Post-apocalyptic settings have always been popular, and it is easy to see why.
They can offer biting critiques of real-world issues, highlight the core of humanity in intriguing ways, and are open enough for each one to feel like a unique take on the genre. Add the possibility of crazy mutants or strange, and the genre is ripe for video games to explore.
It is no wonder many games are set after an apocalypse, whether one is filled with zombies or nuclear fallout. Two of my favorite series that fall under this banner are Fallout and Metro. On the surface, the two games can look very similar.
They both take place after a nuclear apocalypse, are first-person shooters, feature numerous mutants, and feature people living underground. In reality, their approaches to the genre are very different. So, I hope that with this guide, I can help clear the water for any players interested in trying.
Main Differences Between Fallout vs Metro
The main differences between Fallout vs Metro are:
- One of the core differences between these two series is how much more variety there is to be found in Fallout. Black Isle Studios developed the first three Fallout games before Bethesda purchased it. These titles are CRPGs, while the series moved to a first-person shooter after Bethesda’s purchase. Under Bethesda’s ownership, the series has also expanded to support a multiplayer survival game in Fallout 76 and a mobile strategy sim in Fallout Shelter. This allows players that are fans of the series’ setting to see it explored in different lights, whereas the Metro series has only three titles total that are all first-person narrative shooters.
- Metro‘s approach to its world and revealing it to the player is also quite different. The first two games, Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light, are both linear. There is an element of player choice in their narratives, but they are both comprised of a singular progression of levels with defined structures. Metro Exodus expanded the series to include a semi-open world approach that gives players access to one of three large maps at a time to explore freely. In contrast, Fallout has always fully embraced the freedom of open-world RPGs. Fallout players can engage with any content they choose, to the point where they don’t even have to complete a game’s main questline to have a compelling and satisfying experience.
- Fallout also grants players much more freedom in their playstyle. When players enter the wasteland of a Fallout game, they make their character, which they then define and build upon as they play through the game. They can customize their experience, build relationships with whomever they wish, and select what gear and perks they use. The series’ systems allow players to focus on firearms, melee weapons, stealth, or even explosives. Metro, on the other hand, puts players in control of a particular character in Artyom. Artyom has defined relationships through the games and goes through structured arcs of development. Players still have some choice in how they approach the game’s combat, but it is not as expansive as what is possible in Fallout.
- The two series also take different approaches when it comes to their stories. Metro is based on a fantastic book series of the same name by Dmitry Glukhovsky. The trilogy tells a sprawling connected story that rewards players for starting from the beginning and playing through them in order. Fallout, on the other hand, is an entirely original setting, with each game telling its own insulated story in a different location from others in the series. There are factions, species, and other elements that help tie all games together, but playing Fallout 4 without touching any of the others won’t mean that players are missing anything narratively.
- Metro has also proven to be much more tonally structured than Fallout. The Metro games have a particular atmosphere in which they try to immerse players. Light supernatural elements underpin a constantly struggling humanity that has found itself at the bottom of the food chain. The game’s tone is consistently tense accordingly and frequently dips into horror territory. The openness and more significant scale of Fallout give its titles the ability to support a more extensive range of tones. Some quests are humorous, others are dark, and some try to explore human psychology in strenuous situations. Each Fallout game offers a greater variety of experiences while also setting some of the responsibility of setting the tone on the player by how they interact and engage with the world.
When examining the narratives of the Fallout series, it becomes essential to break them into two distinct categories. First, there are the series’ main narratives.
These serve as the core motivation for the player’s character adventuring out into the wasteland in the first place. For mainline Fallout games other than New Vegas, the main quests favor motivating the player through a familial relation and more significant conflict in the wasteland.
For example, Fallout 3 begins with the player’s father disappearing into the wasteland, requiring the player to find him.
Then, they discover that their father is at the center of a significant effort to bring fresh water to the wasteland, effectively kick-starting what could be the beginning of humanity’s salvation.
Fallout 4 has a similar approach, but with the player’s child being taken away from them. Once the player finds their child, they discover they are at the center of a racial conflict between organic humans and a new breed of synthetic life.
