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The Ten Best Endings
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In Fallout, Interplay's postapocalyptic role-playing game, you were chosen to venture forth into a world recovering from nuclear disaster to find a source of water for your sheltered people. But solving the water crisis of Vault 13 was only the beginning - in doing so, you uncovered a much greater threat to your existence, one that thirsted for the very lives of every human survivor in addition to your friends and family in the vault. And in taking it upon yourself to extinguish this threat, you passed through the last vestiges of human civilization and encountered its various inhabitants, such as the backwater citizens of Junktown, the peaceful radiation victims of the Necropolis, and the warring scavenger gangs of the Boneyard.
Fallout's ending was a narrated epilogue that explained how your actions affected all of these various communities. Fallout let you accomplish different goals in many different ways, and its ending was uniquely tailored based on your actions. For instance, when you found the solution to Vault 13's water problem within the Necropolis, you could simply steal the water chip for your people and leave the Necropolis to die, or you could find a way to help Vault 13 without hurting another community in the process. In either case, if you took too long, an army of mutants would eventually overrun the peaceful Necropolis and kill all its inhabitants. The game's ending would tell you what happened - whether its people died because of you, or whether they survived. You'd find out what happened to each place you visited in such a fashion.
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In addition to the epilogue sequences, Fallout's ending also showed what happened when your character finally returned to Vault 13. Its leader took you aside and explained that he wanted you to leave forever, because in traveling across the wasteland and saving Vault 13, you had escalated yourself such that you would throw their naive community into chaos. The last cinematic sequence of the game, which showed the wanderer trudging toward the horizon to the tune of the Ink Spots' "Maybe," is sincerely emotional and crowns Fallout's uniquely fluid ending as one of the best in any computer game to date.
Next: The bittersweet finale