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Product Release - Valve
The Fallout Anthology, announced by Bethesda today at QuakeCon, is literally the bomb: It's a collection of nearly every Fallout game ever released, wrapped up in a swanky Fat Man mini-nuke package "with audible bomb sound."
The Anthology includes Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics, Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition, and Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition. The only one missing is Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, the 2004 console exclusive that nobody really cares about anyway. And because Fallout 4 is just a few months away, the bomb box has an extra slot inside for the Fallout 4 game disc you're inevitably going to buy if you're buying this.
Bethesda said on Twitter that the Fallout Anthology will be released in North America on September 29 and on October 2 in Europe, while Pete Hines tweeted separately that it will sell for $50. He also warned that quantities will be limited, although again, there are no details.
Fallout Anthology will retail for $49.99. Stores should be making it available soon. Check your retailer of choice.
— Pete Hines (@DCDeacon) July 23, 2015
This is clearly a package aimed at die-hard fans and collectors, but it's not a bad way for complete newcomers to leap into the series with both feet either. The cost of the Anthology isn't all that terribly much more than buying the games separately on Steam, after all, and Steam doesn't give you a nuclear warhead you can set on your shelf.
A closer look at the Fallout Anthology is up on the Bethesda Blog. Keep your eyes open for more of our coverage of QuakeCon 2015, which is underway now and runs until July 26.
Welcome to our retrospective on the Fallout RPGs (sorry, Fallout Tactics!) released on PC (so long, Brotherhood of Steel). Here you'll find articles on each of the Fallout games, from the original through to Fallout: New Vegas.
Maaaaaaaybe. You ll think of me. When you are all alone…
To me, that opening music has always been more fitting for the Fallout series than its better known growl of War. War never changes. It speaks so much more to what the games are, and their underlying horror—of being just a regular person suddenly ripped from at least a relatively comfortable home and thrown out into a brutal wasteland of murderers, rapists, drug-addicts and radioactive mutant horrors both friendly and hostile. There may be companions to meet along the way, but fundamentally you re always the outsider—alone, a wanderer, trapped right on the razor s edge between the old world s mistakes and the new one s salvation.
That s something that always drew me to the series, that as bleak as it is—and it can get very bleak—there s always a chance. It s one of only a couple of games I can think of where you can defeat the evil mastermind by persuading him that his plan just isn t going to work, at which point he agrees to drop it. It s also possible to make the world a better place through careful choices and acts of compassion, such as helping to form the New California Republic and turn the technology hoarding Brotherhood of Steel into something more than just armour-plated douchebags. At the same time though, Fallout isn t afraid of saying that sometimes, shit just happens, with the most famous example being its ending. Having mastered the wasteland, retrieved the Water Chip that your safe and secure Vault needs to continue hiding from the world, and stopped an army of supermutants… your reward is to be disowned by your former life and cast back out into the sun. As the song pointedly goes, Maybe the one who is waiting for you. Will prove untrue. Then what will you do?
As with most RPGs though, it s the journey rather than the destination that dominates. Personally, I prefer the world of Fallout 2, with civilised locations like New Reno and more feel of the world having rebuilt itself rather than stagnating in a world of rust and dirt, but there s no arguing that the first one isn t memorable. 50s paranoia met 90s isometric graphics in a world not simply dented as beaten within an inch of its life. It s a place full of locations with names like Junktown and Boneyard and Necropolis —dusty, hard places for hard people who grew up around radioactive scorpions and whole districts that glow in the dark. It s also one built around freedom, with many ways around problems depending on choice and character build, with Fallout pioneering those now almost expected what happened next cards before the credits rolled.
Mechanically, Fallout spent most of its development intended to show off Steve Jackson s GURPS system, though feuding over the amount of violence it contained led to that being switched for Interplay s homebrew SPECIAL system, where SPECIAL stands for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck—the core stats that were combined with special perks and skills either chosen or earned. Amongst Fallout s most eye-opening tweaks was the ability to create a character barely able of conscious thought, limited to dialogue like wawa and annoying the living piss out of every NPC who has to talk to you.
The violence isn t all that extreme by modern standards, but it was edgy at the time.
