Fallout 4’s release means one thing: it’s time to wildly speculate about Fallout 5! Barring an utter sales disaster for the series, chances are Bethesda is going to be alternating Fallout with Elder Scrolls games for as long as they can. What we know about Fallout 5 so far is: nothing. But given the history and potential of the series, there are some good options for where — and when — the next Fallout should take place.
Let’s take a look at some good Fallout 5 settings:
New York City: New York is the most obvious choice for many reasons. Bethesda seems to like setting their games on the East Coast, and New York City lies between D.C. and Boston. Between those cities, and the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Chicago of previous games, the lack of NYC stands out like a sore thumb.
If it were a chronological sequel to Fallout 3 and 4, then the setting would also allow for a connection between the two games. The Brotherhood and Enclave of Fallout 3 would move north, the Minutemen of Fallout 4 would head south, and interesting things would happen. Combine this with landmarks like Central Park and the Empire State Building, NYC’s architectural history, and the fun of seeing it all go to hell after the apocalypse, and it’s difficult to see Bethesda not making this move. But if they don’t, there’s also…
Portland: The Fallout series’ in-game history is tied together by the rise of two institutions: the Brotherhood of Steel and the New California Republic. While Bethesda and Fallout Tactics took the Brotherhood to the other side of the United States, Obsidian continued the NCR’s story in Fallout: New Vegas as they expanded east into Nevada. So why not north, beyond the Klamath of Fallout 2?
Beyond the continuation of the original Fallout stories, an Oregon-centered game would also offer great potential for just wandering around outdoors, which is what the recent Fallouts are best at. Portland itself has personality, particularly in its network of bridges. But a wider look at Oregon offers the Columbia River and its gorge, the Cascade Mountains, deep forests, and a turbulent coastline, all of which can be given a post-apocalyptic flavor. Pulling this off would require an ideal mix of Obsidian-style writing with quality graphics and level design — but if it succeeded it could be a perfect fit.
New Orleans: With the Black Isle/Obsidian games covering the western U.S., Bethesda’s the east, and Fallout Tactics (unsatisfyingly) covering the Midwest from Chicago to Denver, the American South is almost totally missing from the Fallout universe. There are a bunch of good options — Atlanta, Charleston, Memphis, or Miami spring to mind — but the clear standout is New Orleans.
As the American city most famously destroyed by uncontrollable forces, the allegorical power of a New Orleans Fallout could be a tremendous strength. Its developer and writers would have to be able and willing to take the risks of having a point-of-view about how and why a city collapsed, and turn that into an effective metaphor. No small task, but the potential there, combined with the architecture of the city itself, and the Bayou and coast outside New Orleans, could be special.
London: But why limit Fallout to the United States? Okay, there are some good reasons — the culture it critiques is specifically American, and some of the game’s backstory implies that much of the world was utterly instead of partially destroyed. But the latter can be bent (Fallout has never been super lore-committed) and the former, well, why not frame it as the Brotherhood or NCR being confident enough to send an expedition overseas?
London is the most obvious choice, being huge, famous, and English-speaking. But consider the other possibilities. A map of Russia, from St. Petersburg to Moscow, with snow falling the whole way. Hong Kong, with its history of colonization and connection to the Chinese mainland would be a fascinating setting for just about any game. And people certainly were able to take universal themes from District 9’s Johannesburg.
The Twenty-First Century: Fallout’s Great War takes place in 2077. The games take place chronologically, with the first Fallout set in 2161, and Fallout 4 in 2287. But the further the series moves away from the nuclear holocaust, the more it loses the narrative of the creation of an entirely new life in the face of near-total destruction. Some of the best-written stories (especially in New Vegas) are those of the people who lived through the destruction and its aftermath.
Consider the story possibilities of setting a Fallout just a few decades after the bombs fell. The generational tensions of people trying to maintain pre-War institutions as their children saw no need for them. The end of supplies, ammunition, canned goods, toilet paper. The military, aging out of its old roles and starting new ones, like the Enclave and the Brotherhood. Figuring out where quality land is, post nuclear war, and where new villages should be built, and fighting off raiders to make it so. There is a “sure, why not?” element to the later Fallout games’ worldbuilding that a more focused, nearer post-apocalyptic narrative could reign in.