You want to know: when is Fallout 5 coming out? Where will the game be set? This article takes stock of the game creators’ choices throughout the series to hopefully surmise where their next Fallout game will take place.
The first time I played Fallout, a game centered around survivors of a nuclear apocalypse, I relished putting myself in the shoes of a vault dweller.
My skin got clammy. My breathing got ragged and I blinked way too much. I was constantly itching myself, thinking Radroaches might be near.
Somehow, the cloistering setting of an underground vault in Fallout 3 was totally visceral. But my experience as the “Lone Wanderer” wasn’t the first by a long shot. Now, recalling this memory, all I can think is: “Where the heck is Fallout 5 going to take place?!”
If you’re just scrolling by andd looking for our prediction, head down to the U.S. map and the section “Where Will Fallout 5 be set?”
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR All FALLOUT GAMES AND OTHER SINGLE PLAY ROLE-PLAYING GAMES.
What is Fallout? An Alternative Nuclear War Timeline
The Fallout story actually began under a different moniker, the game Wasteland, in 1988. The first Fallout game debuted in 1997. Back then, a typical game soundtrack was built around an in-game radio playing one real title from The Ink Spots, “Maybe”, from 1940. This one song alone lifted the player into a nostalgic state of mind amid the American nuclear wasteland.
In Fallout, pop culture and Art Deco stylings are all that is left of the pre-nuclear world. Instead, you have something like a 1950s America except, well, reimagined. It is a postwar landscape of ghouls, radioactivity, and the bandits left behind when all governmental institutions went silent.
Bethesda Game Studios acquired the IP after Fallout 2 in 1998, but didn’t release Fallout 3 until 2008. A revamped, custom character creator and more open world setting (what some call sandbox RPGs) set the tone for the franchise moving forward.
The in-game radio soundtrack was pushed to its limits, with several tracks from The Ink Spots and everything from Bing Crosby to Cole Porter. These World War era tracks struck a perfect tone for a decidedly perfect game.
The 2015 release of Fallout 4 saw another installment in the vault dweller saga. The soundtrack went further, keeping tracks from Fallout 3 but also pulling more classic tracks from the likes of Tex Beneke and others.
The atom had become U.S. culture.
Fallout 4 endings also pushed the franchise in a new direction. But they left us with so many questions that the Far Harbor DLC didn’t really answer. It merely set up MORE questions which means that, going into 2018, fans are ready for Fallout 5.
Many of us have burning questions like:
- Where will the next installment take place and what factions will be present?
- Will Fallout 5 comment on more than nuclear war and American exceptionalism?
- Will it deviate at all from the hero vault dweller storyline of many Fallout games?
- Could the Fallout games be tied to the Elder Scrolls universe?
Given recent disappointments in AAA game development, developer Bethesda Game Studios may have trepidation. After all, another copy/paste into the Fallout formula might not be enough this time.
One thing is sure: war never changes, but it can’t go on forever.
Could Fallout Games and Elder Scrolls Games Really Be Connected?
First off, let’s address the rumors that Fallout and Elder Scrolls are somehow going to mesh together.
Of course, we all wonder how a showdown between the Sole Survivor and the Dragonborn would play out. This fan video addresses that, but that’s probably where the crossover ends.
It all started with an easter egg of nirnroot in a Fallout 4 lab. On top of that, Doom and Wolfenstein are probably in the same universe, so why not other Bethesda titles? Fan theories on Reddit make compelling cases except for one tiny thing: Tamriel has two moons.
A bit difficult to explain away something as blatant as that, I’m afraid. But still: the Fallout games are beloved by many gamers, both avid and casual.
For intrepid readers unfamiliar with Fallout games, they are pretty user-friendly.
For a Casual Gamer™ like me, you can access console commands in Bethesda games. You can enable “God mode”, making you invincible, and whack away at your enemies. If you want to get frustrated, go play a Dark Souls game.
Fallout 4 Shows us What Factors Will Predict Fallout 5
One of the best parts of Fallout 4, for me, was the depth of character for every companion. From Curie’s remarkable storyline to the devastating twist with The Institute, Fallout 4 was full of surprises. The dumb joke in the video above told by various Mr. Handy robots gave me near constant glee.
