Fallout 4. A game I was personally excited to sink some time into. After spending what had to amount to hundreds of hours of gameplay in Fallout 3 and its downloadable content, I was ready for another journey into the wasteland.
I wouldn't say I was hyped for Fallout 4, as Metal Gear Solid V put me in my place and taught me a very important lesson about overhype and what it can do to you. But I was, I don't know, just ready to get back into it. Fallout 3 and even New Vegas, though I ddin't care for it as much, offer so much exploration freedom. Maybe not in terms of mechanical depth, but in terms of discovery. There are so many wonderful secrets and exciting locations to find and that's what I wanted. What I got, on the other hand, was something I didn't quite expect.
Fallout 4 opens in the past, the year 2077. You and your family experience a few moments together in your house right before the big bombs drop and the end begins. But before you and your family are wiped away into irradiated dust, you escape into a nearby Vault only to be put into cryostasis and preserved for hundreds of years. During this deep freeze your family is attacked by a mercenary who kills your husband/wife, depending on which role you are playing as, and steals your son Shaun. What begins, then, is a mothers love turned into vengeful fury as she sets out to find her baby boy.
It's a very simple set up, murdered husband, stolen child. You are out to avenge your husband and reunite with your baby boy, except you just happen to wake up 200 years into the future, and right in the middle of a harsh and hostile world, a vicious land filled with raiders and psychopaths who want nothing but murder and suffering. Giant wasteland creatures such as Deathclaws who shred people apart with their dinoriffic size and power. Super Mutants, giant and bloodthirsty erecting their strongholds deep into the pit of Boston, laying waste to those who dare come near.
Then there's civilization, a downtrodden and weary group of xenophobic and paranoid people in Diamond City, a city created from the remains of the local baseball stadium. Purged of all undesirables like Ghouls, they operate on a strict diet of paranoia towards The Institute, a Boogeyman of an organization that everyone blames for all of their misgivings. The Institute, the remains of the Boston Institute of Technology, has been underground for the past 200 years, building synths - humanoid robots, for various reasons. Throughout the entire game you hear stories from characters and read all about the exploits of The Institute randomly slaughtering people for no apparent reason, and then even replacing some of them with their synthetic doppelganger for their own nefarious purposes.
In Diamond City you get word of a private detective named Nick Valentine, and go in search of him to find your missing son. Once there, you discover he's actually missing as well, held captive over a silly misunderstanding. You work your way towards him, kill a lot of people, and glossing over some minor spoilers, you get him back. The thing though, Nick Valentine is a synth. Something that doesn't even really come up until the quest was nearly done, making me think I was going crazy.
The theme from this quest carries over onto the rest of the game, and only really becomes a problem as the main quest draws to a close. That theme is "inconsistencies".
The xenophobic, Institute hating, synth hating Diamond City just happens to have their own synth that they know and love and care for. All they talk about is how the hate synths and are scared that anyone around them at any given time could be a synth infiltrator just waiting to snap and murder them in their sleep, and yet they openly welcome Valentine and accept him. It's an odd thing, really. I mean, I played through the entire game wondering if Nick was just a spy being controlled by the Institute, just waiting for him to begin murdering my settlers when I turned around.
That question is never answered with certainty, but Nick Valentine seems to be a pretty good guy through and through.
The biggest inconsistencies in the game come from the factions. The Brotherhood of Steel, The Railroad, and The Institute. I guess The Minutemen count as a faction as well but they don't really do anything but get you a bunch of settlements and I don't think they ever mattered when it came to the main quest so I'm not even going to include them.
The Brotherhood of Steel are the militeristic xenophobes from the rest of the Fallout series, hoarding technology they deem unfit for anyone other than themselves. They are in the Commonwealth for one reason, to kill the shit out of the Institute.
Then there's The Railroad. A freedom fighter, guerrilla military organization who are interested in liberating and freeing synths into the world with new identities where they can live free.
In the early game, the factions are fine. They work out well. They bring you in, give you a snazzy rank and some new duds(In the case of the Brotherhood of Steel the new duds are a mechanized suit of power armor - but you've probably already got like 20 of those already so whatever), and they hand out quests like candy.
The story remains unchanged. You are still looking for your son. But as you work in and out of the factions it begins to muddle the line. I won't lie, and it's entirely possible I am just an idiot, but I couldn't even figure out what the main quest was after a while. I had no idea which was the main quest and which was just the side stuff. The game has an issue with that once you go deeper into the different factions and their many missions.
SPOILERS BEGIN HERE BACK OUT NOW IF YOU CARE
The goal was to find your son. And you do... but it turns out he's actually 70 years old and the director of The Institute. You would imagine that you would have a lot of leeway with him, since he is your son. You would imagine he would give you great respect, since you are his parent and have killed half of Boston looking for him. But nothing like that ever occurs. He just says thing like "Oh I've waited for this day a long, long time. I wondered if you'd even find me. I can't tell you how glad I am that you are here now" and that's it. Instead of doing some kind of show don't tell, they tell you and expect it to be good enough. They don't even make an honest attempt with this.
