Fallout 4 lands this week! And if you’re new to the series and decided to join the massive hype train and rush out to the store to pick up a copy, you’re probably going to want to know why everyone in cosplay has a different number on their back or why everyone’s taking photos with that giant Handy-Man. Actually, you probably just have a lot of questions in general.
Luckily, Fallout isn’t a series with direct continuity, so you won’t be completely lost when stepping out into the wreckage of Boston. But just in case you need a few pointers, we’ve summed up the best parts of Fallout 1-3 below.
The one that started it all. Developed by Black Isle Studios and released in 1997, Fallout introduced players to the first Vault Dwellers, Pip-Boys, the Wasteland, the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system. The year is 2161, 84 years after the nuclear apocalypse. You play as a custom vault dweller or one of three pre-created ones—Albert, Natalia, or Max, who represent 3 different ways to play through the multilayered Wasteland.
The Vault Dweller is tasked to find a Water Chip, a device meant save the trickling water resource of Vault 13 in Southern California. The Dweller’s quest takes them from Shady Sands, to Junktown, to Necropolis, and down to the depths of Vault 12 in search of the chip. Once they find it, they are tasked with finding and stopping the spread of Super Mutants, hulking humanoids of dim intelligence created by a mysterious virus called the FEV.
Teaming up with the Brotherhood of Steel—the former government organization who builds the series’ iconic power armor—the Dweller heads to the ruins of Los Angeles to confront the Master, a twisted abomination of metal and flesh who has created the Super Mutants to bring a new level of evolution to mankind. The player can join The Master or kill him.
Fallout set the bar for the series’ retro-60’s aesthetic, black sense of humor, general weirdness, and most of the characters and factions you encounter in later games. It’s also the first game to introduce Dogmeat, your loyal pet companion named after Mad Max’s German Shepard. (Fallout 4 will be the first game where Dogmeat can’t die.)
Fallout 2 starts in the village of Arroyo, where once again, its people face a water shortage, this time up north in Oregon. Now, you aren’t a Vault Dweller, but the descendant of the Dweller from the first game, in search of a device called a GECK, (Garden of Eden Creation Kit), which can turn blighted wastelands in to wondrous oases.
The two major factions introduced in Fallout 2 include the New California Republic (the NCR) and the Enclave—both descendants of the US Government in one form or another, though the former is a well-intentioned republic aimed at reestablishing civilization on the west coast, the latter are the remnants of the US Government and a few Megacorps now interested in ruling the Wasteland.
After discovering the abandoned ruins of Vault 13 in search of the GECK, the player crosses paths with the Enclave, who have retooled the FEV from the first Fallout to be used to kill off any humans with mutated DNA. (Read: Everyone exposed to any radiation whatsoever in the Apocalypse.) The player ultimately stops the Enclave, saves his village, and uses the GECK to create a new haven on the West Coast.
Fallout 2 built on the foundation of Fallout by expanding the setting and combat system, as well as introducing more complex and charismatic traveling companions who can do far more than in the previous game.
The big one. After some non-canonical side-games developed by non Black-Isles studios, Bethesda secured the rights to make and distribute Fallout games and released Fallout 3 in 2008 to massive critical acclaim. The nest iteration of the series jumped all the way over to Washington DC to pick up with a mostly new set of characters and some familiar factions struggling to survive in the Capitol Wasteland–AKA, Washington DC.
Players this time emerge into the Wasteland as the Lone Wanderer, a dweller from Vault 101 exiled from their home after their father, James, (voiced by Liam Neeson), flees the vault on a mysterious quest. Searching for James in the Capitol Wasteland, the Lone Wanderer makes friends with the East Coast Brotherhood of Steel, pals around with Radio DJ Three Dog, and clash with the Enclave once again, who are led by a Supercomputer named President Richardson (voiced by Malcolm MacDowell) on another quest to retrieve the GECK.
The game ends with the player either sacrificing their life to bring water to the wasteland or putting the FEV virus into the water supply and poisoning all irradiated humans. Or, in a third option, the DLC Broken Steel retconned the previous ending, and sends players on one last raid against the Enclave to force them out of the Capitol Wasteland for good.
Fallout New Vegas
The most recent, (and sometimes most controversial) Fallout game comes from Obsidian Entertainment, which includes some of the former developers from Black Isle. In New Vegas, the series jets back toward the West Coast to catch up with some of the factions and events from the previous games, and introduces new conflicts all set around the city of New Vegas.
Like in Fallout 2, the player starts not as a Vault Dweller, but as a Courier who already lives in the Wasteland — and who starts the game with a bullet in their head and dropped in a shallow grave. Fortunately, a robot named Victor digs them out of their grave and gets them medical attention, kicking off a quest for answers and vengeance against the various powers of New Vegas.
New Vegas, though building toward an inevitable climax, doesn’t lock in the player with allegiances to any one faction. Though the basic conflict eventually pits the expanding NCR against the tyrannical faction Caesar’s Legion—a group of almost literal Roman soldiers rebuilding a vision of the Roman Empire in the New Vegas desert. Most of the game revolves around players deciding which factions, ranging from the Great Khans, to the NCR, to the Rat Pack like Boomers, or even Caesar’s Legion, if the player feels more like conquering New Vegas than living in it.
New Vegas is one of the more popular games for traditional Fallout fans, since the desert setting and west-coast weirdness of the original games come back in full force with more reception to villainous playstyles than its predecessor Fallout 3. (Also one Brotherhood of Steel member features a familiar voice.)
If you’re playing Fallout 4 on launch day this week, hopefully this guide will get you ready for battling with the Brotherhood of Steel and the Enclave!
Feature Image Credit: Bethesda