Masters of the Commonwealth
December 11th, 2015
Oh, buddy, I’ve seen some things. I’ve finally gotten through the story content and a majority of the side content that’s presently available and reachable that has been found. I’ve seen references to Cthulu mythology, I’ve battled giants by the handful, I’ve established enough settlements to say I hold command over a small army, I’ve mastered enough of the game to finally understand is actually bugged and what is intended without needing to be told, I’m one of those that now feels confident enough to walk around in aesthetic armor – the Silver Shroud outfit, if you’re wondering – and I think I’ve finally got Fallout 4 underneath my heel.
I’m not proud of all of my choices in Fallout 4 and once I learned about the truth regarding the main character’s son in Fallout 4 I found myself caught in the middle of the struggle between the Brotherhood of Steel, the Railroad, and the Institute. My first and loyalist allegiances were with the Minutemen and making my decisions regarding this big battle at Bunker Hill where I had to make a final choice of who I was going to go with didn’t really resonate with me. I didn’t like any of them, honestly. I’ve never liked the Brotherhood of Steel as they’ve always seemed like a semi-religious bunch of nuts who wanted to hoard all of the world’s leftover technologies so they could establish some kind of anti-technology hypocritical totalitarian rule. I only disliked the Enclave more through the franchise. The Railroad just seemed like a bunch of idealists who had no real focus beyond doing a singular task that nobody ever really asked of them. While their goal seemed noble in Fallout 4‘s Commonwealth, everyone seemed uneasy at the idea of having synths around and while people were blaming the Institute for it, the Railroad was actually responsible for most of their unease as most Institute operations that revealed their existence either involved kidnappings or retrieving rogue synths. The Institute seemed a little more condescending and snotty but they had all of their cards laid out on the table and they were not afraid because they were progressing humanity and they actually succeeded. Whereas everyone acted, in the Commonwealth, like they were so much better than everyone else by merely surviving and killing all that got in their way when things got tough, the Institute merely did what needed to be done with as little casualty as possible. They were the harbor of tough choices: in a world gone completely astray you need to break a few eggs in order to make an omelette and the Institute, if not the most morally straight and narrow of the three, they were the ones with their act together the most. They had no qualms about who they were and what they were after.
So… I chose to side with the Institute. And as soon as proof got out, everybody in the world started to doubt the Vault Dweller, the man who was progressively saving the Commonwealth. Even the companions I’d established relationships with – having to fight Paladin Danse was especially surprising and difficult – shunned me off and on for the choices I had made. Given, everything went back to normal shortly after everything was said and done but it was still surprising to see how people were shaken by my decision to support the Institute just because they were the convenient bogeymen.
Either way, now everyone’s out of my hair so me and my Minutemen can help restore the Commonwealth.
Post-game has had me content with going around and finding locations that I haven’t found yet, looking for loot that I’ve yet to find on my own – this is where I should note that I never look at walkthroughs on my first way through a game unless it’s especially difficult – and battle monstrosities that I’ve yet to combat. There’s a wealth of things to find and places to explore if you’re willing to put the time into it and it just so happens that that’s how I spent the better part of playing the game for the last two weeks. Most of my experience comes from Minutemen goals and settlement building and that’s how I’ve been spending another large portion of my time playing the game lately: now that I have a real handle on how to build and manage settlements – however there’s a lot of things that go unexplained, such as the population that somehow fluctuates with whether or not you’ve been recently present in the settlement – I’m really expanding a certain few and using others as little experiments in functionality, especially since some of them really don’t make a whole lot of sense as a settlement. I mean, come on, who wants to live in the middle of a radioactive pond with the only dry surface being a tiny-ass half-torn-out house?
I’ve made Fallout 4 a little more personal to me and I think the set up for the story and the settlements have a lot to do with that: no longer were you driven by revenge or were you a pawn in someone else’s game. Your mission was the naive hope that you could find your kidnapped son and restore the Commonwealth to some semblance of what it was before the Great War. It felt just a little more personal, a little more down to earth than entries in the franchise’s past. However, in exchange, the impact of the greater conflict also feels a little emptier as a result because, from my understanding, no matter the outcome, you end up in the same spot after endgame, anyway. Thanks to this, though, it was easier to relate to the scenario and make every outing feel a little closer to home, even if you were simply just clearing an area of ghouls or learning the story about an ancient artifact that lies at the bottom of an insane asylum. There’s stories to be dug up all over the Commonwealth if you only look and there’s not many times where it isn’t worth your while to do a little digging.
I’ve been playing this game more religiously than any other game in recent memory and we’re even counting Metal Gear Solid V, a game that I had been anticipating for years on end. It wasn’t even a matter of dedication, it was just something I did. It felt automatic. Boot the game up, run some errands for supplies so I can upgrade my arsenal, armor, and power armor. I would pick an end of the map that seems a little thin in discovered locations and just go walking around. Some days nothing happened, some days I ran into some crazy new monster, some days I found a location I’d never found before that had some wonderful story to it. There was always something to it. That’s exactly why I had to take some time to figure out how to put the game down: I would never be able to make time for other games at this rate. To me, that’s kind of a problem. As much as I love playing Fallout 4 I have to try and make time for other games as well.
It certainly wasn’t easy, let me tell you. I’m not even sticking with this game for the usual reasons because I’ve completed the main story content, I’ve adapted well to the game mechanics and difficulty: I’ve pretty much accomplished everything I set off to accomplish with this game. I’ve even exceeded my expectations for playing this game by quite a bit. I haven’t even had this much success with any of the previous entries in the series. This is almost, for me, like Assassin’s Creed III when they introduced naval battles; it was something the game could have went without but didn’t take away from the core gameplay and really just added to the game as it fit well within the universe of the game. The settlements of Fallout 4 did the exact same thing for me: it fit within the game’s world and it adds so much to it that it gave me exactly what I was looking for from the Fallout franchise.
You see, I don’t think I’ve ever really expanded on why Fallout 4 is the best of the franchise and one of the best games this year for me: it allows me to inject myself, personally, into this game. I’m no longer a pawn of someone else’s goals, directly. I don’t have to spend a portion of the game on a tight leash. I left the Vault with only one goal: find your son and avenge your wife. You didn’t have the weight of the survival of the Wasteland on your shoulders only to find the control was all yours all along… no, control was yours from your first step out of the Vault and it feels awesome. The experience is entirely yours and you tailor it to you as you go. That’s entirely up to you and I love that so so so much.
For now, it’s time to say goodbye to the Commonwealth, but I see myself coming back time and time again because, now that I’ve completed things, I’m looking back at some others’ playthroughs and noticing that there’s a lot that I’ve missed out on due to the choices I’ve made in playing the game the way I have and I will definitely come back with a renewed sense of what to do and maybe make an even better playthrough my next time around.