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Overhaulout Part 4: Mutations

By Rutskarn
on Friday Sep 1, 2017
Filed under:
Video Games


Here’s a question for anyone who’s beaten Fallout 3: what role do super mutants, the most common and iconic enemy in the entire game, play in the main storyline?

Really take a minute. Spool through the mutant-laden story beats: the brawl outside GNR, the mission to the Museum of Technology, the cleansing of the purifier, the expedition to Vault 87. Really let it sink in how much time you spend trading shots with these geeks compared to, say, the Enclave: how much earlier you encounter them, how much more prominent they are, how much more of your resources they eat up.

Now ask yourself again: what role do they actually play in the story?

But we’ve summed it up, haven’t we? They exist. They exist again, again. They shoot and must be shot at. If you find-replaced super mutants with anything else at all, berserk killer robots or cold calculating mercenaries or a platoon of brainless body-snatching coral shrimp, the story wouldn’t really change much. Their agenda and origins and function are immaterial.

I don’t think it’s too fussily formalist to argue that your videogame’s earliest and most common enemies should have a stake in or relevance to the major conflict. I guess you could argue that they demonstrate the altruism of the Brotherhood of Steel by providing an opponent to be combated, but that is an extremely low bar. I’d argue it’s the basic function any antagonist at all would fulfill.

I don’t actually like this idea, and it’s outside the scope of my redesign anyway, but but for the sake of argument consider a Fallout 3 where the player and Brotherhood fought Enclave forces for the whole game. You arrive outside GNR and Enclave troops are trying to capture the radio station. Enclave troops destroy the radio dish to prevent GNR from broadcasting its alerts and organizing the Wasteland. Enclave troops have occupied the purifier searching for your father. Imagine a game, in other words, where the game’s actual antagonist is established as a threat before the midway point of the game. For all that you’d lose in enemy variety and the thrill of discovery and story nuance, isn’t it better to spend your time tangling with your family’s actual nemesis instead of a bunch of staggeringly irrelevant ogres?

There’s no way around it: before we go any further, we’re going to find something to do with our super mutants. Before I do, I’ll show my work and explain what I will and won’t change to get results.

Bethesda MOBology

The reason super mutants are a story problem comes down to Bethesda’s valid but inflexible approach to enemy design.

I’m sure the developers would offer a nuanced disagreement, but I’d argue that broadly, Bethesda isn’t interested in baking narrative into non-named opponents. In Obsidian’s version of Fallout, the spiky human hostile raiding class are called “Fiends” and have a culture (anarchist transgressive tweaking), leadership structure (main leader in the heart of the territory, smaller warbosses chosen for their craziness and killing power scattered everywhere), territory (a gradient around their HQ, Vault 3) and goal (obtaining gear and cash to spend getting chems from the Great Khans). This kind of specificity can be called a “context-heavy” approach to enemies.

In Bethesda’s Fallout 3, the human raiders are called “raiders.” They have no specific culture, structure, goals, or territory. They’re just MOBs. We can call this “context-light.”

The advantage of context-heavy design is obvious; it provides more fertile ground for storytelling. The disadvantage is, you can’t really work outside that context. If a developer has a great idea for a dungeon full of raider-type enemies, they can’t use it unless they can fit it inside the region and story context of the Fiends. Bethesda’s context-light approach lets them treat enemies a little more generically, which empowers them to make the overworld however they think will be most enjoyable to the player. As much as I personally love Obsidian’s approach, I think this more liberating design standard plays some part in making Bethesda’s open worlds more favorably received in the gaming community. I do think it’s relevant to point out that Bethesda introduced a few specific raider factions in Fallout 4…except they’re super generic and noncommittal. I think it just represents Bethesda trying to eat its cake and have it too.

So don’t expect me to write a post like this for generic raiders. Let me be very clear: I wouldn’t bother “fixing” super mutants by making them tell stories if they weren’t such a big part of the main story. You can have as many generic MOBs in shopping centers and skyscrapers and sewers as you want, but it’s silly to fill the main quest with antagonists that want nothing and relate to nobody. But I will keep Bethesda’s design principles in mind and not saddle super mutants with more baggage than their place in the game can bear.

So I’ll ask first: what’s the very least we could do?

Even if we wanted to make super mutants as generic as possible, we could at least plug some kind of arc into the game. We could layer a little context into the super mutant quests to create a sense of progression:

  1. Super mutants are a huge long-term problem…
    1. …so you shoot a bunch of them, and…
  2. Super mutants are now angry and hunting you…
    1. …so you shoot a whole bunch of them, and…
  3. Super mutants are no longer a long-term problem.
    1. Yay!

