How long does an apocalypse take?

fallout 4 - How long does an apocalypse take?

Okay, so I know that technically the answer is "two brief hours" – but I'm thinking specifically about the apocalyptic status of the time after. According to always reliable Vault-Tec systems, the US should be habitable in the year 2377 – but according to the same system, the odds of a Vault failing is supposedly 1,763,497 to 1, so…

Let's do a recap. 2077, Great War. Most of the world is reduced to cinders. In the years that follow, various groups and factions establish themselves all over the place. There are mutants and high rads everywhere. Some 20-30 years later, the first proper seeds of civilization take root. Vault City, the LA Boneyard, the Hub are all founded around this time. The world is still in a bad way, but everything is not lost – and these cities eventually grow and thrive.

Another 40 or so years pass, and things begin looking up. Sort of. At least we know there are now enough people running around that the Master can start mass-production of super mutants. Merchant, caravans and specialized manufacturing are popping up all over the place. Vault 15 opens, Shady Sands is founded, and there's enough to go around that some groups can survive indefinitely by being raiders (which would otherwise be a pretty poor survival move – eventually you'd run out of stuff to raid).

About 20 years later, Vault 13 has its… issues. By this time, as we've seen in Fallout, the West Coast has got a pretty good thing going. There's a functioning economy, and while things are generally lawless, several towns and villages are doing pretty good for themselves. All things considered, anyway. We're certainly way beyond what things would have looked like for the first generation after the arrival of settlers to Oregon.

Fast-forward another 80 years. The NCR is firmly established in its key areas. New Reno and Vault City are both thriving. This is when Fallout 2 takes place, and while certainly post-apocalyptic, we should be starting to see a full reclamation of the wastes. As the game ends, we see the NCR spreading further, the Shi becoming a dominant and highly advanced faction in the Bay area, and we all know how the Brotherhood is very much alive and well.


And yet, New Vegas and Fallout 3 don't begin until roughly 40 years later. Sure, the East Coast might have gotten a harder beating, and the inland desert is a rougher place to be. Sure, we learn that things are better in the NCR proper, but still – we know Mr. House and others have been active for ages at this point. The war happened more than 200 years ago now, and we know settlements elsewhere were founded just about 190 years ago.

For comparison, 190 years ago today, Andrew Jackson had spent less than a week in office as POTUS. Stephenson's Rocket had not yet made a splash in the Rainhill Trials, the Book of Mormon still wouldn't be published for another year, and even the First Opium War was still more than a decade into the future. And yet, in all that time between the Wasteland becoming habitable-ish and NV/FO3 taking place, the Wasteland is still pretty wasted.

The year is 2287 by the time we get to Fallout 4, which is the latest point in the timeline we've gotten to see. Despite all of the above, the Commonwealth is in the state we've all seen. Given the number of various factions, the technology being used, and all of the above, we ought to be looking at (at least) some sort of feudal society, with Gunners, Minutemen, Diamond City and all the others asserting control of their respective territories, and clearly defined boundaries between them.

All in all, even FO4 having a wasteland strikes me as a bit of a stretch. But could there conceivably be any such place later than, say, 2290? And with a universe as rich as this, could there be a place for a different kind of game than Wasteland Janitor Simulator in it?

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