They both utilize a similar hook of driving players to rescue a family member before getting involved in an event or dilemma that has sprawling consequences for the broader world of Fallout.
There is some deviation in this formula in Fallout New Vegas, which Obsidian Entertainment developed instead of Bethesda. The game’s main quest instead features the player character getting shot in the head and left for dead because of a package they were delivering.
They survive, however, and set out to get to the bottom of what happened to them and potentially get revenge.
As they do so, they get caught up in a multi-faction conflict for control of the Mojave Wasteland. While this approach to the narrative starts differently from Bethesda’s outings in the series, it still ends in the player having to solve a massive conflict that has large-scale consequences for the setting.
Then, the side quests are spread throughout each Fallout game. When it comes to Fallout sidequests, they range widely in their focus, tone, and quality.
The best sidequests give players a new look at an aspect of the wasteland and the impacts that a less civilized society has on humanity and social interactions.
Many of the series’ sidequests also emphasize player choice. Player choice plays a massive role in the narratives of Fallout, which allows the worlds of every player to reflect their character, playstyle, and choices.
These choices can be as small as whether or not to help a struggling woman feed her child or as large as saving or blowing up a town built around an atomic bomb that failed to detonate on impact.
It all serves to make players feel like they have a tangible impact on the world and that they matter in its broader fate.
As the Metro series is based on a series of books, it is no surprise that their narratives are more linear and focused. All three games follow the story of Artyom, a young man born just before the nuclear apocalypse that finds himself thrust into the geo-political struggles of the last remnants of human civilization.
Along the way, players get to know Artyom more closely while also seeing him develop and grow as a character. They watch as he falls in love, gets married, and struggles with losing those he cares about.
While Artyom’s involvement in the world of Metro carries widespread consequences, those elements serve as a backdrop for Artyom’s personal growth and development. Players may find themselves at the center of the effort to fight off the Dark Ones in Metro 2033 to save humanity.
Still, the story’s real point is Artyom’s growth in realizing how the mutated race is related to humanity, as well as the game’s themes of humanity’s innate to destroy what is different from itself when Artyom inevitably kills almost all of the Dark Ones with a bomb.
Metro employs a very linear structure to tell these more focused and character-driven narratives. Even in the larger worlds of Metro Exodus, there is a prescribed order to tackle objectives and progress through the story.
This doesn’t stop all three games from having side content for players to explore and small missions to complete, but they are much smaller than a Fallout side quest.
Instead of telling their own stories, these side objectives are either more gameplay-focused and serve to give the player more precious resources or offer a different perspective or bit of background information for the player to understand the game’s world and story better.
Some of the side elements of each Metro game also play into which ending the player gets for that playthrough. Each Metro game has two endings, one that is good and one that is worse.
The bad endings tend to be the default endings of the games, while the good endings take finding collectibles, interacting with objects throughout the playthrough, and making confident choices.
Since the three games are all connected, the good endings are always considered to be the canonical ending for the game moving forward, but they typically aren’t very different from the bad endings.
They tend to see Artyom as having a different perspective on the game’s events or include different characters dying.
When it comes to combat, Fallout is all about player choice. In Fallout games, players can select from a wide array of weapons, perks, and upgrades to define their playstyle. Any game combat encounter can be tackled differently depending on the player’s build.
This carries mixed results on the game’s combat. While it is excellent for players to have the option to build any character they can think of, it does require every combat to be universally beatable.
This means that most encounters feel the same as all others while lacking the spectacle or impact of more intricate and unique encounters.
To fully understand what is possible in the combat framework of Fallout, we need to look at all the elements players decide between. First, there is the player’s equipment. Players can equip their character with a full armor outfit, with each piece carrying different values in armor, weight, and unique aspects.
The player’s gear determines how much damage they take and how quickly they move and can increase or decrease their stats.
Players also can choose from a massive range of weapons that determine how they should approach combat. To name a few options, players can kill from a distance with a sniper rifle, sneak up on enemies and kill them with a knife, shoot wildly with a machine gun, or throw dynamite until the red dots on their radar disappear.
Weapons also fall into different categories that determine whether the player should use bladed or blunt weapons, explosives, unarmed attacks, or energy guns.
