Wasteland - the final frontier... for logic by Adam 'Frey' Barczynski
Wasteland - the final frontier... for logic
Wasteland and Fallout games created a fascinating world full of mysteries and colourful characters with some small loopholes, some big loopholes and some gigantic loopholes. Here are the 7 things about Wasteland that makes no sense.
03-12-2017 by Adam 'Frey' Barczynski
Wasteland and Fallout games created a fascinating world set after nuclear war that destroyed most of the human kind and left only small groups of people locked in the underground vaults. When people left their safe bunkers they discovered that there are still people living on the surface, but they have to fight for survival with the mutated animals. The vast empty areas called the Wasteland were split between tribes, gangs and seldom settlements. This post-apocalyptic scenery is the background for games in which protagonist tries to survive in this reality, but at the same time tries to resolve the problems around him or her. With each title the fame of the games grew bigger, but on the other hand more and more people got involved in creating them, which lead to inevitable consequence - chaos. Not in the games, but rather in the whole universe of Wasteland.
When you look at the games they have solid background with fully developed history of great war between United States and China that lead to a global nuclear war that left Earth in a state of decay. Although each of the games takes place years after previous the scale of loopholes in the story only grew bigger each time. And I don’t mean tiny little loopholes, I mean the basics of the whole story (however entertaining) has no sense at all. Although the world of Fallout is fascinating it is hard to overlook some weak points, and here they are.
Nuclear war left the United States in ruins called Wasteland, that we learned to love. The civilization as we know ceased to exist, the gangs and tribes took over the land and few destroyed cities in US are the last remains of the past world. All of it makes sense... Although it really doesn’t. First of all nuclear war, even on large scale, would destroy parts of US, Soviet Union, Europe, perhaps Asia (since China was the enemy), but that’s about it. That would leave large part of Asia, Africa, South America, Australia and Oceania still pretty much ok. Yes, some areas would have radiation fallout problem, but still their civilizations would not be in ruins, their technology still could progress.
Even assuming that the whole world was destroyed by nuclear missiles the logic of Fallout is that Enclave faction survived the war, because they were on an off-shore oil rig. It makes very little sense, but fine, let’s assume that they did. So why would the Caribbean islands be affected by the war? Why would be Australia, why Pacific islands? The destruction caused by the nuclear bomb is huge comparing to other kinds of weapons, but still their range of destruction is not unlimited - there are not enough nuclear warheads to destroy every single city and town in entire world, so the attack would have to aim into the biggest metropolises and not rural areas.
The farming states of US (like Kentucky or Omaha) would more likely be away from the main strike areas, so we could assume they would be the new center of the United States, since they have the food and less radiation, right? Nope, the civilization in Fallout is being rebuilt on the vast deserts of California and rocky shores of East Coast, where drinking water is luxury and there are no agricultural areas. Go figure. But wait, the famous caravans transport the food needed in California from other states and save the poor Californians, right? Well, let’s just say it would be a very optimistic solution. First of all it would take weeks for caravan to reach California on foot and there are very little food products that could survive in hot climate that long without rotting. Second thing - since caravans usually consist of two people and one Brahmin it would require hundreds of them every week only to carry enough food for the main settlements. It would take a lot of effort and a lot of organization to keep that network running and all of it could have been avoided by simply resettling the people from desert to areas where there actually are food supplies.
The settlements itself are a bit curious - most of them are placed in the middle of nowhere, where they are hard to defend from animals, where there are no solid walls, where they are constant target for bandits, where there are no natural resources. What is more surprising people do not seem to gather in bigger communities - people from Big Town are very unlikely not to move out of their settlement since they are under constant harassment. After all there are other places they could live in better conditions, like Canterbury Commons or Grayditch. Another surprising thing is why none of the settlers tried to move into empty concrete buildings that are still available around Wasteland? There are concrete building almost undamaged that would be much better place to live and defend than simple hut in the middle of nowhere or running trading posts located in houses without a single wall...
Food and water
Where exactly do inhabitants of Wasteland get it? The ocean is contaminated, the rivers are contaminated, every water source outside vaults is contaminated, but yet everyone drinks it and they are absolutely fine... Not to mention that it never rains in Wasteland... So either the radiation level is not that high or human kind have adapted to the new conditions. The big question is how long would the radiation fallout be dangerous for people? And the answer - in a way for many, many years (even about 5000 years when it comes to carbon-14), but most of the fallout elements would be dangerous for no longer than 2-3 weeks and with time the influence would be decreasing, so after 200 years from the nuclear war (in Fallout 3) it is highly unlikely that all of the water resources would still be contaminated and if they are (with carbon-14) they would produce a lot of DNA mutations. In Fallout games there is no sign of gross DNA mutations among humans (if you count ghouls and centaurs it would make two mutations that are constant in time), but a lot of mutations among the animals, which is surprising since they have the same water supplies.
