Get a sneak peek at an early, unreleased version of Fallout 3 that featured turn-based combat, an isometric viewpoint and a rather controversial storyline.
In 2008, Fallout 3 transformed the post-apocalyptic role-playing franchise from a cult favourite into a bona fide mainstream hit, introducing a host of new players to the series. However, the game’s development could have taken a very different path, as a completely separate studio was at one point working on a sequel to Fallout 2.
That project has come to be referred to by the Fallout faithful as Van Buren, an alternate version of Fallout 3 that never saw the light of day. The game was being developed by Black Isle Studios, the team behind Fallout 2 and the widely praised Planescape: Torment.
Van Buren would have transplanted Fallout into a 3D setting, but maintained its isometric viewpoint and turn-based combat. Part of the reason the unfinished project has become such a fascination among fans is because it seemed to be such a faithful continuation of the series — not to mention the fact it was reportedly almost complete when cancelled.
Over the past several years, details of the game’s proposed storyline have slowly been released. The player would start the game in a prison, suffering from a potentially deadly disease, when a group of unnamed attackers assault the facility and allow him or her to make their escape.
From here, the player would be able to make their way around the wasteland in classic Fallout style, with the overarching goal being to return particular prisoners to their cells. Partway through the game, this mission would lead to information about an orbital weapons system set to launch a second nuclear detonation.
From here on, the player would be tasked with stopping a second nuclear apocalypse — however, it would emerge that only some of the missiles could be stopped. From the sound of it, there would be some very difficult decisions to be made regarding which settlements were wiped out and which ones survived.
Van Buren is a fascinating case of a game that was never meant to be, but some of its content did make it out of the studio. A tech demo for the game was leaked all the way back in 2007, and some of the ideas set to be included eventually found their way into Fallout: New Vegas.
However, some fans will always wonder if Van Buren would have outclassed the Fallout 3 that saw release. The grass is always greener on the other side — but it seems unlikely that the series would have become as popular as it is now with any other version of Fallout 3.