Fallout 4: Worldbuilding

April 2016 Prof. Cassandra Lobiesk

I'm going to take a moment to interrupt my regularly-scheduled programming of the "RetroGaming" column, because, honestly, with a new PS4, who's playing old games anyway?

I am, but still. Fallout 4 did kind of happen.

Normally, I'd go into a spiel about game information and why it's considered one of Bethesda's shining moments so far, but it's hard to talk about this game without going into great detail of the gameplay itself. And when I say "going into great detail," that pretty much means spending several issues to glorify the game itself.

I don't want to do that, so I won't. Instead, I'm deciding to choose to talk about one of the best aspects of Fallout 4, one that I've spent countless hours doing without any regret that I have done no main quest whatsoever. (Well, to be honest, I run out of supplies so quickly these days that I have no choice BUT to do the main quests in order to replenish my resources, so...).

Anyway, how about that literal worldbuilding, eh?

One thing that Fallout 4 has that its predecessors don't have is its massive customizability. It's like playing The Sims in a post-apocalyptic Boston, because the player can take apart a particular plot of land and rebuild it to a settlement of her choosing. On top of that, she can attract settlers into populating said settlement and give them jobs to do in order to allow the settlement to thrive.

Countless YouTube videos have been dedicated to showing what players can do with resources and plots of land. My sister and I have been insurmountably impressed with the stuff many players can do when they build complex buildings on top of a gas station or in a ghoul-infested farm. Often the case, other Fallout 4 players were inspiring enough that my sister and I went off to build and customize settlements of our own.

Fallout 4 is not without its grand scenery. While most of Boston and its surrounding areas (called collectively the "Commonwealth") are in ruins and--in many cases--irradiated as frell, there are occasionally man-made areas that truly made me gasp with wonder. Some structures are beautiful testaments to the survivability of man-, ghoul-, and Super Mutant-kind. Heck, Diamond City (what used to be Fenway Park) and The Institute (located hundreds of feet below what used to be the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) are marvels to behold, and it is worth every main quest just to get to Institute grounds.

Now, as I said, the rest of Boston is pretty much a moldering old ruin, with raiders and gunners taking over the majority of the areas. If the raiders and gunners don't get to you, most likely it's because there's a wandering pack of feral ghouls or a nest of mirelurks or a lone Deathclaw in the area. It's a tough world.

But, as the player, you can make it better.

Which brings about the need to create settlements and populate them with settlers with no place to go.

Settlement building is tedious and takes a lot of planning. It also takes a great deal of exploring time, because in order to start a settlement, one must get into the habit of finding and scouting the applicable places. Not to mention, it gets difficult trying to recruit people into them, and without a beacon, chances are pretty much nil.

However, once a settlement starts to run independently of player help (functional power, running water, food sources, enough beds for settlers, high level of defense), it gets less stressful and much more fun to improve and modify.

Personally, I'd started modifying a settlement only because I wanted to make a nice garage for my growing collection of Power Armor. Turns out that I enjoyed trying to connect things together and customizing rooms, so I went ahead and built myself a "small apartment" house up at Sanctuary Hills.

Honestly, this small project kind of turned into a much bigger one, considering the next thing I wanted to do was find a smaller area that I could handle better.

Then it went along to my wanting to make a "Hotel for Women," which kind of got inspired by my bingeing the first season of Agent Carter.

Which gave birth to my Red Rocket Hotel for Ladies of Estimable Badassery.

Seriously, my girls dress rather spiffily, but I promise you they have weapons of mass destruction tucked under those billowing skirts of theirs (or, in the case of my pants-wearers, their weapons are under hats...which are bigger on the inside?).

But yes. It has gotten to the point where most of what I do in Fallout 4 is make settlements. At the moment, I am working on scouting a perfect location for my men to gather. I'm thinking Hangman's Alley. Yes, I think that'll work just nicely.