And I think the series is moving in an interesting direction. But I've realized that the series is missing that sense of wonder, that sense of being the only sentient being for miles, that mysterious wasteland. It's missing a sense of hopelessness, which is an odd thing to yearn for now that I type it out. I enjoy Fallout but the march of fictional history means that it will never be what I miss about the series, nor should it. And that's fine.
But now I want a new series. One that can be those things.
- Why Fallout 3 is my favorite one
- I feel like Bethesda retconned how destructive the Great War was in a major way, and that’s why Fallout 4 feels so different.
- My experience with Fallout
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