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Fallout: Van Buren was the original Fallout 3. Note that its name would have been "Fallout 3," and only its development codename was "Van Buren." It was in full 3D, but with a topdown perspective much like the old games. It was canceled when Interplay went under in 2003 and closed Black Isle, even though it was around 85% done. Internet Backlash ensued, and while some were pacified when Bethesda released Fallout 3 five years later, other views Van Buren as the real and superior version of Fallout 3 and are still venomously bitter about its cancellation. Despite the game being canceled, it is still canon, to a degree.
Prisons aren't usually the best places to live, but for you, Tibbets Facility, cell number thirteen is home. The technology dates back to before the great war, and plenty of robots are there to look after you. You've been there so long you can hardly remember why; perhaps you were guilty of whatever crime they've convicted you of, or perhaps not, but it doesn't matter either way. At least you're alive, and outside, things aren't safe.
Then, one day, you wake up to find things have changed. Not only are you in a completely different prison, but there's a rather large hole in the wall, which you proceed to walk out of. Back in Post-Apocalyptic Arizona, you find yourself besieged by robots wanting to take you back to your cell, strange diseases infecting select towns, a war between the NCR and Brotherhood of Steel, a strange slaver army called Caesar's Legion that seems obsessed with ancient Rome, led by a maniac who calls himself Caesar, and a menacing figure named Doctor Victor Presper who wishes to instigate another nuclear holocaust on the world.
Alone, with empty pockets and an army of problems at your back, you head out into the wasteland.
A fully working tech demo for the game was completed, and was eventually leaked to the Internet, and can still be found on various fan sites. It has its own story, and is set during the Great War itself. Nearly all of the details you see here and elsewhere around the net are gleaned from the enormous mountain of design notes leaked to the internet by the development staff, containing nearly everything from the game including many parts that had already been cut during development long before the cancellation.
Fallout: New Vegas, which takes place in one of the areas this game would have covered, has a completely original story, but draws on the enormous amount of design done for Van Buren and select elements (such as Caesar's Legion and The Hanged Man, now The Burned Man) do appear in the game.
And in case you were wondering: The game had absolutely nothing to do with USA's 8th president, Martin Van Buren. Interplay just code named projects in development after American presidents out of ease.
You're a Citizen of the Midwest commonwealth, and you've just been drafted! There's a war on, son, and the communists are everywhere! Quick, now, hop to it! Do you want to be pile of ash like your parents, because they weren't fast enough to outrun the bombs?! I didn't think so! Now grab a gun and pick a target, mister, because we gotta get to the Vault and fix the life support system, so take Corporal Armstrong over there and get going! NOW!
Tropes found in this game include:
- The Atoner: You would've chosen whether to be an actual criminal, and in this world that's saying something. If you'd been good oriented, you most likely would have been this.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Sulik's sister shows up in this, after escaping some slavers and becoming the leader of a Tribal Vault.
- The Empire: The Brotherhood of Steel has transformed from an isolationist but peaceful faction in a group of fascists that attack anyone they consider to be 'unworthy' of having advance technology.
- Lost Colony: The town at Hoover Dam is this to NCR.
- Inspector Javert: The robots trying to take you back to prison. For all they know, you are a criminal. And there's a 50% chance you are for sure.
- The Man They Couldn't Hang: The Hanged Man, who is still very much alive, and a recruitable companion.
- Kill Sat: B.O.M.B.-001, a pre-war orbital Nuclear weapons cache. Victor Presper, the big bad, planned to use it.
- The Plague: The New Plague of which you were an unwitting carrier, as a part of Victor's plan to activate B.O.M.B.-001. You would first discover this fact late in the story, as people in the settlements you have visited start dying left and right. With a high enough intelligence and science skill, you would have been able to synthesize a cure too.
- Shrouded in Myth: By the time of Fallout: New Vegas, the events of the game have become this, like all the other games before it.
- The Federation: The New California Republic
- Vestigial Empire: The NCR became this sometime before the game takes place. The eastern part of the republic has completely lost contact with the core region and Hoover Dam is the only known surviving city under their control.
- Talking the Monster to Death: It would have been possible to convince Victor to abandon his plan. But since he was the most brilliant mind to ever come out of the NCR, you would need at least 10 in intelligence and a high science skill to do so. Talking his partners in crime into betraying him, however, would not be quite as hard.
- Token Evil Teammate: The Hanged Man, an Always Chaotic Evil Implacable Man who Caesar's Legion tried to execute via Rasputinian Death. They failed. If you talked to Mordecai in New Canaan, you'd find out he was Joshua Graham, Caesar's second in command. According to New Vegas, he was punished for failing the first battle of Hoover Dam.
- You Are Too Late: After you kill Victor, you manage to deactivate B.O.M.B.-001... somewhat. While a good portion of the nukes can be recalled, depending on your repair skill, quite a few can not, and you are left with the options to blow up B.O.M.B.-001, performing a Heroic Sacrifice in the process, or choose which settlements that should be struck by the attack. As you leave B.O.M.B.-001 in an escape pod, "I Don't Want To Set The World on Fire" starts playing while nuclear blasts are seen dotting the earth's surface.