It’s been 20 years since Fallout: A Post Apocalyptic Role Playing Game first appeared onto computers, and since then the series has TRAVELLED. It’s not been content to stay on the West Coast of America, with different areas and different regions opening up as the series has progressed.
But what’s the best one? What’s the game area that, above all, is superior?
My criteria for this list is either the main area where a game is set, or areas added onto the main map either through DLC or through travelling off-map (though there’s only two of these). Also sorry, Van Buren doesn’t count.
So that’s the rules, LET’S GO!
NOTE: Spoilers for pretty much all Fallout games below.
Frankly Who Knows – Fallout Shelter
I’m putting this at the bottom because who knows where Fallout Shelter is set, your followers seem able to range far and wide across half the US. You see familiar names from Fallout 4, but other places also pop up every so often and you’ll come across characters that span the whole series.
It’s almost as if Fallout Shelter is throwaway and non-canon, BUT THAT CAN’T BE TRUE TODD, CAN IT TODD? TODD ARE YOU LISTENING?
Mothership Zeta – Mothership Zeta
Aliens have been a part of the Fallout universe since its inception and actually going on board a spaceship should’ve been an event. Instead it’s just tonally at odds with Fallout, and doesn’t feel like it has a place in the series. Aliens in Fallout should be kept to the periphery, something hinted at or left to strange encounters in the desert, not front and centre as the stars of their own DLC.
Alaska – Operation: Anchorage
Operation: Anchorage feels like a lost opportunity, to step back into a previous age before the bombs fell, but it’s just a series of corridors in the ice and that’s all you get. A promise, thankfully, a later Fallout game took better advantage of.
Lonesome Road – Lonesome Road
What you learn in Lonesome Road makes this DLC important for the wider narrative and the personal narrative of the Courier but the area you pass through just feels a bit flat. It’s nothing but a straight line, which as we saw in Operation: Anchorage is Fallout at its worst. Fallout is always meant to be about choice and exploration, and when the games deny you that, you really miss out. Lonesome Road is set in a dreary area, and never really presents you with anything interesting, at least in the setting itself.
Slightly More Southern California – Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel
Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel is set slightly further South than Fallout, and some almost familiar names crop up when you’re adventuring about. The problem with the setting for this game is that really all the life is sucked out of it, it’s just a backdrop for smacking mutants about instead of something that makes you think, something that’s interesting. Taking place in places like ghoul-infested Los and The Crater, it’s fine? I suppose? Just nothing special.
Zion National Park – Honest Hearts
Finally we’re onto playgrounds again, and areas with space to explore. Zion National Park is a place inhabited by small tribes and it’s rich for exploration. ‘But Alex’ you ask, ‘why is it so low down?’
Cos it’s ugly. It’s really not Fallout at its prettiest and yes, while that shouldn’t matter, it kinda does here. It’s just not a great place to exist in and frankly I cannot remember a single time I’ve played New Vegas where I haven’t blasted through this DLC as quickly as possible.
Adams Air Force Base – Broken Steel
You don’t spend a huge amount of time at Adams Air Force Base but it’s an excellent area to end the Fallout 3 story in. It’s nothing too special, but it’s solidly built and does what you need from it. It’s the Ronseal of areas, does exactly what it says on the tin. Can’t begrudge it, can’t love it either. It’s good! It’s fine! I’ve run out of things to say about it!
Poseidon Energy Oil Rig – Fallout 2
The end of your Fallout 2 journey will take place on the Enclave controlled Oil Rig, and it’s a good place to learn about the Enclave, who they are, what they want, and more. The problem with this area is that it’s quite generic once you’re inside, it feels suitably adventurous to travel there, but once you’re there and especially if you have decent speech skills it’s just another place to run about in and chat to people, with little threat until you come face to face with the last boss of the game.
