From Wasteland to Fallout: A Tale of Two Post-Apocalyptic Worlds

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In the desolate expanse of post-apocalyptic video games, two franchises reign supreme: Wasteland and Fallout.  While not directly connected by story, they’re bound by a thematic legacy that has captivated gamers for decades. Let’s trace the connections between these beloved role-playing games (RPGs) and explore how Wasteland’s DNA lives on in the irradiated landscapes of Fallout. 

Wasteland: The Pioneering Post-apocalyptic RPG 

Released in 1988, Wasteland offered players a unique blend of narrative and gameplay elements that were innovative for its time. The game was set in the year 2087, nearly a century after a nuclear war devastated Earth. Decades after the bombs fell, the remnants of the U.S. military formed the Desert Rangers, a group tasked with bringing order to the barren American Southwest. Players commanded a squad of these Rangers on a critical mission: venturing deep into the wasteland to recover vital supplies. You had to navigate the harsh realities of a post-nuclear world, facing off against mutated creatures, grappling with tough moral choices that had lasting consequences, and interacting with various factions all struggling to survive. 

What set Wasteland apart was its emphasis on choice and consequence. Players’ decisions influenced the game’s storyline, creating a sense of agency that was rare in RPGs at the time. Wasteland offered a dark humor and a focus on moral dilemmas that resonated with gamers, and its open-world structure, complex narrative, and challenging gameplay laid the groundwork for many post-apocalyptic games to come. 

Fallout: The Spiritual Successor to Wasteland 

Fallout was the brainchild of some of the same developers who worked on Wasteland. Unable to secure the rights for a direct sequel, they channeled their creative vision into a new game heavily inspired by their previous work. The 1997 release inherited Wasteland’s core themes: a post-nuclear world, player agency, and a struggle for survival. It featured a more expansive character creation system, allowing players to forge their own path in the wasteland. Fallout also added a retro-futuristic aesthetic brimming with 1950s Americana warped by nuclear devastation. The game was set primarily in Southern California circa 2161, where underground bunkers like “Vault 13” sheltered part of the population from the nuclear fallout. The player’s character, the Vault Dweller, was tasked with finding a replacement water chip to ensure the survival of Vault 13’s inhabitants. 

The gameplay mechanics in the Fallout series expanded on those from Wasteland. The SPECIAL system, which stands for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck, provided a robust character development framework. Fallout 3 introduced V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System), allowing players to target specific body parts in combat, adding tactical depth to battles. 

Connecting the Dots Between Wasteland and Fallout 

While Fallout isn’t a direct continuation of Wasteland’s story, the spiritual connection between the two is undeniable. Aside from parallelisms in setting, themes, and tone, both franchises share a core gameplay loop of exploration, combat, and decision-making. They also feature a similar assortment of factions encompassing a broad spectrum of ideologies, from paramilitary groups striving to restore order to zealous organizations worshipping nuclear energy. 

While Wasteland established the core tenets of the post-apocalyptic RPG genre—a vast, explorable world, turn-based combat with an emphasis on character skills, and branching narratives driven by moral choices—Fallout built upon this foundation, evolving into a major franchise that includes multiple sequels and spin-offs. In turn, the success of Fallout created a resurgence of interest in Wasteland, leading to a 2014 sequel, Wasteland 2, which was followed by 2020’s Wasteland 3. In honor of the original Wasteland’s 30th anniversary, Wasteland Remastered was released on February 25, 2020, and featured all-new visuals and audio. 

Games in the Fallout and Wasteland Franchises 

If you haven’t played any Wasteland or Fallout games yet, it might be time to see for yourself why these franchises have left a lasting mark on the post-apocalyptic RPG genre. Here’s a complete checklist: 

Wasteland Series 

Wasteland 

Released in: 1988 

Setting: The Southwestern United States 

Wasteland 2 

Released in: 2014 

Setting: The Southwestern United States, several years after the events of the original Wasteland 

Wasteland 3 

Released in: 2020 

Setting: Post-nuclear Colorado, where the Desert Rangers travel from their Arizona base 

Fallout Series 

Fallout 

Released in: 1997 

Setting: Southern California 

Fallout 2 

Released in: 1998 

Setting: Post-nuclear Nevada and surrounding areas, years after the first Fallout 

Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel 

Released in: 2001 

Setting: The American Midwest 

Fallout 3  

Released in: 2008 

Setting: The ruins of Washington D.C., called the “Capital Wasteland,” and surrounding areas 

Fallout: New Vegas 

Released in: 2010 

Setting: The Mojave Desert and post-apocalyptic Las Vegas 

Fallout 4 

Released in: 2015 

Setting: “The Commonwealth,” encompassing Massachusetts and including Boston, the game’s central city 

Fallout 76 

Released in: 2018 

Setting: West Virginia 

On April 25, 2024, Bethesda released a much-anticipated Fallout 4 update that included next-gen console upgrades for the game, as well as support for widescreen and ultra-widescreen PC monitors like the Acer 34" Nitro XZ2 Gaming Monitor. Fallout 4 fans can also collect new Creation Club items that include uniforms, weapon packs, and Halloween-themed decorations for your settlements. 

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About Micah Sulit: Micah is a writer and editor with a focus on lifestyle topics like tech, wellness, and travel. She loves writing while sipping an iced mocha in a cafe, preferably one in a foreign city. She's based in Manila, Philippines. 

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