Is the point of F:NV to "let go of the past?"

Discussion in 'Fallout: New Vegas Discussion' started by Sheepo, Nov 24, 2015.

  1. Sheepo

    Sheepo First time out of the vault

    Nov 23, 2015
    Fallout: New Vegas' central motif that tethers all the webbing strands of plot, character and event in the sprawling Nevada wastes is clearly the attachment to the past and emulation of by-gone concepts, people, places, events and civilizations. What I'm wondering is, what is everyone's idea on what the "take-away" message of the game is? As you can see by my title, though I'm not at all sure of my position, is that the universal "point" to the game is to let go of the past.

    Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to play all of the DLC, which I am sure delves into these themes more extensively, so I will have to focus on the vanilla game. The most I can say is that Old World Blues' title and focus on primitivistic tribes seems an apt microcosm for the whole point of this chapter in the Fallout saga.

    The three main factions all represent this in different ways. But one similarity is their joint fixation on the Battle of Hoover dam that occurred 4 years ago, and each spend the course of the game's narrative in preparation of repeating this event in the hopes it will go the way they wish this time.

    Firstly we have Mr. House; a decrepit man kept alive by his own machines for the purpose of preserving the Las Vegas of the pre-War days. Even though at first glance his eyes may appear to be set on the stars and the future, his heart remains attached to a ruined city of a bygone era - local tribes forced with the brute strength of his robotic servants to either serve as revivals of gambling establishments or forced out into the wastes, unfit for House's dream city. While admirable on some level, House's one-minded ambition does not make him a fitting autocrat for the new age (as he appears universally reviled by everyone under his leadership and, perhaps, it is not fit for the destiny of the new generation finding its footsteps to be dictated by a man from the old world); his dreams of New Vegas will dissipate after his inevitable and long postponed death.

    [Vegas] was a place of splendor. As magnificent as today's Strip may seem, it's but a shadow of the neon paradise that was Las Vegas. I grew up not far from here, and though I traveled the old world extensively, I never found another place like it. By 2065 I deemed it a mathematical certainty that an atomic war would devastate the Earth within 15 years. Every projection I ran confirmed it. I knew I couldn't "save the world," nor did I care to. But I could save Vegas, and in the process, perhaps, save mankind.
    Mr. House

    The New California Republic are, as pointed out by their ideological detractors within the game world, an emulation of the type of state that led to the circumstances of the Great War. Reminiscent of the fascination of European statesmen with Rome following its collapse, the NCR represent a direct throwback to the last great civilization known to the inhabitants of the post-nuclear age. And while the values of democracy, free trade and rule of law have brought relative peace and economic prosperity to the lands of the NCR, so too has it brought all the tell-tale problems of the Old World; corruption, over-expansion, and stagnation. Tandi seems like a fitting icon for the NCR; a young girl first encountered dreaming about traveling the wasteland, and last encountered stuck in the very same place we first met her (and, to add insult to injury, is making the rest of the Wasteland into Shady Sands through imperialism).

    We must always remember that wherever Californians stand, we carry our principles with us: equal respect, representation, and protection under the laws of a just republic. This was the same fire that burned in the heart of the Old World that preceded us. We are the heirs of that civilization, torchbearers eastward of the Pacific, into the darkness of this wasted land.
    - President Aaron Kimball

    The most extreme manifestation of this underlying psyche of the Mojave Wasteland is Caesar's Legion, a viscerally neo-Roman collective of wasteland tribes led by an educated and thoroughly well-read despot who fashioned his own empire out of the knowledge of ancient civilizations he learned from his time in the Followers of the Apocalypse - throwing back this motif of the past about 2,000 years before any else. Interestingly, Caesar - despite his being the most reactionary of all the factions - also has arguably the keenest awareness of his own place in the history of the world to come; framed in Hegelian dialectics, he sees the synthesis of the Legion and the NCR as the way of the future and a solution to the problems endemic in both. What's ironic about the Legion's existence, however, is that Caesar fashioned his new Rome based on having read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. So too is the Legion's fall almost assured once Caesar is killed and his autocracy has no more ideologue to rally around. Who else can preserve the new Rome when all knowledge of the old Rome rests in one central authority?

    Just as my namesake campaigned in Gaul before he crossed the Rubicon, so have I campaigned, and will cross the Colorado.
    - Caesar

    I won't go into as much detail with the minor factions, but the richness of the game and the flavour it adds to this theme deserve some recognition.

