Fallout 3’s Plot Explained In 1,000 Words

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  • Leaving Vault 101
  • The Capital Wasteland
  • Project Purity
  • The Brotherhood Of Steel
  • The Final Showdown

Not many video games have been able to reinvigorate a series the way Fallout 3 managed to do. It swapped the old games' isometric 3D graphics and turn-based combat for real-time gameplay that looked like a first-person shooter, but played like a full-fledged RPG.

Not only that, but it also built upon the series' established lore to create some of the best world-building seen in a video game. If there is one aspect of Fallout 3 that remains captivating even today, it is the story of its sprawling adventure, which we will be going over.

Note: There will be spoilers for the events of Fallout 3 ahead.

Leaving Vault 101

Set 200 years after the Great War, you play as the Lone Wanderer – a vault dweller from Vault 101. They'd lost their mother, Catherine, at a young age and were raised by their father, James, both of whom were scientists.

Having spent all their life in the vault, the Wanderer has no idea what life outside its doors is like, aside from the grim warnings given by the vault's overseer about the dangers of leaving the safety it provides. But when James does just that on their 19th birthday, they get swept up in a mission to find him and learn why he had chosen to leave.

The Capital Wasteland

The Lone Wanderer escapes the confines of Vault 101 into the harsh sunlight of the Capital Wasteland, the remains of which was once the Washington, DC area. They begin their search in the nearby town of Megaton, where they learn that James had been through before proceeding to the Galaxy News Radio Station.

At the radio station, the Wanderer meets a DJ named Three Dog (who is responsible for giving the player their "Lone Wanderer" moniker, after hearing about their quest to find their father), and he informs them about the ongoing conflict between the Enclave, remnants of the US government, and the Brotherhood of Steel, a rebel group. The Wanderer is then sent to Rivet City, a town built inside a derelict aircraft carrier, where they meet Doctor Li, an associate of their father.

Project Purity

Doctor Li tells the Wanderer about Project Purity, a plan to purify all the irradiated water in the nearby Tidal Basin and Potomac River. Conceived by the Wanderer's parents, the project had experienced a big setback after Catherine had died and James had decided to go raise their newborn child in the safety of Vault 101.

Next, the Wanderer explores the Jefferson Memorial before finally tracking James down to Vault 112, where he was being held captive by its Overseer, Dr. Braun, inside a virtual reality program. The Wanderer frees James and together they return to Rivet City and James reveals that he had been after a device known as the Garden of Eden Creation Kit (G.E.C.K.), which he needs to complete Project Purity.

They then go to the Jefferson Memorial with a group of scientists, hoping to continue their work on Project Purity, but the place is invaded by Enclave soldiers. James sacrifices himself to stop their leader, Colonel Augustus Autumn, from sabotaging the project, but not before asking the Wanderer to escape and finish his work by finding the G.E.C.K.

The Brotherhood Of Steel

The Lone Wanderer then goes with Doctor Li and the other surviving scientist to the Citadel (the ruins of the Pentagon), where they seek shelter with the Brotherhood of Steel. The Brotherhood would later help the Lone Wanderer get to Vault 87, where a G.E.C.K. was believed to be kept. The vault had since come to be overrun by Super Mutants, but the Wanderer is eventually able to retrieve the G.E.C.K. Before they can escape, they are captured by the Enclave, who confiscate the G.E.C.K and take them to their base at Raven Rock.

In what was the start of a string of surprising twists, the Wanderer is freed from their cell by the Enclave leader, President John Henry Eden, who requests that they come to see him. Learning of the strange development, Colonel Augustus Autumn instructs his troops to shoot the Wanderer on sight. The Wanderer eventually fights their way to the President, who it turns out was actually a sentient supercomputer. Seeking to finish what the previous President wanted, it asks the Wanderer to instead use Project Purity to infect the area's water supply with a modified virus that would kill all mutants.

The Final Showdown

The Wanderer is given a sample of the virus before leaving and returning to the Brotherhood of Steel, who had already learned that the Enclave was in possession of the G.E.C.K. The Wanderer joins them in their final assault on the Jefferson Memorial and they are able to regain control of the facility (aided by the use of a large robot called Liberty Prime). They eventually get to the control room, where they have a choice of either killing Colonel Autumn or asking them to leave.

Doctor Li informs the Wanderer that the purifier was now ready to be activated, but that it had been damaged and was going to cause the entire facility to self-destruct if it wasn't activated soon. And in order to do so, a code must be entered into it manually from the control room, where lethal amounts of radiation would ensure that the person activating it won't survive.

This leaves the Wanderer with a number of options: they can choose to do nothing and let the whole place self destruct, sacrifice themselves by going in to input the code (at which point they also have the option of either adding the virus given to them by President Eden or not) or ask Sarah Lyons (a member of the Brotherhood) to sacrifice herself instead.

After that, the game ends with a summary of all the actions the Wanderer had chosen to take during the adventure, and how those actions would shape the future of the Capital Wasteland.

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