Fallout 3 History and Overview

Fallout 3 was, for many, their first taste of the post-apocalyptic-themed drug that is the Fallout universe. This title is the first published in the ‘modern’ era of gaming. In other words, the first of the franchise to be published post the normalization of everyone and their dog having a personal gaming system in their own home.

The new and very wealthy publisher behind the title didn’t hurt either when it came to getting this game into the hands of as many people as possible. Yes, this is also the first title to be published by Bethesda instead of Interplay or their RPG-specific arm, Black Isle Studios. This places the launch of Fallout 3 in 2008 after Bethesda purchased the license and IP from the struggling Black Isle Studios in 2007 for $1.75 million.

This would prove to be a very wise investment from Bethesda right from the off, as the title sold a staggering 4.7 million copies worldwide in the quarter following the games initial release. However, the profits for this title did not stop there. Ever since the title’s popular release, any new rumors or publishing’s in this franchise drive fans wild for the original recipe, resulting in huge spikes in the game’s popularity. Take, for example, the announcement of Fallout 4 in 2015.

This announcement resulted in a sales spike of up to 1000% for Fallout 3. This spike, combined with all previous sales, resulted in Electronic Entertainment Design and Research, an industry research firm, estimating a total global sales of 12.4 million copies.

One thing I personally have heard from people trying to get in on the hype of the Fallout series is just where to start? For some people, the idea of accessing a franchise title on its third or fourth iteration can be a little bit daunting. Not knowing the history or lore in a game that so heavily focuses on dialogue cues etc, may be part of this reasoning also.

The complexity of the world which Fallout 3 drops their main character could be explained better for those on the outside looking in and those that only have surface knowledge of the game. To that end, this guide will take a look at the history of the Fallout universe up to and including the events of Fallout 3. If this sounds of interest to you, then have a seat, power down your Pip-Boy, and enjoy the ride!

History of a World on Fire

The Great War was the kicking-off point for everything the world has become in the Fallout universe. Unlike the real-life World War 1, also known as the Great War, this conflict did not earn its name due to its duration. No, instead, this war earned its name for the sheer devastation which it inflicted on the world.

It lasted no longer than two hours, with the first bomb being dropped on American soil in New York at 9:42 AM EST. Yet, the thermonuclear detonations that took place left behind the world we have all explored at one point or another during the franchise’s run. This nuclear devastation was caused by the butting of heads between America and China over the dwindling resources on the planet from 2066 until 2077, when China released the opening salvo, which doomed the world.

One harrowing yet poignant detail the developers included within Fallout 3 is the clocks, particularly the time when they all stopped. Within the wasteland, the player can often find clocks that have stopped roughly 5 minutes after the first bomb fell – 09:47 AM EST, the time the earth’s communication structure went silent.

great war fallout 3

Therefore, this Great War pushed the majority of living life on the planet to near extinction, accept cockroaches, and everyone knows they can survive anything. The few things that were able to survive above ground, through the nuclear explosions and subsequent radiation storms, were greatly mutated and changed into creatures almost entirely alien to the world before the bombs fell. These include super mutants, ghouls, mirelurks, and so many more hideous creations.

However, some humans did make it into the safety of nuclear bunkers, similar to the air raid shelters built during WW2. These facilities had to be constructed to host its populace for months instead of overnight. From the face of it then, one could be forgiven for thinking that the humans who actually made it into one of these facilities, called Vaults, were the lucky ones. However, in an odd comment on capitalism from the developers, this was not the case.

You see, these Vaults, unlike the air raid shelters built for previous world wars, were built by a private company called Vault-Tec (they didn’t have a great naming department clearly). Vault-Tec was founded as early as 2031, but their creations seemed laughable during the decade before the bombs were released. It seems that many people in the world simply could not comprehend the inevitability of the upcoming war.

However, people still signed up out of fear or ego; who knows. No matter the reasoning for their signing up, these people did not get what they expected after escaping nuclear fire topside. It is perfectly demonstrated in the prologue to Fallout 4, wherein we see our main character barely surviving a nuclear blast, taking relief in their entry into a vault.

However, this relief was only allowed for a brief moment until the true face of Vault-Tec revealed itself. This company was and is still not there to help out the people of America or the wasteland. Instead, they wished to use these captive populations to run science experiments previously unallowed due to that pesky government and their so-called laws. This is where many of the Fallout universe stories begin, including Fallout 3.

Fallout 3: Who and Why?

The main character in Fallout 3, often called the Lone Wanderer, grew up in a vault as the game allows you to take control of them through various milestones. However, this character was not born inside a vault. It is odd when one considers that many vaults in the Fallout universe, including vault 101, wherein the character eventually grows up, have continued to stay isolationists in fear of the outside world, its physical threats, and radiation.

Instead, the Lone Wanderer was born at Jefferson Memorial on July 13th, 2258, to parents James and Catherine. As seen in the opening prologue, your mother would die during the birth, thus leaving one sole parent to raise the future protagonist of our story.

Therefore, this death prompted James to take his infant savior of the wastes underground into the safety of the vaults, abandoning the project he had been working on at Jefferson Memorial named Project Purity. The exact reason James traversed the wastes to enter Vault 101 specifically is unknown.

I mean, I could think of more dangerous things somebody interested in the protection of a baby could do, but it would take me some time. Still, you could speculate that this vault may have been chosen for the very fact that it was set up as an experiment into the results of an extreme isolationist culture, thus protecting the child all their life.