    • Brotherhood of Steel: dying out because of attachment to isolationism
    • Boomers: have spent generations literally blowing up the outside world to prevent it coming in, but must change in the face of the growing threat of the new world
    • The Kings: literally Elvis impersonators, I guess that can get a bit limited in scope once strangers with seriously different plans for your home start showing up en masse
    • Great Khans: unable to move past the tragedy they faced at Bitter Springs
    • Van Graffs: still acting like New Reno thugs even after being forced out
    • Powder Gangers: continuing to commit the criminal behaviors that got them hard time in the first place, despite a desire for something more among some
    • Followers of the Apocalypse: I don't really know lol
    • White Gloves: internal conflict over how to address cannibalistic tradition
    • Omertas: unable to move past their tribal barbarism and treachery
    • Chairmen: not sure, Benny was trying to raise the Chairmen to a higher position in New Vegas but in doing so he (according to the wikia wiki) had to violate the code of honour of the family against betrayal
    • Enclave Remnants: speaks for itself

    All the companion quests involve moving on from the past in more personal terms.

    • Boone: avenges his wife and has to come to terms with his involvement in the Bitter Springs massacre
    • Arcade Gannon: has to settle his inner conflict caused by his Enclave origins and his own identity
    • Cass: gain closure on how her caravan got destroyed and move past her tethering to the business
    • Veronica: stops running away and decides to try and settle her problems with the Brotherhood's modus operandi
    • Lily: settle the psychological trauma of being a nightkin triggered by memories of her grandchildren
    • Raul: something about his old career, to my shame I've never had him as a companion
    • ED-E: enclave
    • Rex: dog brain bad

    And this is where the Courier comes in. I saw a post on the Fallout subreddit while searching for other opinions on the content of this post that described, in the aforementioned Hegelian dialectic, the Courier as the antithesis.

    Unlike every other bloody thing in the game, the Courier doesn't really have a past. Well, he got shot in the head, but he deals with that pretty quickly and begins involving himself in the affairs of every single person, place and organization in the game with a fresh perspective and radically alters the future of the Mojave as a result. I can't say he "solved" the problems given the branching decision-making inherent in the game but the Courier is the catalyst for the new direction that the Mojave wasteland must go in after a long stalemate caused by people clinging to the past.

    What are your thoughts?
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  2. Ben Soto

    Ben Soto Professional Salt Shaker

    Jul 7, 2014
    I think it's a meta commentary on the current state of the Fallout fanbase. To paraphrase Elijah;

    "The hardest part isn't hating the new Fallout games. It's letting go."
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  3. Sheepo

    Sheepo First time out of the vault

    Nov 23, 2015
    That thought crossed my mind, and it makes a lot of sense given the circumstances of its conception.
  4. Dr Fallout

    Dr Fallout Centurion

    Aug 17, 2015
    That's why we hate the Fallout games. We just can't leave.
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  5. Joshua

    Joshua Hate Newspapers

    Nov 5, 2015
    I really like this. Another example I guess is the guys who run vault 21 as a hotel?
    Just wondering how the Courier's revenge mission against Benny fits into all this?
  6. shengar

    shengar First time out of the vault

    Nov 12, 2015
    I think it's pretty obvious from "Old World Blues" alone. If Obsidian ever gonna make a Fallout game again, I'm curious how it will goes since they only have Sawyer now. In the absence of Avellone's nihilistic view on the world, Sawyer's optimism will make Fallout a radically different place.

    You're right. Obsidian knows that Bethesda will continue to make Fallout games, so they kinda tell us in a subtle way to letting it go.
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  7. Bubba Zanetti

    Bubba Zanetti I know what I'm doing

    Oct 6, 2015
    Probably depends on your character, as I've had Couriers hunting down Benny and the Platinum Chip for other reasons aside from getting even. One was so committed to her work, she felt it was her responsibility to reclaim the chip and make the delivery to House as promised. Another was such a clumsy fuck-up, fear of the mercenary reclamation teams being dispatched after this latest blunder motivated her to recoup the stolen property.

