Crawled out through the Fallout

25 01 2016

So Fallout 4 has been out a couple months now, I’ve put almost 3 days worth of combined playtime into it…and I’m still not done the main quest. Part of that is because of the massive amount of side content already in the game, part of it is getting distracted by the settlement mechanic, and part of it is due to the fact that the main questline starts out strong but tapers off fairly quickly. Minor spoilers follow after the jump

It’s sort of a shame, the opening is kind of interesting what with you living through the initial moments of the war and then winding up a human popsicle for the next 210 years. You finally get out of the Vault, your infant son was kidnapped, and you have to find him. However that sort of urgency is weirdly misplaced. By the time you’ve finished the second quest of the game you have an idea of where to go but you don’t really have to go there, sort of like in Fallout 3. In Fallout 3 it made sense because you’re trying to find your dad who left the vault of his own volition. In Fallout 4 you’re trying to solve a kidnapping. Worse still, the longer the game goes on the more distracted I find myself getting. Bethesda’s writing of main quests has always kind of been weak, but the effort they put into lore, worldbuilding, and sidequests is amazing. So it becomes a question of, do I go wander into the Glowing Sea to continue the main quest…or do I cosplay as a superhero? Do I continue the main quest, or do I randomly investigate a long-abandoned Mayoral Shelter? Do I continue the main quest or do I help an artificial detective confront the past of the human his memories are based on? Stuff like that.

 

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I don’t remember so much Art Deco last time I was in Boston…

The varied scenery of The Commonwealth (formerly Boston) also contributes to my wanderlust. Ever since Fallout 3 hinted at the idea of a post-nuclear Boston I was intrigued, Boston being the city closest to where I was born and raised in Massachusetts. Obviously it’s not a 1:1 match of how Boston actually is due to divergent timelines and 5-s culture, but the important bits exist. Things like Fenway Park, which also indicates that the Fallout Universe is The Darkest Timeline since the Sox were just about to win the World Series for the first time since 1918 until vengeful Yankee fans started the nuclear war (that last half may have been a joke). Things like The Old North Church, the Freedom Trail, and the USS Constitution. You can also walk to some of the outlying suburbs, like Cambridge, Quincy, Lexington, Concord, even Salem. Of course you couldn’t logically walk to these in any amount of time but whatever. A lot of the southern suburbs you can’t get to though because those have been replaced by a massive nuclear crater where one of the bombs fell during the war.

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The Glowing Sea looks like this almost all the time, even when it’s sunny.

The area, now known as the Glowing Sea, replaces the area of what would be Dedham, and it’s possibly one of the bleakest-looking areas in a Fallout game in a long time. Constantly wracked by radioactive storms, the land is all jagged and broken. Buildings are either mostly sunk into the terrain or just rubble with maybe a couple walls still standing. The only buildings that have survived are usually hardened bunkers which have some really nice goodies inside assuming you didn’t die of radiation poisoning, or the deathclaws, or the molerats or radscorpions that dig out of the ground to attack you. Oh and I’d be remiss to mention the feral ghouls, which now behave a lot more agressively and can be dangerous even alone to a low-leveled player caught unawares.

Additionally, combat’s really been changed up compared to F3 and NV (New Vegas). Gunplay feels a bit weightier, VATS now does slow motion instead of a full stop, and some enemies actually can have limbs blown off that affect their ability to fight or move. Damaging people’s limbs also have much starker effects even if they aren’t removable. This also causes enemies to switch up tactics, like robots that try to self destruct in your face and such.

There’s also the ability to modify weapons and armor, and the armor system is a lot more modular than it was in the past, being able to mix and match pieces to optimize one’s playstyle. Modifying weapons also lets you do things like turn a gun into an automatic  weapon, or give a laser a spreadfire ability, and things like that. You can even do this to “legendary” versions of weapons and armor, so you can have a weapon with a legendary attribute you like also fit your playstyle. Power armor has changed too. It’s now a full-fledged suit you step into, Iron-Man style, with each part of the armor having its own life-bar. Like the weapons and armor, Power Armor is also modifiable, both with cosmetic paint colors and also with modifying armor pieces. It really makes you feel like you’re invincible at times, and it’s counterbalanced by needing to find Fusion Cores to power the armor, although there are plenty in the wasteland for you to find if you want to use the armor for a long amount of time. Personally I just bring it out for specific tasks, like exploring the Glowing Sea.

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Also there’s a (sadly underutilized) greaser gang of Power Armor modders

The one other big thing about the game is that it really makes the Commonwealth feel like an actual place. Whereas in older Fallout games you’d maybe see a couple random events involving factions shooting at each other, Fallout 4 has these kinds of things happen organically. On several occasions I’ve been in the middle of the city and walked through battles that spanned multiple city blocks between Raiders, Gunners, Brotherhood of Steel, Super Mutants, and even some ghouls from time to time. It’s chaotic, explosive, and very entertaining. Also a good way to pick up more ammo without necessarily wasting your own. These fights also tend to have the various combatants making the most use out of the verticality of the city’s various buildings and rooftops, which is something else that hasn’t really been in a Fallout game before.

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Brotherhood Knights engaging in a pitched battle on an apartment rooftop with raiders.

Lastly, Fallout 4 has also introduced settlements and crafting of building materials. This has also eaten up a lot of my time because there’s something really nice about building an okay apartment building for people to live in to escape the constant war-torn quagmire that is downtown Boston. You also get to build defenses and occasionally fend off attacks and it really feels like you’re helping to rebuild a civilization still in danger of falling apart at any moment. Also one of the settlements you can get is Fort Independence so that’s pretty awesome.

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Walls need some patching though

Again, because of the massive amount of side content in this game, I feel I’m more interested in doing all of that rather than following the main story. Though since you can actually continue after you finish that out, I’m sure I’ll still be coming back to this game once I finally finish the main questline, as well as any DLC that comes out.

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