The Boston Bastard: Being A Dick In Fallout 4 – Part Two

I’ve decided to play Fallout 4 [official site] as a complete prick. Just killing indiscriminately, to see what might happen. Knowing Bethesda’s propensity for adjusting to a player’s approach, I wondered if this might bring out aspects of the game missed by the goodie-two-shoes reviewers before me. As you might imagine, that means this contains spoilers from the off.

In part one I successfully took out the Brotherhood Of Steel’s small enclave in Cambridge. This time, things start to get a bit… weirder.

My goal in setting forth on a murderous rampage through Fallout 4 was to see how the game would react to it. Would it adjust itself to my mercenary ways, start to reveal new pathways – perhaps something like Skyrim’s Dark Brotherhood recruiting me to their gang? Or would I simply shut down all the interesting routes, failing too many quests and closing off chains that would let my character properly develop? What I wasn’t expecting was for the game to simply not cope.

I don’t know if that’s an unfair expectation – I wouldn’t expect most games to cope with my deliberately trying to kill every major character, along with all the minors. It’s relatively ‘normal’ in games to have plot-critical characters either impervious to bullets, or not even let you fire at them. But this is Bethesda, and there’s something about the tone of FO4 that suggests a greater freedom – the issue is, that freedom is assigned in a strangely arbitrary manner.

So last time I was able to tell you about slaughtering the members of the Brotherhood Of Steel. But this time I’d hoped to bring tales of the deaths of the residents of Sanctuary, or the wanton killing I would get up to in Diamond City. Instead, I have strange stories of immortal characters, held grudges, and instant forgiveness.

What struck me most of all, however, is just how few people there are to errantly kill in the first place. Despite the post-apocalyptic setting, FO4 is as populated as any other game – perhaps it’s the only one that’s realistically proportioned, but unfortunately decades of sparsely filled towns mean it never feels particularly quiet. But the vast majority of them are cannon fodder, hell-bent on your death for seemingly no given reason. Walk into most buildings or town squares and you’ll be shot at from sixteen different places by a faction you’ve never heard of for a reason you’ll never find out. This place is busy, but with scant few friendlies.

Things get stranger when you start aiming your gun at those few friendlies, however. Find a little farm in the middle of nowhere and serial killer leanings are accommodated. They’ll put up a feisty fight, but when all is dead and done, you’ll fail any related quests and they become radroach food. But try to take out anyone with a line to say in the main quest school play, and it starts going bonkers.

On arriving in Diamond City, I had a go at killing the reporter that greeted me. Shotgun to the head thrice, her health bar was depleted, and she was down as the guards turn on me. Them deaded too, the reporter gets back up again and carries on shooting. Um, no. Ignoring her, and entering the city proper, I was instantly assaulted by guards teleporting in around me. That was going nowhere, so I reloaded, let the reporter live for now, and found the offices of the mayor and his assistant, Geneva.

Now, I guess there’s some fairness to suggesting that killing someone called Geneva should lead to an international incident, but the politics of this one were incredibly complicated. Geneva pulled a gun that was about the length of her arm, then ran back and forth between her office and a back room, cowering in corners for a few seconds before a return trip – the gun never fired. I took out her guard first, then chased her all over, blaming bits of her head off until she was finally tired enough to lie down. But not tired enough to sleep, it seems.

Back up she got, gun waving, panic continuing, and I left her to it. I had a sniff around in the back rooms, then jumped on the mayor’s computer and robbed his safe. And Geneva was… back in her chair. I went over to see what was up, and the woman I’d so recently killed offered me help finding a house. That’s some extraordinary grace, I must say.

Figuring it’d gone titsup, I went down the lift into the city, and chatted to the first guy I met – at which point all the guards started firing at me at once. It seemed that Geneva’s forgiveness did not extend to the guardsmen of Diamond, and the overwhelming onslaught meant I didn’t stand a chance.