    In terms of letting go and how it plays into the revenge mindset, my Legion-aligned Courier lived a hard life in New Mexico, barely surviving until Caesar rolled around. As a result, she's a hardened, vindictive individual who holds grudges, as well as mild contempt for "backwards" tribals and raiders. This of course leads to her seeking settling things with Benny, which leads to working for Caesar, which ultimately leads to putting the Legion in power.

    By the time it's all said and done, she's got more than just Benny's blood on her hands and she's deceitfully manipulated entire groups like the Khans, Fiends, Powder Gangers, and Kings only to have them undermined, subverted, or destroyed after they've served their purpose.

    Caesar gets his Pax Romana and the Mojave gets civilization at last, but my Courier gets to live as the vicious monster she had to become to achieve those ends and now resides in a deep, dark place just like Graham before her... because she just couldn't let go of her tumultuous past.

    Like I said, where your Courier fits in the narrative all depends on how you want to play him or her. I'm just grateful that the fucking awesome writing team of Obsidian allows for such opportunity.
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  8. Kilgore Trout

    Kilgore Trout Gyro Captain

    Dec 11, 2013
    First of all, let me just say that is an excellent and persuasive analysis of the game. Probably one of the best pieces I've read on New Vegas and on the Fallout series in general. I especially liked your take on Tandi, and irony of what Shady Sands has become.

    I agree that letting go of the past is a major theme, both of the main game and all of the DLCs (maybe not Honest Hearts), with Dead Money taking up this idea in the most explicit fashion. I don't think it's the only theme in the game, or the only possible interpretation, but clearly the relationship between the present and past is a recurring motif, and regardless of your character's path you will be confronted with it again and again in your travels throughout the Mojave. And your choices will inevitably something about how your character feels about that relationship between past and present.

    The beauty of the C&C meets open world of New Vegas, of course, is that it doesn't force you to say "You're right, it's all about letting go, we've just go to put the past behind us and move on, into a brave new world." You can very much say "No, the past was better, and we should try to preserve/recreate it, and this time, we'll get it right". Or you could have an entirely different set of motivations, ones that are personal rather than based on grand ideals.
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  9. Dr Fallout

    Dr Fallout Centurion

    Aug 17, 2015
    Fallout New Vegas was beautiful in that regard. Like the original games it had a whole philosophic aspect to to it.
  10. Bubba Zanetti

    Bubba Zanetti I know what I'm doing

    Oct 6, 2015
    Although I agree Honest Hearts is the weakest of the bunch, I still think a lot of what it offers goes unappreciated.

    Depending on how you decide to settle things, your character can be the Randall Clarke, tending to Joshua Graham's sorrow--reminding him there's a better way by helping him finally put the vengeful spirit to rest, to leave it in God's hands so he can move on from his sordid past.

    Or you can be like Caesar... convince Graham to embrace that burning vengeance like he were set on fire all over again... becoming an all-consuming flame that swallows everything and everyone around him on the warpath, making Daniel's worst fears come true.

    Note the similarities between the goings-on in HH and Eddie Sallow's origins--caught between a rock and a hard place between warring tribals, forced to help and/or teach one group how to fight and strategize in order to ensure their survival, and by extension, your own, etc.
  11. Atomic Postman

    Atomic Postman Vault Archives Overseer

    Mar 16, 2013
    Yeah, the theme of letting go really does radiate from every area of New Vegas. I noticed it particularly in the Collector's Edition comic All Roads.

    It's the main reason why I think that the Wild Card ending is the best ending and likely to be the canon outcome. All the factions in New Vegas are tied to the Old World in some way. The NCR is created from Pre-War democratic values and bureaucracy, the Legion is an imitation of the Roman Empire and Mr. House is a spirit from the Old World itself. Yes Man and the Courier are the only option for the Mojave that are free from the shackles of the Old World, and are focused on bringing in the new world.
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  12. ElderMaxson

    ElderMaxson Out of my mind, freshly made

    Nov 19, 2015
    I think it was about moving on from their past association with Caesar.
  13. Bubba Zanetti

    Bubba Zanetti I know what I'm doing

    Oct 6, 2015
    Possibly even letting go of their animosity toward NCR, one of many possible outcomes that greatly benefits Freeside in the long run.
  14. DVL

    DVL Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    Nov 19, 2015
    It's a favorite sawhorse of Avellone. While "letting go" is not exactly the whole of it, it's a good enough summary.
    Play KOTOR 2 and Planescape: Torment and you will see exactly what I mean.
    Those games are about protagonists who have to reconcile themselves with what they've done in the past.
    Even the villains of KOTOR 2 are about the ideological failings of the Jedi code and the incestuous stupidity of the Sith.
    Torment is one of those games where the entire endgame for your protagonist is to actually kill himself.

