The other day Todd Howard did the thing a lot of people have been waiting for. He announced that Bethesda will be making Fallout 5.
That’s pretty tough for Fallout fans to get excited about because development won’t start until “after” The Elder Scrolls 6, which itself is still mostly likely several years down the road. Meaning we might see Fallout 5… sometime after 2030? You can’t really get stoked for something that’s probably a decade away.
As for me, I’m having a different problem with getting excited about it, because instead of making Fallout 5 I wish Bethesda would make something else. Anything else. I’d be much happier to hear that they planned to make literally any other game, as long as it’s something new and not part of a series that’s been around for a couple decades already.
It’s not that I don’t like Fallout. I’ve had a great time with the Fallout games, enough to sink 120 hours into Fallout 3, almost 200 hours into Fallout 4 (plus well over 100 into Obsidian’s New Vegas). I even liked Fallout 76 a bit more than the average reviewer did when it launched back in 2018 (not that that’s saying much).
But as time marches on I find myself much more interested in games (and movies, and TV shows, and books) that aren’t part of an existing series. For instance, I kinda can’t believe I sat down on the couch last week and watched Obi-Wan Kenobi have a lightsaber fight with Darth Vader—something I first saw them do in 1977 (in a good movie) and then again in 2005 (in a bad one). It’s just sort of baffling to me. How is this still happening? Why can’t any story ever come to an actual end? Doesn’t anyone else get… you know… tired of the same characters and lore and universe forever and ever?
When I first saw the trailer for Starfield I wrote about how I was thrilled it was coming out before The Elder Scrolls 6 because I realized I want to play something new, something genuinely new, instead of a new entry in something old. I’m not a big fan of the term “new IP” because it sounds like marketing-speak belched out by business school cyborgs, but screw it, that’s what I want. New IP. A fresh start. Something unencumbered by years of lore and characters and history. A blank canvas.
After the massive success of Elden Ring I started wondering what lessons developers of open world games might take from it, but I think the most important lesson is that Elden Ring isn’t Dark Souls 4. Rather than make another Dark Souls game, FromSoftware made Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Elden Ring. These are games with a lot of Dark Souls DNA but still stand apart in new worlds with different rules.
I haven’t even played those games but it still feels incredibly refreshing to me, a studio putting a cap on a popular series and developing something new. And that’s what I’d prefer to see Bethesda do. It’s fine to include lots of what makes the Fallout games great—hell, even Starfield looks like it has plenty in common with Fallout—but sweet lord I’ve spent enough time with the Brotherhood of Steel already. I don’t need to meet yet another Mr. Handy bot. I’ve opened enough Vaults and I’ve done enough VATS. Can we move on? There’s gotta be other ideas to explore.
It’s not just Bethesda. I’d be thrilled to hear that Rockstar wasn’t making Grand Theft Auto 6 or that Ubisoft was retiring Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry in favor of something new… even if those things still felt quite a lot like GTA and Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry. If Valve never makes Half-Life 3, I’ll be totally fine. (As long as they make something.) FromSoftware proved you can end a popular series and start over—Elden Ring immediately became its biggest hit, selling more copies in a few weeks than Dark Souls 3 did in four years.
Wrapping a series up, even if it leaves a few lingering questions, is better than things dragging on for ages longer than they need to. Sometimes it feels good to move on and let new stories—completely new stories, not stories that fill in gaps in existing ones—have the chance to be told. Sometimes you should write “The End” and actually mean it. Fallout has told me (several times now) that war never changes. But it should.