As it is, there’s no arc to super mutants at all. Super mutants you shoot in one quest aren’t just unconnected to the main narrative, they’re totally unconnected to the last group of super mutants you shot. The “resolution” to the question of super mutants, telling the Elder where they come from after visiting Vault 87, is a skippable and abrupt afterthought with little emotional payoff.

The Vault 87 section might actually be the most frustrating part of Bethesda’s treatment. In explaining where super mutants come from, and making it something completely unrelated to the main storyline, it amounts to answering a question nobody (including the game!) really asked. It’s not a lot more than a hand-wave to lore nerds mad about super mutants on the East Coast, and I’m guessing that’s a small percentage of Bethesda’s playerbase and an even smaller percentage of Bethesda’s target audience.

You know what, enough dancing around. You ready for my solution to the super mutant problem?

My Solution to the Super Mutant Problem

I’ll be honest: this answer is so obvious I spent literally an hour combing through wikis checking to make sure it wasn’t already in the game. If it somehow was, and I just missed it, and apparently everyone else missed it, mention it in the comments. Also mention in the comments if this was already your headcanon, because I think that’s surprisingly likely.

You know what? How about I start by dispassionately relaying some plot points that already totally exist in the game.

  • Deathclaws are berserk mutants created when living creatures are exposed to FEV.
  • Super mutants are berserk mutants created when living creatures are exposed to FEV.
  • The Enclave has been experimenting with mind-controlling Deathclaws to help them conquer the capital wasteland.

Yeah, that wasn’t hard, was it?

To be clear, what I’m proposing is that the Enclave is in some way using super mutants as agents of terror. I’m suggesting that many of them were deliberately bred, some of them are deliberately deployed, and all those deliberately employed can be stood down or destroyed by the Enclave with minimal effort (bomb collars, command phrases, designer viruses, etc). Until such time as the Enclave is prepared to commit to an invasion of the capital, super mutants prevents anyone else from establishing stable governments, armies, or infrastructure. Their naturally bloodthirsty rampages and tendency to infest large sections of the prewar city makes trade empires difficult, exploration and recovery of prewar resources too expensive to contemplate, and conquest of other regions too difficult—it’s hard to build an empire when you’re busy fighting off the barbarian hordes cannibalistic mutant menace at home, on the march, and at your destination. And then, when there’s something the Enclave really wants, it’s time to arm and deploy the “leashed” mutants as terrifyingly effective deniable assets.

It’s sort of ridiculous how little needs to be added to turn super mutants into the secret weapon of the Enclave. The game has super mutants attack GNR’s radio dish because “they like shooting things,” attack GNR headquarters because “they like attacking things,” and occupy the water purifier because “they wanted to, we guess.” Kind of funny how all the pointless, random actions of the super mutants just happens to damage the player’s interests and drive the Enclave’s, huh? All we’d have to do is add one line saying “The Enclave did it” and we’d have answered more questions than we raised.

Especially if we find a way to pop or at least foreshadow the reveal of this before the tilt where our father’s killed, this actually does a lot of necessary work raising the Enclave’s profile as villains. I mean, sure, one evil officer shooting a scientists and putting your dad on the spot is bad enough to make you want to beat them, but that’s not as objectively loathsome as a faction who will let thousands die in horrible Black-Forest-fairy-tale agony just to create the ideal conditions for a power grab. Super mutants are boogeymen. They create so much grief on a daily basis that it takes all of the resources of what should be the capital’s main source of order, stability, and renewed infrastructure, the Brotherhood of Steel, just to keep them from destroying everything. How terrifying and sickening and meaningful would it be to find that all of this was done with the Enclave’s consent, and some of it was deliberately undertaken with armed, groomed, or even mind-controlled platoons?

It also makes the stakes of the Enclave’s dramatic appearance much clearer. It’s not really clear in the original game what the Enclave’s sudden appearance and attack on the purifier represents on a grander scale. Is that all they want? Is it the first step or closer to the end goal? How committed are they, actually? These answers exist, sort of, but you have to spend a long time fighting the Enclave to really get a full understanding of them.

By connecting the super mutant presence to the Enclave’s grander designs, we’ll be able to better reveal to the player what Bethesda intended: that the water purifier is not the first step nor the last one, but the lynchpin that’s so important it’s worth escalating from propaganda and destabilization to an open full-scale military action.