    Avellone's a pessimist to be sure. But compared to other voices in the industry he's by far the most mature.
    You won't get this from the Persona franchise, Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, Bethesda or anywhere else. I pretty much resent SquareEnix, Bethesda and Bioware because they just don't ever do this kind of thing. The leading lights of the RPG world suck.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2015
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  15. Walpknut

    Walpknut This ghoul has seen it all

    Dec 30, 2010
    It could also be a commentary on why Bethesda's Fallout Stories keep being shit, they are obssesed with the pre war world and rehashing old factions without reason or without even understanding them.
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  16. Vergil

    Vergil Banned

    Jul 8, 2014
    On the toic of the Courier and how they fit in with that motiff while a lot of it in the base game especially depends on your personal characterization of the courier the DLCs except for Honest Hearts (the weakest one imo) all deal with you letting go or trying to get something back. In Dead Money the obvious end goal is the stash of gold that without glitches or some very clever thinking (or a walkthrough ;) ) you have to leave behind and let go. Whether due to just pure greed or wanting to use your wealt to make he wasteland a better place in the end you have to just let go and leave empty handed. OWB has the courier lose his own brain! I'd imagine most people would atleast be somewhat motivated to take their BRAIN back. And finally Lonesome road has the courier literally deal with their own past so its pretty obvious there. But of course if you wanted to you could set your intelligence to 3 and imagine the courier just bumbling into each situation like Mr magooo
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  17. Lexx

    Lexx Testament to the ghoul lifespan
    Moderator Modder

    Apr 24, 2005
    Old World Blues and Lonesome Road are pretty much slapping this into your face, imo. It was the first thing I thought about after playing it and it's true. After that I've started to see the Fallout franchise a lot more relaxed. Guess I started to let go.

    Sniff. Sad panda.
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  18. Ben Soto

    Ben Soto Professional Salt Shaker

    Jul 7, 2014
    I think DM did it the most "in-your-face." It even gave me this quote;

    OWB was more "coming to terms with the past and building upon it," and LR was "courier vs angsty 13-year-old douche trapped in the body of a potentially interesting character."
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  19. mithrap

    mithrap Ring a ding-ding, baby

    May 17, 2016
    More than "let go of the past", I'd rather go for "How to begin again ?"

    Considering that this song was written by Chris Avellone, and that the thematic of fighting the past is everywhere in the Mojave... Chris A. has always liked simple, yet deep philosophical questions. Remember "What can change the nature of a man" in Planescape Torment ?

    But I couldn't have said better than you. All characters and factions fit this precise thematic, and this is where New Vegas shines : under the layers of fun, lays a constant, simple yet deep question.
    I'd also add several characters to this theme :

    Joshua Graham : How to begin again, after all my sins ?
    Ulysses : How to begin again, after my world burned ?
    Elijah : How to begin again, after my last hopes were trashed ?
    Of course, there is the Courier : How to begin again, after resurecting ?
    Even Manny Vargas ! How to begin again, after a life in the wrong camp ? See how he has trouble cutting ties with his former gang, and how he feels guilt for the NCR's actions, even if he didn't take part in them.
    Marcus : How to begin again, after it failed ? Do I start over just the same, or do I change my attitude ?
    Raul : How to begin again, after I resigned to my fate ?

    And even within main factions, different characters offer different answers.
    Caesar says that to begin again, one needs to assimilate and learn.
    Lanius says that to begin again, one needs to be stronger and more brutal than the world of before.
    Vulpes Inculta says that to begin again, one needs to litteraly burn the rot of the old world, leave nothing but bodies upon bodies, and write something completely new from the ashes.
    Last edited: May 18, 2016
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  20. Radiosity

    Radiosity Writiosity

    Sep 9, 2015
    It's really a combination of both letting go and beginning again, neither is wholly true without the other. You have to let go to begin again, but at the same time you also need to remember where you came from in order to avoid the mistakes of the past (that's kind of the part most people forget, you only have to look at our own history to see this in action, heh).
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