Having suffered a literal crash course in the mythology of Fallout, my play through of the third series is more informed by its spiritual predecessor, Oblivion, than by its more obvious antecedents. Where Oblivion’s environs were samey and boring, with needlessly twisting dungeons and insurmountably steep terrain, Fallout 3 benefits from flat, desolate lands, dotted with interesting locales. What’s more, the whole experiment has character about it, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Today we’ll study the case of the tiny town of Andale, proud recipient of the “Best Town” award every year … forever.
Contains spoilers for Andale, a tiny part of the game you’re not likely to see unless you look really hard!
On the way to the library in Arlington, I stopped by a settlement. With Fallout 3‘s improved mapping system, you can’t fast travel to somewhere you’ve never been before. If you know where you’re going, though, you can fast travel to somewhere near your destination. Unless a place is obviously teeming with raiders or similar, then you’re going to want to explore it a bit.
Andale is a town that features three houses, four happy people who seem to have forgotten the whole post-apocalypse thing the world’s got going on, and one craaaazy old man. My first contact was with Junior Wilson, a young lad who wanted to see what the world outside of Andale had to offer. He was also rather concerned that he would have to marry his neighbour, Jenny Smith, especially as it was his understanding that his father and Mister Smith “used to be” brothers. Bill Wilson and Jack Smith work all day in their locked shed, while Martha and Linda cook and clean the houses – just as it should be.
This is a very interesting unmarked quest that you might not even pick up on even if you visit Andale. Of course, something seems awry about the situation from the beginning – the only other person I had met up until this point who seemed oblivious to the realities of the nuclear holocaust was plainly more than a little unhinged, to the point of not being able to carry on a conversation. The Smiths and the Wilsons will talk to you (well, Jenny will say “hello”, and then walk off), but the adults are so darn chipper. Maybe the radiation has rotted their brains, bypassing the ghoul stage entirely. Jack seemed particularly keen to have me over for dinner.
My suspicion was roused further by Old Man Harris, who advised me to get out, before it’s too late. They’re killers! Stone cold killers! With some trepidation, I approached the Smiths and Wilsons about this. Linda revealed that Harris is her father, and he’s getting on in years. Billy (he gave me his permission to call him that), shook his head and lamented the sadness of senility. Jack was less happy to hear the news, and said that he would have words with Old Man Harris about it.
Deeply concerned that Old Man Harris would receive words in the form of death (note: in no circumstance does Old Man Harris actually get murdered), I had to get to the bottom of this. Frustrated that I did not have the lock picking skills to get into their work shed, I snuck up behind Jack and lifted his basement key.
Brazenly stepping into the basement as the Wilsons sat at their kitchen table, it wasn’t too much of a surprise to find it full of butchered corpses and “strange meat”. Also, rather strangely, a comic book (Grognak the Barbarian). I swiped it, and for some reason got bad karma. Please! They’re cannibals, damnit!
It was strange when I went outside; the Smiths and the Wilsons were wandering around, weapons in hands (guns for the menfolk, knives for the ladies). They didn’t actually speak to me, though; I had to take it straight to Jack. He couldn’t help noticing that I’d been in his basement. I initially feigned ignorance, but that wasn’t going to work. I told him that I’d been looking for a snack, but it would be wrong to take his food. He said he was glad to hear it, and that Linda could give me one of her pies any time.
Cut to an alternate track: I told him that he was a sick fuck, and it’s not right to eat people. He told me he didn’t like my tone of voice. I backed off and apologised, and he said he was glad I understood. Not like the others. “‘Please don’t kill me! I’ve got kids in Rivet City!’ Yeah, well we’ve got kids too.”
I went on my merry way, for some reason still offered pies from Linda.
Then, in the final universe, the one I actually played out, I told Jack in no uncertain terms that he was wrong. He said that this solved the problem of what was on the menu, and took at me with his gun. I had not restored my health recently, but he was a mere provincial. My flaming sword of justice came down on him hard, and his wretched co-conspirators.
During all of this, Junior and Jenny had been taken in by Old Man Harris. The cannibalistic fiends dead, he’d taken in their offspring. Now able to do more than scream warnings, Harris explained that there used to be four families in Andale, and they did what they had to in order to survive, and their nearest aged children would marry each other, and keep the town going. It wasn’t until his beloved wife, Gladys, passed, that he realised the magnitude of his sins. With their parents gone, he hoped to end the cycle of cannibalism once and for all.
For their part, the children seemed to appreciate the true value of Old Man Harris: more than just a crazy old man, he’s a beacon of morality and integrity. Why he couldn’t have contracted me to do away with the cannibals, I don’t know – but then, I’m the Urban Avenger, and he’s a simple man who only realised late in life that it ain’t right to eat people.
I spoke to Junior after his adoption, and he said that he didn’t know what had happened with his parents, but that he knew he wasn’t going to see them again. This would be an acceptable statement were it not for the fact that he can see his parents every time he steps outside: his father’s corpse is bent over backwards on his picket fence, and his mother rests just outside the fateful work shed. Sometimes a kid just has to screen the horrors out of his life, I guess.
This whole experience was great, although this is a buggy quest. I was going to let the families get away with it and go about their business, but non-violent resolution in this instance appears to erase Old Man Harris and the children from the game, permanently locked irretrievably in Harris’ house, and the family members are cursed to wander the wastes surrounding their town, weapons in hand, for eternity. I’m not entirely sure why I wanted these people alive, because they clearly lure wanderers into their web and butcher them, but it would have been neat, I guess.
There were many possible outcomes for this scenario, all of them interesting. Up until the end, I didn’t try rudeness or hostility with these people; I don’t know if Jack would still have wanted me over for dinner if I had made clear the nature of his delusion. Surviving the wastes is a matter of diplomacy and of not being eaten. The less burning swords required to achieve such a goal, the better.
This is not actually fanfiction! Don’t be deceived!