The Battle for GNR

I barely have to rewrite any of this actual section to fit my new hook. The exciting shish-boom-pop E3-friendly setpiece where you kill the behemoth with the Fat Man can still happen. In fact, you could say I’m not adding something so much as removing it: I’m deliberately lessening the sense of confident understanding the paladins convey. In my draft the talent super mutants have for being a pain in the ass will be seen not as natural, but darkly absurd. How do such apparently brainless and disorganized creatures create so much chaos? How is it that their random attacks always seem to come at the worst possible times for the paladins, GNR, and surrounding settlements? Where do they come from, anyway? Some of the younger paladins will be curious, but the veterans will have transcended curiosity to resigned acceptance:

God rolls the dice, and he loves super mutants, and he sure hates us.

They’re clearly fatigued and exasperated that they have all this technology and all these resources to create a new society, and they can’t so much as set up a power generator without a bunch of super mutants pissing all over it.

I should have been an engineer. I should have been building, connecting people. Instead I’ve spent my whole life in this fucking tin suit shooting at freaks who don’t care if they live or die. I’ve lost my friends and my shoulder cartilage and most of my hearing, and just when things finally started to get better…it got worse.

Thanks to the super mutants.



[1] I do think it’s relevant to point out that Bethesda introduced a few specific raider factions in Fallout 4…except they’re super generic and noncommittal. I think it just represents Bethesda trying to eat its cake and have it too.

Comments (78)

  1. I love this whole concept. And it would explain why the Enclave has those spy drones/broadcasters and their radio station–they use it to broadcast “orders” to the super-mutants.

    The significance of competing radio stations (remember you run across an Enclave broadcaster pretty much the moment you step out of the Vault–before you get to Megaton, even), would make 3-dog’s significance to the plot make some more sense, too. You could even spin off some interesting themes about the impact of propaganda/news on the populace and how that plays in to the overall Theme of the Game.

    • Bob Case says:

      I like this idea, plus:

      -Between John Henry Eden’s broadcasts, have some mysterious morse-codey sounding stuff (or something). The player doesn’t know what it is at first, and later learns it’s a way of communicating with/”activating” super mutants.

      -If, on the odd chance you do find a radio in a super mutant-inhabited place, it should be tuned to the Enclave station. The player might notice it and they might not.

      • tzeneth says:

        Off topic: I had a moment where I asked, “Who the heck is Bob Case and why is he golden?” Then I moved to hover over your name while thinking, “Could this be Mr B Tongue?” and finding that answer to be true.

        Instead of mysterious morse code, you could always use the classic number station method where you get a voice to read random numbers that don’t seem to make sense to anyone but does make sense if you have the proper codes. Heck, you could make it that you find some pieces of paper on some Super-Mutants that seem like random numbers but in fact are one-time pads that work for some of the number station broadcasts. If you want to be less subtle, could have that and some scratched paper where there are words beneath numbers and those numbers actually correspond to a number broadcast.

        • evileeyore says:

          And number stations are often both creepy and intriguing one their own, thus driving some of the mystery.

          • Mike Andersen says:

            Also, lists of numbers both found scrawled and read over the radio can seem a lot like a lottery. If anyone is going to misdirect the player into a series of sidequests about a non-existent Super Mutant lottery, it’s going to be the under-utilized Children of Atom.

            • Ciennas says:

              Or have the numbers be tied to something mundane and innocuous. Like the Enclave could have a seemingly aboveboard weather and information station, and maybe they give out very precise weather and barometer readings.

              Or implement a lottery in the major settlements that seem to exist in spite of their efforts and use that?

              “Tonight’s winning numbers are 21, boxcar, 17, Niner Niner. Repeat, 21, Boxcar, seventeen Niner Niner. If you have the winning ticket please head down to your local GNR prize box for some complementary Nuka Cola!”

              Meanwhile, Rivet City gets attacked, while some doofy kid in Megaton celebrates winning a free soda with his family.

    • BlueHorus says:

      Like others, I love this idea. And it fits the story really well, without changing anything.

      You could put in a side quest (or even main quest) that gives a hint as well:

      A group of ghouls have suddenly started attacking people – affected by the radio signal (or whatever the enclave uses), though they – and their victims – don’t know it.

      ‘We used to trade with these guys! But lately all they do is attack us. Have they gone feral? Mad? Feral ghouls don’t usually shout coherent words or use guns though…
      Hey, random wanderer, you look tough, could you go look into this for us? There’s caps in it for you if you do.’

