The Fallout series has always been about the story of humanity rebuilding after a nuclear apocalypse. The games have had differing themes and atmospheres, ranging from bleak and hopeless to wild and wacky, but they have always centered on the creation of new societies and new ways of bringing humanity into the future, and how you, the player, can shape that future.
The games, while sharing this core idea, are ultimately split between two settings: the west coast, where we see Fallout 1, 2, and New Vegas, and the east coast, where we see Fallout 3, 4, and 76. Whether they realize it or not, Bethesda has created an incredible dichotomy between these two settings and the peoples inhabiting them. For the purposes of this post, I’m mainly going to look at Fallout 2 and Fallout 4, since I think those games best represent the west/east split, though the other games definitely play into it as well.
The West – The New California Republic
The message of the west coast games is clear: the old world is dead, and it’s time to move forward; just look at Fallout 2’s factions and story, for example.
First, look at the good guys in the story: the New California Republic. While retaining some pre-war ideals like a republic and a relatively free society, the NCR has left pre-war America behind. There is no American imagery, no longing to go back to the old ways, not a single mention of American ideals; this is an entirely new society that will rebuild the wasteland in its own way. On the west coast, most of the buildings and cities were completely destroyed, and little remains to be "fixed" or rebuilt. In Shady Sands, the capital of the NCR, the buildings are brand new adobe, and most of the tech was made post-war.
Now look at the bad guys of the story: the Enclave, literally pre-war America. The Enclave is the opposite of the NCR. They want to go back to the old ways so badly, that they’re willing to re-murder the entire world to do it. They see no problem with the old ways leading to a nuclear war which wiped out the planet; in fact, they’d like to do it again! They are cartoonishly evil (in a great way), and clearly represent what happens when you hold onto the past too tightly.
To summarize, the message of the west is that the old world is gone for a reason. With the destruction of the Enclave, the old world is dead. These games are characterized by a pessimistic view of the past, and a humanity that is creating a new future for themselves without the help of the old.
The East – The Minutemen
Moving to the east coast, we get a different message. Rather than pessimism, we find optimism. This side of the continent is inhabited by people like Preston Garvey, and the Responders of West Virginia. Again, we’ll look at the “good guys” and the “bad guys” of Fallout 4 and compare their ideals.
First, the good guys: the Minutemen of the Commonwealth (whether or not they’re the good guys in your headcanon, it seems pretty clear that this is what Bethesda intended). The Minutemen are founded on old world ideals—even their name is a reference to old American militia groups. You find them holed up in a pre-war American history museum, on their last legs, about to be wiped out by raiders. You save them, and in so doing, you save the memories of the old world in them. They play music from the American revolution, they set up camp in an old American fort, and they base their whole organization off of the ideals of the American Minutemen, to protect a town from attack at a moments notice. They are very clearly a positive reincarnation of old world ideals, and the player as Nate/Nora is helping them to rebuild the commonwealth in the image of America. It makes sense, seeing as the main character is from before the war, that they would want to see parts of the old world come back.
Now, let’s look at the bad guys: the Institute (again, this is subjective, but it seems clear to me that the Institute are meant to be the “bad guys”). This one is interesting, because the institute is pre-war, but they do not hold to pre-war American ideals. Similar to the Enclave, they are a secret remnant of pre-war scientists that have simply continued their work from the shadows. Unlike the Enclave, however, the institute has no interest in recreating America. The Institute actively works to prevent the people of the Commonwealth from reorganizing into any form of government capable of taming the wasteland. Their goal is to outlive the people on the surface and create a technocracy fueled by slave labor in the form of synths.
Again, to summarize, the message of the East coast is that the heart of the old world lives on in the people of the commonwealth. It has a very “there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for” vibe to it.
Where does it all lead?
“So what does this have to do with the future of the series?” you ask. Everything, I say.
One of my favorite parts of Fallout as a series is watching these societies grow and rebuild into safe nations again over the course of several games. It seems likely that the NCR will continue to expand its reach east, reclaiming more and more territory from the wasteland, and solidifying its position as the the new order in the world. It also seems likely that, given enough time, the Minutemen will also expand and grow, eventually moving further south and west as more communities join the cause. Presumably, an actual government would eventually form, probably a democracy instead of a military dictatorship, and the wasteland would slowly be tamed. The way the story is going, I think the final game in the Fallout series could be a showdown between these two nations a few decades after Fallout 4, these two ideals, and you as the player get to influence how it goes down. There would be no easy answer, no right or wrong, just a decision that needs to be made. Will you choose to rebuild the old world? Or will you abandon it for a new one?
Fortunately, I think a final game like that is a long ways off, and the Minutemen need to be further developed before we get there. The NCR got three games, while the Minutemen have really only had one. That’s where Manhattan comes in.
Set sometime in the relatively near future after Fallout 4, Fallout: Manhattan would see the player dropped into a situation similar to New Vegas. Just as the NCR sought to gain control of an independent New Vegas, the Minutemen would be looking to gain control over an independent New York (New New York?).
A few reasons why I think Manhattan makes the most sense as the next setting:
- It would serve to further develop the story of the Minutemen and a new nation in the east, and be a stepping stone to the next game(s).
- The Statue of Liberty (or what's left of it) would be a beacon of hope for the Minutemen to rally around. "Give me your tired, your poor" would inspire them, and make them believe that this was once some great society of liberty and happiness that they could recreate.
- The Manhattan Project would be a sort of El Dorado for the Children of Atom. While the Manhattan Project wasn't actually based in Manhattan, the Children wouldn't know this, and after hearing rumors of the name, they would search for what they consider the "creation of Atom" in Manhattan like it was the Garden of Eden. This would lead to the Children being a fairly major faction for the first time outside of Far Harbor.
- The boroughs as tribal/gang factions just makes sense. Whether they're united into an independent New York or not would depend on the actions of the player, or perhaps they could be united and integrated into the Minutemen if you're super into that "peace" thing.
- Maybe one of the boroughs (Staten Island?) has been completely overwhelmed with feral ghouls, a la I am Legend, similar to the Necropolis in Fallout 1.
- The Children of Atom could serve as the "bad guys", as, in a twist of events, they actually do find a warhead which they think is "the Manhattan Project." It is the players goal to either help them, and destroy New York, or stop them, and so save the future of this new nation being born.
More than anything, I think placing Fallout 5 in the Northeast again allows Bethesda to continue the story they've already started. I love the idea of a game based in New Orleans, or Seattle, or even overseas, but if Bethesda wants to move the story forward, I think this is the best next step, no matter what the details are.
The idea of the Minutemen facing off with the NCR eventually almost feels like fan service, and I know that it would essentially be "Bethesda faction facing off with Interplay/Obsidian faction" but I really do think this is where the story is leading. At the very least, I would love to see Fallout actually have an overarching storyline, not just be a series of games completely unrelated to each other.
This was longer than I intended it to be, especially since it started out as me writing down my own thoughts in a word document, but maybe someone will read this and get a kick out of it.
Edit: I should probably also add that I haven't played vanilla Fo4 in years, and I heavily mod the Minutemen to be better organized and more practical as a faction. That probably colors my view of them, compared to what we're given in the base game.
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More about FalloutPost: "Why “Fallout: Manhattan” is the logical next step for the world of Fallout" specifically for the game Fallout. Other useful information about this game:
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