Unfortunately, Fallout 4 also pushed you into committing to one faction over others.
But the biggest question Fallout fans have isn’t “Which Fallout 4 power armor is the best?”
It isn’t even “Why was Nick Valentine kinda boring in the DLC?” Okay, that second question might be up to personal preference. Nevertheless, Fallout 5 storylines, locations, and faction options are the new hotness.
Luckily, there are a few things we can track across Fallout games to predict Fallout 5.
It all boils down to a few things:
- Location and technology
- Power of words and choice
- History of the Great War
- Current landscape of AAA games and indie games
- Real world studio relationships (or lack thereof)
These factors will play integral roles in the plot and location of Fallout 5.
But what about a release date? For now, speculation ranges from as early as late 2018 to as late as never. The last two bullets in the above list will predict when Fallout 5 is released.
Where Will Fallout 5 be set? Location and Technology
While spinoff games take place in Texas and other locales, the main series is limited. So far, the games have been set in California, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., Boston, and bits and pieces of Maryland and Virginia.
Other upcoming AAA games (well-known, big studio games like Fallout) such as Far Cry 5 will venture as far as the mountains of Montana. Yet, we doubt that Fallout will ever center a game in an area without a major metropolitan center.
Could we see a Fallout 5 in a totally new area of the United States or, potentially, in China? Frankly, a Fallout game set in China is unlikely. But it would be an excellent source of new material and storylines for Bethesda.
It would also help Bethesda developers evade a classic pitfall of game development. Fans of the Mass Effect series from Bioware can tell you all about it. How do you make a follow-up game for a predecessor with multiple endings?
It didn’t work out well with Mass Effect: Andromeda, but Fallout 5 could be another story. Why not extrapolate on tech presented in Fallout 4?
Depending on when Fallout 5 takes place compared to Fallout 4, the technology could be light years ahead. Teleportation could be much more advanced. Beyond that, there are tons of other directions to take the Fallout 5 plot.
One thing we’d bet our live savings on is:
Conjecture and Conspiracy Theories: Playing as a Synth?
Perhaps the next American character in Fallout 5 will find a reason to leave the U.S. Maybe the next vault dweller (main character) will actually be a synth–something like a replicant from Blade Runner. And maybe, just maybe, this robot you will be shipped somewhere NOT in the United States of America.
Bethesda could even bring back the intelligent Deathclaws. Or expand on intelligent super mutant storylines.
Most likely, we don’t think Bethesda will choose to step away from the established settings of the previous games. Yet, because of all-new technologies portrayed in Fallout 4 (teleportation) advancing tech could be an easy way to “explain away” a sudden moving away from post-apocalyptic America.
In some way, Bethesda will eventually need to address the possibility of the Fallout story ending.
Ambiguity is not your friend in game development. It rings truer to the spirit of Fallout games for explicit choices with lore, location, and story progress. It also echoes how certain choices from Fallout 4 shake the series’ foundation.
In Fallout 4, you had basically one choice: support the Brotherhood or the Institute. The Institute created the replicant-like robots, the synths, and the Brotherhood are hell-bent on destroying this technology.
You can’t talk your way out of this one.
For all of Fallout 4’s moral questions, nobody asks how The Institute developed synths. Where did they get the resources? Beyond that, The Institute exists in a place where there is no radioactivity exposure. Also, synths are immune to radioactivity. This is in direct conflict with one of the main mechanics and plot points of Fallout games: rads (or, a unit of how irradiated your character is).
Synths are something that could “break the lore” of Fallout. How does this inform the direction of a Fallout 5 storyline? Again, it comes back to location and technology.
How Location Will Affect the Technology and Plot of Fallout 5
Tech may be the key to unlocking the Fallout 5 plotline. What we need to know is: is the direction of Fallout 5 limited by the previous games?
How did The Institute develop a seemingly endless supply of synths AND teleportation technology? Does this mean that newer Fallout games will take similar leaps of faith?
Answers please, Bethesda.
While tech is a key to the plot, location is a key to the tech. No matter how the events in Fallout 4 inform Fallout 5, the location will play a key role in the actual plotline.
Some Redditors have thrown out cities like San Francisco and NYC for potential locations. But California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Virginia, and other areas all feature already. We even ventured to Maine for the Far Harbor DLC and Alaska in Operation Anchorage.
