I don’t play a tremendous number of video games. I’m not very good at them and I don’t find fast-action, murder-everyone style of game very interesting. However, games with a strong storyline are usually enough to pull me in. I’ve played each of the previous Fallout games (although I never finished Fallout New Vegas) and thoroughly enjoyed them. Sure, they’re typically buggy as hell, but there are always little nuggets of humour or poignancy scattered about. The primary story in Fallout 3, while not super gripping, was reasonably compelling.
Speaking of stories, I’ve always been a fan of post apocolyptic stories whether zombies, viral outbreak, alien invasion, peak oil, and now global climate change. The best ones aren’t about how people go mad and slaughter each other; the best are about how people retain or recover their humanity in the face of the world falling apart. These are the stories I find most interesting: how do people behave when there’re no rules? So the Fallout series with their quirky humour and broad open worlds just waiting to be explored have always been perfect for me.
One of the great features of the previous Fallout games has always been their dialog. In many cases, you could talk your way around many violent situations. That’s not to say I’m a pacifist, but all my characters have avoided active combat where possible. I’ve been the sniper or assassin when necessary, but mostly, the thief who simply snuck past the bad guys. Of course, that wasn’t always possible. This is how I try to play most games: avoid conflict when possible, or failing that take out the bad guys from a distance or up close and silently (which ever raises the least alarm).
The new Fallout game doesn’t really allow for this style of play. Many missions seem to be “go here and kill everyone”. Ugh, it should have been called Fallout 4: Extermination Simulator. In Fallout 3, any time I encountered Raiders, they were dead meat. Likewise, Super Mutants and Feral Ghouls. But in Fallout 4, I felt like there were a lot more missions requiring me to go to a place and kill everyone. If you get involved with all the factions, you have the Minutemen, the Railroad, the Brotherhood of Steel, and the Institute sending you off to kill people. The one time I got a quest to rough someone up, after making a speech success to avoid it, I got roped into an alternate quest to go kill people. The ultimate end of this additional murder meant I wound up having thugs attacking me later in the game and finally had to murder yet another person to make it all stop. What good is my character’s high Charisma score if it can’t get him out of a fight?
But the real issue I have is with the factions themselves. By now everyone knows about the Minutemen, the Railroad, the Brotherhood of Steel, and the Institute. The Minutemen are pretty simple: their goal is just to protect the people of the Commonwealth. Admirable. Simple. Understandable. The Brotherhood of Steel are also pretty simple: they want to protect humanity from extinction, they hoard technology, they’re not big thinkers. Both the Railroad and the Institue are underground organisations (literally in the case of The Institute). The Institute is dedicated to the advancement of science and preservation of humanity, however, the Institute practises slavery by creating synthetic humans and abducts humans from the surface and conducts forced experiments on them. The Railroad opposes the enslavement of synthetic humans.
You can initially align with all factions, but eventually you’re forced to choose a faction to complete the main storyline. I chose to complete the story along the Railroad storyline. This left me aligned with the Railroad and the Minutemen at the end of the main story and enemies of the Institute and the Brotherhood of Steel.
In keeping with Fallout 4’s insistence on murder as the only option, there was no peaceful resolution available to the main storyline. I found this hard to believe. Yes, the Brotherhood of Steel feel strongly that synthetic humans are a threat to mankind, but I think that fear could have been overcome. In light of the Brotherhood’s desire to hoard technology, their desire to simply obliterate the Institue seems unrealistic. Far more realistic would have been a (challenging) path to reassure the Brotherhood the Institute’s synthetic humans are not a threat to mankind. Then the Brotherhood of Steel and the Institute could enter into a technology sharing pact. Had it been possible to negotiate a détente between the Brotherhood and the Institute, the battle between the Railroad and the Brotherhood could have been avoided. That leaves the big failure the Institute’s isolation.
I was absolutely crushed there was no option to bring the Institute out into the open. They have so much to offer the Commonwealth, but they need moral leadership. The world of Fallout is clearly a distopia. One can’t read the terminals in the Vaults or any of the businesses and think otherwise. It it doesn’t surprise me that after 200 years, their moral compass is so far deviated from my own. But why was there no option to open up the Institute and allow the Lone Survivor to remain as Director and guide it onto a more moral course? A course that serves Mankind and the Commonwealth. By abolishing the slavery of synthetic humans the conflict with the Railroad would be resolved. This is the optimistic ending on par with the blooming of the wasteland at the end of Fallout 3.
Instead, the Lone Survivor detonates a nuclear reactor, kills untold people under ground, above ground, and nearby. Murder, murder, murder. Ugh.