      You get the moral chioce of ‘try and find out what the problem is, then fix it’ vs ‘just slaughter them all, problem solved (and lots of loot)’ vs ‘find out what the problem is and kill them anyway’.
      The player gets to kill a different type of enemy for a bit, and the racism against ghouls makes a bit more sense, particuarly if there are other ghouls around who are similarly affected.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      I am shocked and appalled just how well the pieces fit together and how ridiculously little work is necessary for this whole idea to work and nobody in the development team thought to do anything even vaguely along those lines. It’s just “super mutants because those were in the first game”.

    • tremor3258 says:

      Oh, nice addition.

      It works so well, after all, gives the Enclave a USE for all these people who need to be removed anyway from the Wasteland; they’re impure so might as well be brought under the guiding hand of the Enclave, last refuge of true humanity.

  2. Amstrad says:

    Tying into this idea, make all the Super Mutants you kill have some sort of lootable item (likely the aforementioned bomb-collar or drug injector or whatever) that triggers a side-quest to figure out what the hell the things are for. Collect x amount of the things for y sciencey type character and get some exposition as a reward.

  3. Gordon says:

    Yep. Makes a ton of sense. My one issue might be that inasmuch as the enclave has an ideology, it’s that they hate mutants. Like, so dedicated to the idea of “purity” that they want to kill anyone and everyone that wasn’t part of a bottled society.

    On the other hand, it’s kind of established that they’re not shy about using mutants as tools, like the deathclaws or Frank Horrigan, though in the latter’s case it was interesting that he didn’t seem to know – or be able to know – that he was a mutant. Could that have a callback by giving these super mutants combat barks that call HUMANS mutants?

    Finally, I love those bits on how the Brotherhood regards the super mutants. Really top notch, empathetic portrayals. Does anyone have any ideas about how this new take on the Brotherhood can lead to a better take on the outcasts?

    • Rutskarn says:

      Regarding the “mutant purification” thing: that did occur to me. And then, like you said, I remembered that YOU CAN ALSO FIND THEM EXPLOITING MUTANTS IN THEIR BASE. You could argue they have a different attitude towards “human” mutants and nonhuman mutants? I guess? I plan to expand on this point later.

      It seems justifiable that the Enclaves translates their view that mutants are subhuman freaks into “we should exploit them for all they’re worth and then destroy them.”

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      While the enclave hates mutants,the best thing about super mutants is that if no one makes them they just die off.So the enclave doesnt even have to bother exterminating them,they just need to wait a few years for them to disappear.

      • Amstrad says:

        Well.. you’d be waiting more than just a few years as Super Mutants are as far as I remember functionally immortal. Marcus is at least 40-50 years old and more likely 100 or more.

        As an aside, I think it’d be interesting to pull a Jurassic Park and despite the mutants being created sterile they somehow adapt and start breeding.

        • Henson says:

          Super Mutants now have a lysine dependency.

        • TheJungerLudendorff says:

          Even if they didn’t build in any killswitches, it shouldn’t be THAT hard for the Enclave to get rid of the Super Mutants. The wastelanders by themselves have been successfully killing and holding off mutants for years, so the actual killing part is very much doable.

          And since most of the Super Mutants wouldn’t know stealth or subtlety even if it crouch-ran behind them, chokeslammed them into unconciousness and put their limp bodies in humorously compromising positions, you don’t have to worry about large numbers of mutants laying low and hiding or organizing some sort of guerrila warfare against their former masters.

        • ehlijen says:

          I don’t think old age is the most likely cause of death for any super mutant bred and conditioned to run random rampage. The enclave just has to stop making new ones and they’ll naturally thin out their numbers with random violence.

  4. ehlijen says:

    It would even give Fawkes a more personal reason to attack the enclave bunker, instead of just following them to find you for barely established reasons. She could finally get revenge.

    • Redingold says:

      One would presume that Fawkes was immune to the brainwashing, and that’s why they’re the only intelligent Super Mutant.

      • Gruhunchously says:

        Hell, you don’t even have to go that far. Just say that for every hundred or so loyal Super Mutants, there’s one or two that don’t respond as well to the conditioning and start developing perspectives and thoughts of their own. Usually the Enclave detects these anomalies and quickly destroys them, but for some reason that the writer can elaborate on, Fawkes was able to avoid being cleansed. Maybe she happened to overhear a few menacing conversations between Enclave scientists, or saw one his fellow mutants be executed. Either way, she realized that she would have to play dumb and blend in with the other mutants until she could find an opportunity to escape.

        When the player finds her, she’s either on the run, and needs the players help to fight off her pursuers, or she’s been recaptured and is awaiting execution, and the player has to rescue her.