As you d expect, the level of violence isn t all that extreme by modern standards, but it was edgy at the time—the two most memorable being a Bloody Mess perk that specifically gave enemies the goriest deaths possible (as well as altering the ending so that after their exile, the hero silently guns down the Overseer and leaves their bisected body desperately scrabbling at the door back to safety) and targeted shots. In practice, these weren t usually needed, but there was still nothing else quite like actively shooting an enemy in the balls.
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.
It remains a classic for good reason though, and the start of something great. With Fallout 2, the designers got to jump back in with both feet, and while its development was both rushed and torturous, most would agree the effort was worth it. It was a very different game in many ways, save of course one. Because war… war never changes.
By Richard Cobbett.
Let me tell you the story of a town called New Reno. Isolated and protected from the worst of the Great War by its mountains, it rose from the wasteland like a phoenix addicted to a deadly drug. Folks called it the capital of sin and whores, safe for tourists only while their pockets jangled with precious bottle caps. At least, that's how it was before you arrived.
While I enjoyed Fallout: New Vegas, the actual town of New Vegas—to be more exact, the Strip—was a bitter disappointment. You spend a good third of the game waiting to get into this fabled gambling utopia, only for the gates to finally open and reveal four deserted casinos squatting amongst post-apocalyptic debris. No texture, no threat, no soul. Not so in New Reno.
The New Reno of Fallout 2 is one of the most hideous, squalid hives you'll ever visit, but in the best possible way. Its corruption feels appropriate, and in true Fallout style, it's something you can exploit as easily as you can resist. You can join any of the four crime families, quickly work your way up through the ranks, and become a Made Man: at the expense of being shot at if you wander into other families' turf. And those are just some of your options. What matters is that if you can make it in New Reno, you can make it anywhere in the Wasteland, and all you have to lose is your soul. Fair trade, right?
Fallout 2 remains a divisive RPG, even among the series' notoriously rabid fans. It's much sillier than its predecessor, with references to everything from Monty Python to Star Trek largely dropped at random. Its handling of things like sex is either more mature or more mature, depending on your sense of humor. If you're a female character for instance, your first encounter with one potential party member—a kid named Myron—involves him trying to slip you a mickey. And then, most likely, you kicking his scabby balls up through his mouth.
The part most people remember though (if only because there can't be a single player who didn't try it) is the sleazy porn studio in bad old New Reno—the place where you can temporarily put aside your quest and (cough) make your star rise. You don't get to see any low-resolution hanky-panky, but you do get a special Reputation bonus, as well as a porn name that will haunt you for the rest of your quest. Dick Mountenjoy? Rodd Rokks? How about Ebineezer Screws or Arnold Swollenmember? All are actual choices that people in the street will start shouting at you—as are Lucy Loose, Pokeahotass, and Dominatrish for less-than-ladylike ladies.
It's actually a relatively small area, but that doesn't matter. Not only is there a lot to do and see, it's an incredibly reactive little piece of design. As a female character for instance, expect to take lots of sugar boobs and hey baby crap. Do a porn movie and most guys love you, but the hookers sniff and spit—as opposed to salivating over a male stud. Become a Made Man as either gender, though, and the guards who previously gave you trouble suddenly can't wait to suck up. Little, dynamic details like these do more for making a world feel real than a thousand carefully coded AI routines.
F2's real genius, though, is that there's no assumption that you have to win every fight or see every possibility. Sure, if you come to New Reno sporting stolen power armor, you'll be a force to be reckoned with. More likely, however, you'll arrive as just another schlub, easily put down if you go around starting fights with the wrong people. Not being the ultimate badass changes everything. What little power and influence you accumulate in New Reno is earned, and it's more meaningful because of it. And that's just the start.
You see, as a wanderer, you can never find home. You don't have to set foot in New Reno to finish Fallout 2, but if you do, you'll eventually have to leave. As with all the other towns you visit, however, your decisions have power. Who controls the streets? What happens to the drug trade? War may never change, but the world of Fallout 2 definitely does, and the one thing you can guarantee as the final credits roll is that however low New Reno sinks into depravity, nobody there will ever forget you—the hero or villain they only knew as Arnold Swollenmember.
