success of fallout game franchise
The Fallout franchise, which for its past three releases (Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, and Fallout 4) has been owned by Bethesda, is one of the most beloved series of games of all time, among PC and console gamers alike.

A Unique Game World?

Anyone who enjoys single player RPG video games will tell you that Fallout is unique, despite sharing almost all of its mechanics with another Bethesda property – The Elder Scrolls series, the best known of which is Skyrim.

So, with huge similarities in gameplay with another very popular Bethesda RPG franchise, and a setting that is reminiscent of plenty of other post-apocalyptic material such as Mad Max and Fist of the North Star (which are even referenced in the games if you look hard enough), why does Fallout have this sense of uniqueness?

In part, it is because of the design choices that were made for the Fallout world.

Fifties Retro, But in the Future

fallout 3 metro tunnels level design concept art
One of the most apparent things that gives Fallout its own individual look and feel is the use of fifties retro imagery, fonts, and design throughout the in-game world, and the more meta parts of the user interface. Music from the forties and fifties is the only music available in the Fallout world, and the player can, in the Bethesda installments of the franchise, even listen to an in-world radio broadcast that plays a selection of these songs. Posters, products, and even the design of things like furniture all have a period feel that contrasts with the futuristic setting and its robotics and laser weaponry, creating a quirky yet entirely believable setting.

Why, In-Universe, Does Fallout Have So Many Vintage Design Elements?

You can find out a lot about the world of Fallout at sites like gameguideworld.net, but the design choices we’ve talked about here do play a part in the lore of the franchise. Effectively, the Fallout universe split from the real-world timeline in the fifties, when, under threat of a war between the USA and China, the world (or at least, the USA – we are yet to see what other parts of the world look like in the Fallout version of the future) began putting all their efforts into technology and weapons.

This meant that they were able to build very advanced things, like plasma and laser weapons, power armor, and even spacecraft, but popular culture and art stagnated, meaning that when the war did eventually lead to a nuclear holocaust – the aftermath of which is the world we see in the games – music and design really hadn’t advanced at all since the 1950’s period of the real world timeline.

fallout weapon art
This is a pretty interesting way to allow for a convergence of old-fashioned design with a futuristic world, and most fans of the games seem to agree that it is a big part of what gives Fallout its special charm.

Images courtesy of fallout.wikia.com

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