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Only an Obsidian-developed follow-up to New Vegas can save the series

The setting of Fallout: New Vegas is perfect. After being betrayed and shot in the head, you wake up in the sleepy little desert town of Goodsprings, mysteriously alive, and embark on a quest for revenge, if you choose. There’s no long-winded vault sequence, no complicated preamble. You talk to a local doctor who managed to remove the bullet from your skull, then you are released into the Mojave Wasteland and left alone. Obsidian knows that you are eager to start your adventure and he spends as little time as possible stopping you.


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You step into the desert, the archetypal western wanderer, and the vibrancy of the place hits you immediately. Fallout 3’s Capital Wasteland was a concrete wasteland of shattered buildings and twisted metal surrounded by irradiated scrub. A wasteland in the truest sense. But the Mojave, having avoided the worst of the nuclear war that ravaged North America in Fallout’s alternate timeline, is vibrant, colorful, and, in the case of the New Vegas strip, surprisingly untouched. It’s still bleak and post-apocalyptic, but not as bleakly hopeless.

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As you travel around Mojave, completing jobs, meeting people, siding with factions (or not), and generally making a name for yourself, the reputation system comes into play. In Fallout 3, your character was defined by a binary karma system, making it either Hitler or Jesus. New Vegas, on the other hand, made his reputation more important than some arbitrary moral gauge. Karma was still there, it just wasn’t that important. Becoming an ally or an enemy of the many powerful Mojave factions was more important and useful.

Befriend the Brotherhood of Steel and you’ll gain access to their haven, along with a regularly replenished stock of energy weapons and ammunition. Anger them and Veronica, one of the best companions in the game, will refuse to join you. This is something Obsidian has always been great at, and would take it to new extremes in the magnificent Pillars of Eternity series. This added layer of reactivity made New Vegas a more satisfying and nuanced RPG than Fallout 3, which revolved entirely around players being “good” or “bad”.

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This nuance extended to mission design as well. Obsidian understood that the most interesting options in video games are those in which there are bad Y good sides to them. There was hardly anything as compelling as blowing up Megaton or not blowing up Megaton in New Vegas. Morality was grayer, and the outcome of your decisions was rarely what you expected. Again, this made it a better RPG than Fallout 3, whose moral quandaries were, on the whole, far less sophisticated. Obsidian challenged you and your character on a deeper level.

There really is no question that New Vegas is the best Fallout game of the Bethesda era. Companions were rich and interesting characters, not just mindless drones blindly following you around. Obsidian understood Fallout’s deep lore in a way that Bethesda had never. all the things that were bad about it, the joke, the dead-eyed character models, the lifeless cities, were a result of the old creaky engine the developer inherited. I don’t know if Obsidian will ever follow up, but after the deeply superficial Fallout 4 we need it more than ever.

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