“Life in the vault, is about to change.”
Okay, I have been a die-hard Fallout fan for over a decade. This stemmed from my deep dive into the history of Fallout both the in-game lore, and behind the scenes drama. For example, the defining event in the Fallout timeline is “The Great War” which was the mere two hour mutually assured destruction of basically the entire planet. This was perpetrated by the two remaining superpowers in the world that were also at war: America and China. The only reason the Fallout series exists is due to the fact that Interplay’s big intellectual property, a game known as Wasteland, was owned by the fine folks at Electronic Arts. Tim Cain, who the father of the Fallout series, wanted to make a game that would work well with the then acquisition of the GURPS (pre-cursor to the SPECIAL system) role-playing game system. The plan was since they (Interplay) didn’t have the rights to Wasteland, and therefore were unable to create a sequel to the game they would create a new game. Welcome to Video Game Story Time!
The now famous Fallout 1 opening monologue spoken by Ron Perlman has it’s origins in Tim Cain simply writing down historical information and that simplicity opened one of, if not the greatest, computer role-playing games’ (CRPG) of all time. For those of you who didn’t play Fallout 1 and 2, I don’t blame you due to the intimidating accessibility of playing the two decade old game.
The general gist is that you are a resident of Vault 13: one of the over one hundred shelters from the harsh life in the wasteland created by Vault-Tec with their mantra “a better future, underground”. You are tasked by the Overseer of Vault 13 to leave the vault due to a crisis that is being kept under wraps. The water chip that keeps the water supply for the vault stable has malfunctioned and is no longer usable. Out in the Wasteland you encounter deadly mutated creatures such as Deathclaws, RadScorpions, Giant Rats, and more. You even encounter irradiated people that were formerly human called ghouls. The scariest aside from Deathclaws are arguably the Super Mutants.
The thing that made Fallout unique from other CRPG’s was the fact that you were able to achieve things in a wide variety of ways. You could fight your way through something, sneak your way, talk your way, or in some cases, bribe your way out of situations. You would come across various factions, locations, and significant non-player characters in the game like the aforementioned Super Mutants, the Brotherhood of Steel, the Boneyard (the remains of Los Angeles), Shady Sands: which is the birthplace of the New California Republic (we’ll come back to that later…), the commerce center of the Wasteland: The Hub, and Junktown which is pretty much the way it sounds.
When it comes to characters, oh my god, there’s Tandi and Aradesh the first two people that are not from the Vault that you talk to and then there’s Harold who is a friendly ghoul you encounter in The Hub. In Junktown there’s the lawman Killian Darkwater who is voiced by Jack O’Neill himself Richard Dean Anderson. In Lost Hills you encounter Rhombus and the technological saviors of humanity aka The Brotherhood of Steel. You prove your dedication by retrieving a holodisk from a fallen Brotherhood member sent into The Glow which by the name is the highly irradiated ruins of the West Tek Research Facility and is possibly the toughest location in the game due to the radiation levels which is a result of the facility being bombed by the Chinese.
Despite not having a talking head characters like Tandi, Aradesh, Killian, or the Overseer; Harold is one of the most important characters in the game and even though he is categorized as a ghoul, he technically isn’t. Harold was with a group that went into an old military base that was pretty important back in the old world: Mariposa Military Base. The base’s automated defenses survived the time that passed between October of 2077 and the next twenty-five years. During Harold’s time at The Hub he along with other caravans would get attacked by mutated animals and mutated humanoids and in most cases most if not all members of the caravans would be missing from the area where the caravans would be found. Harold and a group of others, most notably Richard Grey, traced the mutants to Mariposa and as I mentioned the automated defenses were still in working order set to fire on any intruders.
The group was eventually cut down with Harold, Grey, and a small group going further into the base and as fate would have it, they discovered vats with a green substance and it was here when Grey would be knocked into one of these vats and presumably died a horrible death. Harold himself was knocked unconscious and was taken back to The Hub and unknown to him at this point, he was infected with the substance discovered in Mariposa and was the mutation process was already starting. Later on it is discovered when the Vault Dweller gets captured by the Mutants why they are attacking caravans and what happened to those who went missing, they would be dipped into the vats of goo and be mutated into Mutants.
While Harold and those at the Hub simply thought the reasoning for no bodies being found at the caravan were ambushes leading to being taken away and killed. In fact the Mutants were in reality, increasing their numbers. This is confirmed in theory back when you return to Vault 13 with the water chip and are debriefed by the Overseer. Another revelation about the motives of the Mutants is in regards to what they are REALLY looking for. YOU! Well, Vault Dwellers to be specific or as the Lieutenant says “prime normals” as in those whose DNA is not altered by the radiation of the wasteland and regain their intelligence while gaining heightened strength in addition to having their memories intact. Although the Lieutenant says “sometimes not always, a person’s memories are ‘interrupted’ by dipping”, this goes in a few different directions based on future titles in the series. After eliminating the Lieutenant the Vault Dweller returns to Vault 13 and the leader of the Mutants is revealed as The Master who is the mutated form of Richard Grey. YES! That Richard Grey from The Hub.
The ending culminates in you and your companions assaulting the Cathedral which houses the Children of the Cathedral which is really hiding something far more sinister. You discover to your horror that The Master is a grotesque form that looks like a 1950’s horror movie that would be in the same vein as The Blob. Unlike most endgame video game villains at the time you were subjected to a boss battle. However if you can talk your way out of the confrontation you can convince The Master he has no way to succeed and he will set the self destruct sequence and will allow you, Dogmeat, and either Ian, Katja, or Tycho to escape.
Once you return to the Vault you are confronted by the Overseer and are exiled from the Vault and you march into the desert sands and the story of the Vault Dweller ends… or does it?
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