And it's the exact same with all other factions. The Brotherhood of Steel for example are like "Well, you're here now so I'm making you a knight and you're now the most important solider we have, soldier". The Railroad are all "Well you're here now so we'll involve you with our most precious secrets that could blow up in our face but whatever you're the most important person here now". And the Institute is all "You're my mother, you will do these missions for me or we are enemies and I will attempt to kill you".
It is just the absolute worst. Shaun, your son and leader of the Institute tells you upon meeting you for the first time that he wants to make you understand that the Institute isn't evil and that they only act for the good of humankind. He says, word for word "I want to make you understand". And do you know what happens? You are then tasked with missions, replacing the very mercenary that killed your husband and kidnapped your son.
You do not get an opportunity to ask about the operations that ensue. Like how the Institute murders people and replaces them with synths. You are told, throughout the game that this happens. You are shown this. You see evidence of this yourself. And yet, not a single dialog option about this. So, I'm basically forced to work with a sociopath of child without any understanding as to why they do the things they do.
That's when the worst the game has to offer is put on display. Every single faction has one goal in mind: Kill the other factions. And they will not accept no for an answer.
I worked towards peace. Through the entire game. I worked towards being peaceful to all factions, including the Institute who I thought were just nightmare demons because I had no evidence to the contrary for like 60% of the game. I thought I could somehow achieve this. After all, I was each faction's best and somehow most important asset. But it just doesn't end up that way.
With The Railroad there was a weird and arbitrary dialog option where Desdemona, the leader of the Railroad, told me that The Minutemen, who I am the general of(But again they aren't really important so I don't include them) would eventually have to come to blows with the Railroad. And I was told to choose. Choose between the army that I, literally myself, am the leader of, or this random group of people. When you choose yes, she's like "Fuck yeah we're best friends now woohoo" but if you choose no, you aren't allowed to. She just tells you to think it over and come back later. She gives you an ultimatum and doesn't allow you to make your choice what the fuck. I have never felt so disappointed in my life. If this were Fallout 3 I'd have 10 different options to choose from, and 3 of which would be some sort of persuasions that I could swing around. But not here, because while the map, an easy 85% of the game, and the mechanics are Fallout 3, the dialog option is Dragon Age 2 at best.
The game has Telltale mechanics when it comes to decision making because it's all illusions. You have no real say in the decision making, especially important decisions. Yet, each and every time, you have the option to say no, but it just doesn't do anything. It's despicable. I was having a good time with the game for quite a long time, then the factions come into play and I could not have been more disconnected to what was happening. I felt as if the game was telling me that I really don't matter, just hit buttons and go shoot things. And as always pre-order the season pass! Woo-yeah! DLC! DLC! DLC!
It's difficult to not feel anger when it comes to the path this game went. But the reality is you don't have a lot of choice in this game. From the factions to any and all quests, you aren't so much playing a role in this RPG as you are going down a non-linear path while choosing the decisions that Bethesda want you to choose, because you really have no choice.
When it comes to the dialog overall, many decisions lead to the same result. This has always happened in RPG's and will always happen, but in Fallout 4 it's a lot more noticeable. For example, I was given a quest in the Brotherhood of Steel to talk to Commander Kells. It wouldn't tell me what it was about, it just said go talk to him. So I did. Upon reaching a certain proximity to the character, he automatically began talking to me about my next mission: Kill the Railroad. I had been working for the Railroad for a majority of the game because it seemed like they always had a mission for me whereas the BoS stopped supplying me with them. After you are introduced to Maxson it just sorta lingers for a while and so I basically stopped working for them. And I hadn't yet met with the Institute at that specific time so I couldn't have done anything with them.
But the funny thing is, you get the option to tell Kells that the Railroad aren't a threat. They probably wouldn't even overlap with the BoS because their missions are different enough. The Railroad want liberation for all synths and the Brotherhood want all synths dead and all technology hoarded. You would imagine that your progress within the Railroad and knowledge of their structure and how they function would come into play and change the quest in any sort of way... But it changes nothing. Kells tells you how wrong you are and then boom, you are given the quest. And now automatically enemies with the Railroad. The same people you've worked with for like 40 hours of game time. And nothing can be done about that, just kill them and move on. Unless you reload the save.
These issues probably wouldn't happen if you were just made to pick one faction and that was that, but oh no you can't do that because it "limits" your "freedom" in this "expansive" open world! It doesn't, because all roads lead to the death of each faction. And nothing changes. Because war, war never changes.