By Richard Cobbett
'They've done it,' I thought, the moment I stumbled out of Vault 101 and the Capital wasteland came into focus. I traced the horizon with increasing excitement. Look at the blasted trees; and the little shattered towns; and the many, many shades of brown! The world reveal shot—when you emerge from a dark corridor to a carefully poised introductory vista—is familiar now, but in 2008 it set my spine shivering and filled my head with thoughts of freedom and adventure. The fact that I exercised that freedom to drink irradiated water from toilet cisterns the world over is neither here nor there—Fallout has always had a knack for being funny and grim at the same time.
The move to polygonal 3D and a generational leap in fidelity allowed Fallout 3 do more visual world-building and humour with sight-gags and signage. This and an all-knew writers' room shifted the style of Fallout's comedy from a quirky gangland farce to a quirky satire on the utopian idealism of the '50s and '60s, and a delightfully camp one at that. Robots stomp around powered by brains in jars and housekeeping robots are repurposed as death-bot bodyguards. Meanwhile, the comfy Jetsons family unit has been shattered and scattered across the wasteland. The family dogs have formed packs and started eating the adults. The kids live in their own settlement in Little Lamplight, and exiled teens rebel alone in Big Town.
It's a bit depressing—as total societal collapse ought to be—but Fallout 3 strikes a fine balance between lonely wandering and silliness. Did you find the superhero and the supervillain warring in Cantebury Commons? The AntAgonizer leads an army of giant ants against the Mechanist's robot guards, and you can choose to side with either. Megaton's resident researcher, Moira, provides another memorable quest thread that sends you all over the wasteland to conduct field experiments. Irradiate yourself and she studies your symptoms with infectious enthusiasm—"keep up the great research, super assistant!"
Sadly Fallout 3's sidequests and secrets are more memorable than the critical path. A stone cold Liam Neeson continues Bethesda's dubious record with celebrity voice actors—unfortunate given that he's the emotional core of the story. There are some exceptional moments, however, like your entrapment in the Tranquility Lane simulation—a Stepford Wives pastiche of affluent suburban living before the bombs fell. It's inventive, dark, humourous, and recaptures a talent for weirdness that Bethesda hadn't exercised since Morrowind.
It's violent, too, thanks to the real-time-with-pause combat system that lets you melt individual bodyparts with laser pistols. The "Bloody Mess" perk is recommended. The Gamebryo engine has many shortcomings—not least when it comes to NPC faces and posture—but it can chunk an enemy into slabs of physics-enabled mulch very nicely indeed. The VATS targeting system divides opinion, but the zooming Mad Max hero shots it generates for your wastelander are great. Such scenes were relegated to your imagination in the old turn-based RPGs, but now every shuddering headshot gets its own slow-mo rotating, zooming camera dance. If you're lucky, your Lone Wanderer will form an impromptu John Wayne silhouette against the green sky before you're popped back into real-time, where a lacklustre FPS-with-dice-rolls system awaits.
If that's not to your taste, Fallout 3's shortcomings can always be corrected with mods. Remove the green smog to enjoy a much cleaner, sunnier wasteland; or install major combat overhauls that ditch VATS in favour of a deadly survivalist shooter model inspired by STALKER. Fallout 3 features some pretty horrendous monsters—Centaurs still give me chills—but you can add even more terrors with Mart's Mutant Mod, and tweak their abilities and size to provide a challenge even when you're stomping around in full Brotherhood of Steel armour. Fallout 3 was great at release, but only got better in the following years, maturing to near-perfection like a fine pre-war vintage of Nuka Cola.
By Tom Senior
Compared to the oppressive grey of the Capital Wasteland, the Mojave is positively colourful. New Vegas shares an engine with Fallout 3, but it has a very different look and feel. The bleak urban devastation of post-apocalyptic Washington DC gives way to dust, deserts, and cowboys. New Vegas itself is one of the most vibrant cities in the series, relatively unscathed by the nuclear fire that blanketed the world.
New Vegas is my favourite of the two Bethesda-era Fallout games. It was developed by RPG veterans Obsidian, of Pillars of Eternity fame, and improves many of Fallout 3 s weak points. It has companions with personalities and meaningful reasons for following you. Quests are more open-ended, with multiple ways to complete them. Hardcore mode introduces survival elements. And the Mojave is full of factions whose influence you can earn, or lose, depending on the choices you make.
