24 December 2015

Fallout 4 (some spoilers)

Fallout is one of the major game franchises that passed me by - primarily because I'm a hard sell on shooters, though the Fallout series did have more of a reputation for story than most others.  It's also what's known as a 'sandbox' game, which usually means there's a ton you can do, and a thousand different paths to get there.  It's a rare sandbox game that doesn't exhaust me long before the main quest ends (eg. Skyrim).

Fallout 4: There is no massive moon hanging in the sky in the actual game.
Still, I picked up Fallout 4 at least in part because of the slick graphics, and because of the positive reviews.  And also because of some of the cartoons going around showing the character creation process, where you get to design both yourself and your spouse (though cannot choose the gender of your spouse - and, minor nitpick, the child waiting in the next room does not appear to reflect any of the appearance changes you might make [though I've heard that the appearance is supposed to be generated according to the parental appearance]).

[I spent as much time working on my spouse's appearance as my own, even though I knew that character would die before the game got really started.  Not such a waste of time, since I had multiple opportunities to visit the corpse, or watch him die in flashbacks.]

Dressing for success in the post apocalypse. Lucky there's plenty of laundry cleaner scattered about.
Starting at the fourth game in series isn't a big bar to new players, since each of the Fallout games starts with a new character (dubbed "the Lone Wanderer"), who emerges from a vault after a nuclear war that has devastated a fission-tech Earth around 2077 (an alt-reality that seems to be going for a Stepford Wives vibe).  In Fallout 3 I gather you start the game as a child born in a shelter, but Fallout 4 adds a twist of cryo-storage and you go through a brief starting sequence of your family being frozen in their shelter, your character waking briefly to see their child stolen and their partner murdered, then frozen again before being properly released.

The double-freezing leads to an obvious twist, though there is a nicely-done fakeout in relation to your search for your stolen child.  However, long before you get anywhere near your child's trail, you must deal with "the Commonwealth" (set around the ruins of Boston), where the law has almost completely fractured following the fall of the Minutemen.  They are the first of four factions you encounter and you can choose to help out, and start re-establishing protected settlements (and get lost in an entire side-game of clunkily building houses, decorating them, and setting up defences and supply lines).

The other factions are the Brotherhood of Steel (basically a variation of Nazis, always talking about purity and wanting to kill off everything not-quite-human), the Institute (a shadowy super-tech place which everyone in the Commonwealth is convinced is, for some reason, replacing people with replicants called synths), and the Railroad (a group dedicated to helping synths escape the Institute).

On the whole, I found Fallout 4 to be compulsively playable - tons of little quests, and a landscape seething with life.  I racked up between 4 and 5 full days played before I completed the main quest line and decided 'no more' (there is scope for continuing on with minor quests near-indefinitely).  At the same time, I didn't find the main quest particularly compelling - especially once you get to meet with the Institute.  Part of that is, I think, because I didn't find the Institute leader's actions at all believable (ludicrous, in fact).  There is also very little option to try to convince any of these factions to change their views, even when some of the leader's actions in particular suggest he's not nearly so firm on the major divisive issue as his words would suggest.

There are a ton of potential companions - so many I didn't even find them all - and the companion quest lines, unsurprisingly, are some of the more interesting segments of the game - and the voice acting overall there is just fabulous.  My faves were Dogmeat (the iconic german shepherd companion, who is just glad to be around you - I felt bad every time I swapped him out as a companion), Hancock and Nick Valentine.


The game is also swimming in bugs (some of them shoot streams of maggots at you, but the rest just mess with the gameplay).  Most don't cause major issues, but it's worth saving frequently.

Recommended for: anyone who has several weeks free, and doesn't have a book they're supposed to be writing.


  1. Enjoy the holiday and take the break. It may make it easier when you do return to a book you're supposed to be writing! In the meantime, I will possess myself in patience, probably while re-reading MEDAIR, which I have enjoyed more than any other book I've read in some time. Not sure whether it's Medair's rescues of major Ibisian mages, or envisioning, in a more mundane world, Islantar as an Eagle Scout or Illukar as an engineer. Thank you for writing the books which provide so much pleasure!

    1. I think Illukar would enjoy being an engineer. He's very constructive. ;)

    2. It struck me that "engineer" seems to be the lens that's his approach to life. We're Here. We need to be There. What's the straightest, safest, most practical way to get There?

      When in doubt,
      Make it stout,
      Out of things
      You know about.

    3. Forgot to add that it's still the 24th here, and I am at this moment wrapping four of your books to present to various relatives in the morning.

    4. Pretty covers....!

      Yes, Illukar is definitely a problem solver: someone who will quietly be thinking of ways to fix things and optimal solutions. [And the realisation that he failed, that his people would have experienced the Conflagration as death, will forever be incredibly hard for him.]

  2. One of my former WoW friends has been playing Fallout 4 for weeks now. Every time he starts to tell me about it, I go Lalala and put my fingers in my ears. It sounds really fun, but I'm quite sure a big reason why I didn't write a book in 2015 was that I rediscovered WoW. Living in someone else's world can be so seductive. Of course, the month I spent living in your worlds didn't help either!

    1. Yes, I've been avoiding MMOs, and likely will stick with that unless something new and very interesting comes out. Games like Fallout 4 measure several days of playtime. MMOs are a second life. I shall get my MMO fix writing Snug Ship.


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