        You talk to her as a companion and he gives an insiders perspective on how the mutants are created, what their training regimen is like, the kind of orders they receive, and hints at the Encalve’s ultimate goal.

        • BlueHorus says:

          ‘I spent years killing for that voice. The one on the radio.
          Go here, do this. KIll those people. Shoot that thing. Humans in armor fighting me, hurting me everyday , so I hurt them back – eventually, I began to wonder why. What was so important about what I was doing?
          It took me months to work it out. And when I did? The voice just turned on me. Told my brothers to kill me instantly. Like machines, they obeyed it – as they always did – and I was left for dead.
          I wasn’t a valued soldier. I wasn’t working for some wise god with a greater purpose. I was a tool, and the moment I stopped working right, I was to be destroyed and replaced without a second thought.”

          TL;DR? Yes, this adds a great extra dimension to Fawkes.

    • Decius says:

      If Fawkes almost, but not completely, shakes off the Enclave conditioning, then if you have them at the Final Moral Choice, a radio nearby could send some kind of coded signal temporarily incapacitating Fawkes.

  5. cavalier24601 says:

    This is amazing. It fixes so many problems. The ambush at in Vault 87 makes perfect sense, now. The Enclave may not have known you were going there, but received notification when the attack happened. Of course they’d hear if someone was disrupting the Super Mutant production area. It was no problem for them to get in to Vault 87 and get ahead of you.

    The Mutant-killing water additive makes more sense, as well. That’s the kill-switch for when they need to clear out Super Mutants in large numbers. An injector could be mounted on every one or used in a variant of the Dart Gun.

  6. BenD says:

    Yep, I went through most of the game assuming that the Enclave (or its predecessors) produced and deployed super mutants. I was pretty sure I’d just missed the reveal.

  7. Munkki says:

    Gah! This has been such an interesting series to read and I don’t want my first comment on it to be persnickety disagreement, but – er. I’m in a bit of a rush so this might come off as a bit abrupt, but:

    I actually disagree with the idea of folding the super mutants into the enclave. The super mutants are usually – as the game exists now – the largest, most obvious danger in the game world. Having them just sort of out there helps to sell the idea of the wasteland as a dangerous place in its own right and gives the enclave an obvious, understandable reason to be wary of mutants. These two things combined give the enclave just enough credibility that it’s possible to understand why people might be motivated to work with or for them. Not so much that they become actually sympathetic, but enough to support their character. If you were to place the super mutants within the enclave’s faction ecosystem, then suddenly the wasteland becomes essentially a hell of their own creation. That’s not necessarily a fatal flaw as far as believability goes, but it does shift the character of the enclave from ‘organised body pursuing dangerous ideals that will ultimately destroy many lives’ to ‘out of control powermongers whose brilliant strategies involve unleashing barely-controllable giant deranged mutant cannibals on the unsuspecting populace’. Which seems like a weaker position to start writing interesting stories from, I think.

    Plus they’re everywhere. You’d need a different type of ‘environmental hazard’ enemy or risk turning the sense of exploration into a sense of ‘finding the latest place the enclave got to before you did’. I dunno. That’s my gut reaction, anyway.

    But yeah! That’s my two cents’ worth; all opinion of course, but hopefully someone out there finds it interesting.

    • guy says:

      The Enclave canonically want to commit genocide and exterminate basically everyone in the wasteland with a biological weapon, so I don’t think this is shifting their character much.

      • Munkki says:

        Well yeah, they’re really not sympathetic. But ‘planning eventual genocide by way of tampering with a pool filter’ is a lot easier to carpet over (internally and externally) than ‘immediately unleashing mutant hell and hoping our pool filter trick kills them when it kills everyone else, oh by the way guys we’re killing everyone, hope that’s ok’

        Like I was not trying to argue they’re anything less than completely evil; what I was trying to get at was that subtle evil has an easier time making friends.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      I concur here. The super mutants are a force of nature -created accidentally by the FEV virus and the Vault 87 missile strike. They have overwhelmed the wasteland -and are possibly the reason it still is a wasteland. They give an antagonist for the Brotherhood of Steel to oppose that explains why the Outcasts broke off, and also explain the Enclave’s desire to purify the wasteland. They are a wildcard that the established factions need and want to control.

      That said, I would agree that providing just a bit more to their story -just like the Outcasts need a bit more story -would improve the overall game. I just don’t think they need to be incorporated into the main plot.

      • BlueHorus says:

        So I haven’t played the original Fallout (at least for more than five minutes; man it’s buggy to get running on modern computers) but I’ve seen cutscenes on youtube & vaguely know the plot – also it’s referenced in New Vegas:

        (Spoilers: Fallout)
        Super Mutants weren’t randomly created. They were deliberately made by a psychic overlord-mutant-thing called The Master who had vats of FEV (jeez, this sounds silly written down. Actually, strike that, it just IS silly.) The Master was directly controlling the mutants for aims of his own.

        They’ve appeared in sucessive Fallout games because they’re iconic and popular, usually with justifications that feel like they came after the decision to include them. Their Vault 87origins shown in Fallout 3 feel like that, at least to me.

        Rutskarn’s idea isn’t about justifying the Mutant’s presence as much as it is justifying the Enclave’s – and making the Enclave smarter/a better antagonist.

    • Aanok says:

      The Enclave are space nazis. Much like their historical counterpart, pretty much the only people willing to work with them either share their supremacist ideal or do so out of calculated interest. Considering that nobody really gives a toss in the Wasteland about racial purity and that there’s the alternative of siding with the BoS, which pursues the same practical goals sans cartoonish villainy, I feel you’d be rather hard pressed to find people who’d prefer the Enclave. So, generally speaking, I don’t think there’s much that can be done to make them more politically credible.

      However, I think you’ve highlighted a fair criticism of Rutskarn’s rewrite. The upside to Bethesda’s mix-mash of themes, bland writing and sketched characterization is that it gives a powerful sense of breadth: there are so many different bollocks happening that I at least can’t help but feel the world is pretty big. There is the Enclave and there are the Super Mutants and there is the BoS and there are the Children of Atom and there are you and your dad and so on. It’s all mostly just tossed out in disarray but it’s varied and that keeps things fresh and wide.

      The narrative in Overhallout, in contrast, is a lot more consistent, focused and causally connected, which makes it immensely stronger but also more claustrophobic. By deliberate design, everything you see ties into the same themes and the same story, so you’ll hardly find yourself wondering what kind of fresh idiocy you’ll find literally 100m over from where you are now. To strengthen some core themes, you’re paying the natural trade-off of having fewer themes overall. Normally you’d call that good narrative economy, but Bethesda has been living very comfortably otherwise.

      (of course, I’m not saying Rutskarn’s version wouldn’t allow disconnected side plots, I’m just talking about the general feel of the game world)

      • BlueHorus says:

        The upside to Bethesda's mix-mash of themes, bland writing and sketched characterization is that it gives a powerful sense of breadth: there are so many different bollocks happening that I at least can't help but feel the world is pretty big.

        That’s a valid point. I would ask this, though:

        If you were genuinly interested depicting a big world, full of different things, would you deliberately fill it with the most iconic monsters from previous games?

        – Radscorpions appear in all Fallout games.
        – Super Mutants also appear in every Fallout.
        – Deathclaws: Every game.
        – Ghouls: Every game.
        – Giant Ants: Fallout 2.
        – The Enclave: Fallout 2.
        – Yao Guai – actually, first appearance Fallout 3, acording to the Wiki. Cool, didn’t know that.

        I’d say the dearth of genuinely new creatures makes the world feel smaller. Come on, there’s a entire ecosystem to mess around with, you’re just gonna copy-paste someone else’s ideas?

        Like how Disney made a new Star Wars movie (The Force Awakens) and somehow had to include exactly the same TIE Fighters, X-Wings & Millenium Falcon; as well as include all the original cast in the story.
        Come on, there’s an entire galaxy out there (far, far away) you’re just gonna – etc.

        YMMV of course.

        • Ani-kun says:

          I actually covered this in something I wrote. Because this is DC, I went with the idea that the Smithsonian probably existed, along with the animals kept there… so why not some unusual and interesting fauna mutated and made into really nasty beasties to roam the wastes? (Mutated buffalo, giant green-eyed murderbirds, etc.)

          If you have an interesting location in the general region you’re setting your game, you should damn well think about using it for something.

          • BlueHorus says:

            I forgot mirelurks, which were also original. Naughty me.
            …which is odd, because I remember really liking them. Horsehoe crabs bigger than you are? Yes please.
            Particuarly the Nuka-Cola version you find in the bottling plant.

        • Christopher says:

          I think that’s a “We took over this franchise after other beloved creatives” thing. You feel like you gotta keep the original pieces in there.

        • FelBlood says:

          At least Force Awakens had the good sense to realize they needed to justify all this fan service, by making the entire plot about the mommy and daddy issues of it’s characters, and how they are trying to find their identity by emulating their forebears.

