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Homage to the much derided Fallout 4 + when a game’s atmosphere is so good that it makes you feel depressed

So, in a peak r/patientgamers moment, I got Fallout 4 GOTY two days ago for like €8. Nice. I figured I’d leave here my rambling thoughts on the game.

For context, I played both FO3 and F:NV.

As I learnt with Skyrim, mods are pretty much mandatory with Bethesda’s games, and Wabbajack-based modpacks are the way to go, because who has time to troubleshoot mods and 70 page documentation after your 9-to-5.

So I figured I wouldn’t even play the vanilla FO4 and went for a “Vanilla Plus” modpack called “Welcome to Paradise”, Vanilla Plus being the way to go as I just wanted an improved gaming experience instead of a complete overhaul of the game.

Guys, it’s so well god damned polished that you have no idea. It literally feels like a 2021 game from all angles. And it’s so smooth and fluid, it’s just brilliant.

The hate circle jerk for this game has been so constant that I was waiting for something terrible. It’s not. Mechanics-wise, this game really is top tier. The engine also feels so, so smooth compared to Skyrim that I can’t wait for the next Elder Scroll’s. I understand that its RPG-basis is more limited compared to F:NV, but frankly, although I really liked it, I do think people tend to look at NV with rose tinted glasses and value too much its role-playing and, above all, writing. Also, this game is no less a RPG than Skyrim. F:NV was the outlier, and even then, Disco Elysium it was not.

I heard FO4 story sucks, and I can imagine that due to its tropes although I haven’t progressed that far in the main quest yet, but if there’s one thing that the game has vastly improved vs previous titles is the voice acting / dialogue / writing of NPCs and the works. Skyrim is pathetic compared to this.

Again, I’m not sure how much of this owed itself to the mods, but it all feels so smooth and fluid that the entire thing passes for the vanilla experience, especially with this being my first playthrough.

And now onto what always made FO special to me and that I’m frankly struggling a bit with right now: exploration.

See, the rebooted FOs have always been more about exploration than full-blown RPGs like Pillars of Eternity or something. Bethesda’s thing is environmental story-telling.

And boy, does FO4 have that. To a fault.

Again, not sure whether it’s because of the high quality mods (the game looks and sounds “beautiful”), but god damn, does this game make me feel lonely and depressed. In a good/bad way. The background music, the brilliant modded graphics, the lighting and weather. The scenario.

I was playing last night and cruising along a train track. A huge storm burst (really huge!) out at 22:00, while some truly eerie music played in the background. I couldn’t see much due to the weather (the lightning system with the weather mods is so ridiculously good) and, playing survival mode, I had to take a nap to save the game. I see these neon lights shimmering from behind the fog, at a place where the track crossed a road, and found a old diner there. I got inside and turned on a jukebox before finding a place to sleep. The storm continued outside and got even more intense. It was so atmospheric, and lonely. I felt an emotional reaction that I haven’t felt in a game for a long time now.

This has its drawbacks though – the colour palette, the ruins, the often horrific background stories you find in those terminals, and the scare jumps you come across (that might mean you’re completely fucked if you’re playing survival mode and saved a while ago), really take a toll on me. I feel exhausted after playing this game, I can’t play for longer than 1:30 or so in a row. I want to keep on playing but I just can’t: not because I didn’t enjoy my time there, but simply because of the way it made me feel.

So anyway, kudos to Bethesda and the modders for making such an atmospheric game, to a fault.

And may this serve as a PSA that Reddit circlejerks are often just that – circlejerks. The game is really good, just don’t go and expect a RPG full of % and classes or whatever.

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