Fallout: why does this game have such a weird and dedicated fanbase?

When a large portion of people just live and breathe and sleep a game, I consider myself curious. I want to know what the hook is. Why do you keep putting hundreds of hours into this game instead of playing something else? I don’t have enough time to completely cover Fallout here but as a noob who has played the games for about 3 months I have merely dipped my toe in and want to share what I have learned.

Here’s my paltry resume so far:
– 30 hrs in Fallout 76
– 60 hrs in Fallout 4
– 25 hrs in Fallout New Vegas

#1. The fallout games are packed to the gills with warmth and personality.

Let me give you an example from Fallout 4. One of the only radio stations you can listen to in the wasteland is this guy Travis Miles. He always makes me chuckle because he’s the opposite of a “shock jock”. He has no confidence. He pauses and gets nervous and never knows what to say and yet he has a radio show.

So my first time in diamond city I’m in a bar and these 2 russian guys are like “Man the radio station is so terrible! We should kill the DJ.” I’m like “Huh?” Then they say “Ok well… let’s not kill him, but let’s scare him a little bit! Maybe it will make him more confident so he is more entertaining.” So you start a couple hilarious side quests with these russian brothers to put Travis (the DJ) into situations that will boost his confidence. One involves pretending to get into a fight in a bar and letting Travis win. The other involves basically getting this chick to sleep with him. So you boost Travis’s confidence and he becomes a better DJ. It’s one of the weirdest side quest’s I’ve ever done.

Another quest I love: Kent Connolly

So Kent is this sad ghoul sitting by a radio you meet. He starts telling you about The Silver Shroud— this crime fighting villain he use to listen to. In this depressing and post apocalyptic world, he really misses the idea of a hero who was out for justice and self-sacrifice. He misses the Shroud.

So, like an adult putting on a santa claus outfit for a child, you start these quests where you start being Silver Shroud in order to inspire Kent’s faith in the world again. It’s just such a great, heart-warming quest. Finally he gets kidnapped by some really bad dudes and you have to go save him.

#2. You have an incredible amount of agency in these games.

So I don’t want to spoil anything for you but in Fallout 4 you meet a character about halfway through the game that is very important to the plot. I, of course, immediately killed him.

I don’t want us to miss the beauty of this: videogames generally don’t let you do this! Seriously, when is the last time you could kill a main character in a story-based videogame? I love that Bethesda has the stones to do something like this. I played Fallout 4 exactly the way I wanted to play it and I beat the game the way I wanted to beat it. I aligned with the people I wanted to and killed the people I wanted to kill. It made the ending of the game incredibly satisfying in a way few videogames have ever been for me.

This is Boone from Fallout New Vegas and getting him as your companion involved a surprising amount of detective work, save scumming, and general fun exploration and tinkering.

Boone is a sniper for the NCR stationed in this dinosaur head. He tells you that his wife was sold to slavers and he wants to kill the person responsible. He gives you his beret and says “if you find out who killed my wife I want you to take them in front of the dinosaur at night and I’ll kill them”.

You have to do a few missions snooping around and finding people to talk to but you eventually find out the owner of the hotel, this sweet old lady, is the one who sold his wife into slavery.

I had to do an elaborate amount of pick pocketing, safe opening, and waking people up in the night but I eventually got the owner of the hotel to walk in front of the dino head and Boone kills her. To say thank you he offers to become your companion and is one of the best companions in the game! What made this quest so effective for me personally was that none of it was really required– I was actually curious about what happened to Boone’s wife and I was willing to fail the mission and test things out to figure it out.

Fallout lets you solve missions the way you want to solve them rather than sticking to some strict linear scripted narrative. It’s so refreshing to play games like this in the current world of either highly scripted or highly open videogames.

#3. The companions are the best thing about the fallout games.

Piper is a plucky newspaper reporter willing to do anything for a story. Nick Valentine is a sad old synth who acts like a 1940s detective and goes around the city solving crimes and musing about the nature of humanity with you. Deacon is a slick-talking pathological liar full of funny jokes but you’re never really sure if he’s on your side or not.

I feel like Piper are on the same page when it came to our genuine concern about people and about synths. She told me about her sister and her upbringing and some of the things that happened in her life to make her the way she is. Nick Valentine told me about the first humans he met being really nice to him. There’s something tragic and great about this detective who continues to want to help humans even though most of them treat him like trash.

In the end I “dated” Piper I guess you could say, and I made Nick my “best friend”. We all lived in the fortress at the end with Preston and continued to help the humans of Boston rebuild. We took down the institute, the brotherhood, and the railroad because we wanted a future where humans rebuild rather than a future run by robots. We aren’t opposed to synths however and we have synths in our group and live alongside them.

Do you see the amount of roleplaying and “make believe” that I injected in this otherwise scripted story? It’s incredible to me when a game does this well. Yes, it is telling a larger story, but it is letting you tell the story you want on a smaller level. The Fallout games all seem to do this.

#4. The desolate and empty nature of the fallout games is exactly what makes the three above elements work so well

I dropped into Fallout 4 no less than five times before deciding it wasn’t the game for me. My reasons? The graphics aren’t great. The world is depressing. The inventory management is terrible. These things are all true. But once I gave the game a few hours it really hooked me. Once you get past the initial depression of this desolate world you realize it is a world brimming with hilarious characters, funny situations, and incredibly unique and weird things to do.

So do it! Play at least four hours of Fallout 4 before you write the game off. I wouldn’t recommend Fallout 76 but Fallout 3, New Vegas, and Fallout 4 are all fantastic.

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