When I first started up Fallout 4 way back in 2015, I didn’t get very far before feeling overwhelmed. There was just too much. Too many places to explore, too many people needing help, too many things to loot and carry. I managed around thirty hours of play then before becoming distracted by other things. It took jaunts through Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas before I felt ready to return to the brimming wastes of Boston.
I’m now nearing about sixty hours of play, and I still feel like I’m only scratching the surface of what the game has to offer. It’s…well…it’s a little mystifying. Recently, my Fallout 4 sessions have taken place at night, right before bedtime. And at the end of each, as I’m trying to fall asleep, I catch myself thinking about how many more things there must be to find in the game despite what I’ve already found. Forgive me for dwelling on a game that’s both aged and well-played by the masses, but the magic of discovery in Fallout 4 is, simply put, very engrossing.
I encountered similar feelings Fallout: New Vegas – its desert expanse felt limitless and filled with secrets. Fallout 3 was a smaller experience overall, but it was no less jaw-dropping at times. With Fallout 4, I feel that even I had all the time in the world, I’d never discover everything that the (base) game has to offer. And yet, part me really wants to give being a Fallout 4 completionist a try. Because, why not?
I’m at a point in the game where I keep thinking the ending is around the corner, and yet another main quests appears. And I’m not disappointed. Some of them have led me back to places that I thought I knew well and were still hiding secrets. Some of them have led me to spots that I only found in passing and didn’t think were that interesting in the moment; they proved to be much wackier than expected. And some of them have truly made me think about survival, stability, family, and what it would really take to live in a post-apocalyptic world. Not every game is as cut and dry as “you win” or “you lose.”
The title scenario I mentioned with the deathclaw threw me for a loop, and this was after I didn’t think the game could get any more twisty. [Begin spoilers, FYI] The side mission leading to it appeared in my inventory early on in the game. I had mostly been ignoring anything “miscellaneous,” but recently, with the way that the story had been going and feeling that the point-of-no-return must be around the corner soon, I decided to start working on some of them. One of them directed me to explore the Museum of Witchcraft and finding an in-tact deathclaw egg, as well as a deathclaw. I found the latter first and prevailed after a very tough battle. Upon finding the egg, I was dejected, thinking that I had killed a mother trying to defend her nest. Have that feeling invoked, in and of itself, and for what I perceived to be a scary beast, was quite an internal surprise.
Scattered around the museum were also that deathclaw’s victims, which included a number of unfortunate Gunners, a paramilitary offshoot (and my enemies) in the Commonwealth wasteland. One of them left behind a holotape, onto which he had recorded details of their mission, which was to get a deathclaw egg to Diamond City. I don’t recall the exact reason for it, but the game gave me two options: give the egg to someone at Diamond City or return it. Return it to what? I wondered, because didn’t I just do away with its parent?
While I was curious about what would happen to the egg in Diamond City, I was also sure that the outcome would be devious in some manner. (I am nothing if not wary in the wastes.) So instead I followed the map marker that led away from Diamond City.
And I ended up…at an actual deathclaw nest, complete with a stalking deathclaw. A smaller one too, which led me to think that I had probably killed the father back in the museum. It still felt no less wrenching as I warily watched this second deathclaw from afar. But it made no sudden moves as I approached its nest and placed the egg. I quickly ran out of reach, half expecting the thing to come over and swat me. But as I turned around, I saw the second animal walk over to the next and perform an action that made it look like it was covering the egg with dirt or sand. And then it just stood there, heaving in its heavy manner and looking at me. I started walking away and looked back again, and it was still by its nest. It made no attempt to follow or fight. [End spoilers, FYI.]
Did…did I just make a friend?
I have no idea what will come of my action, if anything. I’ve already played through several scenarios in the game that I thought might lead to something momentous, only to be met with silence. I love to think that this particular deathclaw will send word of my good deed to others of its kind in the wastes, but I’m not that optimistic (or delusional). But I do rather like the imaginary in-game consequence of meeting a friendly deathclaw at some point down the road. Heck, one that could even be my companion, because wouldn’t that be something! Ah, but I digress.
Fallout 4 is not alone among games that bestow magical moments to players, but it does feel like something of a relic among many recent big-name games that are flashy without substance, that contain open worlds without much to find, or that mistake sarcasm for wit. Eh, maybe I’m just waxing nostalgic. Or maybe I’m just hoping to find my own friendly deathclaw in and among it all.
Lede image taken by author from Fallout 4 (PS4) © Bethesda Game Studios (2015)