Ever since the release of New Vegas (and even before it) I've noticed a disturbing trend: instead of examining games and formulating opinions on these examinations, gamers have a tendency to ignore facts and just go with whatever the developers or PR people say. I'm referring, of course, to the question of whether Fallout: New Vegas is a spin-off or a sequel.
Todd Howard and Pete Hines, of course, have stated that New Vegas is a spin-off and Fallout 3 is a sequel. On a few occassions some of Obsidian's own developers have also referred to their game as a spin-off.
The name would make you think so. After all, 3 comes after 2, not New Vegas. However, such a reasoning is faulty. Using that logic, Quake II is a direct sequel to Quake, because id never explicitly stated that it is a spin-off. Another example disproving indiscriminate application of this logic is Thief: Deadly Shadows: since it does not have the number 3 in its name, then it must be a spin-off, because 3 comes after 2, not Deadly Shadows. As such, the reasoning that it's a number that defines a sequel is absurd. The content of the game decides that.
Before I proceed further, let's define what makes a sequel, basing on what they usually are (eg. System Shock 2, Bioshock 2, Tiberian Sun, Red Alert 2, Fallout 2 etc. ad infinitum):
- A sequel continues the storyline of the preceding game.
- A sequel features at least some of the characters/organization/technology/etc. present in the preceding game.
- A sequel conforms to the rules laid out by the preceding games (eg. in relation to technology level).
Fallout 3 is set in Washington, D.C., on the opposite end of the North American continent. The distance between the Capital Wasteland and the Core Region means that it is impossible for the game to continue the storyline and indeed, it does not. In Fallout 3 only the Brotherhood of Steel, the Enclave and the supermutants are factions that might be considered as making a return and even those could've been replaced by completely new factions with no loss to the game whatsoever, as apart from a handful of throwaway lines from Eden and Lyons, the history of the Core Region after the Enclave's defeat is completely ignored. Fallout 3 doesn't even conform to the rules laid out in classic Fallouts, by introducing eg. feral ghouls, nuclear powered cars, the Fat Man and most importantly, presenting the Capital Wasteland as a lawless, disorganized warzone, two centuries after the war, when on the other coast, the NCR is blossoming.
So, to summarize:
- Does Fallout 3 continue the storyline of the classic Fallouts? No. It's a standalone story in a completely independent setting, far away from the Core Region.
- Does Fallout 3 feature at least some of the characters/organization/technology/etc. present in the preceding game? No, with the exception of Harold, the Brotherhood and the Enclave (orks are not included in the tally).
- Does Fallout 3 conform to the rules laid out by the preceding games? Somewhat. While a great amount of content indeed expands the universe in a way consistent with classic Fallouts, there are several contradiction of the rules, most of them resulting from not researching the setting.
Fallout: New Vegas, on the other hand, is set in the Mojave Wasteland, which is far closer to the Core Region than the Capital Wasteland, practically next door. It continues the storyline of the Core Region, explaining what happened between 2241 and 2281, detailing these events and incorporating them into the narrative of the game. The foremost examples are the NCR/Brotherhood war and the Mojave campaign, as well as the birth of the Caesar's Legion. In addition to continuing the storyline, New Vegas features many of the organizations that were present in classic Fallouts, for example, the aforementioned original Brotherhood of Steel and the New California Republic, the Followers of the Apocalypse, Crimson Caravan, the Gun Runners and remnants of the Master's Army make an appearance, while many more (Far Go Traders, Wrights, Bishops etc.) are mentioned. Characters from classic Fallouts have several mentions (Tandi, Aradesh, Seth, Bishop Child, Master, Rose etc.), as do settlements that made an appearance in the classics (Boneyard, Hub, Klamath, Shady Sands, Junktown,Redding, New Reno etc.). Where Fallout 3 was a standalone game, where playing previous games in the series was not needed, Fallout: New Vegas is a game that embraces its predecessors and while playing the classics is still optional, one needs to play them to properly appreciate the setting and storyline in New Vegas, no doubts about it. On the subject of conforming to the rules of the previous games: while New Vegas does inherit some silliness from Fallout 3 in the form of legacy content, overall, it adheres to the rules to a far greater extent than the supposed sequel, for example, the the Brotherhood is a monastic, xenophobic order, completely in line with its portrayal in the classics, civilization is recovering rapidly and overall, the game is governed more by the rule of reason, rather than of cool.
- Does Fallout: New Vegas continue the storyline of the classic Fallouts? Yes. Not only is it set in the proximity of the Core Region, it also explains what happened to it and the surrounding areas between 2241 and 2281.
- Does Fallout: New Vegas feature at least some of the characters/organization/technologies/etc. present in the preceding game? Definitely. One of the characters even makes a return after 40 years.
- Does Fallout: New Vegas conform to the rules laid out by the preceding games? For the most part yes. Contradictions are still present, but they are far fewer in number and less severe than in Fallout 3.
As I demonstrated above, Fallout 3 cannot be considered a sequel to Fallout 2, since they have nothing in common, sans the Enclave (the Brotherhood was a footnote in the game, so I do not count it). Fallout: New Vegason the other hand, cannot be considered a spin-off, because it has so much in common with Fallout 2, enough to safely say that it is a sequel.
Therefore, Fallout: New Vegas by logic and reason, should be considered a direct sequel to Fallout 2, whereasFallout 3 should be treated as a spin-off. Any other claim is a violation of common sense and basic rules of logic, no matter if it's made by a developer, a fan or Jesus himself.
Anyone who thinks that a claim made by a developer holds more water than facts is... Well, I don't think I have to say how we call people who ignore reason and logic.