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With the announcement of Fallout 4 from Bethesda, games journalists from PC Gamer and Eurogamer have decided to dig back into the past and produce a couple of retrospectives on the venerable RPG series.
PC Gamer focuses mostly on the games themselves, rather than the circumstances. (Correction: I initially wrote that this article was the work of Andy Chalk, but he's actually only responsible for the New Vegas part. Richard Cobbett wrote the Fallout 1 and 2 retrospective, and Tom Senior was responsible for Fallout 3's part of the article. Apologies for the mistake.) A bit on the first title:
Fallout was a revelation for the RPG market not just a great game (and of course, spiritual successor to the much older Wasteland), but a post-apocalyptic playhouse. Originally it enforced a time-limit that got in the way of the action, but that was patched out (Fallout 2 pretended to have one too, but didn't), and otherwise the freedom of the game is best summed up by the fact that you could spend hundreds of hours on it. or if you know where you're going early on, you can conquer the whole thing in a handful of minutes. The freedom is then further helped by the depth of the world simulation it's not Ultima VII, but it's pretty good, allowing for super-special-bastard techniques like pumping a character full of healthkits. When they wear off, they deal damage. Hit them with enough and it takes them out the easy first step in an Agent 47 calibre killing.
Oddly, despite its prominence as an RPG classic, Fallout wasn't a particularly successful game Bethesda's Fallout 3 was the first time the series really sold. All who played it though knew they'd touched something special, with the fanbase quickly becoming one of gaming's most voracious. Going back to it now, well, a few issues make it a bit more challenging to play the clunky combat, the terrible AI (even at the time, Interplay was warning prospective players (Don't give Ian the Uzi. We mean it.)) and the other early learning steps of a new series based on a whole new way of making RPGs all take their toll. The world is also a good deal more simplistic than any of the games that followed, feeling more of an echo of them than a progenitor.
While Richard Cobbett takes a more historically-focused approach for Eurogamer. An excerpt on the recent years:
Two years later, the spirit of Black Isle's Fallout returned when Bethesda had Obsidian create a spin-off - New Vegas. As well as the elements borrowed from Van Buren, it had people like J.E Sawyer and Chris Avellone who had worked on (amongst others) the past games. It also had no problem shipping five million copies early on, and most agree that its writing and world design was a solid step up from the original - though at the cost of extreme bugginess and a few obvious cases where development was hobbled by console limitations (the titular New Vegas being a big example, with its huge gates segmenting the Strip.) Unfortunately Obsidian didn't get to benefit much from this, having signed a contract based on Metacritic averages that only saw them get royalties if they got an 85+ average on Metacritic. Fallout: New Vegas got an average of 84.
Which brings us - pausing to nod respectfully at Wasteland 2, which arrived last year care of Brian Fargo's inXile - to now. Curiously, inXile - via a company called Roxy Friday - was seen trademarking a couple of the names you've seen here back at the end of 2014: Van Buren and Meantime. So far, Fargo's only comments have been "The (RPG Codex) investigative unit strikes again" and "Those sure sounds like interesting concepts to me." If plans are in motion though, we're not likely to hear about them for a while. For now, inXile has its hands full with Torment: Tides of Numenara and the upcoming Kickstarter for The Bard's Tale 4. Later this year though, who knows? Meantime's concept especially is still fresh, and the idea of a time-travelling RPG with modern narrative and graphics technologies is one well worth salivating over until your keyboard makes splashing sounds.