Recently, Obsidian Entertainment – the developers behind Pillars of Eternity and everyone’s favourite non-Bethesda game, Fallout: New Vegas – released images on their official website along with a countdown timer, pointing towards The Game Awards next week (which has become the new E3, but that’s for another discussion). Immediately, fans jumped to the conclusion that the art style present in the images bare striking resemblances to Fallout, sparking up an entirely new debate on whether or not Obsidian would be dusting off their power armour and taking us back into the nuclear wastelands. I believe this isn’t the case, and as I mentioned in a prior news post about the topic, there’s enough here to suggest that Obsidian is, indeed, working on what appears to be a spiritual successor to Fallout, rather than a new Fallout game entirely.
To clear up some misconceptions about the impending announcement first: Microsoft’s acquisition of Obsidian Entertainment recently does not mean that the game will be an Xbox exclusive. The timing of the announcement suggests that the game has been well in development for years before the acquisition happened, eliminating the possibilities of it affecting their ability to take it multi-platform. Secondly, Take-Two’s Private Division will serve as the publisher for the title, meaning that it could very well be the next BioShock game too (the art style of the site’s images suggests this as well). However, the next BioShock is reportedly in development by a secret new studio. Yes, there’s the possibility Take-Two might’ve swiped Obsidian for the undertaking, but I believe this isn’t the case. Let’s explore some reasons why.
Fallout (but not Fallout)
I believe that Obsidian’s new game is an original IP, and isn’t necessarily Fallout. This would be a difficult thing to make happen anyway, especially considering that Bethesda has a firm grip on the producing rights to the beloved RPG. It’s true that the co-creators of Fallout, Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, are now spearheading this particular project, but they’d possibly want to stretch their creative legs and take to a new IP entirely – without losing the spirit of Fallout.
It’s in my belief that Obsidian’s next project, set to be unveiled at The Game Awards next week, is going to be a new IP, but also a spiritual successor to Fallout. Judging by the details we can spot in the images – ‘Aunty Cleo’s’ and ‘Spacer’s Choice’ – we can deduce that it will maintain that same creative ingenuity and quirkiness of the Fallout series (along with the eye-catching mid-20th Century aesthetic). ‘Spacer’s Choice’ is an interesting tease as it suggests that the game won’t just take place on land, but in the skies above. The game might transition between ground and space exploration, and will almost definitely achieve that immersion by means of an open world – something that Obsidian has excelled quite well at, if Fallout: New Vegas is anything to go by. However, all of this won’t be far off from what was already perfected in Fallout’s attractive, colourful art style.
Bethesda currently holds the chips for the Fallout universe, but it doesn’t mean that Obsidian can’t dabble in their own variations and tweaks of that formula. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it also brews original ideas and concepts (see: Fallout 3 is just The Elder Scrolls with guns).
Space to Shine
When people think “Fallout in space”, the first thought that might pop into their head is Bethesda’s newly announced next-gen space title, Starfield. Since that game is moons away from launch, it’s safe to assume that the concept is fresh on the table and ripe for the taking. Obsidian’s new RPG may incorporate elements of ground exploration and space travel, but it will seamlessly meld the two in ways Mass Effect: Andromeda could only dream of. I’m certain that Obsidian’s strengths as a developer lie in their intricately woven stories/characters and exceptional world-building - or ideally, crafting the quintessential RPG experience. This would be the perfect opportunity to showcase Obsidian’s growth as a developer while making a second big impression on the gaming industry (or third, depending on your affinity for Pillars of Eternity).
With Obsidian receiving the limelight thanks to Microsoft’s thirsty acquisitions of amazing studios, their reputation has been bumped up exponentially (as if it needed more, but that’s beside the point). Strike while the iron is hot, right? Obsidian needs to reassure both curious and excited fans alike that their next project won’t stray too far off the mark from Fallout: New Vegas – in other words, I seriously doubt Cain and company would return to isometric gameplay – but at the same time, feel like a spiritual successor that pays homage to what put them on the map for many fans today.
Fallout 76, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Atom Bomb
To address the elephant in the room, yes, the game is being announced in close proximity to the release of Fallout 76 – or rather the PR stigma that’s attached to the game following its middling launch reception. Most would think that now would be the opportune time to unveil a spiritual successor to Fallout, 1) because Fallout 76 didn’t fare well with fans, and they need a good reason to instill new hope elsewhere, and 2) capitalize on the fact that Fallout can’t be the only heavy-hitter within its own sub-genre and fandom (I didn't forget you, Metro). Like The Elder Scrolls brewed healthy competition from the likes of The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age Inquisition, so Fallout must create its own competitors with the quirky post-apocalyptic style. Perhaps as a result of this, Bethesda will one day push the envelope for making a greater Fallout 5 and avoid risky wrecks like Fallout 76 in the future (it’s a win for consumers). The borrowed art style won’t exactly be ripping off Fallout either – because let’s face it, if any studio is going to develop a spiritual successor, it’s Obsidian – but rather pay homage to it.
Many of you might be asking why Obsidian Entertainment will want to even carry Fallout’s legacy into new territory. Well, it boils down to personal preferences in the end, but since Bethesda acquired the rights to Fallout, the series has never quite hit its stride. Bethesda Game Studios has plenty of great developers, but it took Obsidian to show them the potential of the series (a claim backed by the fact that many gamers consider Fallout: New Vegas to be the best in the series). They may very well do it again if they want to bring the best out of Bethesda Game Studios and the Fallout games again. This isn’t to say that it’s the only reason this new game is being made, but it hopefully makes Bethesda realize that they don’t have dominance over their own vision anymore. If they want to keep up, they have to run a little faster, and it just so happens that Obsidian is waiting at the finish line now.
Of course, this could all be misguided ramblings and the new game turns out to be chess by Obsidian Entertainment, but this is why I keep my tinfoil hat close by.
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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