I'm on the right
Fallout is one of those few mainstream video game series I've ever taken an active interest in, having received a copy of Fallout 3 from a good friend years back and even attempting to get Fallout 4 working, which hasn't panned out yet, but with the series being such a hot topic right now, I thought it might be fun to speak in detail on one of its most admirable features, and propose how that feature could stand to be even greater in future installments...
Big Bugs that Belong in Fallout
The Fallout series is good at representing arthropods. Better than just about any other video game series out there. While other games may reimagine insects and arachnids into wildly inaccurate monsters, Bethesda tends to do its entomology homework and painstakingly represent life-like arthropod anatomy even while exercising a degree of stylization. Just look at the sensory pits on this bloatfly's face. Nobody ever remembers the sensory pits.
Surprisingly, there are many who don't even consider giant insects to be one of Fallout's major selling points. There are even those who outright dislike their inclusion, or feel at least that there are just too many of them in the enemy roster, but let's be honest here: pretty much nothing is more iconic to nuclear-age science fantasy than giant insects. If anything, they should logically be even more of a focal point in Fallout's world.
Unfortunately Fallout 4 is something of a mixed bag when it comes to bugs, and not in the Oogie Boogie way, which implies lots and lots of bugs. Fallout 4 introduces rather gorgeous giant mosquitoes, and more surprisingly, giant scorpionflies, an insect I have never, ever seen making even the slightest cameo appearance in fiction before now. That's pretty awesome, but the game discards the tarantula hawk wasps, fire ants and preying mantids of the previous two titles, as if they felt they needed to institute some kind of limit on the number of killer, mutant insects roaming the wasteland. Absurd.
So, we're gonna talk here about ten "bugs" I'd have personally chosen for a Fallout game, and now that they've used something as obscure as a scorpionfly, pretty much nothing is off the table.
THE DUST DEVIL (GIANT ANTLION)Yeah, I'm also gonna give these critters Fallout-style nicknames, like how the scorpionflies are "stingwings" and mosquitoes "bloodbugs." A great deal of Fallout takes place roaming a dusty, sandy post-nuclear wasteland, and it's surprising there aren't any enemies who attack from below the ground. In their larval state, antlions are most famous for building conical pits to ensnare passing prey, pumping them full of venom with their hollow mandibles and dragging them under the sand to suck dry of fluids.
GAME POTENTIAL: Maybe it wouldn't be all that fun to face an enemy that's buried under the dirt, but once you know how to identify a dust devil's trap, you could have plenty of fun knocking enemy raiders into it. What's more, maybe you could hunt down the otherwise harmless, dragonfly-like adults, harvest their eggs, and plant them wherever you want as booby traps.
THE RAGODES (GIANT SOLIFUGID)Solifugids were practically a meme a few years back, when U.S. soldiers dubbed them "camel spiders" and brought back tall tales of the creatures chasing people down, leaping ten feet, screaming like banshees and chewing on faces. In reality, these non-spider arachnids are harmless to anything much larger than themselves, but a true desert terror to small rodents, lizards, spiders, scorpions and snakes, armed with adhesive forelimbs and jaws like a double set of massive clippers.
GAME POTENTIAL: The Ragodes genus makes a great, catchy name in itself, and with their almost legendary status in the real world, a "camel spider" would no doubt be one of the nastiest wasteland creatures in Fallout, possibly even rivaling the dreaded (but aesthetically underwhelming, sorry) Deathclaw.
THE CHUPACABRAS (GIANT FLEA)Fleas seldom make appearances in video games, but their coolness factor is manifold; they look like something painted by H.R. Giger, they can leap like issue-one superman, their flexible hide is almost impervious to crushing, they can lie in wait for months in silken cocoons and many species even excrete excess blood as food for their maggot-like larvae. You could say they're itching to be taken seriously as monsters, and if you scale one up and dump it in a desert wasteland, you've got a vicious, spiny, bug-eyed monster that can drain an animal of blood and leap to safety before it's caught - much like the legendary goatsucker.
GAME POTENTIAL: I already alluded them to a Giger painting, so in addition to behaving like everyone's favorite Mexican cryptid, giant fleas could also fill the role of xenomorph expy. Fallout already had one back in the day - the adorable wanamingo - and I imagine these "chupacabras" could even look a little like a 'mingo decked out in a flea's barbed, chitinous plates. Cocooning humans in their underground hives, the monsters would keep them alive and fed only to keep harvesting their blood for writhing pits of larvae.
THE ISOPTERITES (GIANT TERMITES)While often thought of in fiction as a counterpart or even rival to ants, termites are technically a variety of cockroach, and unlike most ants, they live reclusive, peaceful lives. Termites don't hunt, they don't go to war, they don't even leave home at all if they don't have to. Even their most formidable biological weaponry evolved primarily to defend their nests from - what else? - ant raiding parties. Ants are basically the orcs to termite's halflings.