          It’s most literal with the First Order, but everyone is looking to the icons of the past to give some meaning to their present.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Hey,they added two headed DEER in fallout 4!Thats completely different than the previous games.

    • djw says:

      In this case, I think that you can have your cake and eat it too.

      For starters, lets say that the mutant infestation in the DC wasteland really is an accident. However, the enclave has of course been doing extensive research on the super mutants and has learned how to temporarily control them with (insert sciency jargon here).

      The enclave does not want to tip its hand early, so they just fire up a supermutant control beam to get results when they need random destruction at a not so random location.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      You could use the other critters and nasties that populate the wasteland to justify why it’s so dangerous. Sure, mole rats and yao guai aren’t much of a threat to a high level, insanely well armed player character, but certainly are to the average malnourished wastelander. Failing that, Bethesda could invent an entirely new threat, perhaps a formidable, fast breeding, invasive mutant threat like the Tunnelers in Lonesome Road. Better better still, multiple dangerous mutant creatures unique to the DC area, buffed Mirelurks for instance.

      And there’s always Deathclaws, themselves engineered mutants but also natural breeders. Back in Fallout the First, Deathclaws were legendary terrors that could (according to rumors floating around the Hub) turn invisible and mimic human speech. The possibility of just one being in the local area was enough to stop some merchants from venturing away from town. They’d probably be more familiar to the average human after a hundred years, but that wouldn’t make them any less of a threat; if packs of them were wandering around at random intervals, it would do much to dissuade travel across the wastes.

  8. Thomas says:

    Oh wow, this is excellent. What a perfect, simple way to improve the whole game without changing much.

    I loved the context-light/heavy bit too. I’d never thought of that in terms of enemy NPCs before.

  9. Geebs says:

    Honestly I never really thought about the Super Mutants at all. My logic went something like this:

    1) Super Mutants are green
    2) Orks are green
    3) Therefore Super Mutants == Orks
    //ignore the fact that all Orks are Cockney and Super Mutants aren’t
    4) Orks crop up everywhere and are chaotic neutral
    5) QED

    OK, now if you don’t mind I’m off to check that I’m not actually on Bethesda’s pay roll, seeing as I appear to think exactly the same way they do.

    • BlueHorus says:

      All I know is that I now want Orks in my Fallout.

    • Rutskarn says:

      I actually cut out a whole part that was like, “I get that Super Mutants are orks, but imagine if Lord of the Rings had orcs who weren’t part of an army, had nothing to do with Sauron or Saruman, and were never conclusively defeated at the end of the story.

      Then I remembered the Hobbit, and ended up clarifying and picking nits about the difference and finally axed the whole bit.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        “Imagine if lord of the rings had orcs camping in mordor,and sieging helms deep,yet they werent allied with either saruman or sauron”

        • Syal says:

          But I think The Hobbit mold fits Bethesda games more closely.

          …your father is Smaug.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Not really.Orcs dont appear in any “mission” thats connected to smaug,and in the ending battle we get the motivation for their army to be there:To get the riches,just like everyone else.They are connected to the world enough.

            If the hobbit was done like fallout 3,then we would get random orcs attack the dwarves when come to meet the hobbit,then more random orcs attack the party when they arrive in laketown,then some more random orcs attack the party while they are searching for the secret door.Also therell be even more random orcs roaming around everywhere in middle earth,just cause.And in the final battle,instead of an army of orcs,therelly be just a bunch of unconnected leaderless orc parties jumping into the fray while everyone else is fighting,not to plunder the mountain,but just to kill something.

      • djw says:

        The orcs in Moria were not directly led by Sauron or Saruman were they? And I don’t think anybody formally defeated them (although Gandalf killed their boss).

        I suppose you can assume that with the Balrog dead some group of Dwarves showed up and cleaned house.

        All of this is just a nitpick that proves the general point… the orcs in Lord of the Ring all had reasons to be where they were (often detailed reasons covered in appendices) so they were not at all like super mutants in that regard.

  10. krellen says:

    This has been my headcanon since I read the words “for the sake of argument consider a Fallout 3 where the player and Brotherhood fought Enclave forces for the whole game“.

  11. darth joe says:

    I’m gonna have to stop reading this… its making me retroactively not enjoy fallout 3 with the insanely good tweaks.

  12. Ani-kun says:

    You might not want to cover the raiders, but I sure as hell did ;p


  13. Triangles says:

    You’ve misspelled the title of the post.

