Railroaded by the Railroad

I finally finished Fallout 4. (This write up may contain mild spoilers)

I don’t know if it’s that I enjoy exploring post-apocalyptic worlds, or if Bethesda simply excels at creating compelling environments, but I could (and did) spend hundreds of hours wandering ruined America—and that is perhaps my favourite part of any Fallout game, the time lost to roving.

FoodstuffCuriosity is not always rewarded kindly. Scouring the edges of the map will drop you into obscure quests and hair-raising encounters. Foodstuff machines, a stranded ship crewed by robots, loners who should be left alone, atomic cults, a barely operational nuclear sub, aliens and the mother of all mirelurks. I tripped over a hill into a nest of glowing green radscorpions and died horribly (while running away). I hadn’t saved for a while and lost twenty minutes of game play. I reloaded and ventured into the Glowing Sea again, because what’s twenty minutes when you’re already four hours distant from the quest you were absolutely, positively going to finish today?

toiletOpening locked doors doesn’t always work out in well. Sometimes they blow up in your face; other times they swing back to reveal a darkly humourous tableau—someone’s last visit to the toilet, or a skeleton reading an overdue library book to a collection of toys. Every now and then you’ll pick up a cool new weapon, or yet another missile launcher (I ended up with about 30 of them). Or there will be nothing but a stack of surgical trays—which you will ignore until suddenly you need aluminium. Then, of course, you’ll have to search the internet for where those trays were hidden because hundreds of closets have been opened and abandoned by then.

readingcircleOr, maybe you’re the sort of person who, um, has stacks of this crap back at Sanctuary. Crates of mines, grenades, medicine, cast-off armour and superior weapons that don’t quite measure up to your beloved and heavily modded tactical rifle, and a garage full of power armour. Fallout will call to the hoarder in you. Trust me.

Eventually, however, you’ll want to get (back) to the main quest and finish the game. So I did that this past weekend and now I’m going to share my thoughts on Fallout 4 in fairly general and as unspoilerific terms as I can.

The Good

The environment. It’s stunning and endlessly fascinating. I’ve come to expect this from Fallout games and 4 doesn’t disappoint. The attention to detail is phenomenal and, on a technical note, I experienced very few difficulties navigating the terrain. A couple of mobs got caught under floors and outside doors, and there were a couple of clipping issues, but nothing game breaking. In fact, this is the cleanest iteration of Fallout yet, in my opinion.

Leveling. I liked the new perk panel. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but once I got to level 35 or so, I figured I’d eventually end up with enough points to put into the skills I wanted. By level 55 I was taking fun perks just because I didn’t really need any more skills. If you play on the higher difficulty settings, perks will be more important, and you can create highly specialised characters or a jack of all trades who relies more on buffs than innate skill.

The companions. There are a ton of them and most come with a cool little story. Only a few have “companion quests.” These are generally tied to the main quest—even if only to poke another hole in your theories, or pull another sympathetic lever. My disappointment in the fact Strong did not come with a quest to actually find the milk of human kindness will be never ending.

The weapons. The variety of weapons is usually one of my favourite aspects of the game. I loved collecting them, modding them and giving them pet names. All I know about weapons, I learned from Fallout.

Building. You can build yourself a house! And a town! And the minutemen will want you to do it over and over and over…

Building is fun. It really does give you a sense of effecting change on the environment. I did wish for nicer structures and upgrades, though. I wanted a less tatty rug to put in my new building. And some caulk for the walls. Or to be able to build something that didn’t look so…post-apocalyptic. Apparently there are mods that will pretty up the landscape for you. I didn’t try any—I had a hard enough time sticking to the main quest as it was.

The Bad

The main quest. Okay, it’s not epically bad (in which case I would have saved it for The Ugly). But, ultimately, I didn’t think the main quest line allowed for enough personal choice. You know when you’re presented with three conversation options and, technically, choosing one should result in a unique response? So you put your feels on the line and go with Screw you and then the power goes out (or you are drawn three hours south by a new shiny on the map and forget to save) and you have to go back and do the conversation again. You pick a different option (you’ve had lunch and are feeling less sugar deprived), choosing Okay, and the response is pretty much the same.

So your anger is unfounded, your heartfelt reaction isn’t acknowledged, and the bus continues on as if you weren’t the driver.

Obviously the story has to remain somewhat linear. There is an endpoint. What really drove me nuts about Fallout 4 was the fact that a) I sometimes had to side with folks I didn’t particularly care for in order to get to the next main story quest, and b) other times, it just didn’t seem to matter what I did, the result was already written in the stars. So I felt powerless, which can happen in role play when events are bigger than the MC, but we should feel as if we’re having an effect on our environment, right? Otherwise, we might as well go read a book.

It’s hard to dig into my many issues with the main story without major spoilers. The title of my write up does give a heavy hint, though. I suppose I do have to grudgingly admit my tears over the incident pictured below were the result of having my heart twisted by the choices I had to make.

Heartbreak

Emotion is good. But I would have liked more compromise. At the end of the game I felt alienated from nearly all the factions and disappointed that the only one I truly cared for didn’t feature more heavily in the big showdown.

The Ugly

Betrayal. I like to play the hero. I’ll never save the world in my own life, so I want to save it when I’m playing games. I don’t want to betray my friends to do it, though.

Can’t we sit down and talk about it? The lack of diplomatic solutions drove me nuts. Also, Desdemona needs to get herself a pair of listening ears.

Overall, I enjoyed Fallout 4. I loved exploring the world and never tired of trying for the perfect headshot. I played for about 140 hours and have plans to go back to the point where the pudding hits the fan and play through to the end with different alliances. My main complaint was that, ultimately, I didn’t feel as if my actions had much impact on the world. The number of craters I left behind would suggest I did, but I pushed that final button with a sick feeling in my stomach. I didn’t want to do it. I had hoped there would be a better way, a more forgiving story.

Maybe I’m just not cutthroat enough for the post-apocalyptic world.

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