A Miami mod is in the works for Fallout 4, but Florida would be a great location for Fallout 5. Think of all the eerie swamps and associated Deathclaw jump scares. New Orleans has also been tossed around as an option. Despite all of this, San Francisco or Chicago both seem very likely places.
These city destinations offer unique landscapes, but don’t require heavy investment in graphics like a snowy wilderness in Colorado or Montana might. What these less-wild, urban areas offer are unique perspectives in the atom-centric, nuclear-fusion focused universe of Fallout. Most of all: these destinations can easily fit the copy/paste Vault dweller hero story.
But my wish is to see something totally unique to the Fallout series.
The Great War took place between the U.S. and China. Why not combine the two using advanced teleportation tech from The Institute or stolen tech from the aliens? Better yet: keep it in North America. Atomic-era Cuba or annexed, post-war Canada could be huge lore pools for Fallout 5.
Why A New Location Is Unlikely for Fallout 5
Why? It’s a risk. Big studios don’t take risks with their big earners. You see the same thing in film with franchises like Marvel and DC. The next Avengers movie isn’t going to be about deep, dark existential dilemmas. A classic good vs. evil formula will drive some light-colored heroes to fight an explosion-riddled battle against tall, dark handsome villains.
But I’m a cynic when it comes to video game development (read: life).
I’ve watched games fall apart due to development woes (Mass Effect: Andromeda). I’ve watched games flat out fail because of repeated and inexplicable changes (Paragon). I’ve also seen, firsthand, how publishers can hold a game in limbo for years when I worked at a publishing company in Houston, TX.
Either way, Reddit user superstriker94 had the best reply to the question: “Where would you like Fallout 5 to be set?”
How Real-World Game Developers Affect the Future of Fallout 5
Many fans of the Fallout franchise would love to see a direct sequel to Fallout: New Vegas. The game deviated from the vault dweller storyline, having you play “The Courier.” When a game opens with you dying, that sets up some pretty legit expectations. The multiple endings also resonated well with fans.
Unfortunately, this is unlikely as Obsidian, the developer behind it, has no plans in the works. However, many outlets report that Obsidian “would love to work on another Fallout game.” So there’s that ray of glimmering hope in our current wish for a new hellscape adventure.
Real world developers also put a damper on the Elder Scrolls/Fallout game tie-in theory. Bethesda acquired the Fallout IP, so how could it be in the same universe as Elder Scrolls?
Despite this disappointment for some, Bethesda announced quite a few things at E3 2017.
Wolfenstein II: A New Colossus dropped and IS ABSOLUTELY THE BEST. The Evil Within 2 has seen success and the Dishonored: Death of the Outsider fared decently.
Fallout 4 VR seemed like an odd move and developers who spoke about Elder Scrolls 6 and Fallout 5 didn’t help the matter.
Strategic Leaks or Legitimately False Information?
Pete Hines is vice president of Bethesda Softworks, but he also controls marketing of games and public relations. He has trolled fans on Twitter with information leaks, denials, and cryptic comments. Given how Fallout fans have pummeled him over miniscule sidequests in the past, his trolling isn’t unprovoked.
I probably just had a concussion from the beating I took online and was rambling. Ignore.
— Pete Hines (@DCDeacon) September 6, 2017
But others affiliated with Fallout games in ways other than production or development also “spill the beans.”
Voice actor Ryan Alosio potentially broke some kind of NDA with the above Instagram post. In 2016, Alosio alleged that Fallout 5 was already in pre-production. He quickly rolled back on this claim.
Cut to now – February 2018 – and still no new Fallout game. Given that the endings in the Far Harbor DLC could reinforce endings in the main game, it’s up in the air. If you played as a heavily anti-synth character, one of the endings is in direct conflict with this. However, it results in the most peaceful ending.
Does Bethesda Need to Reimagine the Fallout Formula?
Two big factors play into Fallout 5’s release date. One of them is negotiating the various endings of Fallout 4 for canon lore. Watching other AAA games (Destiny 2, Battlefront II) crash and burn is the second factor. But there are two sides to that game development coin.