The food is usually just there, magically appearing in the diners, vending machines, supermarkets - no matter it is 200 years old, it is fine. In rest of the cases the food is supplies by the farmers, but the problem is... there are no farms in sight. Most of them are abandoned or really, really crappy, yet the mysterious farmers somehow provide food to the settlements. Fine, let’s assume that the farms are just behind the edge of the map and we simply can’t see them - how exactly the farmers do transport the food? The caravans are explanation again? That would mean lots of people hired by farmers to transport the food to settlements, but since food is so cheap (God knows why, it is post-apocalyptic reality after all) who would risk his life to transport food every day through Wasteland? Not for the glory, not for the money, so why? And how farmers could afford them since fresh food costs only few caps? How would they protect their farms from animals and bandits? It would mean a risky business, with plenty of dangers and very little income.
And when we take a hard look at the animals and mutated animals in the Wastelands there are also some surprising revelations. For example every single one of the mutated animals grew bigger than the original animal, which is highly unlikely in world stripped of the natural resources. Another thing - it took only about 80 years (from war until story in first Fallout game) for the animals to evolve in completely new species while the old species died out. It seems a bit far fetched, especially when you take under consideration that the natural food chain had been disturbed - the predators grew bigger and their prey is very limited. In fact there are not enough animals to feed all the predators, so what do they live on? Love? Take a look at the toughest of them all, the deathclaw. Animal of that size would have to eat regularly huge amounts of meat, but there are no huge amounts of meet in the Wastelands. Of course there are Brahmins, Molerats, humans, Bighorners, but overall the supply of meat is very limited for survival of single Deathclaw, not to mention the whole herd. Even if there were enough herbivorous animals to feed all the predators, where would the herbivores feed themselves since there are almost no plants in the Wasteland?
Similar situation is with most of the tribes or gangs - they do have their own territories, they wander around the Wasteland, but how exactly do they feed themselves since their only occupation is looking for people to rob? They took over the buildings, even whole complexes, but what do they eat? For 200 years it is impossible to find enough victims to rob and steal their food for the survival of whole gang or tribe, even if supermarket is their main headquarters. Not to mention that some of them simply have no point at all - they just exist to attack and annoy other people, they have no real meaning or point. Somehow they gather together, somehow they find weapons, somehow they take over buildings, but their whole point is survival without trying to survive. They do not settle, they do not build fortresses, they do not have any aims. They just exists and that’s it.
Metals, like silver or gold, were often used as currency in the early stages of civilization and they were used for a reason - not because they are shiny and pretty, but because they were rare, hard to forge and impossible to artificially produce. In the post-apocalyptic world there is no real need for currency - the resources are so limited that there is no point in having a currency, barter system is far more attractive, simple and universal. If you need food you would swap something else for food, not currency, since there are no more shops or supermarkets where you can simply buy food.
Nevertheless the creators of Fallout decided that caps from the bottles would be the currency of the future, which is idea as good as any other - if they would go for shoes, anvils or bullets it would make as much sense as caps. But caps actually do have two very weak points - there are sources of them all over the Wasteland and the caps themselves are far from being convenient. They can be found not only in trashcans, bottles and vending machines, there are also factories in which those beverages were made before the war, so the machines to produce them are still there. And as for convenience, let me put it this way - imagine you are sneaking upon great big deathclaw with 500 caps rattling in your back pocket... Or if you get rich and gather 5000 caps - how you gonna travel through Wasteland with bags full of caps? I guess the bandits would not notice that you have substantial bulge in your trousers...
Apart from practical side currency in post-apocalyptic world has another weak point - there are no universal exchange rates, or to put it another way prices, so the common currency in Wasteland should be pointless. Same rifle could be worth fortune for unarmed settler lost in the middle of wilderness and worthless for arms dealer with storage full of weapons. But in Fallout reality somehow universal prices do exist and all of Wasteland inhabitants know them, even if they live in secluded areas. Perhaps telepathy progressed faster after the nuclear war...
They have flying machines called vertibirds, they have power armors, they have power weapons, they even have plasma weapons and levitating robots... yet the use of simple wheel is still out of the reach for Wasteland inhabitants. What is more they have computers, computer networks, autonomic robots, radios, satellites and satellite uplinks, they have tiny little Pipboy whatsits that is equivalent of smartphone with GPS and yet no one even tried to start television (even though the technology is obviously there), no one tried to actually build a single new building, no one even bothered to set up a single straight wall outside their settlement.
