The Blend of Old and New That Made Fallout: New Vegas Great
Sometimes it doesn’t take creating something radically new to make something better. Sometimes, all you need to do is to take what you know works and refine as close to perfection as you can get. Bethesda had changed the Fallout universe drastically when they released Fallout 3. When the next project came to Obsidian Entertainment’s hands, they could have reinvented the wasteland again. However, what they did instead was far more novel. They took a thing that everybody loved and attempted to make it better. The result was a trip to the wild western wastelands of the Mojave. It was on this day in 2010 that Obsidian released Fallout: New Vegas, taking what Fallout 3 had established, and making it into one of the best action-RPG systems out there.
The development and creation of Fallout: New Vegas was a curious circumstance. Bethesda licensed the right to create Fallout 3 from Interplay Entertainment in 2004 and bought the rights to the IP outright in 2007. Bethesda’s Fallout 3 was a success, but there had been another version in the works before these acquisitions happened from Black Isle Studios, the makers of Fallout 2. Years later, as chance would have it, Bethesda wanted to make a new Fallout, but much of the studio was working on The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. As a result, they turned towards Obsidian Entertainment, which was founded by key members of Black Isle Studios and Interplay. Fallout: New Vegas fell to the hands of Josh Sawyer, who had been directing Black Isle’s version of Fallout 3 before it was canceled.
Sawyer and his team took it upon themselves to create a game that was both a proper follow-up to what Bethesda had created with the official Fallout 3 and what the team had envisioned years before. The journey went back to the west of the United States, similar to settings of Fallout and Fallout 2. Moreover, Sawyer took the opportunity to dust numerous concepts and prepare them for this new project. Originally, the team wanted to create a game set between the events Fallout 2 and Fallout 3 in the Las Vegas area order to get closer to these concepts, and although Bethesda rejected the idea for the timeline, they gave the go-ahead for use of the setting.
Fallout: New Vegas puts players in the role of a courier who was tasked with delivering a special package to the ramshackle city of New Vegas, the bastion of civilization in the Mojave. Along the way, the courier is ambushed, shot and left for dead. When the player comes to, they find themselves in the friendly town of Goodsprings and are given the lay of the land, including information about an ongoing war between the armies of the New California Republic and the savage Caesar’s Legion for New Vegas and the nearby Hoover Dam --- the greatest source of power in the area. Turns out whatever the courier was carrying was pinnacle to the conflict. Once the courier gets their bearings, they embark on a journey to the center of the conflict, as well as getting vengeance on the man who tried to assassinate them.
With Fallout: New Vegas, though Obsidian used many of their original concepts for the game’s story, such as the New California Republic and Caesar’s Legion, the gameplay was a close evolution of Fallout 3’s systems. Where Fallout 3’s combat relied almost entirely on the V.A.T.S. system to create RPG-style dice roll engagements, Obsidian focused on creating a game that both made V.A.T.S. better and allowed players to do more without it as well. Iron sights, better aim mechanics and numerous attacks and animations with various weapons allowed players to fight without V.A.T.S. viably for the first time in Fallout history. Moreover, skills played much greater roles, not just in abilities and combat specializations, but also in dialogue. Companions, factions, reputation and quests were also further expanded with numerous changes to control and direction.
Obsidian chanced upon rectifying something that had been taken away years before when they were originally working on Fallout 3. Fallout: New Vegas was a creative journey through a world strife with war and conflict many years after the bombs had dropped. The land may be barren, but it is fertile in the lore of the NCR, Caesar’s Legion, the influences of the remnants of western civilization and more. Moreover, Obsidian remained faithful to fans of Fallout 3, not deconstructing what was enjoyable, but rather building something greater upon it in almost every way. Everything together makes Fallout: New Vegas one of the richest and most packed RPG experiences out there even today.