And this seems to be the tone of it. Killing complete innocents out in the sticks does nothing to the tone of the game, but closes down more interesting paths. Killing characters in the cities results in the game getting awfully confused, bringing everyone with a name back to life, yet turns the entire security of the world against you.

It isn’t a game that seems to take kindly to being mucked about with, which has really surprised me. It’s certainly not a game that wants to offer an “evil” route through.

So what to do about my plan? Well, I’ll persist a little longer, but slightly changing priorities. Rather than killing on sight, I think what I’ll do is complete related quests and then head back after to mop up. Not really quite the same, but it’ll at least offer me a chance to get the gains from the quests I’m clearly missing out on (my character is very weakly), and see if the game ever responds to how I’m behaving. Or if, as I’m currently supposing will be the case, it’ll continue to ignore my antics and bend its reality around them.

67 Comments

  1. Eukatheude says:

    I wonder how could you be surprised at all. Bethsoft games have been like this since Oblivion.

    • krimhorn says:

      Yep. This is expected behavior from their games. Morrowind let just about every NPC die such that it was entirely possible for an errant Blighted creature to end your story. So they came up with the ‘Essential’ flag and have used it rather awkwardly since. Some characters will never become non-essential (companions for a start) and others will once their part in the story is complete. Oblivion, at least, communicated the flag with a little crown next to their name but I don’t believe any game since has.

      • Eukatheude says:

        You got a warning, prompting to reload your save.
        And yet it was still possible to finish the game (see my comment a few rows down).
        By the way, I spent (wasted) countless teenage hours on that game, and what you described hasn’t happened to me, not even once!
        Besides, I don’t think it would be extra hard to have some NPC’s be killable only by the player?

  2. epeternally says:

    So Fallout 4 being blatantly unfinished as usual?

    • OmNomNom says:

      patently

    • Haldurson says:

      The game is more ‘finished’ than any other Fallout game I’ve played since the first one. That said, as with most decent game companies, they are still going to be working on it, fixing bugs (of which there are not an unexpected number), and so on. Yes, the game is not perfect. Surprise! That’s the breaks when you have a game that creates an open world filled to the brim with content.

      Yes, it has problems. But the truth is that I’m thoroughly absorbed by the world that was created, so I’m living with them, at least until Bethesda fixes those issues, or some modder does.

      I’m an old-timer, and I’ve played tons of games in my life. The truth is that nearly all of the best games of the past have been really buggy at release. The much loved Fallout 2 was a mess. Arena and Daggerfall were an INCREDIBLE mess. Master of Orion NEVER was fixed (try playing as the Silicoids, for example — it’s horrible). Master of Magic, also one of the top games ever written, was unstable as all get-out. And what those games all have in common is that they were top-rated, and considered all-time classics.

      Games are NOT rated on one aspect or another — they are (and should) be rated on how much fun you get out of them. That’s why buggy games often can earn really high ratings. I know that some people have an incredible low tolerance and great irritability when it comes to such things. But the thing is that those of us who can work around those little annoyances are lucky because we can have a great time, while the rest of you are pulling your hair out. You should wish you were us.

      • sonson says:

        I can remember a time when games used to be bug ridden at release.

        *Used to be*. I can’t remember many mainstream games of late however. It was also a time when games where not mult million dollar projects (if not as I suspect in the case of Fallout 4, consderably more than that).

        Bethesda has long leaned on the excuse that the size and scope of their games will lead to some frayed edges. But the Witcher 3 demonstrated this year that it’s possible to be one of the most polished and highly controlled technological games at release and still be enormous. Or, as Metal Gear 5 did, it’s possible to have systems which are elastic enough to undergo the most rigorous experimentation and testing whilst adding to the experience.

