Gamers went crazy when Fallout 4 was officially announced earlier this summer. I’m excited as well—but no matter how much I love this series, I’ll be disappointed if the newest Fallout game doesn’t address this one, crucial thing.
The Fallout games put you in the shoes of an anonymous protagonist surviving in the United States some time after a nuclear war. The settings often explore pieces of American civilization that have been decimated and turned into a wasteland of scattered and broken remnants. Game developer and publisher Bethesda, famous for games like Skyrim, took over on the Fallout games in the mid-oughts, releasing Fallout 3 as their first entry in the series. Thanks to that and a sequel/spin-off called Fallout: New Vegas, the series has since become a flagship franchise for the company, and one of the most beloved in all of gaming.
A bunch of awesome details about Fallout 4 have dropped already and speculation has been rampant over what will and won’t be included in the game. It’s still too early to grasp the depth of what fans can expect, but nonetheless, there is one smoking hot detail from the series so far that I believe can’t go unmentioned: an orbital satellite and weapon of mass destruction known as Archimedes II.
It all started in a side story in Fallout: New Vegas at a solar power plant known as HELIOS One. The protagonist is tasked with restoring the plant to working condition in order to provide energy to the surrounding area. Things already begin to look sketchy when the protagonist is told that a group known as the Brotherhood of Steel, preservers of military technology, were driven away from the place and wouldn’t give it up without a fight. As the protagonist explores HELIOS One, records found in the plant make constant reference to a top secret project. Upon restoration of the plant, the player is given the choice of activating the plant to provide power to the surrounding communities, or diverting that power to Archimedes II. Activating Archimedes II treats the player to a sequence of lasers raining down from the heavens that end with an enormous light beam decimating the targeted area.
To understand why that one side story among all the many tales told in the Fallout games matters, it’s important to understand how history and continuity are used in the series. These games are absolutely rich in lore, ranging from their extensive depiction of recorded history to in-game urban legends, rumors, and hearsay. There are things that constantly show up in Fallout games, such as the aforementioned Brotherhood of Steel and their zealous dedication to the collection and preservation of old military technology, and the Enclave and their mission to re-harness control of the remnants of humanity under a governmental reign. There are communities and events in the Fallout universe that don’t necessarily end because one of the games does. The series keeps a sense that this post-war apocalyptic world is constantly moving and growing, even between games.
Even as the world of Fallout expands in new games, it isn’t afraid to make references to its earlier outings. The Brotherhood of Steel and the Enclave are big examples, but even smaller story beats that played a role in previous entries make appearances in new ones. There’s a joke in the first two Fallout games, released in 1997 and 1998, respectively. In the original the protagonist searches for a special device, a sole “water chip,” that will restore precious water purification in their post-apocalyptic community. In Fallout 2, a different protagonist can find a room packed full of thousands of water chips—and in the sequel, they’re more or less useless. Likewise, one particular venture in Fallout 3 has the protagonist searching for a Garden of Eden Creation Kit. This same device was sought by the protagonist in Fallout 2 for its supposed ability to terraform and bring vegetation back to a post-war nuclear landscape.
That kind of detail-oriented continuity is one thing that Fallout players really love about the series. So how does this tie into the Archimedes II? You see, regardless of how the player guides the protagonist through the events of Fallout: New Vegas—whether they activate the weapon satellite or not—the Archimedes II is never destroyed or otherwise removed. It’s still floating in space waiting to be activated. Even further, it’s pretty clear that the protagonist was hardly the only person in Fallout: New Vegas to become aware of its existence. That means that records or knowledge of Archimedes II should exist in the continuing lore of the Fallout series, even if only through the Brotherhood of Steel soldiers who were attempting to control the plant that powered the weapon.
Think about it: an unreachable weapon of mass destruction that can be directed to fire anywhere on the surface of the Earth exists in the Fallout universe. In many ways, this relatively inconsequential Fallout: New Vegas side story established what amounts to an ultimate weapon. And as the player, you can even get a handheld targeting device that lets you direct the satellite’s incredible laser beam anywhere you want.
In a different game, that might have been the entire plot: stop this weapon of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands. But the Fallout series has been punctuated repeatedly by powerful and/or insane people with schemes to bring about their perfect vision of controlled utopia in the post-war wasteland. All it would take would be for a new antagonist to be written with knowledge of the Archimedes II and resources to utilize it, and this side quest takes on new importance. That kind of continuity is crucial to this series, and I think the Archimedes II is too big to be ignored going forward.
With its rich backlog of material to draw from, you can bet that Fallout 4 will continue the trend of calling back to old ideas even while it introduces new ones to the series’ iconic wasteland. The Archimedes II is just one of many concepts they could revisit, but leaving such a grandiose plot element by the wayside would be an absolute waste.
T.J. Denzer is a San Antonio-based writer and junkie for the art of storytelling in all forms. Some of his interests include creative writing, gaming, and attempting to convince his wife that pro wrestling is the truest human drama. You can find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.
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