Last Listmas, I made a few gaming promises to myself, one of which I actually just made happen. I finally finished Fallout 4! And it only took four years!
In thinking about how to sum up my Fallout 4 experience, fragmented as it was over many months, I can’t help but briefly compare it to both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. I liked all the games for different reasons. The short version goes something like this. I like Fallout 3 because of its impactful setting. I liked Fallout: New Vegas because of its delightfully self-serving and compelling story. I liked Fallout 4 the most because it offered a variety of world-building options. As it stand, New Vegas is still my favorite.
But we’re not here to talk about the post-apocalyptic gambling capital of the world! We’re here to discuss Fallout 4, so let’s do just that. Spoilers may lie ahead and beyond.
Time: October 2077. Place: Outside of Boston, Massachusetts, U. S. A. You, a new parent to baby boy Shaun, have just reserved your family a spot in one of Vault-Tec’s new vaults (number 111), because nuclear war could happen at any time. And it does, almost immediately, and your family flees to Vault 111. You don’t know it at the time, but Vault-Tec’s folks secretly designed Vault 111 as a testing ground for cryogenic suspension. Upon entering the vault, everyone’s shuffled into to individual “decontamination chambers.” Yours ends up across the way from one containing your other half with your child. You are then unknowingly frozen in time. Some years pass, and you accidentally wake up to blearily view someone breaking into that same pod, taking your child, and doing away with your spouse. You faint, only to wake up further in the future. The memory of that terrible occurrence is still fresh in your mind, so off you go, out of the vault and into the new world order to find Shaun.
When I re-started the game a few months back, I was exactly where I remembered leaving off, outside Diamond City, which I had only just discovered. Previous to that, I had started building my settlement at Sanctuary Hills, uncovered a couple more settlement locations, and done some general clearing of raider-run spots in the Sanctuary region. Since I hadn’t gotten very far into the story itself and could barely remember the game’s mechanics, I strongly considered starting over. But I steamrolled my reservations and eventually got the hang of things again.
With that, I moved forward with main story quests. Avoiding much of the nitty-gritty, here’s how things went down:
I worked with four companions — Dogmeat (of course!), Nick Valentine, Deacon, and Codsworth – and I gained the full favor of the latter three. Later in the game, I really wanted to have Piper along, but I dismissed her at some point when I first played, I think. She disappeared. I went back to Diamond City several times but could never find her.
I ended up following the Railroad to the endgame, because their mission to save synths was too intriguing to turn down. Plus, I really liked Deacon.
Somewhere along the way, I also decided to join the Minutemen. This led to the formation of many a settlement, which, much to my surprise, I found more enjoyable than not. It turned out that I really like keeping all my settlements on the up and up. Plus, it gave me good reason for scavenging, which led to some really interesting side missions.
Siding with the Railroad caused me to be named an enemy of the Brotherhood of Steel. I was fine with that until I realize it meant that they would then attack on sight. Those were some tough firefights, especially the one on its airship, the Prydwen. But there I made some disturbing discoveries about the Brotherhood’s research that made me feel a little better about my choice.
The Institute was the biggest surprise of the game. It was the Railroad’s primary enemy, because it had been kidnapping people from the wasteland and imprisoning synths. When I first entered the Institute underground complex, I was stunned and immediately skeptical. That suspicion only grew during once I met its leader, Father, who claimed to be my long-lost son.
I played along with Father and the Institute for a while, and I even agreed to become its new “director” at Father’s behest. I almost followed through with one of the final Institute quests called “The End of the Line” before deciding that I just wanted to go ahead with the Railroad’s planned attack on the place. It was kind of brutal. Hm. In hindsight, I’m not sure how I feel about its complete obliteration.
The absolute worst part of the game came right before blowing up the Institute. Out of nowhere, this kid showed up who was all like Hey, I’m your son! And was like, Okay, sure! And he was like Can I come with you! And I was like Yep whatever! Once the Institute was done, that kid was nowhere to be found, but I can;t say that I looked all that hard for him. Did I even care? After going through some pretty meat plot points, that “reunion” was utterly flat and meaningless. Thinking back on it, now I’m pretty sure that the kid was the synth “Shaun” I first saw when I got to the Institute and met Father, who I guess was my real kid after all. Meh.
Cut scenes played. War…war never changes.
Oh, and I never did find out what became of my Deathclaw friend. I might have to look back into that.
While the whole “find my kid” storyline was a letdown, the game as a whole was solid and enjoyable. Sure, I encountered a few cute Bethesda glitches, but nothing hampered the game to the point that it became unplayable. I managed to reach level 48, which I think is a small record for me and Fallout games. I wouldn’t mind seeing just how far I could take things, but I think I’m done with burnt-out Boston with now. Despite my better judgement, along with that of the Internet, I’m off to Appalachia to conquer a new wasteland.
All images taken by author during gameplay of Fallout 4 (PS4) © Bethesda Game Studios (2015)