Soon after arriving, James begins working in the vault as a physician, seemingly haven forgotten life outside the vault. At this time, you get to see little glimpses of your childhood up until your father suddenly vanishes from the vault. Therefore, this departure leads you to leave the vault via any means necessary to find your father, make sure he is safe, and get answers as to why he left you.

After many trials and tribulations, you eventually find your father and learn that he had been working on a project called Project Purity before your birth. The sole goal of which, in the words of your father’s research partner and particularly unhelpful NPC, Maddison Li, was “Fresh, clean water for everyone.” Such a simple idea, and yet so impossible to realize. The plan was to build a facility that could purify all the water in the Tidal Basin at once. No radiation, no muck, just clean water.”

However, once you have played through the game a couple of times, you will realize that the reasoning for your father’s disappearance could probably have been deciphered before you even found him. Through the opening section of the game, the player recited a bible quote by James while being told it was their mother’s favorite.

Quoting revelation 21:6, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end. I shall give unto him who is athirst the fountain of the waters of life freely.” This verse was not just a clue; it was also the inspiration behind the project, dating back long before the initial start date in 2257. 

So, to realize this vision, your father had apparently begun working on the project almost immediately after entering the safety of the vault and had stayed until he couldn’t wait anymore. Therefore, after finding your father, the player must help him complete his project.

This means battling your way through a multitude of wasteland horribleness, along with a Paramilitary like fascist force that has risen to power in the absence of the official US government, the Enclave. However, through the power of the other main faction in the game, the Brotherhood of Steel, and the Lone Wanderers’ ability to load quick saves at just the right moment, they don’t stand a chance.

Who Are the Brotherhood of Steel?

The Brotherhood of Steel (BoS) that we meet in Fallout 3 are not exactly the same organization we have met at this point in the other Fallout games. This East Coast chapter of the BoS was, in fact, set up by a somewhat black sheep of the military organization, Elder Owyn Lyons, in 2255. This, therefore, led the East Coast chapter of the organization to use the name Lyons’ Brotherhood of Steel as they operated in an identifiably different manner.

However, the Lone Wanderer mostly deals with a particular unit of this organization, named the Lyons’s Pride. This unit is made of the elite BoS soldiers and is led by Owyn Lyons daughter Sarah. Their primary duty is to suppress the actions and movement of the super mutants in the Washington DC area and any other particularly difficult missions which may dawn. Therefore, this faction is billed as the good side versus the evil of the fascist enclave soldiers.  

Who Are the Enclave?

The Enclave can be seen as something similar to the Illuminati in today’s world of conspiracy theories. They were not only seated in the highest levels of the US government before the war, but they also helped to run the country from the shadows. This was revealed in Fallout 76 by a machine called MODUS or Multi-Operational Directions and Utility System; as the player reads, “Our members were once the puppet masters of the United States, quietly pulling strings at every level of power in the nation.”

From this, you can probably see how this mighty yet secret organization can make for a wonderful bunch of antagonists. Especially by the time, we reach Fallout 3, many players who have continued on from Fallout 2 recognize the Enclave as the epitome of evil.

The Enclave, as well connected and powerful as they were, had been aware of a possible nuclear Armageddon; therefore, they had been able to siphon millions of both government and corporate money into several contingency plans with the main goal being the survival of the organization post the Great War. These pre-prepared sites included the oil rig the then-American president fled to and facilities such as Raven Rock, which the Lone Wanderer may or may not need to pay a visit during Fallout 3. With all of this in mind, I should point out that the overall goal of all this preplanning was so that the organization could keep pushing forward their war machine well after the American government was gone, even after American had been totally unwritten.

This is why they hold such opposition to Project Purity. The liberation of water to the dehydrated masses in the capital wasteland does not help them with this goal. Their relatively small size, when compared to other factions in the capital wastes, results in their dependence on their technology and superior planning. Still, if the water is proliferated and the masses can rise up, their power may be questioned.

Commonly Asked Questions

Question: Can you return to Vault 101?

Answer: After the lone wanderer leaves the vault, certain scenarios allow them to go back in. However, the warmth of their reception may come down to how you left things. For instance, in many scenarios, the player can pick up a distress signal emanating from the vault when they walk close enough to the vault’s entrance. This signal will be from Amata and can prompt the player to return to the vault, helping her escape.

Question: How many DLCs are there in Fallout 3

Answer: Fallout 3 was the first title in the franchise to be released, with further content added at a later date. This DLC was obviously not free. Therefore, it was in the developer’s interest to produce as many extra content packs as possible whilst the market was still crying out for more. In total, there were 5 DLCs published for Fallout 3.
• Operation Anchorage
• The Pitt
• Broken Steel
• Point Lookout 
• Mothership Zeta

Read also: Comprehensive Guide to Fallout 3 DLCs.

Question: Can you continue playing Fallout 3 if you complete the main storyline?

Answer: In true Fallout style, once you complete the main storyline, the curtain is drawn, and no more story is forthcoming to the player. With this in mind, the player should always save at a suitable period and place before commencing with the final mission to ensure that, when they complete it and are pushed back to this save, they are happy enough to continue onto the other side quests/DLCs available. That being said; however, there is one exception to this rule.

The DLC, Broken Steel, continues directly after Fallout 3s final battle. Therefore, with this mod installed, the player can continue playing post the original endpoint of the base game. However, you could then argue that the DLC simply shifts this endpoint further down the road, with the same thing occurring at the end of this DLC.

So, there you have it. A brief history of the Fallout history until the opening chapters of Fallout 3 and a little sneak peek of what’s in store for anyone brave enough to risk their necks in the middle of the highrise capital buildings against the worst the wasteland can throw at them. Well, better you than me. Good Luck!

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