Could Fallout 4 Show Us an Earlier Post-Apocalypse?

Fallout 4's first trailer dropped today, kicking off a flurry of speculation among the Shacknews staff. Could the flashback vignettes be hinting at a prequel?


The first trailer for Fallout 4 dropped like an atomic bomb today, kicking off a flurry of discussion and speculation among the Shacknews staff. The most hotly debated and deeply analyzed portion revolved around the various flashbacks, and what they could mean for this journey into the wasteland. Indulge us for a moment, as we engage in wild speculation about how this Fallout game could be going back to a much earlier time in Fallout lore.

We should establish some points about the timeline. The Fallout series has a 1950s aesthetic, reminiscent of Cold War-era atomic paranoia, but it's actually far removed from that era. Instead, it takes place in an alternate timeline with a much longer Cold War. The bombs that turned the world into a ruined wasteland didn't drop until 2077, and the last two games (Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas) took place more than 150 years later, in the 2200s. 

So, when we say that it could be set in an earlier time, we're still referring to the future: the late 2000s at the absolute earliest. That said, there are signs that could point to our lead protagonist being present when the bombs dropped.

The flashbacks may appear disconnected, but altogether they seem to tell a complete narrative arc of life before the Great War. We see a dog searching through a house, interspersed with snippets of a foreboding news report. In flashback, a couple watches over a baby.

As the dog runs out of the house, a series of flashback scenes occurs quickly. Community members gather on the street.

Civilians crowd around a fenced area guarded by the army, overlooking a billboard advertising the safety of Vaults.

Finally, we see the door to Vault 111. Near the end of the trailer, we see civilians standing outside when a bomb drops, and one woman holding her baby is wearing identical clothing to the mother we saw inside the house. 

On the whole, the vignettes tell the story of one small community in the midst of the Great War. It was peaceful and idyllic, then disrupted by a looming threat. Panicked, the people headed for the vaults only to be denied by guards. They were left outside when the bombs dropped, apparently doomed. Or were they? 

While those details could have been added for thematic resonance, the presence of the dog suggests something more at play. It didn't search the kitchen, where lingering food smells might have been. Instead, it headed straight for the nursery, even playing with the baby's mobile. It rushed out of the house as if it had caught a scent, and headed down the path we saw civilians go to attempt to enter the vault. At the very end of the trailer, the dog reunites with its master, an apparent denizen of Vault 111, and the likely protagonist of our story.

Here is where we enter the territory of wild speculation. What if that baby wasn't doomed by the blast, but instead its parents found a way to safeguard him inside Vault 111? We do see running towards the Vault from first-person perspective in flashback, and Fallout fans know how the series likes to place us in the eyes of an infant for its opening moments. If the baby grew up to be a young adult, the family dog could still be alive, and searching for its master. Or perhaps the dog entered the vault with the infant, and simply remembers the house better than his human does.

But wouldn't the blast have killed the onlookers? Not necessarily. As photographs can attest, people stood dangerously close to nuclear bomb testing in real life. Though those areas were ruined for years to follow, the viewers weren't immediately killed. If the civilians survived the shockwave, they could have had a chance to save their child--even if they themselves were doomed. 

If that is the case, this Fallout game would actually be a prequel, taking place much earlier than all previous games. Even the earliest Fallout game, the original, took place almost 100 years after the disaster. An adult who was an infant as of the Great War would place this one sometime in the 2090s, only 15-20 years after nukes covered the planet. That setting could open storytelling avenues previously sealed off for Bethesda, as well as give a more relatable story by juxtaposing the world before and after its fiery ruin.

Or maybe the dog is just a random canine, looking for food in a nursery. We'll surely know more once E3 comes.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 3, 2015 10:30 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Could Fallout 4 Show Us an Earlier Post-Apocalypse?

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      June 3, 2015 12:19 PM

      Super stoked for this title! Here's some of my own observations and speculations based on the 1080p trailer that warcrow posted in another thread

      - re-used objects and assets ie. food items in the kitchen and toys in the baby's room; the weapons, ammo boxes, and magazine rack (I could see Grognak, Guns and Bullets etc.) behind the power armour in the garage near the end of the trailer.

      - Brotherhood of Steel seems to be letting some of that crowd past the gates (to Vault 111?), filing them under the sign.

      - land-locked clipper: fully expecting a Boston Tea Party quest at some point.

      - The return of Deathclaws! Ghouls! Protectrons!

      - Baseball player statue out front of some armoured Fenway??? Ah yep, right after that clip we see a guy dressed in baseball fatigues holding a bat. Cool...possible baseball themed sub-quests!

      - Galaxy News Network billboard: will this just be a passing reference to the GNN headquarters in Washington, DC? What kind of radio will be broadcasting in this time period?

      ANYWAY! This game is gonna be fun...I could still play through another 60+ hours even with the niggling issues with VATS and other gameplay choices that have been discussed in the various threads.

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        June 3, 2015 1:16 PM

        That’s not the brotherhood of steel, that’s the Army.

        Brotherhood of steel did not invent power armor.



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          June 3, 2015 1:37 PM

          Thanks for the catch.

          I did notice the cover art features that same power armor, looking a little more menacing than usual. If this theory proves correct, it would make sense for the protagonist to have something of a grudge against the army for being stingy with its safe havens.

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            June 3, 2015 1:44 PM

            Hard to say, if this happened chronologically before FO3 then sure, but if not then it was a full 200 years after the army was obliterated by nuclear war.

            I don't think the protagonist would care, but maybe if it took place not long after the end of the war. Like say, within a generation. Vault 111 was also the second to last vault to be made according to the lore (vault 112 was the last) so we don't know what kind of experimentation was going on in 111.

            Anyway, speculation!

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            June 3, 2015 7:36 PM

            I'm assuming cryogenically frozen. At least the leaked casting call pointed towards that being the case. Which means the vault 111 experiment might have been cryogenics.

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          June 3, 2015 4:39 PM

          Yes, correct. I was more commenting on the article's observation that people were being held out of the Vault area.

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        June 3, 2015 8:02 PM

        The one thing that I took away from this is that the player controller character shall finally be voiced.

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          June 3, 2015 9:18 PM

          I don't really think that's a good thing

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            June 4, 2015 8:41 AM

            I think it's going to be awesome!!!!! I'm not a fan of the Silent Protaganist so this is a welcomed change for a Bethesda game

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      June 3, 2015 3:17 PM

      I hope they choose to set the game earlier in the timeline. Each sequel so far has been later than the last and 200 years on it's beginning to push believability that there are still unexplored buildings full of edible food less than a mile from major settlements.

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      June 3, 2015 8:32 PM


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      June 3, 2015 9:23 PM

      There was a post on the fallout reddit forums a while back from someone claiming to be a former bethsoft employee. They revealed a LOT of information about the game, including the setting. Looks like it's most likely accurate. I won't say any more about it.

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      June 3, 2015 10:17 PM

      No. this will be the intro, I can't imagine playing a whole 50 years inside the vault. its more likely the intro credits part.
      it is possible that this is one of the first vaults to open (for whatever reason) and you exit into a much less decrepit environment, although in the video you see its pretty busted up when you exit.
      hopefully there is a purpose to your exit (like finding a water chip) and you can re-visit the vault later on.

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        June 4, 2015 8:43 AM

        Could be or MIT had a hand in keeping the Commonwealth safe from nukes kinda like what happened in NV with the strip.

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