Nuka-World – Nuka-World
Nuka-World’s a great place to visit but you wouldn’t want to stay there. Simply because whilst there’s a lot to do there – and there’s a lot, there’s not much to do of meaning there. But this isn’t about doing stuff, it’s about the area itself! Nuka-World is the Fallout equivalent of Disneyland, mascots and all, and it’s a fun place to see if nothing else. It’s just a little lightweight, but then isn’t that perfect for a Disneyland-a-like?
Chicago and the Midwest – Fallout: Tactics
This could be a good setting and it could be something to really explore and dig your teeth into, but the problem is due to the game being a mainly combat focused spinoff you’re not really given chance to see the area. This was the first time we’d seen a new setting for Fallout after the initial two, and it’s got an interesting setup (tribals joining the Brotherhood of Steel? OUTRAGEOUS!) but since you don’t get to do much outside of fighting, you just don’t see much of the area. It’s a shame and again, a bit of a wasted opportunity.
The Pitt – The Pitt
If grime is your thing then the remains of Pittsburgh are for you. This is where you go if nowhere else will take you, this is where you’ll go if you’re mutating rapidly and need a safe shelter. This is where you go if you’re scum and you want to join up with some other scum. It’s an irradiated nightmare of a town but one that hides riches. The only reason that this isn’t further up the list is that it’s a bit empty, a bit small, a bit…grim. Fallout is grim, but it often balances grimness with light, or with humour. The Pitt is just grim.
The Island – Far Harbor
A mysterious fog shrouded island lurking in the fog with mysteries and more fog. It’s a good place to be and it’s definitely shrouded in fog and mysteries. It’s really atmospheric and has a very 1950s-horror-film-vibe to it, but even with all that it’s not very Fallout. It feels like a sideshow to the main Fallout adventures, and while you might need a breather, I’m not sure if The Island has a place in Falloutery.
Point Lookout – Point Lookout
Point Lookout’s a similar place to The Island, except with a bit less fog. Filled with mutant hillbillies it’s a dangerous but again, extremely mysterious place filled with…radioactive swamps. Look if you’re looking for a holiday, avoid Point Lookout, but for some reason it feels a little bit more Fallout-y than The Island does, despite it sharing a lot of the same DNA.
The Big Empty – Old World Blues
ALRIGHT TIME FOR CONTROVERSY
Why isn’t this number 1? Simple, whilst it’s mainly a brilliant setting (and I do mean brilliant, the jokes, the science experiments, the links to other New Vegas DLC), but it has one main issue. The actual area, outside of the ruins, the Big MT itself, is pretty sterile apart from being filled with absolutely horrible robots, deranged humans, and creepy skeleton-filled suits. It feels like half of it works, and really works, and half of it just doesn’t. It’s just a bloodbath outside, and while the combat may be what some people are there for, it never added up to a really great time for me.
BEGIN HATE MAIL
The Capital Wasteland – Fallout 3
The Capital Wasteland is a great setting for a game, it has lots to do in it, it has varied and interesting areas, and it’s home to a variety of people that give you quests and make you think about their motivations and what they’re up to.
So why isn’t it higher?
Because of two reasons. Firstly it’s just too small and too packed with interesting things, it feels more like a theme park than a cohesive world. It feels like you can’t take five steps without falling over a superhero fight or a secret hive of vampires. It’s just too busy.
The other reason is that the earlier Fallout games showed people getting it together a bit, they were out after the bombs had fallen and were trying to rebuild their lives. All that’s thrown away in the Capital Wasteland, apart from a couple of tiny outposts humanity is stuck in the dark ages, and that feels a bit like a step back after the previous games.
The Commonwealth – Fallout 4
Oh no I put a Fallout 4 thing about a Fallout 3 thing.
But it’s true, if nothing else for setting alone, The Commonwealth is a better place to exist in. It’s more varied than the previous game and it’s got that little bit of space, or feels like it, to make it feel like a world that could possibly exist. People also seem to be banding together a bit more, making a go of it, recovering their lives. It’s just that little bit more hopeful than the previous game’s setting, and I appreciate that.