It s a much deeper role-playing experience overall. Thanks to talented writers and designers like Josh Sawyer and Chris Avellone, the dialogue is better and the characters are richer. But, as much as I love it, I think Fallout 3 does a better job of evoking the feeling of being in a post-apocalyptic world. In many places, the Mojave looks much like it does today: a desert. Nothing in its bright, sun-baked landscape quite matches the eeriness of bomb-blasted downtown Washington DC.
The main story in Fallout 3 is a bit of a mess, with one of the least satisfying endings in any game I ve ever played, but the central narrative of New Vegas is much stronger—and there are more interesting ways to resolve it. Taking sides has a big impact on how the story plays out, whether you fight for factions like the NCR and Caesar s Legion, or decide to stay neutral. And if you don t care about the main story, there are dozens of brilliant side quests hidden away in the wasteland.
Although the Capital Wasteland makes for a more atmospheric setting, New Vegas still has its share of interesting locations and landmarks. There s the New Vegas Strip itself; a huge, neon-lit monument to excess, whose casinos are filled with NPCs and quests. There s the backwater town of Goodsprings, which is straight out of a Spaghetti Western. And, of course, the mighty Hoover Dam, which is central to the story. Throw in a selection of brilliant cowboy-themed music and you ve got a setting with a tonne of personality that s littered with cool stuff to see and do.
New Vegas also boasts a suite of genuinely brilliant DLC, the best of which were designed by Avellone, who worked on Fallout 2 back in 1998. Lonesome Road takes you to a new area called The Divide, which has been ravaged by earthquakes. Dead Money is a Fallout-flavoured take on The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Finishing the main game and all the DLC can take a hundred hours or more, making the Ultimate Edition of the game, which is often on sale on Steam, great value for money. And that s without mentioning the thousands of mods out there.
The engine is New Vegas s only real weakness. The robotic animations, low fidelity environments, and hideous-looking character models are a result of the creaky tech they inherited from Bethesda but they did their best with it. You can make it look slightly better with mods, but it s still a hard game to look at with eyes that have been spoiled by games like The Witcher 3 and Grand Theft Auto V. But New Vegas is still a brilliant RPG despite it. Here s hoping Bethesda give Obsidian the chance to make another sequel after they ve released Fallout 4.
By Andy Kelly
Oct 1, 2014
Fallout 3 begins in Vault 101, an underground nuclear shelter that s been sealed away from the outside world for well over a century. When the player character reaches the age of sixteen, they tussle with a group of obnoxious delinquents calling themselves the Tunnel Snakes. They re greasers in the classic mould, with leather jackets, slicked quiffs, and bad attitudes.
This is Fallout s thing, of course. Its world is a kitschy retro-future, as predicted on the pages of pulpy 1950s science fiction. But replaying the game recently, it struck me just how little sense the Tunnel Snakes make, even in this fantastical, stylised universe.
Think about it. They re greasers—a subculture that emerged around a passion for motorcycles, hot rods, and kustoms—in a closed-off bunker of narrow tunnels, where where there are no roads or vehicles to speak of. Then there s those matching leather jackets they all wear with the intricate snake emblems on the back. Where did they get them? How did they make them?
According to Fallout lore, Vault dwellers wear matching blue-and-yellow jumpsuits with the number of whichever one they happen to live in printed on them. So why are the Tunnel Snakes wearing these jackets, and where do you get a biker-style leather jacket in a place that, presumably, has limited raw materials and no means to produce them? Where did they get the leather?
Jesus, who cares? you re probably thinking to yourself. They put greasers in because it s a 50s thing, and Fallout is a riff on 50s American culture, and they needed some kind of antagonist for the player during the Vault sequence. Yeah, sure, I could suspend my disbelief—and they are pretty funny, I suppose—but, to me, they re indicative of a larger problem in game design: style over function.
Stanley Kubrick was a filmmaker known for his obsessive attention to detail. In the documentary Stanley Kubrick s Boxes , journalist Jon Ronson digs through crates of archive material from the production of the late director s films, revealing the meticulous, fastidious research that went into their creation.
Mind-bending sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey demonstrates this perfectly. Everything in the film—from those great, spinning space stations to the infamous zero-gravity toilet on Heywood Floyd s shuttle—was designed with its function in mind. Kubrick and his team thought about how these things would actually work, and their designs were informed by science and astronautics, not by what looked cool.