As you level up in Fallout and gather resources, you can customize and upgrade your guns to varying degrees, depending on the title. In some, you can craft attachments and upgrades that further tailor how the gun is best used on the battlefield.
The game gear is great because it encourages players to think about different approaches to their build and playthrough while encouraging experimentation. The sheer openness and variety make subsequent playthroughs much more tempting, as you can approach combat in them differently every time.
In Fallout, players also customize their characters by selecting perks and skills that make them more proficient at certain activities or weapon types.
This can even allow players to altogether avoid combat encounters by hacking turrets or robots to make the killing for them or by avoiding enemies altogether.
Once players are in combat, however, there is a lot less variety to be had. Each game has a stable of enemies for players to face, including humans and mutated creatures.
However, most of them end up feeling very similar to one another, and the AI for human enemies is rarely sophisticated enough to take full advantage of their particular combat arena, making shooting humans feel the same regardless of where you are when you’re doing it.
The linearity of the Metro games allows their combat to be very curated. While Exodus gives players the ability to approach side combat encounters with a more open approach, the majority of combat through all three games is done through complicated arenas built with specific experiences in mind.
Enemies have specified patrols, reactions, and options to combat the player, making each encounter feel like a unique puzzle that needs to be solved.
This is especially true in the first two games, which feature loads of encounters in claustrophobic subway tunnels with particular setpieces and challenges for the player to overcome.
To do so, there are two main approaches. Players can use either stealth through the game and avoid being detected or use open combat to blast their way through.
Both of these approaches have their benefits, and since there is a limited number of options for the players to pick from, the developers were able to flesh out each one thoroughly.
This is primarily done through the player’s gear. In the third Metro game, players can upgrade and change pieces of their suit for various features like a motion sensor or longer charge time on their flashlight.
In the first two games, players only have control over the weapons they bring into combat.
Each game has a solid selection of weapons to choose from, and each one can be upgraded and improved between missions. The weapons do cover a limited selection of playstyles, however.
There are shotguns, submachine guns, machine guns, and pneumatic weapons for stealth kills, alongside throwing knives and grenades.
This array of options limits the player’s options severely, but it ensures that each weapon has a distinct and vital role in the game’s combat for players to learn and accommodate.
The experience is overall more restrictive but allows the encounters to be better built around what the player can do since there are fewer options.
Combat in Metro is also extremely resource-driven. Ammunition is not easy to find, forcing players to think about whether or not engaging in a firefight is worthwhile.
If players run out of ammunition in a gun, they can load premium cartridges to help them finish the fight. Still, those cartridges are also their literal currency, making this a costly decision.
Other resources like medkits are equally rare, punishing players that play recklessly. It is also common to have to manage timed resources during fights as well.
In dark areas, flashlights and night-vision goggles have limited energy, requiring them to be charged periodically. If you’re fighting on the surface, you need to wear a gas mask with its air filters replaced to keep the air fresh.
This helps add another layer of tension and stress to combat that gives players more to consider and keep track of, keeping combat from being just clicking on heads and running forward.
While Fallout undoubtedly takes place after a nuclear apocalypse, it is more accurate to say that it is a post-post-apocalypse game.
This is because it is a world where civilization is on its way back. Governments, trade routes, factions, and more significant travel are all at play in the world.
This is partly why each Fallout game can occur in a very different location. One can be in Pittsburgh, another in Nevada, and another in Florida.
This allows each game to explore a different region of its world to show different reactions and perspectives on the event while letting the setting’s post-post-apocalypse elements tie it all together.
That’s why the Brotherhood of Steel is active across the continent, and people in vastly different locations can get news of the events in other states.
The worlds of Fallout games also rely heavily on environmental storytelling. Since the developers can never know the order that players will experience the world or whether or not certain NPCs will still be alive to dump some exposition, this form of narrative saves the day.
It allows the developers and designers to tell a story through the placement of items in the world and the appearance of the player’s surroundings, which the player can then pick up through observation.
This approach to storytelling can be very practical when done well but is also risky because some players may not take teh time to notice the stories being shown.
Showing rather than telling is always an effective way to tell stories. Players who find clues about what has happened in the world are rewarded with a very empathetic and emotional experience to explore.