Another thing - there isn’t a single effort in any of the games to actually establish any sort of routes between the settlements, there isn’t a single road in decent condition, the foot caravans are the only way to transport anything between settlements. They managed to come up with fancy weapons, magical weapons, nuclear weapons, suspiciously efficient melee weapons and yet they did not managed to build a single self-propelled vehicle. In one of the Fallout 3 DLCs there is a boat that could take you down the coast, but apart from vertibirds (that somehow survived and still are in perfect condition) there are no vehicles. I totally get it, there are no petrol resources any more, so the combustion engines are useless, but what about electric engines or whatever is powering the power armors and gigantic robot at the end of Fallout 3? I mean if you have some magical batteries to power your laser weapon why you can’t use them to power something else?
Ok, let’s say it is impossible to use those batteries for anything else than laser weapons, let’s say it’s impossible to recharge them later and there are no electric engines to create a single self-propelled vehicle. So how the hell all the robots are still active after 200 years if they can’t be recharged? What is more they usually are equipped with autonomic system able to steer them and make decisions, so... why not vehicles? Not even one? In 200 years no one saw any point in transporting people or goods faster than on foot? Or no one even had the knowledge how to do it?
To make things a bit more confusing let’s look at the level of technology used in the games - across the Wasteland there are several secret laboratories in which strange scientists work on mutating humans, creating super mutants, mutating animals, creating androids, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and other really complicated and hi-tech stuff, there are specialists, who produce chemical stimulants, artificial medicine, magical potions, but on the other hand obviously no one knows how to rebuild a wall of the house once it collapses.
The nuclear war damage
The first thing that struck me in the Wasteland was how come all the cars and motorcycles were more or less destroyed after nuclear strike, yet every trashcan and dumpster survived untouched? What is more bizarre there are no power sources, yet most of the buildings have artificial lights, there are vending machines still working, there are computers that survived 200 years and still are fully functional, not to mention again the robots. I mean as for post-apocalyptic world Wasteland is rather full of luxuries. Concrete buildings were almost completely destroyed, but at the same time there are unharmed desks or cabinets inside of them... That is one hell of a trick to build a nuclear bomb that would destroy only the walls, but preserve what is between them.
Same story is with the whole buildings - in New Vegas the only buildings that actually survived unharmed are the casinos... Either the nuclear missiles that hit Las Vegas were more clever than could be expected or God is a gambler and could not see them being destroyed. I mean there are wooden houses that survived on the outskirts of New Vegas, yet all the concrete buildings downtown were destroyed. All except the casinos. Yes, I get it, they were rebuilt... But how exactly? Who did it? Why? How they had the resources to do it? There was Mr. House, but just like Donald Trump, he would have to be very rich to start with in order to build or rebuild the casino and get richer. Where did he get the workers since it was wasteland divided between tribes? Where would he get the heavy equipment used to build the wall around the New Vegas? Or did the bomb explosion did that as well?
Of course there is limestone quarry nearby, but there is no machinery that could be used to work there (as I recall there is no petrol to use for the machinery there) or to transport the cement to New Vegas on large scale. Dynamite is by the way lame explanation for limestone quarry - how would they drill hole to place the dynamite in rock in first place? Without heavy machinery there is no way to get cement from limestone. Who pays the quarry workers? How they get payed? Is there an ATM that pays out the caps? Another thing - every building needs to be maintained, yet there are no cranes or heavy machinery to upkeep the casinos buildings. Unless they are build of some magical material that after 200 years still has no signs of erosion. Strange, since all the roads and buildings around casinos are touched by it...
Also in some cases it would be quite natural that object surrounded by mountains would survive the explosions of nuclear weapons (like Oasis in Capital Wasteland or Jacobstown in New Vegas), after all the shockwave from explosion also has limitations. But sometimes objects (especially energy lines poles) are destroyed even though they were surrounded by rocks, while satellite antennas (far more susceptible to the shockwave) set on the top of the mountains are in tact.
The Caesar’s Legion in New Vegas was a tribe like no other - more brutal, more ruthless and more fascinating as enemy than any other in the Wasteland. Their goal was simple - conquer all the tribes of the west and build huge empire that would destroy New California Republic. Their methods? Simple - deception, brutal force and crucifixion for everyone, who doesn’t wear a skirt. The Legion was really interesting innovation and set the whole atmosphere in New Vegas, but with Legion there are some odd details.