It looks cool" is, unfortunately, the only thought that goes into a lot of video game designs—the costumes in Assassin s Creed being a prime example. The hood is an elegant, recognisable visual link between the games, but can you imagine sprinting and climbing around the Caribbean in Kenway s elaborate pirate get-up? Or hopping across the sun-battered rooftops of Constantinople in Ezio s frilly layers?
Alta r s white robes made more sense in the first game. There were fewer layers, increasing his mobility and keeping the Middle-Eastern heat at bay, and he could blend in with those groups of robe-wearing scholars. But with every game, more bits have been added to the costumes, and now they just look over-designed. They re supposedly a secretive, underground order of hired killers, yet they all wear matching hooded uniforms and elaborate belt buckles in the shape of their logo.
There s a bit in Aliens: Colonial Marines where you discover that Weyland-Yutani have—surprise, surprise—been conducting sinister, top secret experiments in the famous derelict ship. Except all the equipment and storage crates littered around the place bear their logo. Not to mention the fact that the crashed ship would have been destroyed by the explosion at the end of Aliens along with Hadley s Hope. Gearbox tried to retcon this in some follow-up DLC, but I m not buying it. They just thought, hey, wouldn't it be cool if you got to visit the derelict? And that s where their thought process ended.
To a lot of you, this will sound like nitpicking insanity. Just play the game, idiot! Who cares about all these dumb little details? you re screaming at your monitor, red in the face. Well, I do, obviously. But beyond my own tedious appreciation for practical, considered design, it ultimately makes games better.
Ridley Scott s Alien is one of the most remarkable feats of production design in film, and still stands up to this day. Have you seen the Blu-ray? It looks beautiful, and hasn t aged a bit, despite the chunky late 70s tech and flickering CRT monitors. This is thanks not only to the directing eye of Scott and the horrifying psychosexual art of H.R. Giger, but also concept artists Chris Foss and Ron Cobb s contributions.
I resent films that are so shallow they rely entirely on their visual effects, and of course science fiction films are notorious for this, said Cobb in 1979 s The Book of Alien. I've always felt that there's another way to do it: a lot of effort should be expended toward rendering the environment of the spaceship—or whatever the fantastic setting of your story should be—as convincingly as possible, but always in the background. That way the story and the characters emerge and they become more real.
This is why 2001 and Alien still look amazing, despite being, respectively, 45 and 35 years old. The interior of the Nostromo was so believable, Giger said in Famous Monsters magazine. I hate these new-looking spacecraft. You feel like they re just built for the movie you re seeing. They don t look real. Cobb, Foss, and Scott, like Kubrick before them, thought about the practicalities of the things they were creating, and they ve become timeless as a result—something I hope to see more of in games as they slowly leave their adolescence and become a more confident, refined artform.
So maybe it doesn t matter where the Tunnel Snakes got those leather biker jackets, or if they do indeed rule. But if video games are ever going to create worlds as enduring and convincing as the films mentioned here, and countless other examples I could list, they re going to have to start thinking about their designs beyond just aesthetics and the shallow concept of cool.
Announcement - Valve
Shacknews - Steve Watts
It's a good day for fans of ridiculous old-school shooters. The latest Humble Bundle weekly sale compiles a set of six FPS games from the genre's heyday, all for paying at least six bucks.
I've been playing since my parents brought home the original NES with Track & Field, Duck Hunt, and The Legend of Zelda. Unlike most of my friends I never "grew out" of video games and love them today as much or more than I did as a kid. Among my many loves (Demon's Souls, Half-Life 2, Total Annihilation, Mass Effect) stand two games I just can't get enough of: Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas.
I must say that I was surprised how my religion was featured in the most recent Fallout I played.
I had never heard of Fallout until 2010 when I noticed my friend's little brother had logged over 125 hours in Fallout 3 on his Steam account. Intrigued, I rented Fallout 3 and was instantly hooked in that rare and wonderful way that happens when you experience something truly new and wholly captivating. I plowed through it on my PS3. I would get up at 5:00am to play before the kids woke up and the work day started, logging some 40 hours in the 10 or so days it took me to complete the main story. When I returned the game I was dogged by how many locations and quests I had to leave unexplored and unfulfilled due to my limited rental window.
After building a gaming desktop for my birthday and getting both New Vegas and Fallout 3: GOTY on the Steam Summer Sale, I knew I was in for a pair of very special treats. I have since logged over 200 hours in Fallout 3 and another 130 in Fallout: New Vegas.