The world of Metro is predicated on humanity’s struggle for survival and relevance. After the nuclear apocalypse, the surface world mainly was destroyed and left so irradiated that prolonged exposure was often fatal.
This led to the surviving sects of humanity taking shelter in the subway tunnels beneath Moscow, where they survived in the dark on mushrooms and mutated livestock.
This sees the Metro games showing a minimal area of the world, but in great detail. Every area, even in Exodus, highlights a part of society or reaction to the apocalypse, whether religious fanaticism, cutthroat individualism, or a new rise of fascism.
Combined with the world being shared between the games and steadily growing with each entry, the world of Metro feels incredibly realistic and lived in.
This is also aided in sections between missions where the player can explore the densely populated stations where people live.
These areas are filled with small details and scenes you can sit and watch to see the world in action. It is incredibly human and makes one feel for the people living through such a complex setting and period.
Bethesda’s Fallout games all feature a similar approach to DLC that even extends to Fallout 76. The series’ DLC tends to focus on expanding players’ content and options with each character. They add new areas to the map, increase the level cap, and add new equipment for players to find and experiment with.
This approach makes great sense for a series like Fallout, where players will sink dozens of hours into growing a single character.
Offering DLC that only expands that experience is a great way to let players return to old characters and play longer with new ones while also introducing fun new content like gear that can retroactively expand players’ options throughout the base game content.
Fallout‘s DLCs also tend to be built around a central theme. This could be an amusement park, a Saw-inspired gauntlet of death, or an alien invasion. This is an exciting approach as it gives each DLC a strong identity and foundation to build its content around.
However, it does run into the issue of occasionally not being universally valid for all characters. Playing through a DLC based entirely around aliens that use new energy weapons ends up feeling lackluster when your character doesn’t use energy weapons, and you don’t get any new gear.
Throughout the series, Metro‘s approach to DLC has had mixed results. The series focuses on offering DLCs for each title that offer short stories to expand the base games, offer unique game modes, or give players new challenges to complete.
The worst examples are packs that give the player generic combat trials in areas that don’t feel at home in the series, while the best are small, diverse experiences that could be standalone releases.
The story expansions are also interesting, as they are used to give different perspectives on the events of the main game’s story or to finish the stories of side characters.
These also vary wildly in quality, but their best implementation is in the two DLCs for Metro Exodus that saw the player finishing the story of two of Artyom’s friends and team members.
Regardless, Metro takes an approach to DLC that is very segregated from the main game. This is likely because of the game’s structure makes it difficult to add new content to the main game.
One consequence is that each DLC release becomes a new finite piece of content to play through and experience upon release rather than a new chunk of content to be bolted onto all current and future playthroughs.
Which is Better?
Crowning Metro or Fallout as the better title is complex because it is highly subjective. Both series aim to accomplish different things and give players different experiences. Players looking for a more exploratory and open-ended experience filled with player choice will prefer Fallout.
However, players looking for a more detailed and nuanced story set in a growing world with tailored combat experiences and challenges will likely get more enjoyment from the Metro series. I love Metro and prefer it over the Fallout series, but that is just a reflection of my taste.
Other Alternatives to Consider
- The Elder Scrolls
- The Outer Worlds
- Wasteland 3
- Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
- ATOM RPG
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl
- Resident Evil Village
- DOOM 3
Question: Are Metro and Fallout in the same universe?
Answer: No, Metro and Fallout are distinct franchises with their settings and worlds. However, they can be easy to think they are connected because of their similar genres, first-person gameplay, and aesthetic elements.
Question: How many endings do Metro games have?
Answer: Every Metro game has two endings, one being considered the canonical good ending and the other the bad ending.
Question: Is Metro like Fallout?
Answer: The two games feature similar post-apocalyptic settings and first-person gameplay, but that is where the comparisons end. Both series offer different experiences and focus, with Metro being more linear and narrative-driven and Fallout being open-ended and more of an RPG.
Fallout vs Metro Conclusion
Fallout and Metro both have a lot to offer players. For a good reason, each series has become a titan of the AAA space, and neither series thankfully shows any sign of stopping soon. So, if you’re looking for a good time after the end of the world, both series are worth picking up.