The Bombora publishing house announced the appearance on the Russian shelves of the book “Fallout. Chronicles of the creation of the legendary saga“. The book is written by Erwan Lafleuriel, editor-in-chief of IGN France. It is primarily dedicated to the world of the game and aspects of its plot.
A little below we give an excerpt in which the author reflects on the endings of the games in the series.
POLITICS VS FEELINGS
Regardless of whether they push the player in the right direction, forcing events, or allow him to fully quench his thirst for adventure, providing a thousand opportunities to turn off the main path, successive Fallout developers have always followed the same basic rule of hero formation: initially detached from everything, the character soon finds himself in the center of a serious problem.
So, in the first two games, the heroes initially leave their community to save it, but in the end they simply save the whole world. If there is a split among the fans of the two parts, then its cause, in addition to a different view of humor, are the finales of these great adventures. The original Fallout set a precedent by offering a terribly cynical ending for the player.
The main storyline is shocking by the betrayal and cowardice of Jakoren, the caretaker of Asylum 13, thanks to which Fallout received one of the best endings in the history of video games: after saving his own commune and all mankind, the Asylum Resident is expelled and sent alone to the desert. Sarcasm and irony are not limited to dialogues, they are also hidden in the basic mechanics of the world invented by Interplay: from tracking down and destroying the Creator to the meanness of Jacoren. Such an ending has never been seen before in role-playing games, and it caught many players by surprise. Bethesda has often been criticized for focusing on the emotional component in Fallout 3, but Interplay has already beaten this perfectly in the very first game. How not to appreciate such a mockery in the Fallout corporate style after hours of research into all the dishonesty of this post-apocalyptic world? The denouement turns out to be not as touching as the meeting of father and son, but the simple picture that ends the first Fallout — when we see only the back of a resident of the shelter going into the desert with his shoulders down — is much more emotional than anything the rest of the games could offer.
Unfortunately, such a card cannot be played twice equally effectively. After a year-long development cycle, Fallout 2 offers a generally simpler threat than the Creator, and in fact there is no special place for emotions in it. Having no mentality close to Nazism, it is difficult to appreciate the plans of the supporters of the superiority of the pure human race forming the Enclave.
Therefore, we simply oppose their plans, saving our people. In the end, the whole interest of the game comes down to a set of side quests, which are various tests that allow you to complete the first part of the storyline: the search for the HECC. The rest is just a build-up of power before blowing up the base of the villains. Thus, the whole point of Fallout 2 is not in its ending and the main plot, but in what happens outside of it. That is, in the political races of various factions that shape the future of the Wastelands. This side of the gameplay further enhances the mechanism of diverse endings, telling about the fate of each location with which the player interacted. Even if they are pleasant, these epilogues do not change anything in the main story: a happy ending has already been announced.
Depending on your choices in favor of different factions, each settlement will have a bright or catastrophic future. However, Arroyo is guaranteed to flourish, and the Chosen One becomes a revered elder. This somewhat banal ending (in addition to a change in the nature of humor) is still one of the main arguments given by the defenders of the first Fallout to prefer it to a not too refined sequel.
At the same time, all fans of the series agree that the overall storyline of Fallout 3 looks even worse, since it reuses too classic and well-known elements. The story really resembles a mixture of the two previous games: we find an Enclave, a VRE, a GEKK, and a problem with drinking water, and even face an invasion of super mutants. The third part appeared years after the second, with a new graphics engine, a three-dimensional world and, above all, an emphasis on the console audience. This is already a huge risk in itself, especially in terms of gameplay: undoubtedly, the choice of a classic plot with the reuse of recognizable and effective elements was a conscious decision to keep the fans’ favor. Nevertheless, Bethesda has always wanted Fallout 3 to become closer to the first, and not to the second part. Therefore, he returns to the emotional game at the very beginning of the plot, when the player begins to look for his father.
Such a personal quest is interesting, but it has two problems. On the one hand, compared to Interplay or Black Isle, the studio clearly lacks the skill in writing the text. Even in the first few days after the release, the dialogues already seem less sarcastic and much less convincing, and this drawback will become even more obvious in a couple of years with the release of Fallout: New Vegas, brilliantly written by Obsidian. On the other hand, using the Gamebryo engine it is very difficult to visually convey emotions. In truth, there are very few 3D engines that can convey feelings with animation and graphics. In addition, Fallout 3 suffers from some intractable technical shortcomings: the scenes are too static, the faces are lifeless, the characters are clumsily written, and the dialogues are rarely well played by the actors. So how do you convey emotions with all these problems?
As already mentioned, Bethesda is able to play on our sensitivity with the help of audio recordings or touching texts. Even if the authors of Bethesda are not so adept at dialogues, they show themselves better in the narration of slightly longer texts. If 3D does not cope with its task, at least this remains for us. Finally, the game is inspired by the first Fallout with its tragic ending, demanding a sacrifice from you and offering an interesting dilemma: will you put your life on the altar of humanity or will you let Sarah Lyons, your friend from the Brotherhood of Steel, die? However, it is obvious that even at this tense moment in history, emotions still do not find proper cinematic reflection. Neither in Fallout 3, nor in the sequel.
