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If Fallout 5's going to set the world on fire, Bethesda should head north of the border

If Bethesda wants to take the Fallout series to the next level with its next game, why not look to the US' polite – but no less fascinating – neighbour?

A Vault Boy from the Fallout series stands with his thumbs up over a faded Canadian flag and the blown-up wastes of a North American area.
Image credit: VG247

I recently asked the Fallout community what they might personally want to see from Fallout 5, whenever it arrives. All of their ideas were very cool, and got me thinking about what I - another Fallout fan - might want from the game too. So, here’s another pitch:

Picture the scene. You’re an anonymous member of a merchant caravan wandering along the highway. The leader of the group - your usual bottlecap-hoarding used car salesman type, you know, the kind of guy who might sell you a malfunctioning laser pistol by ‘accident’ - is telling you how much he’s looking forward to kicking back with a drink when you reach your destination.

"Ronto", he says as it comes into sight in the distance, "is a dangerous place to be headed nowadays, but well worth the trip for those who do. Life’s never easy, even now that the world’s starting to recover a little bit from nuclear armageddon, but if you can all just make this run - things’ll work out just fine."

Naturally, they don’t.

As you enter the city, having passed a patrol of soldiers wearing sets of power armour resembling the gleaming bodyshells of pre-war cars and flanking what looks like a cross between a dirt buggy and a tank, as well as a group of ghouls and humans spray-painting the phrase ‘we ain’t never been like our cousins’ on the wall of a collapsed building - you’re ambushed. Just before he’s dragged off into an alleyway by some soldiers in weathered grey gear, the caravan leader slips you a scrap of paper and tells you and your fellow caravaneers to run.

You don’t quite get away, and, one blow to the head later, Fallout 5, subtitle Shadows of a Nation, really gets going.

A group of traders travelling in concept art for Fallout New Vegas.
"Things’ll work out just fine"...yeah, right. | Image credit: VG247/Obsidian

As you - a human, ghoul, or Super Mutant with an array of preset or custom backstories and base skill sets to choose from - wake up, the ghoul who’s nursed you back to health welcomes you to your new home. You’re in one of the downtrodden neighbourhoods of what, before the bombs dropped some 200 and a bit years ago, was Toronto. Once, it was the largest metropolis of a Canada ruthlessly annexed by a resource-hungry US fighting a war it was never going to win. Now, it’s a city deeply divided and under siege.

The area that makes up old Toronto itself is split between two groups. The re-built high rises of Downtown and the financial district are occupied by privileged residents of the city, whose families were able to survive the war in some of the relatively few vaults Vault-Tec built in Canada before the bombs dropped. Surrounding this are the other various neighbourhoods, running from the harbour on the shore of Lake Ontario in the south to midtown in the north. These areas, full of broken buildings repurposed as the likes of unregulated industrial sites and businesses, are largely occupied by a huge number of ghouls - Canadians who weren’t able to get into vaults and had to make do with shelters of their own creation.

Many of the latter group either protested the US annexation of Canada before the great war, or remember that violence, blaming the US both for its role in bringing an end to the world, and for invading their home. Meanwhile, having undergone vault experiments designed to fundamentally change how they see Canada’s cultural identity, many of the vault dweller-descendents living in the city centre don’t hold as much of a grudge against their southern neighbours - especially given that a number of them are descended from American families who fled to Canada after being denied places in US vaults.

A newspaper article about the annexation of Canada in Fallout 3.
A new world is slowly taking shape, but the past still has a role to play in how it evolves. | Image credit: Bethesda

Luckily for these two sides, a common enemy’s long motivated them to maintain an uneasy truce. Having emerged from the best stocked vaults in the area - both resource and weapon-wise - found in the area previously occupied by Fort York, descendents of Toronto’s pre-war US army occupiers fought a long war against their fellow city dwellers. Due to their thinner numbers and inability to counter urban guerilla fighting from ghouls with intimate knowledge of every nook and cranny of the city, these army descendents were eventually forced into seeking refuge in Pearson Airport. This is where they currently reside, beaten down, but not totally broken.

They likely wouldn’t be much of a problem for the people of Ronto anymore, were the city not under siege from two other factions. One is an army invading from the southwest, powered by the re-fired might of America’s automotive industry. The United Motown Corporation is led by a three person council of mega-traders, intent on amassing the wealth to rebuild the US in the mould of capitalism that makes use of more sustainable resources - ones they’re working to invent in their factories.

The other, wandering in huge numbers down from Ottawa, now reclaimed as the capital of a new nation - one ideally suited to this post-apocalyptic world - are Those Left Behind. They’re a loose collective of ghouls, mutated humans, and even a few rare Super Mutants produced by experiments on the Alaskan frontier, who’ve all once wandered in search of a community that’ll accept them. Here, under the leadership of a ghoul who’s intimately familiar with Ronto and its current leader, they’ve found that community. The group’s motto is one Toronto once had, “Diversity Our Strength”, and its ability to rapidly attract new recruits en-masse backs that up.

Some raiders posting in concept art for Fallout 3's Paradise Falls.
Take a walk outside of the city, and you won't stop running into interesting folks. | Image credit: Bethesda

Armed with scandalous knowledge about the past of the ghoul responsible for brokering the peace that currently keeps the people of Ronto itself from tearing each other apart, you and - unless you wish to wander alone in Fallout tradition - a party of former caravan mates will be tasked with resolving this powder keg so you can get out of Ronto alive. Choice and consequence will be paramount, as will your relationships with each faction. Dialogue and quests’ll feature plenty of different approaches, allowing and encouraging you to make use of your character’s specialist skills and traits.

The combat’ll be much like all of the modern, action-oriented Fallout games, with gangs of enemies proving the biggest challenge in more settled areas - where the verticality of environments will also often come into play - and more wild radioactive beasties roaming the areas underground and outside of the reforged city’s limits.

Anywhere outside of safe settlements or faction locations, you’ll be able to set up a customisable camp with your party and get to know them all - none will solely be designed strictly as representatives of factions, they’re all just people trying to survive in the wastes. They’ve got their own unique questlines and views on situations you encounter. Doing this every evening is the easiest way to sleep, regaining health without having to waste any valuable - if still very effective - stimpaks.

Outside of this, there are numerous properties you can buy or rent and decorate to your desire, but if you want to build your own base or settlement from scratch, you’ll need to head outside of the city into the wilder areas of the suburbs - and be ready to build plenty of defences. Especially since your gear will degrade, with cheaper/less complex items being able to be repaired in rudimentary fashion in the field, while more complex stuff can only be repaired while camping or at home.

Some party members in Baldur's Gate 3.
If there's one aspect of last year's big RPG success story that Fallout might be better off via drawing some inspiration from, surely it's this beloved bunch? | Image credit: VG247/Larian Studios

Details aside, the pitch is this.

In Fallout 5, you know a secret. What you do with that powerful information will control exactly how you and your friends get out of dodge - and change how, or whether, a nation that had its identity forcibly erased before the pre-war world itself was wiped clean gets to come back from the dead.

At least, that's what I might do if I was in Bethesda's shoes. We've likely still got a good while yet to wait before we see what Fallout 5 actually ends up looking like, but hopefully whenever it does arrive, it'll end up blowing us all away.

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