  14. DwarfWarden says:

    The worst part of all is that literally nobody in Bethesda played the first two Fallouts.

    Everyone here who played Fallout 2 knows what the Enclave did: found FEV documents, found the destroyed Mariposa base, and their top CIA agent became a Super Mutant larger than other super mutants and they strapped a modified Power Armor suit to him. The connection of Super Mutants to Enclave was already done *for* them and they managed to forget to have a reason of why Super Mutants are there. Worse yet?

    They don’t show how more Super Mutants are made. Yeah, they claim Super Mutants carry people off (like Red and Shorty from Big Town – and by Beelzebub’s unholy ass I cannot wait for Rutskarn to get to THAT travesty) to make more Super Mutants….and in their headquarters we find absolutely nothing at all that would create another Super Mutant.

    Just a friendly reminder, friends don’t let friends play Bethesda games without mods. Vanilla Fallout 3 is garbage, but if you install the mod Fallout Wanderer’s Edition it makes the game much more enjoyable, the list of improvements could make up a few posts of its own, I highly *highly* recommend it to anyone looking for a better version of Fallout 3.

    • KarmaTheAlligator says:

      They don't show how more Super Mutants are made. Yeah, they claim Super Mutants carry people off (like Red and Shorty from Big Town ““ and by Beelzebub's unholy ass I cannot wait for Rutskarn to get to THAT travesty) to make more Super Mutants….and in their headquarters we find absolutely nothing at all that would create another Super Mutant.

      Indeed, the only thing you do find in that vault (and anywhere there are Super Mutants) are gore piles, and I highly doubt they make more Super Mutants out of those.

    • BlueHorus says:

      Didn’t play, or didn’t care enough?
      Again, the one-word review of fallout 3’s writing comes up: superficial.
      ‘We’ve got the super muntants in there – good enough! Next!”
      (Said in your best ‘cynical-executive-in-a-business-suit’ voice)

      Lat week a user called Thomas put it really well: Bethesda sell moments rather than a coherent story. By thinking too much about it, you’ve ruined the grimdarkness of wandering around a dark vault full of gore piles.

      Seconded on the Wanderer’s Edition Mod. Improves the game a lot, BUUUUT…
      …THe same team did a mod (Project Nevada) for New Vegas, so if you want a gameplay overhaul AND a good story…

      • DwarfWarden says:

        I will say one thing, AND ONLY ONE THING in Bethesda’s defense.

        Those quiet moments in FO3? Where you’re in a wilderness visiting radio towers, re-activating distress signals and then finding where people hopelessly waited for a rescue that would never come? Those were really well done. I’ve got a friend who loves modding and has been neck-deep in Fallout 4 modding for months (and I mean creating mods not just installing them) and he put it pretty well – the guys making the scenery, the guys making the filler, they know how to make a decent story. They tell through scenery like skeletons trapped under rubble, or a room full of empty tin cans next to a body and a revolver with only 5 bullets, and they bring your eye to this things with the useful/interesting loot. Meanwhile they make the most well-trained chimpanzees write the main story.

  15. Ciennas says:

    This does make all their combat taunts make sense now. And it would actually finally implicate who was leading these dumbasses, a question that is also unanswered in Fallout 4, where they could also have been better implemented.

    I’m thinking Zimmer could have sent a synth back to the Institute with a carefully collected copy of FEV.

  16. default_ex says:

    Could even expand the depth on super mutants by bringing in origins. The Enclave did it is nice and makes sense in a way. The Enclave picked up an old military experiment to create super soldiers gone horribly wrong adds a bit more depth.

  17. Jeremiah Frye says:

    Heh 4th installment of this and I only just now notice it’s being written by Rutskarn. Shows just how much attention I pay to who the authors are on blog posts around here.

    • Viktor says:

      I find it interesting that you couldn’t tell. Ruts has a very distinct voice, imo, and it’s usually very clear to me when something has been written by him. The “brainless bodysnatching coral shrimp” line in paragraph 4 is a perfect example of something that I don’t think anyone else on this site would come up with. Not saying you should have noticed, just that it makes me wonder how clear this stuff is to other people.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        The best way to differentiate is to hover your mouse over one of the pictures.If nothing shows,then its Rutskarn.If theres text,then its one of the old guys.

      • Jeremiah says:

        Well, to be perfectly frank I can usually tell Rutskarn’s writing just from his voice/writing style because it tends to vaguely annoy me a bit. The Overhallout posts mark the first time that hasn’t been the case, which is why I didn’t realize it until I happened to pay attention to who actually wrote it.

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