Sanctuary Hills – Fallout 4
For people who’ve played Fallout for twenty years, getting to see the world before the bombs fell is something to be treasured. Operation: Anchorage had a go at this, but kept the action to a small part of Alaska. Seeing a bit of the world, even if it’s mainly a street, a house, a hill, is an opportunity that any Fallout fan will jump at. Thankfully it doesn’t disappoint, the setting has that retro-futuristic 1950s Americana feel down perfectly, and it sets up the rest of the game, when you see it in ruined, perfectly.
Sierra Madre Casino – Dead Money
You know how I was saying I liked a hopeful tone? Well that’s not here in Dead Money! The Sierra Madre Casino is a mixed bag, inside it’s smooth and filled with holograms and gambling (and a heist), outside it’s a cross between Silent Hill and Battle Royale. Both though are woven through with messages, morals, meanings, making you look at yourself and your character’s reasoning. Have no doubt about it, this is Fallout at its absolute grimmest, but out of it you can still find some light. The area is fascinating, layers of history laid on top of each other, and even if you don’t have a great time there you’ll probably have a valuable time.
Tranquility Lane – Fallout 3
What’s better than seeing the world pre-nuclear war? Seeing it pre-nuclear in black & white filled with people who are tortured minds being captured for eternity of course! Tranquility Lane is the twisted imaginarium of a madman genius, and it’s wonderful to explore. It gives you a bit of that pre-nuclear war taste, whilst mixing it with classic American TV, and slasher horror (if you go down that route). It’s one of those places where quest design and world design meet each other perfectly, and for that reason it’s one of the best settings in the game.
A Bit More North Than Southern California – Fallout 2
You all know I think Fallout 2 is the pinnacle of the Fallout series, as I said here. I, however, don’t think the world that the game is set in is *quite* as good as some other areas.
Simply because at times, it can take itself a little too frivolously, and whilst its highs are so, so high, as a cohesive whole world it doesn’t necessarily hang together so well. Look at Redding, a little mining town plagued by Wanamingos. And it’s not…great. To be honest it could be cut from the game and nothing really would be lost. San Francisco feels half finished and the Hubologists is just one long Scientologist joke. I love the game, but the world? Not quite as much.
It’s third because of New Reno, that area is so good it drags the rest up.
Southern California – Fallout
Ah, where it all began. This is second on the list simply because the world has a sense of adventure to it, of exploration. Whilst other games may take you to unfamiliar places, only the original Fallout takes you to an unfamiliar world. When you played this 20 years ago you knew nothing of the Brotherhood of Steel, of the Vaults, of the FEV, you just knew you had to get a water chip to save your friends.
It expands out, leading you from place to place until you build a big picture of the world you’ve found yourself in. It also feels vaguely hopeful, whilst there’s a lot of bad out there, humanity is genuinely trying to recover. Small settlements are being founded by dazed survivors and ex-vault dwellers, and they’re building a new world. It’s wonderful to see and be a part of, and that’s why Fallout’s original setting is the second best one.
Mojave Wasteland – Fallout: New Vegas
Why’s the Mojave Wasteland the best setting in my view? Because it feels like a real place. There’s a lot of nothing in the Mojave Wasteland, a lot of walking and a lot of desert. Y’know what else is like that?
That’s right, the Mojave Desert.
It feels real because it’s largely modelled on real places in and around the Mojave Desert, Goodsprings is real, the Dino at Novac is real, and so on. Whilst it’s not 100% realistic, it feels like a place that people could exist in, and it’s big enough to feel like individual settlements are actually individual, instead of a semi-conurbation like in Fallout 3.
OK yes, it’s not perfect, there’s about 4 people in New Vegas itself and the New Vegas Strip is 3 metres long, but the actual Mojave Wasteland is amazing. It takes my breath away to this day, and starting a game of New Vegas and seeing all that…nothing…stretch away, makes me itch to be out there.
So there you go, that’s what I think are the best, and worse, Fallout series settings. Disagree with me? Let me know in the comments below!