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I don't like the Fallout games, but the show might have made me a convert

The power of television.

A vault boy from Fallout is giving a thumbs up while winking, a blurred image of the main three characters from the Fallout show, The Ghoul, Lucy, and Maximus, can be seen in the background.
Image credit: Bethesda/ Prime Video

Before I get started, I'm going to have to ask you to put your guns down, because here's the thing: I don't really like the Fallout games. My first experience of actually playing them was with Fallout 4, which I do admit isn't the best way to start things off for a franchise that has run as long as it has, but it is what it is. I managed to make it a few hours into Fallout 4, but to be honest I just didn't vibe with it. The game did a pretty bad job at making me care about my baby, and I just felt a bit listless heading out into the wastelands. Not to mention the fact that I really didn't care for the stiff, boring shooting that becomes all the more painful when you encounter a flying enemy, V.A.T.S. or not.

Past that point, I've seen a good bit of playthroughs of both 3 and New Vegas, yet I more found people goofing around in them fun rather than actually enjoying what the games were doing themselves. When it comes to the OG, CRPG titles, well, I'm not really big on the genre except for rare instances (like Disco Elysium and my beloved Kim Kitsuragi). My partner, however, loves Fallout 4 - or, I should say they love to build bases and hang out with certain characters, they couldn't give a radroach's ass about that baby either. But their previous hyperfixations with the game have led to several info-dumping sessions that mean I'm broadly familiar with Fallout's post-apocalypse world.

Watch on YouTube

And so, I felt well-enough prepared to watch Amazon's live-action adaptation of the RPG series, even if I was expecting to come away from it a bit ambivalent. After all, what interest could I have in it when it just hasn't worked out for me so far, right down to some of the games' aesthetic choices? Surprisingly enough, though, I… actually really enjoyed the show. Shock horror, right? This series the appeal of which has long been lost on me suddenly drawing me in?

There's a few reasons why I think the show worked for me, the biggest being the fact that it has actual protagonists. I get that Bethesda's whole thing is letting you roleplay in its world, but I think the more time that goes on the more you kind of have to cheat its games to even achieve that, with mods clearly being the dominant way to experience games like Starfield or Fallout 4. But sometimes, having a clearly defined protagonist is better to tell your story, a point that, again, Fallout 4 fails on because you're forced into looking for a kid that just isn't yours, meaning you can't really roleplay how you like while on the main quest).

Fallout the show even has three protagonists to choose from; there's Lucy, the all-too trusting vault dweller on a mission to rescue her dad, you've got Maximus, a member of the fascist organisation/ religious cult the Brotherhood of Steel who you realise is just kind of a himbo, and The Ghoul, a ruthless gunslinger who's been around since before the war. They make a really strong trio of characters to follow, and once I understood what Maximus' whole deal was, I felt very compelled by all of them, even if pre-war The Ghoul is a bit too much of a true-blue capital-A American for my liking.

In fact, oddly enough they felt like they'd be appropriate protagonists of a JRPG, complete with the fact that different members rotate in and out of the party, right down to the show's version of Dogmeat. Games like Final Fantasy work so well because of how character driven they are, and I do think Western RPGs could stand to learn from that, even Bethesda (or maybe they should just let other people make games in their worlds, like the fan favourite New Vegas).

The Ghoul in particular worked so well as a main character because it allowed us to visit the past, something you rarely get to do in the Fallout games. While traditional RPGs can allow for some really fun storytelling, they do also miss out on the ability to offer other perspectives, as the player has to experience everything first-hand. With the show, though, there's the liberty of going wherever they want - or at least as far as almighty Todd Howard would let them go.

There's also the production design aspect. In an age where absolutely everything is green screened or CG, I couldn't believe how much of it was actual sets, costumes, and props. Everything felt so tactile and real in a way the MCU, for example, hasn't felt in a long time. Yeah, sure, the power armour could occasionally look a bit cheap, but I didn't care all that much. It still felt like a world I wanted to explore more.

And you know what? It's had me thinking that maybe it's about time I give the games another go. I still don't think I'll like Fallout 4, so I might give that one a miss, but there's still plenty else to check out. Hell, Fran even argues that we should all hop onto Fallout 76, though I might want to try 3 or New Vegas first just to make sure. The point is, I guess you've won, Bethesda. You made a (half) Fallout fan out of me.

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