Fallout 5 release
Image: Bethesda

The when, where, and why of Fallout. The lore of Fallout broken down

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Whether you have only watched the TV series or only played one or two of the games, the lore and history of the Fallout franchise can be a little confusing. The verisimilitude of the world is relatable, and yet, there are so many things amiss. This should help you understand the timeline and place each of the various games.

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Before Fallout

The timeline of Fallout really diverts from our own after the Second World War. The world rides high on the invention of nuclear power and enters into a new golden age of technology. Everything, from TVs to cars, is now powered by nuclear fusion, bringing about huge leaps forward in energy technology. However, other things, like microchips, are put on a back burner, resulting in the mix of new and old technology seen in the game. Because of this, the majority of companies in the US are now technology companies.

The division

The US splits itself into 13 commonwealths, each taking on its own identities. Further division was caused by the energy crisis that led to the resource wars of 2052. This caused tension between the whole world and resulted in the disbanding of the United Nations and many wars breaking out across the globe.

The Two-Hour war

Where the real crux of the Fallout lore begins is the eventual war between rival superpowers, the USA and China. This Ameri-Chino war broke out over the Chinese occupation of Alaska and the release of the New Plague that devastated the United States.

Image: Steam

After years of tension and rising Jingoistic policies in the US, the situation came to a breaking point in 2077. The combined nuclear force of both China and the US commonwealth resulted in a war that lasted only two hours and yet obliterated modern civilisation as we know it.

So where did the Fallout Vaults come from?

The lore of Fallout would be nothing but charred bones and ghouls if it weren’t for the invention of the Fallout Vaults. These curious and often nefarious underground safe rooms were the foresight of a capitalist machine that realized it could profit from an inevitable nuclear apocalypse.

Only two years after the resource wars, the major companies of the US foresaw the conflict that would lead to the Fallout franchise. They capitalized on it, and Vault-Tec designed a shelter designed to hold up to 1000 people while remaining completely self-sustaining. Over 400,000 were needed, and yet only 122 were ever built.

Originally advertised as the salvation of humanity in the event of armageddon, they ended up being sold off to private investors. Only 12 of the vaults remained as pure, unadulterated living spaces. The rest were used as human experimentation areas for the companies that bought them. The experiments were varied and twisted, such as psychoactive drugs being released into the air or only a watery gruel ever served for sustenance.

These vaults were sold as the saving grace of the American population. However, this was never the case. They were always intended as experiments, and few were expected to survive.

Falout 4
Image: Steam

Timeline of Fallout games

So far, the Fallout franchise has five main canon games and seven spin-off games, including Fallout 76 and Fallout Brotherhood. To really get the most out of the games, the core five should be played. Despite being a very old game, Fallout 1 has an amazing amount of charm and can probably be run on your Smart Fridge. This is their chronological Fallout lore order and a brief summary of events.

  • Fallout 76 (2102) – This game, despite being the most recent release, works as a prelude to the following Fallout games. It sets up much of the Fallout lore and introduces many of the factions and other characters. The plot takes you from Vault 76 on a quest to find your lost overseer.
  • Fallout (2161) – This is the first in the series and arguably one of the best. It serves as the first introduction to the Fallout Universe and many of its core components.
    The Fallout Vault 13 was designed to be closed for 200 years. However, the plot demands that The Vault Dweller leave their vault to find a replacement water chip. This must be completed within 150 days. On the journey, the player is introduced to the Forced Evolutionary Virus, or FEV, which The Master will use to create an army of Super Mutants. It is up to the Vault Dweller to prevent this from happening while also saving Vault 13. In the end, due to exposure, the main character is cast out from the vault.
Vault 13
Image: Fallout Wiki
  • Fallout 2 (2241) – The direct descendant of the player character from the first game is tasked with finding a G.E.C.K. that can revitalize the wasteland. On the journey, the character discovers the Enclave, which is the remnants of the US government. They plan to use both your village and the remaining survivors in Vault 13 as experimental pawns for the FEV mentioned in Fallout 1 lore. It is up to you to destroy the Enclave base and save your people.
  • Fallout 3 (2277) – This is where most people joined the Fallout franchise, and it’s one hell of a story. Summed up briefly, the main character is the son of James, a man who entered Vault 112 from the outside. One day, when the character is still a child, James leaves, inspiring the character to find him. Once found it is revealed that James was attempting to supply clean water to the wasteland using a G.E.C.K. However, in the process, he dies due to interference from the Enclave. It is now up to the player to fraternize or wage war with four separate factions and finish the father’s work by any means. Democracy is non-negotiable!
Fallout 3 Lore
Image: Steam
  • Fallout: New Vegas (2281) – In this Fallout game, the player works as a courier, delivering a chip. However, the game opens with The Courier being shot in the head and robbed of the cargo. Presumed dead, it is up to the player to retrieve the chip and choose what to do with it. Although it sounds simple, this Fallout game has one of the most in-depth and adaptable storylines of all the Fallout games.
  • Fallout 4 (2287) – The Vault 111 test was to try Cryogenic freezing. As the Sole Survivor enters their chamber just after the bombs fall, they see their wife shot and their child stolen. Upon awakening, the Sole Survivor finds all other residents of the Fallout Vault dead. They take it upon themselves to find their child.
    In the process, they discover Shaun, their child, has become the leader of an institute. It is dedicated to making artificial humans and gorillas and has discovered the ability to teleport. The decision, in the end, comes down to choosing which one of the many factions met along the way to side with, essentially massacring the rest.
  • Fallout TV Series (2296) – Todd Howard, the owner of Bethesda, claims the TV show is considered canon. The protagonist, akin to Fallout 3 and 4, is looking for her estranged family member. More details are yet to be shown.

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Leo Gillick
Leo is a Freelance Writer for PC Invasion. He has a degree in English Literature and Film Studies and more hours buried into videogames than he cares to admit. He has worked extensively in the Videogame and Travel writing industry but, as they say, get a job doing something you love and you'll never work a day in your life. He uses his writing as a means to support indefinite global travel with the current five year plan seeing him through Latin America.