Diamond City in Fallout 4

As Matt Gerardi noted in his review this week, the nuke-ravaged world of Fallout 4 places a greater emphasis than ever on community—a point that Matt extends in the first entry below. Fallout 4 is part of a long tradition in games where indefatigable survivors carve out a tiny slice of heaven in a world sent to hell. Some of these makeshift towns, while they might not be beautiful, do at least manage to become downright livable.

1. Diamond City, Fallout 4 (2015)

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If you can get past the android paranoia and snobby one-percenters living in the upper deck, Diamond City is as good as post-apocalyptic living gets. Outside its walls, raiders and hulking mutants tear each other to shreds over humanity’s scraps. Inside, meanwhile, the residents of Diamond City live safely in the fortified remnants of Fenway Park and enjoy the comforts of a pre-nuclear-holocaust lifestyle. The market district is home to vendors peddling artisanal wares, a doctor, a barber, and a Japanese robot slinging (New) New England’s best noodles. An enterprising reporter runs her own newspaper operation, complete with an adorable newsie, to keep the place honest and informed. The city even has a school with two passionate teachers and a science lab that welcomes curious minds of any age. Just make sure you don’t give anyone a reason to think you’re a robot, and the worst threats you’ll face are baseball puns and a few rich assholes. [Matt Gerardi]

2. Fortune City, Dead Rising 2 (2010)

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Boredom is a luxury. That sensation of having nothing to do vanishes in moments of crisis, and it’s hard to get back. For the denizens of Dead Rising 2’s Fortune City, though, boredom eventually became almost as big a problem as the undead. Set just five years after the zombie uprising that shook the world in the original Dead Rising, the sequel depicts a world in which people have become so blasé about flesh-eating corpses that they use the ghouls to spice up corny televised daredevil stunts. Where most cities on the mend would prioritize, say, hospitals and infrastructure, Fortune City has been busy reopening its casinos. It all falls apart eventually, of course, but for a few years there, Fortune City made a prime family vacation spot. [Patrick Lee]

3. Wormriders’ territory, Panzer Dragoon Orta (2002)

Panzer Dragoon’s world is a brutal landscape of predator-filled oceans, rocky plains, and sparse forests littered with derelict weapons of mass destruction. While the land has fallen prey to multiple cataclysms, the first was the worst. It created the legacy of the Ancients, a nearly omnipotent race whose only remnants are piles of bizarre termite-hive-looking architecture, powerful androids, and the potent armaments they left behind. Most survivors are caught between different groups of jerks who continuously wake up Ancient technology and mess everything up all over again. For all that strife, though, the Wormriders seem to have it pretty good. Nestled away in one of the few verdant regions referred to as the Borderlands, they’re a group of hunters and herders who fly around on giant slug-like, snake-like beasts. When they appear in Panzer Dragoon Orta to aid the main character (who’s on the run from both factions), they seem to be living fairly well! They’ve got their worms, game to hunt, and snappy clothes. Also, they appear to live in the one place that isn’t pockmarked by caves hiding old lasers and hybrid dragons that are going to kill everyone all over again. The Wormriders seem content to simply live their lives rather than digging up those weapons, unlike some people. [Anthony John Agnello]

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4. The Bastion, Bastion (2011)

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The end of the world makes for odd bedfellows. In Bastion, the planet has been sundered and left in ruin. The only livable part, apparently, is a floating piece of prime real estate known as The Bastion. There’s plenty of room for small business development there, and not just armories and the like. Players can build a distillery, for instance, if they’re so inclined. But your character, The Kid, doesn’t have to drink alone. He shares this safe haven with an old Sam Elliott type—one who knows a lot about the old world and narrates your adventures—as well as a young girl who’s a possible love interest. There’s even a potential new best friend, albeit one from a rival tribe. It’s the coziest of places to wait out the end of days. [Drew Toal]

5. Leaf, Crystalis (1990)

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The world of Crystalis suffers an apocalypse that really ticked all the armageddon boxes. In the wake of an atomic war, the earth tilts on its axis, all of nature’s creatures turn into violent mutants, magic reawakens in the world, and humanity’s remaining leaders build a great flying tower, leaving the dregs of civilization to fend for themselves in a brutal, irradiated neo-feudalist society. Despite all of that, the few remaining townships seem positively bucolic. The game never delves into the logistics of how the villages stay so serene. Every step you take in the wild may be plagued by hatchet-throwing goat-men, but the moment you step through the city gates, it’s all flower beds and precocious children. The most strenuous complaint voiced by a villager of Leaf is “The wind here is always cold.” Lest that come across as too negative, she immediately adds, “But we’re used to it.” The one thing to survive intact over 100 years of earth-shattering tumult is a propensity for Midwestern stoicism. In Crystalis, your character awakens from a cryogenic freeze and detonates a cliff wall to emerge, unannounced, into Leaf. One villager, on seeing a long-slumbering science wizard emerge from an exploding cave, reasonably screams out in terror and flees. Later, he approaches you and apologizes for his outburst. Leaf must be a peaceful oasis indeed if the locals feel bad for raising their voice after you blow craters into their property. [Nick Wanserski]

6. Kohlingen, Final Fantasy VI (1994)

Kefka’s armageddon in Final Fantasy VI is swift and almost total. The few people who survive his wrath spend the first months after the end of the world eking out a meager existence in their razed villages, eating scraps and not daring to venture out because of the new and horrible monsters that roam the wilderness. Kohlingen fares a little better. Celes, Edgar, and Sabin visit the town looking for their airship pilot buddy Setzer, and find him dead drunk in the city’s pub. In a time when most villages are lucky to still have a living shopkeeper, Kohlingen not only manages to keep its watering hole open, but has booze stores big enough that the pub can afford to “overserve” its guests. If you had to live somewhere after Kefka’s conquest of the world, it may as well be somewhere you can drown your sorrows. [Patrick Lee]

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7. Jackson County, The Last Of Us (2013)

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The second act of The Last Of Us brings pandemic survivors Joel and Ellie to the Wyoming countryside, where Joel’s brother has set up a small town in the shadow of a power-generating hydroelectric dam. Your stay in Jackson County is refreshingly free of diseased, shambling maniacs, although you do contend with bandits. (If you want to run a power plant in the post-plague world, you’re going to get a few bandits.) But otherwise, Jackson County is a remarkably functional society, one that almost tempts Joel into ending his unlikely quest to formulate a cure for the zombie infection that laid the world low. The heroes continue on, however. That choice pays off, because while Jackson County may have a semblance of peace and order, Salt Lake City has something even better: giraffes. [John Teti]