Fallout 5 would be better if it were created by New Vegas and The Outer Worlds developer Obsidian. This would leave Bethesda the space to focus on its other RPGs like Starfield, Skyrim (which is still getting updated even now) and The Elder Scrolls 6. I’ve believed this for a while, but with Feargus Urquhart, producer on Fallout 2 and Obsidian’s CEO, saying the studio would “love” to make another Fallout game, now someone who actually has a chance of making it happen is saying it, too.
And why would this be a good thing? Well because New Vegas — not in spite of, but thanks to — its many bugs and glitches, is the best Fallout game ever made. Yes, in all seriousness and sincerity, one of the reasons I would like to see another Obsidian Fallout is because I miss that glorious, accidental, tripped-out New Vegas aesthetic — the jagged animations, the spinning NPC heads, and the walking, talking piles of internal organs.
There is no other RPG, and certainly no other Fallout game, that looks like New Vegas. What Obsidian has created — through a combination of deliberate choices like the orange and purple colour scheme and the Old West visual style, and bizarre anomalies, like Cazadors clipping through the buildings — is not just distinctive, but constantly enjoyable and eventful. Whether it’s intended or not, or even if it’s occasionally frustrating like when a bug upends your playthrough, everything that happens in New Vegas is interesting, funny, and sometimes terrifying to look at. Bethesda’s efforts — Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 in particular — seem to play it safe, or perhaps even dull, in comparison, with a visual style closer to Gears of War or Call of Duty. Give me Obsidian’s weird, glitching, and vibrant phantasmagoria for Fallout 5 any time.
Replaying New Vegas, it also feels like Obsidian has a greater appreciation for choice and player freedom. The equation here isn’t always straightforward. More choice and freedom do not uniformly equal a better game. In fact, there are plenty of open-world games, Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Witcher 3, for example, in which curtailing certain player freedoms, and having some narrative force steer you towards particular paths, can help your mostly freeform experience align with the story, in a way that enhances both. Obsidian understands where to draw this line. The faction allegiance, character customisation, relationships with companions, and various outcomes and endings in New Vegas are all very subject to your choices as a player, but they also feel completely coherent with the thrust of the game as a whole.
Using myself as an example, the first time I ever played New Vegas I spent ages exploring the map and completing dozens of sidequests before finally following the critical path, and heading towards the eponymous city of sin. Another player might go straight for New Vegas from the start, because they want to track down Benny and swiftly exact their revenge. But somehow, both these approaches make sense. You can see The Courier wanting to go and kill Benny straight away, but you can also argue, with dramatic justification, that they would spend a few in-game weeks or months regaining their bearings and strengthening their arsenal through other, little jobs before taking him on.
Compare that to Fallout 4, which tells you from the start that your infant son is missing, but then also invites you to gather materials and build a kennel for a German Shepherd you just found. Or Skyrim, in which the sudden return of the dragons is presented as an urgent, apocalyptic threat but never advances any faster than the player fancies completing main story quests, which can take some time, in-between some leisurely blacksmithing and getting their favourite armour to sit right on a mannequin. In such cases, it becomes impossible to free roam as you might want, while still preserving the sanctity of the game’s story. As we gradually learn more about the Fallout 5 release date, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a sudden announcement of Obsidian’s involvement, then, because the studio seems to understand, better than Bethesda, how to maintain this delicate balance between a roving player, and a developer that still wants to say something — and cultivate an experience.
Will it happen? Fergus Urquhart, in that interview with DualShockers, certainly seems to hope so. And with the Starfield release date looming, and rumours also circling about the Elder Scrolls 6 release date, perhaps Bethesda will seek to pass one of its mega RPG franchises back to Obsidian. I suppose we can but wish, just like patrolling the Mojave almost makes you wish for a nuclear winter.
If reading about Obsidian’s buggy opus has you dreaming about New Vegas again, start a new game with some of the best Fallout: New Vegas mods. Otherwise, you might want to dig deeper into Bethesda’s next outing with our guide to Starfield factions, or perhaps everything we know about Starfield cities, all of which look extremely pretty.