Mormons of the Wasteland
As a Mormon, I am much more accustomed to seeing my religion portrayed in unflattering and even disrespectful ways in entertainment media ("Fort Joe Smith" in Starship Troopers comes to mind, as does The Book of Mormon Broadway musical and HBO's Big Love series) than to seeing any positive or deferential representations. Hence, when I came across The Old Mormon Fort outside New Vegas it naturally piqued my curiosity as to how it would be featured. Would the game's developers at Obsidian take the well-worn road of clichéd irony by making The Old Mormon Fort some den of hypocritical debauchery or zealous extremism, or would they do something different?
I wasn't expecting anything necessarily pro-religion, let alone reverent. This is a Fallout game, after all.
I was nevertheless surprised and impressed by what I found inside The Old Mormon Fort: a struggling but hopeful sanctuary for the lost and ill-fated souls of the Mojave wasteland. I found a people whose purpose very much in harmony with the aspirations of Mormonism and Christianity generally. (For those who may have heard otherwise, we Mormons worship Jesus Christ and consider ourselves Christians.) While Mormons weren't the ones running the show-it was the Followers of the Apocalypse who had set up shop there-their noble goals and purpose, connected as they were (at least nominally) to the Mormons, gave me a strong feeling of appreciation. They intrigued me.
I wanted to find out if there were more Mormon references in the Fallout universe, and were they as curiously sympathetic and respectful as this? Thanks to the exceptional collection of Fallout resources at falloutwiki.com—including numerous leaked documents from the pre-Obsidian studio Black Isle's cancelled alternate Fallout 3 project in which the Mormons of Vault 70 were going to figure rather prominently—I have been able to analyze Obsidian's Fallout Mormons from the perspective of a lifelong member, and am pleased to share what I found.
Some minor Fallout: New Vegas spoilers will follow
Joshua Graham: The Prodigal Son
Clearly the most significant Mormon character in the Fallout universe is Joshua Graham, also known as Malpais Legate and The Burned Man.
For those who don't know the lore, Joshua Graham was a Mormon missionary sent from New Canaan (post-apocalyptic Ogden, Utah) to preach to the tribes of Arizona. Like most real-life Mormon missionaries, Graham had to learn a new language in order to preach to the Arizona tribals and, like most real-life Mormon missionaries, was able to do so. I myself served a Spanish-speaking mission to the Mojave wastelands of San Bernardino county, California. And Utah boasts one of the highest concentrations of US-born polyglots-speakers of more than one language-in the country due to the Church's foreign missionary efforts, with 30% of Utah's male population and up to 75% of the students of the Church's Brigham Young University speaking a foreign tongue.
In the game, it appears that Graham's linguistic abilities may have been pivotal in the formation of Caesar's Legion. Graham had been sent from New Canaan to preach to the tribes of Arizona and had managed to master a number of the tribal dialects. Meanwhile, The Followers of the Apocalypse dispatched a research party from California to study the tribal languages that were emerging in the east. They met Graham along their way and enlisted his help as a translator.
Shortly thereafter, Graham and the Followers were captured by the Blackfoot tribe, one of the weakest of eight warring tribes in the region. Fearing they would be killed along with their captors, a Follower named Edward Sallow determined that to survive they needed to remake the tribals into a capable fighting force. With his knowledge of ancient Rome, Sallow enlisted Graham's linguistic talents to help him train the Blackfoot tribe in the ways of total war.
Sallow and Graham went on to lead the tribe in conquest after conquest, with both men ultimately forgetting or abandoning their humble and humanitarian beginnings and getting caught up in the violent rise to power of their new nation.
I take no offense at the story of Graham becoming Caesar's first Legate and actually thought it was exciting to have a Mormon figure so prominently in the history of one of Fallout's principal factions. One big reason for this was because his fall was precipitated by very human failings (fear of death, lust for power, pride, etc.), not a failing specific to his religion. Consequently, Graham becoming a ruthless villain doesn't feel like an attack on Mormonism any more than Caesar forming the Legion feels like an attack on the Followers of the Apocalypse (which it doesn't).
But it is Graham's life after the Legion that sheds light on another reason why I appreciate Obsidian's handling of Mormonism so much.