Perhaps for this reason Obsidian avoids emotional impact on the player. Like the second part, Fallout: New Vegas is more interested in politics, placing the hero in a whirlpool of factions whose fate he will need to decide, and from a pragmatic rather than an emotional point of view. Obsidian developers really allowed players to think about the current situation on their own: how to restore order in a post-apocalyptic universe? How to impose it?
The New California Republic is a democratic state, but will it be able to avoid the use of force to preserve the system? Should it seek further expansion? Is it acceptable to impose a political system because it seems fairer? Caesar’s Legion, on the contrary, is obviously cruel, demagogic and irreconcilable, but a strict military organization ensures the safety of its members. There is real mutual help, order reigns, drugs are banned, etc. Obsidian also developed the story of Mr. House to add the necessary dose of madness to the Fallout universe, bringing a different way of looking at things: achieving freedom at any cost.
It is worth noting a few touching moments like the possible suicide of Commander Hanlon, who manages the NKR forces in the Mojave Wasteland. Obsidian is smart enough not to show anything directly, but to convey it all through rich (and beautifully written in English) dialogues. But there is no room for feelings in the main plot. Even the hero’s desire to take revenge on the one who tried to kill him at the beginning of the game is completely intertwined with a real ideological and strategic confrontation. Developing the principle from Fallout 2 even more, the developers come up with an incredible number of possible endings for all factions, depending on the player’s actions. They further deepen the impact of these choices in the epilogues, which come to the fore compared to the various finales of the main story. All this makes Fallout: New Vegas much more complicated than the second part in terms of politics. This is the story of not just one character, but an entire region.
In Fallout 4, Bethesda puts the search for a person at the center of a story with a hero who is looking for his son — well, or remembers about it as soon as he has free time. Indeed, compared to Fallout 3, the story turns out to be even less concentrated, and the world is even more open and saturated. As a result, the player is constantly distracted by research — and the priority thing according to the authors’ idea seems to be a side mission. As tradition demands, the hero finds himself involved in a more global problem, learning about the existence of synths and the Institute. But this time, these two sides of the narrative are completely interconnected. Bethesda tried to combine emotions and politics: the relationship between father and son and the power struggle between factions. The hero’s personal quest and the conflict in which he is forcibly involved are intertwined until the very end. All the necessary elements are present, the topics raised are good, the characters are quite interesting, and the scenery is attractive.
But in the end, the picture collapses, because we do not understand the motives of one of the factions, the Institute. Why create synths? And exploit them? What exactly is this technology needed for? What is the purpose of the Institute? When the Creator in the first part infects his victims with VRE, he has a plan. The Enclave has its own reasons for wanting to exterminate the Wasteland population. Institute? It is not known what the scientists working there are really trying to achieve. Sometimes we are presented with philosophical reflections on the future of humanity in a speech that resembles the speech of the Creator. Sometimes we come across crude plot tricks or unexpected twists that should impress the player and impress him. In particular, the problem is that all the actions of the Institute seem aimed at developing the relationship between father and son at the cost of general inconsistency. The reproach is not that the authors of Bethesda seek to evoke emotions, but that they did it to the detriment of the internal logic of the Institute, which turned out to be just a plot tool without any compensation.
Moreover, it is a pity that the Creation Engine, which evolved from Gamebryo, does not always cope with the transfer of emotions. Take, for example, the beginning of Fallout 4. The facial animation has been improved, the main character has been voiced. However, all this still does not work due to the lack of funds invested in directing. The hero of Shelter 111 wakes up after a cryogenic sleep, remembering how his child was kidnapped and his wife was killed in front of him. Even if the shelter were to collapse immediately, one could imagine him carrying out the body of his wife. This would further emphasize his shock at the situation when he finds himself alone in a devastated world. Nothing like this happens, and this dramatic situation is not given any credibility by shouting without much pain in the voice.: “I will avenge you!” And, unfortunately, this is just the beginning of a game full of similar scenes. It is unpleasant to remain unresponsive to such interesting questions due to technical reasons, especially in the case when the screenwriters sacrificed another aspect of the created universe – the validity of the Institute — just for the sake of creating these situations. However, this is not the main problem. In Fallout 4, the number of existing factions is very limited, as well as side quests and, accordingly, related choices. Unlike a game like New Vegas, there are very few possible epilogues. Compared to all the other games in the series, it seems that there is no real ending in this part. And it’s not about the open world at all, since Fallout 2 already allowed the game to continue after the storyline was completed, in order to eventually explore what had not yet been discovered. No, this is exactly the same problem as with the Institute, which has become a tool for indicating the direction of the story: the proposed choices and a small number of possible endings are simply not enough to fully control the movement of the plot. For example, there is no ideal solution: you must choose one faction and abandon the others to their fate — or even completely oppose them. A single-minded player will never be able to get the perfect outcome in Fallout 4, because Bethesda prefers its dramatic narrative. Her version of Fallout is often called “Skyrim with guns”, but in fact the studio was much more inspired by BioWare.