GAME POTENTIAL: All of Fallout's bugs don't need to be violent monsters, do they? Sweet, gentle termites might treat you as a threat only once you've done them harm, much like the game's human communities, and ducking into one of their nests would be a surefire escape from nastier wasteland creatures. Your termite pals would make short work of them and even leave you the spoils, since they're only interested in vegetable matter as food.
THE UNDERTAKER (GIANT ASSASSIN BUG)As members of the order Hemiptera, these insects are what we call "true" bugs, resembling beetles to a certain degree, but differentiated by beak-like sucking mouth parts, no larval stage and leathery, folded wings. Assassin bugs are among the most formidable of predatory bugs, and exhibit a staggering range of adaptations. All possess a spider-like corrosive bite, while some can even squirt a stream of acid for several feet. Many exhibit complex camouflage, and some even cover themselves in bits of detritus. Most striking of all are those who use the corpses of past prey as a disguise, piling the remains of slaughtered ants or termites on their backs.
GAME POTENTIAL: How marvelously grotesque would it be to come upon a mound of mangled, nearly skeletal cadavers out in the waste - or even a single large corpse, like a dessicated brahmin or supermutant - only for it to get up and start spewing acid? "Undertaker" might be a melodramatic name, but what else do you call a monster that hides under dead things?
THE WILL O' WISP (GIANT GLOW WORM)There are many bioluminescent insect larvae referred to as "glow worms," but perhaps the most magnificent are the larvae of certain fungus gnats in the Arachnocampa genus. These slimy maggots hang themselves from the ceilings of caves, the canopies of dark forests and even some man-made structures, dangling long, adhesive strands of slime and glowing a brilliant blue to attract insect prey.
GAME POTENTIAL: I'll admit, a monster-sized glowworm basically doesn't function any differently from the "barnacles" in half-life, but if you ask me, a gelatinous, glowing maggot reeling you in with strands of slime is an even cooler threat, and what says "radioactive wasteland" better than giant, glowing insects? Will O' Wisps could most often lurk in abandoned houses, conspicuously luminous at night, but ghostly transparent and easy to miss during the day. Like the antlion, you could even have means of acquiring their eggs and planting them as traps of your own.
THE DUNG CRAB (GIANT HOBGOBLIN FLY)Let's get really out-there with these. What's stopping us? Mormotomyia hirsuta is just one of many weird, wingless flies that exist in our world, also known as the "hobgoblin fly" and "terrible hairy fly." Though directly related to blood-sucking parasites of bats, these "hobgoblins" feed only on the droppings of their hosts, and while they've been collected from only a single known bat cave, their genetic diversity seems to indicate that there are not only more out there, but that they somehow travel from one cave to another - possibly by riding their bat pals.
GAME POTENTIAL: This is one that would be neither dangerous nor especially useful, but I'm a big of video game creatures as pure set dressing. Sure, hobgoblin flies only live in Kenya in the real world, but who's to say a mutant variation on Fallout's bloatfly might not follow a similar adaptive path, becoming a flightless, blind, scuttling scavenger in the nests of other creatures? Fallout doesn't have giant bats, but insects like these could live in some sort of sewage system used by humans or mutants.
Or, better yet, there could also be giant bats.
THE PHLEGMIPEDE (GIANT VELVET WORM)Velvet worms are the last surviving members of the Onychophora, a group of worm-like ancestral arthropods once boasting such formidable members as Anomalocaris and other Cambrian-era predators. These smaller, sleeker modern models are found only on land and look more like an adorable cross between a slug and a caterpillar, but with their instant-drying adhesive spray, they can incapacitate even highly active prey from a distance.
GAME POTENTIAL: Most velvet worms live in tropical forests, which aren't exactly a common sight in Fallout, but this is one arthropod long, long overdue for a giant, radioactive monster. They might be slow moving, but they could snipe with their biological glue-guns from afar, and I can't help imagining that this one would be exceptionally huge; a couple dozen feet long. Maybe it could have even mutated to burrow, basically becoming the "sandworm" sort of monster I always felt was sorely missing from the setting.
THE PIRANHA BUG (GIANT WHIRLIGIG BEETLE)
Common in fresh-water ponds and streams, whirligig beetles are built like tiny, meat-eating motorboats, forming highly organized swarms on the water's surface and ripping apart insect prey like, well, a school of piranhas.
GAME POTENTIAL: The thing about whirligig beetles is that they're adapted only to hunt on the water's surface. They're no good at diving and they're awkward on land, so you're basically safe as long as you're either completely out of or completely under the water. I feel like this would just make a really unique threat to deal with, and another you could use to your advantage.
Say you've got some underwater breathing equipment, right? The beetles will follow you, hoping for you to surface, but that just means you can take them wherever you want; maybe even use some other weapon to knock your enemies into the water and watch a swiring mass of metallic beetles reduce them to a skeleton.
THE MOSS HOG (GIANT TARDIGRADE)
Tardigrades or "water bears" have become widely famous in recent years for their incredible survival skills. Capable of entering a hibernative state that can even survive exposure to deep space, this is one animal that really would come out of a nuclear war none the worse for wear.