Small developers like Respawn Entertainment (now acquired by EA) produced games like Titanfall 2 with mass success. Larian Studios saw critical acclaim with their release Divinity Original Sin 2. Smash hit Horizon Zero Dawn came from a relatively small studio despite Kill Zone fame.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice made a serious splash, redefining what it meant to play video games. And I don’t even need to mention the success of PUBG and Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode. What does all this prove besides my status as a Real Gamer Girl™?
Gamers can be much more “choosey” with their gaming investments.
We Want a Fallout 5 (And We Want it Now!)
Bethesda needs to make Fallout 5 a true success and not just another game in the series. This might explain Bethesda’s hesitation in rushing both a Fallout game and an Elder Scrolls game. The backlash from a lackluster installment in this franchise could eventually lead to the total disillusionment of most gamers. Destiny 2, Battlefront II, then Fallout all wanting to take our micro-payments in exchange for a copy and pasted game?
So what does that mean for Fallout 5?
The Fallout series is all about meritocracy as survival perverts human nature.
- How moral can you remain in a post-apocalyptic wasteland?
- How many settlements can you save?
- Do you finesse or brute force your way in?
- Do you steal something after picking the lock despite Piper’s continual disapproval only of stealing, but loving that you pick locks?
We navigate similar moral quandaries in everyday life (apart from lock picking perhaps). But we can “escape” into a world similar to our own as the outsider we see ourselves as. That has always been the beauty of the Fallout franchise.
But maybe we will see a departure from Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. After all, how many times can a vault dweller protagonist save the world?
Maybe in Fallout 5, we see a story where the already blurred lines of morality become further erased.
Maybe in Fallout 5, we play as a synth.
Maybe we are a vault refugee emerging into an Institute vs Brotherhood ravaged war zone.
Maybe we play as Dogmeat!
I jest, but you see my point. A diversity of experience is something the recent Fallout games lack.
In part, this is by design and it works to efficient ends. But what if we got something new from Fallout 5?
Final Verdict: Fallout 5 Isn’t Coming Out This Year
It’s a sad truth that I would love to have proven to be a lie. But, given the evidence we have and the immense success of so many titles Bethesda released or is tied to, taking more time to develop Fallout 5 probably isn’t a bad thing.
Other rumors about the game include that it will have a multiplayer feature. This is a seemingly mandatory facet of many single player games now. But two things make it seem more plausible with Fallout 5.
Both the success of Elder Scrolls: Online and previous Bethesda job openings like “experience developing for online multiplayer environment” signal that multiplayer could be in Fallout 5. Among other rumors are a reworked dialogue system, involvement from BattleCry Studios, and, potentially, a new game engine.
All of these rumors come from various sources. Some are based on real-world job openings at various Bethesda studios. Some are derived from comments made by the likes of Todd Howard, director and executive producer at Bethesda Game Studios.
Despite all of the fan theories and ideas, we can’t make definitive claims about Fallout 5. Except that it is definitely NOT the same world as Elder Scrolls. Sorry fanboys. It was just an easter egg. The two moons and Bethesda’s IP acquisition of Fallout seal that fate.
What is Bethesda’s Goal for Fallout 5?
The ultimate question is: does Bethesda want to move units or reimagine the franchise? Another faithful copy/paste into the Fallout formula will still sell tons of copies. People will complain, but they will buy it and complain.
The retro 50s aesthetic will stick. The mechanics will be familiar and factions will evolve to fit the story. The location will also reinforce the nuclear backdrop with plenty of environmental variances to keep gameplay interesting.
And of course, you will be a vault dweller with a Pipboy. This sets up standard expectations and straightforward tutorial level design.
But with such breaths of fresh air as Horizon Zero Dawn, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and The Witcher III, open world games have a new standard.
Fluid storytelling that isn’t on rails, but rewards the player for exploration matters. Open worlds that feel open and alive are now the norm.
If Bethesda plays their cards right, Fallout 5 could further revolutionize open world game design. But let’s be real: Star Citizen is already doing that. Will we just have to wait and see if war never really changes?
Our Fallout 5 Prediction
Based on the factors we’ve discussed, here’s our prediction:
Fallout 5 will be set in Seattle, Washington, and you’ll play a feral ghoul who gets “cured,” and you’ll try to find out who you were before the apocalypse.