If you, as protagonist, attack Legion or do something to make them angry they will come to get you and here is where logic ends... Caesar sends dozens of assassins to prove his point, that no one will mess around with him and survive. Unfortunately he loses each and every one of the assassins and still keeps sending them even though it makes absolutely no sense. After losing that way about 100 elite warriors it would be good time to rethink that tactics or send a bigger unit to kill the protagonist (since in magical way they can always locate him and sneak up on him from behind). I mean if he wanted to prove how ruthless he is, ok he made the point that his men means nothing to him, but from strategic point of view such high losses on the eve of invasion on Hoover Dam is just dumb especially since the method is so ineffective.
The situation is even more idiotic when you get some perspective - when you attack Caesar’s fort inside you will find about 20-30 soldiers, in legate’s camp even less, there is about dozen in the Cottonwood Cove, so in reality there are about 100 legionnaires in the area (including camps and patrols) and yet Caesar wastes about same number of soldiers (or more depending on how you play the game) on trying to kill one person, especially since it failed every time so far. As for great leader, as he is depicted, Caesar’s tactics makes no sense at all. One well prepared ambush using higher number of assassins would be obvious choice.
Another thing - when they attack their basic weapons usual are throwing spears and melee weapons, which is... a bit odd since they have laser weapons and quite advanced guns available. On higher level of experience some of them switch to the rifles or laser pistols, but still why not all of them? It is especially weird when you attack Caesar’s camp - the guards will attack you with spears and power fists and later you can find service rifles in their footlockers. I guess it has some deeper meaning in Legion’s history or Caesar’s insanity, but how someone so poorly handling the matters could become most powerful commander in the area?
According to Fallout reality officially they were part of great plan of Vault-Tec and US government to save the nation in case of nuclear holocaust. It wasn’t truth since only 122 were built while it would take about 400,000 vaults to store all the people in US. Unofficially they were part of some secret plan of Vault-Tec and government to perform experiments useful for future colonization of new planet when the human kind will be unable to live on Earth due to radiation from nuclear war. Seems legit? Well, no actually. First of all they spent billions of dollars on building the vaults, while most of them could not provide any more (or better) data than same experiments performed on surface in much smaller (although still closed) environment. I mean most of them had more social and psychological nature than biological, not to mention that some of them seemed more like brainless reality shows rather than scientific experiments.
The second problem is really big one - if the experiments would took place AFTER nuclear war (otherwise why would you gather people inside vaults?) what was their point in a first place? I mean every experiment leads to some conclusions and someone would have to gather the data and formulate the conclusions, while after nuclear war there isn’t anyone to do it. The Vault-Tec built the vaults, yet they did not prepared their own offices to survive the explosions. Let’s say the data are gathered in the vaults, but the vaults are far apart and spread on both coasts of United States, on surface there is high radiation, there is no Internet technology, so... How on Earth would they gather the data from vaults? Who would do it since Vault-Tec and US government ceased to exist? Have they even started to build the spaceship or was is another part of their brilliant plan that would begin after the war?
Third one is similar to the previous one - if the whole point of the experiments was to prepare the people locked inside of them for colonization of another planet, then I guess something went wrong. Since most of the vaults we’ve seen so far were dedicated to some sort of strange experiments where are the people that were suppose to be sent into space? Again - a lot of resources were spent on experiments, while only small part of the vaults were used to actually protect people that would be used for colonization. Seems like a strange way to spend money and time on something of very little value - what good would it do in space to see how group would develop if there would be one woman on board and lots of men? It is obvious that this experiment had nothing to do with colonization since colonization using only one woman makes no sense at all. Another thing is since only small part of vaults were filled with people for the purpose of colonization it was quite a risk not to use all of them. After all there is always risk that something will go wrong in the "normal" vault and the whole program could end up with not enough people for colonization, while completely functional vaults were used for childish experiments.
The last problem - logistics. Let’s assume that the vaults were built as a part of the future colonization of another planet prepared by Vault-Tec and US Government, the locations of the vaults are rather peculiar. They were built on both coasts of United States, while offices of Vault-Tec and the location of US Government are both in Washington. What was the point of building vaults in California since there was no way in case of nuclear war and the aftermath to actually gather together people from both coasts? Or were they planning to build multiple spaceships in different parts of the country? And how exactly did they plan to get them out of the vaults since the radiation on the surface soon after war would be deadly?
Wasteland and Fallout games created a fascinating world full of mysteries and colourful characters with some small loopholes, some big loopholes and some gigantic loopholes, but even with all that flaws the story of Wasteland is keeping a lot of people amazed by all the possibilities of post-apocalyptic world. They weren’t first such games, they not gonna be last, but right now they are the most successful.