GAME POTENTIAL: As microscopic creatures, a "giant" mutant water-bear might be little larger or more threatening than a pug, but they'd make a lovable addition to the game's wildlife. The speed at which fans might want to mod a roly-poly, puppy-sized water bear into an in-game pet might be almost as fast as those mods for bigger boobs.
THE BUGBEAR (GIANT JUMPING SPIDER)
Jumping spiders are another of those rare arthropods to have enjoyed increasing fame for their cuteness, and perhaps it's a bit unfair to the rest of the Aranea - who deserve every bit as much love and respect- but jumping spiders, for all their kitten-like appeal, are still formidable and strikingly clever hunters, some demonstrating a host of ingenious strategies adjusted for different prey species, which can sometimes be several times the spider's size.
GAME POTENTIAL: It's amazing there have never been big spiders in Fallout, and perhaps that's simply because it's too predictable, or perhaps they're worried Arachnophobes won't buy their game, but I feel like the "bugbear" could solve both problems. Quite unlike the mindless, slavering webspinners of so many other games, this little creature would hunt alone with speed, stealth and intelligence, darting from cover to cover to pounce on the player when we least expect it.
And as a doe-eyed ball of fluff, the bugbear could pull the heartstrings of players and NPC's alike, with an in-canon reputation for its insidiously deceptive cuteness.
THE SKYREAPER (GIANT ROBBER FLY)I've written extensively about the Asilidae, or robber flies multiple times in the past. These predatory flies are the terror of virtually everything else with an exoskeleton from the tiniest gnats to the beastliest spiders. Many species reach impressive, hornet-like sizes, and in turn routinely bring down prey two to three times their own mass. Their prickly coating of hairs and saw-like "mustaches" protect them from whatever fangs, claws and stingers their targets may possess, and their blunt, dagger-like mouthparts can punch through fairly thick chitin to inject a paralyzing concoction of digestive fluid.
GAME POTENTIAL: As in nature, what if our robber fly was the ultimate arthropod predator, afraid of nothing, more formidable than any other horror we've described here...but what if, in a delightful twist, it had no appetite for humans at all? Or, for that matter, anything with soft flesh? Basically a cazador fighting on your side, it might track you from a distance only because it knows you might attract the attention of a tasty stingwing, radscorpion or the terrifying ragodes up there; your six-legged, thousand-eyed guardian angel.
(GIANT, INTELLIGENT COCKROACHES)
GAME POTENTIAL: I realize that, despite the presence of robot cowboys in this series, some fans might think this idea is getting too silly, but cockroach-people could very easily be played for dark atmosphere, demonstrating an alien intelligence and only subtly reflecting signs of civilization as we know it. They scuttle in makeshift cities of mangled garbage, they exhibit inconsistent levels of organization and they fashion crude, nonsensical effigies or "tools" only to discard them almost immediately, as though only fleetingly possessed of a dim notion to create.
Either adorable or disturbing depending on your outlook, the number of possible story hooks revolving around bug-people would actually be pretty staggering, including but not limited to:
a human settlement may starve if something isn't done about the "bugmen" raiding their meager crops, and offers a hefty reward for their extermination. The creatures aren't hostile, so who do you save? Can a compromise be reached?
a research group is studying the roaches much as we study apes, attempting to teach them basic forms of communication and certain that they're harmless, but someone very powerful just wants to see them nuked.
humans have been living in relative peace with these insectoids, but a cordyceps-like fungal infection is reducing them to a ravenous, zombie-like state. The only choices left are to whipe them all out, or devise a cure.
a human cult believes insects really are destined to supplant humanity, and have been conducting twisted experiments to hybridize Blattosapiens and humans. The result is a deranged Innsmouth-with-insects scenario...but maybe you can get on their good side, or even join them.
the insects have taken to serving the whims of a more powerful, more intelligent genetic abomination, offering it human sacrifices like some sort of dark god. Taking it out may imprint the colony on a new master - you!
the roaches have attained a bogeyman-like status among local humans for their alleged habit of kidnapping. Of course, it might be that the insects have good intentions, and the humans are hiding a horrible secret themselves.
a human has been raised by Blattosapiens like an apocalyptic Tarzan, and their aging parents still want their child back. The right choice for the kid's well-being may not be clear-cut.
a former vault dweller has been living among the Blattosapiens for decades since emerging, completely unaware that other humans survived at all. Having gone a little bonkers from the relative isolation, they've become something of a tyrannical ruler to the insectoids, and trained them to mimic aspects of human culture with darkly humorous results.
a scientist has managed to outfit some of the creatures with parts from a robobrain, imbuing it with human-like intelligence. Now, they want your help to access a storehouse of electronics and accelerate the brains of potentially thousands more. The enhanced cyberbugs seem innocent enough, but maybe their creator's intentions are more suspect.
I could go on, but by now, you're either already convinced that the wastelands can never have too many crawlies, or you feel like I'm basically pushing for Fallout to become Bugpocalypse: Bugworld Bug Quest With Bugs, in which case, there's a critical point you may be overlooking: