The Fallout Series is a series consisting of five role playing games (named Fallout 1,2, and 3, 4 [upcoming] and New Vegas) and two more action-oriented spin offs named Tactics and Brotherhood of Steel; both of which are considered non-canon by developers and generally ignored by the players. The first two were developed by Black Isle Studios, released in 1997 and 1998, the third was developed by Bethesda Softworks of The Elder Scrolls fame and released in 2008; and New Vegas was developed by Obsidian Entertainment and produced by Bethesda in 2010. Fallout 4 is due for release in late 2015, again by Bethesda. All of the main games have been widely praised, and the franchise has a massive cult following.
All of the games revolve around player-generated protagonists in various venues of post-nuclear war United States in the years 2161 (Fallout 1), 2241 (Fallout 2), 2277 (Fallout 3, 4) and 2281 (New Vegas). The first two games take place in the California region, the third in the immediate area of Washington DC, New Vegas in the area of the Mojave Desert around Las Vegas and 4 in and around Boston, Massachusetts.
The setting of the Fallout series is in an alternate history that diverged from our own following World War II due to the rampant predictions of future technology, which were erroneous in reality, turned out to come true in this world. As a result, the dominating style of American culture stayed as it was in the 1950s, while developments in technology followed different paths resulting in robots, laser weapons, and similar elements common in traditional science fiction while real-world developments such as portable computers never came to fruition. Also kept from the 50's was the extreme (and in some/many cases justified) paranoia of Communism, particularly of a Chinese variety by the time of the eventual apocalypse. This world-state persisted up into the late 2040s, when oil supplies across the world began to run dry, and conflict broke out in the "Resource Wars", seeing the United Nations disband, fighting between the European Commonwealth and the Middle East until the oil fields ran out, and eventually, leaving America and China desperately competing for control of the Alaskan pipeline (which also caused the United States to annex Canada).
Fear of the imminent nuclear war would cause the United States to start the Vault program (see below), which was designed to build a number of underground fallout bunkers that could hold a thousand people until it was safe to recolonize the earth. However, through the machinations of the semi-shadow government Enclave, most became social experiments that were never designed to actually save their inhabitants. At the same time the American culture was on rotten stands, soon to collapse as the strain of the world began to take its toll.
All of this would become pointless on October 21, 2077, when the world slate was wiped clean in a two-hour-long nuclear bombardment that radically changed the world. It is not known who fired first, but as far as most people living in the wastes care, it doesn't matter. An undeveloped script for a Fallout movie that was never made would have revealed that the leader of Vault-Tec itself started the war in order to fulfill his own predictions of armageddon.
Immediately after the war, chaos ruled as people tried to find a place to survive the bombs. Many people either died of radiation sickness or turned into ghouls, besides the lucky few who were killed by normal methods of death. To compound onto the horrible situation, entire continents either sunk or rose, mountains were created and the entire world environment collapsed, with most of the planet turning into a barren wasteland; eventually radiation returned to the Earth in rainfall (literal "Fallout") caused even more catastrophic damage.
Common elements of the series
Super mutants are Humans who have been subjected to a government-made virus called the Forced Evolutionary Virus (FEV), which was designed to create super soldiers. It worked to a degree, with the subjects becoming stronger and tougher, but at the cost of both intelligence (with some key exceptions) and becoming aggressive to a fault. An army of super mutants led by an extremely mutated biomass called "The Master" acts as the main antagonistic faction of the first game; notably, the Master can be convinced that his plan to phase out normal humans in favor of mutants is unworkable (Super mutants are sterile), causing him to commit suicide, at the end in lieu of actually fighting him. A separate strain of Super mutants appear in Fallout 3, this group leaderless and far more innately hostile than their Western counterparts, with only two friendly individuals ever being encountered.
(See "Portrayal of America" below)
Brotherhood of Steel
The descendants of a group of soldiers and their families who, shortly before the war, declared themselves in desertion from the U.S. Army as a result of scientists using unwilling soldiers for FEV virus testing. They more or less worship technology and seek to take all advanced technology from the hands of the wastelanders, although the reason varies from simple selfishness to wanting to "protect" them from it. They are very secretive and xenophobic, and besides a few members could care less about what happens to the world unless it threatens them. This caused another, benevolent version of the BoS, seen in Fallout 3, to break away from the main organization and move to the East Coast. By New Vegas, the West Coast Brotherhood have fought a costly war with the New California Republic and lost, and are slowly dying because of their refusal to change their ways, though the player's actions have a huge potential impact on their prospects ranging from making them learn to cooperate with the NCR to outright destroying their last bunker.
The "Vaults' are/were giant underground fallout shelters ostensibly designed to each hold a thousand people comfortably until they could recolonize the planet. The exact number is unknown, but at least 115. Saving people was not actually the main concern of the Vaults' makers, as they were in actuality: social experiments of the Enclave to test various conditions on people (apparently to see how people would react during a trip across the void of space to a new home planet, a plan that never came to fruition). Some vaults were normal, some vaults had annoying but understandable test ideas while others were simply cruel.
- Vault 101: The door was never meant to be opened again, and the overseer was given omnipotent authority. This is the original home of Fallout 3's protagonist.
- Vault 12: The door was designed to not close, testing the effects of radiation on people.
- Vault 11: A social experiment where the group was to sacrifice one person every so often or they all died. When they finally did choose to say no more, there were 5 left, and it was revealed it was a test to see how long that would take and the door opened.
- Vault 43: populated by twenty men, ten woman and a panther (only mentioned in a tie-in webcomic, more-or-less as a joke)
- Vault 55/56: In the former there were no entertainment tapes at all; in the later, only tapes of a bad comedian. The latter was predicted to fail first.
- Vault 68/69 In the former, 999 woman/1 man, in the latter: 999 men, one woman.
- Vault 92: Populated largely by renowned musicians, this vault was a test bed for a white noise-based system for implanting combat-oriented posthypnotic suggestions.
- Vault 106: Psychoactive drugs were released into the air filtration system 10 days after the door was sealed.
- Vault 112: A vault populated by Vault-Tec executive Stanislaus Braun and a few others, where he tests a virtual reality program on the other residents that has degraded to him simply killing them over and over. The "good" option when encountering this scenario is to activate a failsafe that causes everyone except Braun to be permanently killed, leaving Braun trapped alone in his own personal Hell.
By the times the games take place, most of the Vaults have become long-since abandoned or are now populated only with monsters, and many serve as in-game "dungeon" complexes.
The Fallout series covers a wide variety of mature themes of interest.
Portrayal of America
The United States at the time of the apocalyptic war is portrayed as a dystopia whose destruction was probably necessary for any future American civilization to have a chance of prospering. The remnants/descendants of the elements of America's original government who contributed to causing the apocalypse, known as the Enclave, are the settings' number-one antagonistic group, though they are considered wiped out following the end of Fallout 3. At the climax of Fallout 2, the player confronts the Enclave president, a man leading the plan to use a modified FEV Virus to infect the jet-stream and "cleanse" North America of those "tainted" by radiation, which entails almost everyone outside the Enclave. In Fallout 3, the Enclave is led by "President" John Henry Eden, who is a super-computer programmed with elements of past (real) presidents' personalities and also intends to release a deadly "purifying" virus into the water supply. Notably, the highest-ranking human Enclave leader has no interest in the genocidal aspects of his president's plan, merely wanting to activate Project Purity so the Enclave could have the credit for saving Washington and begin reuniting America in its own image.
During the course of the series, a new, faithful (though far from without its flaws) attempt at recreating old American ideals rises in the form of the New California Republic, founded in-between the first two games and appearing as a relative "superpower" in New Vegas.
Fallout 2 was one of the first video games to include same-sex marriage attainable by the player, specifically resulting from a forced wedding that is a consequence of illicit seduction of either of two bisexual characters, both offspring of a local butcher. As spouses, both of these characters are a useless burden in-game and very hard to get rid of. This scenario is also the only instance of any marriage at all being attainable by the in-game player characters.
Fallout: New Vegas includes perks which establish the player character as homosexual and allow special dialogue options constituting gay flirting, seduction, etc. These perks, like their heterosexual counterparts, also increase combat effectiveness against enemies by gender; due to there being considerably more male opponents in the game than female, this technically means that playing as a homosexual male character is measurably advantageous compared to its alternatives (not that the player is required to engage in any sexual behavior at all, mind you).
Racism and sexism as we know them are almost nonexistent in this post-apocalyptic setting, but bigotry has lived on primarily in the form of discrimination against the physically zombie-like but behaviorally normal mutants known as ghouls. This is caused in large part by confusion between "normal" ghouls and their further-degraded counterparts known as "feral ghouls", who are legitimately mindless monsters, and the notion that all ghouls will eventually turn feral, even though the presence of ghouls who have been around since the apocalypse (ghouls are biologically immortal) suggests otherwise. One particular plotline in Fallout 3 revolves around a group of ghouls trying to gain access to a bigoted community known as Tenpenny Tower; however, should the player help the ghouls, it will be revealed that their particular group is genuinely evil, and just as hostile to normal humans as the likes of Tenpenny are to their kind, and they will murder the other residents of the tower. There is no actual "good" resolution to this quest.
All of the Fallout games feature drugs or "chems" as usable in-game items. These provide positive immediate effects while also carrying the risk of addiction with each use, which is very hard to get rid of once it has been acquired in-game. Myron, a character in Fallout 2 who creates a particularly insidious new drug called "Jet", is portrayed as one of the most despicable characters in the entire series.
A notable exception is the character of the once-villainous Joshua Graham, who converted to Mormonism following a near-death experience wherein he survived being lit on fire and thrown into the Grand Canyon after failing as military leader of the cruel organization Caesar's Legion, and has since been a heroic protector and preacher for the peaceful tribe known as the Dead Horses.
Genetic experimentation is portrayed very negatively in the series and is the practice responsible for creating the monsters known as Deathclaws, creatures derived from chameleons who are some of the most vicious enemies in the series. New Vegas introduced the equally-dangerous Cazadores, derived from the tarantula hawk, and the somewhat less-severe Nightstalkers, hybrids between coyotes and rattlesnakes.
The evils of Transhumanism are explored in New Vegas' Old World Blues expansion, which features a group of scientists that have reduced their bodies to brains inside robotic apparatuses to achieve immortality, and are responsible for the aforementioned Cazadores and Nightstalkers, among other aberrations.