The "Fallout" Game Series: a brief introduction

A brief introduction to the Fallout game series.

Arlo Sinclair

4/20/20243 min read

The quality of long form television has come on leaps and bounds in the last decade. However, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy's incredible series Westworld took it to the next level -- if you ignore everything after season 2 that is. Their take on whether artificial intelligence could one day be sentient (and what it would take for that to happen) is brilliant. Someone at Amazon was clever enough to green-light their new series: Fallout, based on the hit video game of the same name.

With this in mind, I thought I'd take a look back at the classic games series, and what made it so stupidly successful.

The Game Series

Fallout is a post-apocalyptic role-playing game series originally created by Interplay Entertainment and later developed by Bethesda Softworks. It's set in a retro-futuristic, dystopian world that diverged from our own timeline after World War II, leading to a 1950s-style future obsessed with atomic technology and the Cold War culture. The world eventually succumbs to a nuclear apocalypse in the year 2077, resulting from escalating tensions between global superpowers.

The series is best known for its open-world gameplay, rich storytelling, deep lore, and dark humour. Players explore vast wastelands that are remnants of the USA, now filled with mutated creatures, rogue robots, and hostile human survivors. The games mix survival mechanics with RPG elements, allowing players to craft their character’s skills, make moral choices, and influence the world and its inhabitants.

Quirks and In-Game Features:

  1. Pip-Boy: A wrist-mounted computer device that players use to manage their inventory, stats, and quests. It’s iconic to the series and has a distinctively clunky, old-school interface.

  2. V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System): A gameplay mechanic that allows players to pause real-time combat and target specific enemy body parts, which can be strategic and sometimes comically gruesome.

  3. S.P.E.C.I.A.L. System: The character development system based on seven attributes: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. This system influences virtually all interactions and abilities in the game.

  4. Nuka-Cola: The Fallout world’s equivalent of Coca-Cola, complete with collectible bottles and a variety of fictional flavors that offer different gameplay benefits and sometimes drawbacks.

  5. Bobbleheads: Collectible items scattered throughout the Fallout games that provide permanent stat boosts when found, adding a scavenger hunt element to gameplay.

Humour and Quirks

It is infused with a dark and often absurd sense of humour that manifests in various ways:

  • Bizarre NPCs: From a talking tree to a ghoul (mutant) dressed as a cowboy, the characters you meet can be both weird and memorable.

  • Easter Eggs and References: The series is packed with nods to popular culture, other video games, and historical events, often twisted into a post-apocalyptic context.

  • Radio Stations: In-game radio stations play a mix of 1940s and 1950s music, juxtaposed against the desolate landscape, which creates an eerie yet amusing atmosphere. The DJs, like Three Dog in "Fallout 3" or Mr. New Vegas in "Fallout: New Vegas," provide humorous commentary on the player’s actions and current events in the wasteland.

  • Perk System: Many perks (special abilities or bonuses) have humorous descriptions or effects, adding a layer of fun to character progression.

Fan Culture: Fans of the series often remark that they're particularly drawn to its rich lore, the depth of player choice (that can alter story outcomes), and its satirical take on American consumerism and politics. The annual (real life) celebration of the date the bombs dropped in the game, October 23, shows the deep impact of the series on its fans, who often use this day to share content and celebrate the franchise.

Overall, the Fallout series remains a cornerstone of gaming culture due to its unique setting, complex narrative depth, and quirky blend of grim survival with whimsical, dark humour.