Obsidian avoids the lazy cliché of religious people being hypocritically unforgiving and intolerant.
After failing at the first battle of Hoover Dam, Caesar has Graham covered in pitch, set on fire, and thrown into the Grand Canyon. Graham, already renowned for his resilience as much as for his cruelty, survives. Stripped of power, title, and purpose, he returns to New Canaan filled with remorse for what he had become and for the shame he brought to his people.
Here again, Obsidian avoids the lazy cliché of religious people being hypocritically unforgiving and intolerant and has the Mormons of New Canaan forgiving the penitent Graham, embracing him as a returning prodigal.
I'm not sure if Obsidian was touching on the general theme of sin, repentance, and redemption common in most all of Christianity or if they looked more specifically at Mormon history, but this type of story played out repeatedly in the early history of the Mormon church. There were multiple times that high-ranking Church members betrayed Church leaders by swearing false affidavits (i.e. Mormons planned to overthrow the government) which resulted in repeated imprisonments and even near execution, only to later have the traitors return seeking forgiveness and finding it extended by a magnanimous prophet and people (see W. W. Phelps, Thomas B. Marsh, Oliver Cowdery).
Regardless of what inspired the plotline, once again I appreciated that the core Christian tenet of repentance, forgiveness, and redemption figured so prominently in the story of saint-turned-sinner-turned-saint, Joshua Graham.
As a fun side-note regarding the fictional Graham and a famous real-life Mormon, Fallout: New Vegas project lead J. E. Sawyer said in an online Q&A that one interesting aspect of Mormon history is that John Browning, inventor of the M1911 pistol, BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle), and M2 .50 Cal Machine Gun, was a Mormon from Ogden, Utah. Joshua Graham, perhaps in a show of hometown pride and religious camaraderie, seems to be quite a fan of Browning's M1911 .45 Caliber pistols.
"Elder" Bert Gunnarsson & Driver Nephi
Until I started writing this I had overlooked that Bert Gunnarsson was a Mormon (probably due to most of the Mormon-related dialogue not making the final cut of the game), but I certainly had my suspicions about Driver Nephi.
While the name Nephi will not likely carry any significance to anyone outside Utah or the Mormon Church, to those in the Church Nephi is the first author of The Book of Mormon. For Fallout players, however, Nephi is one of the three fiend leaders that NCR Major Dhatri asks The Courier to kill in the Three-Card Bounty quest.
Bert Gunnarsson, on the other hand, is a ghoul medic and Mormon working with the Followers of the Apocalypse. He can be found helping NCR Captain Parker care for the poor and needy of New Vegas at the Aerotech Office Park.
If you speak to Gunnarsson he reveals that he is ministering to the poor and needy of New Vegas and that he has some medical training from the Followers. However, the GECK (mod tool) reveals a number of lines of unused dialogue that more fully flesh out his character. In one of Bert's lines he explains that in the Church people call him "Elder Gunnarsson," the title borne by full-time missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, implying that Bert is a Mormon missionary.
Also cut from the final game was an option that allowed The Courier to ask Bert what brought him out of Utah, to which he replies, "Following a lost cause, I'm afraid. My old friend Nephi fell in with a bad crowd. Drug runners, raiders, probably worse things it's better not to dwell on. When his gang headed west, I followed. I thought perhaps I could turn him back to the Church." This obviously implies that the golf-club wielding fiend Driver Nephi is also a Mormon, albeit a seriously lapsed one.
Again, I find much to appreciate in these two characters and their stories. First of all, Bert Gunnarsson is a Swedish name. Scandanavia was the second most successful foreign mission in the early days of the Mormon church with 23,000 Scandanavian converts emigrating to Utah between 1852 and 1905. Consequently, Elder Gunnarsson may be a seventh- or eighth-generation Mormon, his ancestors perhaps dating back to those early Swedish converts. Did Obsidian know this historical tid-bit? I don't know, but their research into Mormonism so far seems to reflect a much deeper level of effort than is typically evidenced in entertainment media, so maybe they did.
Another way in which I feel Obsidian avoided a tired anti-religious cliché is in making Gunnarsson a ghoul.
In many media depictions, religious people are xenophobic and intolerant of the "other." In the Fallout universe, the group that most fits the persecuted "other" is the ghouls.
