Fallout 4 is Really, Really Good


Kieran Armstrong

Onward to the Commonwealth

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m late to the party. It’s been a pretty widespread agreeance since 2015 that Fallout 4 is a pretty amazing piece of entertainment, but my mom hates video games, so I didn’t get to actually buy it until December of 2018. Playing hours worth of this game over time has given me an experience that I’ve didn’t quite expect, especially from a video game before: complete freedom.

Fallout 4, for those of you who have lives, is a video game based in ‘The Commonwealth,’ post-apocalyptic Massachusetts after a nuclear bomb strikes the U.S. The game allows the player to determine their own name and customize their own character early on, and this theme of complete choice is apparent throughout.

To put it into perspective, I think it’s important to back up and look at Fallout 4’s predecessors.

The entire game franchise has been based on the same event, just in different time periods and settings. In each game, America gets nuked, but the various time periods provide a very impactful aspect of continuity to the franchise.

In Fallout 3 (2008), the survivor is a citizen of the Capital Wasteland in the year 2077, 200 years after the “Great War,” and 100 years before the events of Fallout 4. Why does that matter? Well, first, the Capital Wasteland is what was once Washington D.C., so it isn’t exactly a world away from the Massachusetts setting of Fallout 4.

It’s also a important because the “Great War” is a big deal in Fallout 4. This conflict between the U.S. and China was the reason for nuclear annihilation in the first place, and it’s referenced throughout the plot of Fallout 4. It’s also critical to note that Fallout 4 is after Fallout 3, because Fallout 4 is full of scattered Fallout 3 paraphernalia.

That’s the baseline behind the greatness of Fallout; its continuity is unreal.

All of the Fallout games share a variety of qualities that never change, no matter which wasteland you’re trudging through (Nuka Cola soda bottle caps are currency, the world is full of mutated animals, irradiated people turn into insane monsters called ‘ghouls’, the survivor is armed with a wrist HUD called a ‘Pip-Boy’, etc.).

Kieran Armstrong
Irradiated Waters in the Commonwealth
Kieran Armstrong
Battling Ferral Ghouls in the Southern Woods

The thing that sets Fallout 4 apart, though, is attention to detail. FO4 has an immense landscape that exists and changes just as the character does. As you level up and improve at the game (which is the hardest, most frustrating thing to do at first), the game gets harder. Evolutionary programming makes sure that enemies adapt to your actions and become smarter, mutating to make the experience more challenging as you continue playing.

There are hundreds of story-lines in Fallout 4, and some of them can be triggered just by talking to some random dude (who you encounter while running away from a mutated cow that you knew good and damn well you had no business trying to fight).

Every new day comes with a new adventure, and each adventure is full of little Easter eggs that dedicated fans can have a good nerd moment with.

The most pertinent (word choice, baby) Easter egg in Fallout 4 is actually an entire faction. The game allows players to participate in the exploits an assortment of ‘factions,’ or organized groups that fight for control of the Commonwealth.

These groups include the ragtag “Minutemen,” the mysterious “Railroad,” the illusive but deadly “Institute,” and the former military instillation known as the “Brotherhood of Steel.”

The Brotherhood is, in and of itself, an Easter egg, because it’s been in every Fallout game to date, making it the only faction that has never left the franchise. The continuity of the military remnants trying to hold a broken world together really adds to the flow of the series, and it shows the connections that go deeper than title cards.

Kieran Armstrong
Brotherhood of Steel Vertabird
Kieran Armstrong
View from the Brotherhood’s Ship, the Prydwyn

Fallout 4 is also phenomenal because of how self aware it is in accordance to the other pieces of the larger Fallout story. Remember how I said Fallout 3 is 200 years after the Great War? Well there’s a group of engineers in Fallout 3 called ArcJet who design nuclear reactors. They’re a minor subplot, but the same can’t be said for Fallout 4.

Even though FO4 came out almost ten years after its predecessor, the continuity is evident. If you journey to a place called the ‘Glowing Sea’, you’ll find a few extraordinary things. First, its not actually a sea. The Glowing Sea is the 30 mile radius around the impact point of the nuclear bomb that annihilated Massachusetts.

Kieran Armstrong
ArcJet Ruins in the Glowing Sea

The entire area is irradiated and green, glowing (duh) throughout and full of the most dangerous, heavily mutated monsters in the game, including Deathclaws (giant T-Rex looking things), Radscorpions (big ole, swole ole scorpions), and Mirelurks (disgusting mutated crabs).

Kieran Armstrong
Radscorpions and Bloatflies in the Glowing Sea

Aside from the beautifully bleak artistic design of The Glowing Sea, it also holds a connection to Fallout 3’s ArcJet subplot. If you journey deep into the Glowing Sea, you’ll find a set of highly irradiated reactors with the ArcJet logo on them, and, if you dare go further, you’ll discover records and recordings telling the story of ArcJet, all the way up until the very moment the bombs dropped.

That leads me to my last point; Fallout 4 tells a story through exploration.

The game is by no means linear, so if you decide to journey off into a Level 40 area as a Level 1 character, you’ll get the whooping you deserve. Similarly, the game doesn’t limit your ability to explore and discover the events that transpired before the survivor came into the Fallout universe; after all, it’s been 200 years since the bombs dropped and 300 years since the Great War.

Kieran Armstrong
Discovering Quincy Quarries

The beauty of Fallout is that it tells this story through discoverable lore, not direct dialogue. When you enter a new area, locations will be full of documents, whether they’re holographic recordings (Holotapes), old computer notes, or simple paper logs, and they will map out the interactions of characters before the survivor’s time, many of whom have been dead for generations.

The greatest part about all this is the fact that the world compliments the lore. If you read a log that says a particular character tried to save someone from radiation poisoning in the basement, you might find their skeleton and a ‘goodbye’ note in that very basement. If you read about a lost treasure from 100 years ago somewhere in the Commonwealth, you might end up with a new quest on your hands.

Fallout 4 is a fun and truly enrapturing way to spend your time, whether you’re a Fallout nerd or not. I know I wasn’t, but just playing a few hours and getting introduced to the universe was enough to put me on to hours of lore research and reading. The universe is a great one to explore, and if you’ve been hesitant to try, I’d advise you to give it a whirl; you might enjoy being a Lone Wanderer more than you’d think.