As Three Dog reminds us in Fallout 3, "For all you would-be bigots out there, ghouls are people too. See children, ghouls are simply humans who have been exposed to an ungodly amount of radiation and haven't had the good fortune to die...So if you meet one of the wasteland's many ghouls, leave your prejudice at the door, and your pistol in its holster." Three Dog reminds his listeners continuously about the unfair and apparently wide-spread anti-ghoul prejudice that exists among the humans of the wasteland. In this sense it is encouraging to see one of the only explicitly religious characters depicted as both a Mormon and a ghoul. This seems to indicate to me that the Fallout Mormons are not the xenophobic other-hating religious stereotypes featured in some media: Not only do they accept ghouls among their ranks but send them out as official representatives of the faith.
Lastly, it is poignant to me to think of this ghoul missionary following his wayward friend over 400 miles into the desert in the hopes that he might turn him from his self-destructive path.
It is poignant to me to think of this ghoul missionary following his wayward friend over 400 miles into the desert in the hopes that he might turn him from his self-destructive path.
In cut dialogue, Driver Nephi speaks ungenerously of his old friend and tells The Courier to tell Bert that he's never coming back to "his little cult." Bert admits to The Courier in another piece of cut dialogue that he was "never able to reach" Nephi, and that "drugs and hatred" have consumed him. In spite of this, it seems that Bert is determined to wait and hope for a change of heart that may lead his friend away from the fiends and toward redemption. Given that Bert is a ghoul and does not have an NCR bounty on his head, he likely knows he will outlive Nephi and seems willing to give as many of his long ghoul years as he must to offer his friend a lifeline back.
When death inevitably comes to Driver Nephi, likely at the hands of The Courier, if the player speaks to him Bert laments Nephi's passing (oddly, it would seem, given that all of the related dialog was cut) and expresses the hope that Nephi's soul is at peace.
"Elder" Bert Gunnarsson exemplifies the Mormon belief in the power of repentance and forgiveness, and that even someone as lost and sinful as the murderous Driver Nephi can be redeemed.
If you might indulge a film-based redemption analogy to further illustrate the point (*Pulp Fiction spoiler ahead*), it is as though Joshua Graham is Jules Winfield and Driver Nephi is Vincent Vega, with each of the former surviving a near-death experience and turning from their wicked ways to find forgiveness, and each of the latter persisting in their wicked ways and finding death.
Obsidian not only thoughtfully presents the concepts of repentance, forgiveness, and redemption in connection with Mormons but also the self-sacrifice, patience, and hope of the people seeking to extend those gifts to others as Mormon missionaries, like Elder Gunnarsson, work to do the world (or wasteland) over every day.
More Mormons of the Wasteland
There are a few other fair-minded Mormon Easter eggs in the Fallout universe, but they would take too long to explain and are relatively trivial compared to those presented here (but for those that are interested, see Jeremiah Rigdon, the rise and fall of New Jerusalem, Caesar's extermination order and Missouri Executive Order 44, Daniel from Honest Hearts and Ammon from The Book of Mormon).
I as a Mormon feel a deep sense of appreciation for the time and energy Obsidian clearly spent researching Mormonism historically, culturally, and spiritually.
Rather than taking the safe route in the entertainment industry of making Christianity, and especially Mormon Christianity, a punching bag or the butt of a string of jokes, Obsidian has shown that at least in post-apocalyptia, Mormons can get a fair shake.
Skip Cameron plays video games and goes to church in Boise, ID and has to make time to game before the sun and his kids are up. He posts screenshots of his adventures through the wasteland at viewfromravenrock.blogspot.com
Mar 5, 2013
Just like cats, man's best friend is a returning character in every genre. We've selected those video game dogs—from games both old and new—which are usually portrayed as companions; sidekicks who can both help us with minor tasks and save our asses in difficult situations.
Rush (Mega Man series)
Angelo (Final Fantasy VIII)
The Not-So-Awesome Dog in Duck Hunt
K.K. Slider (Animal Crossing series)
Dogmeat (Fallout 1-3)
Bladewolf (Metal Gear Rising)
Sam (Sam & Max)
Poppy (Samurai Shodown series)
Boney (Mother 3)
Our Dog in Fable II and III
Which other dog companion would you choose as the coolest? You should post your picks with visual support in the comments below.
Feb 18, 2013
Announcement - Valve