        Also worth noting that in New Vegas you could kill even named NPC’s essential to the plot. The reason you can’t do it in Fallout 4 without breaking the game is because Bethesda simply don’t envision that sort of dynmic play as a priority. The conceit is that these games are really unique to the player, and to the player who plays with the toys that are clearly marked as such-weapon modding, buildin, perks-they are. But to anyone who actually has the creative appetite to go behind this now rather tired definition of role play Bethesda games just melt.

        Bethesda games aren’t sandboxes. They’re tightyl controlled permieters with massive toy chests to distract you from the fact. And that’s the case for many videogames, no shame in that. Unless you’re trumpeting how your game is such a special exception to this rule, which is the core of any of Bethesda’s pitches. Have it your way, do what you want. And that’s true, so long as your fanatsy is one which has been pre-ordained by Bethesda beforehand. A bit like the way the named character thing works in 4. There are so many names for you to choose from and hear in game, literally hundreds. But if your name isn’t on that list? Don’t expect to found an experience which caters for that outsider mentality.

  3. Zenicetus says:

    Well, it’s not a pure sandbox, and you start as a character with some predefined goals (revenge, plus finding your kid).

    I suppose it might have been possible to design more “evil” options for the main character, like killing everyone who didn’t immediately cough up the answers to where your kid was. But that’s usually not the best way to solve a mystery, and the path to the end of the story would probably be a lot shorter.

    A game that allows equal opportunity for a truly evil/murderous playstyle needs more of a blank slate as a protagonist, and a less narrowly defined main plot.

  4. Blastaz says:

    Beth games have come a long way since Morriwind…

    • Eukatheude says:

      The funny thing is that YOU COULD kill anyone in Morrowind. You’d get a message popup saying that your choices doomed the world or something like that. And yet you still could actually finish the game – it involved killing Vivec, stealing the other magical glove thing, bringing it to the last dwarf in order to re-enchant it and so on.

  5. Oakreef says:

    I thought Life is Strange was the game of the month but it seems more like Fallout 4 is!

    • Blackcompany says:

      Fallout 4 will be Game of the Month in December. It will take most of the RPS folks that long to get deep into it, and they will play it a lot in that month, and so declare it their GotM for December.

      Also, Fallout 4 will probably be their game of the year for either Open World Sandbox, RPG, Walking Simulator or Irradiated Wasteland Simulator. Or some other category I have not anticipated.

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        Seems to be a bit of disenchantment going round, they might be over FO4 by December

        • skabb15 says:

          Nope, you just hope so. People will be playing this game for the next five years until Fallout 5 or whatever comes out, and the whole time, you will be acting like a little pouting baby trying desperately to convince the world of something that everyone knows isnt true.

          • guygodbois00 says:

            Are you paid by Bethesda in caps of Dew or something similar?

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            He isn’t defending the game any more than how others are being snarky at every random opportunity.

            The difference is that he’s actually correct in his assessment that many there are incredibly engrossed by it, especially given the sheer amount of articles popping out, but i guess they’re just stupid people aswell, right?.

          • DrGonzo says:

            So let me get this right then… He is incorrect because you disagree with him, whereas the other guy has a point because you agree with him?

          • bonuswavepilot says:

            “…he’s actually correct in his assessment…” imagine the time we could have saved by just asking you who was correct to start with!

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Nope, you didn’t get it right, you just needed to read a little more carefully before jumping at the first opportunity for snark, but i guess that proves my point.

            You don’t have to ask me and i don’t have to agree with anyone. Many people are very happy, this is not an opinion.

            The unhappy hones are those suggesting that people can’t possibly enjoy the game and that they might just be a little confused to realize it.

  6. criskywalker says:

    It’s a shame that in Fallout 4 you cannot go around killing everyone nor can you play without killing anyone. I’m enjoying the game, but I wish it were more RPG and less FPS…

  7. gmillar says:

    Yeah, I guess it’s not as good of a wanton murder simulator than some of the previous games. When you actually play it though, I think it’s the best one yet. Morrowind was cool and all but damn, that gameplay… New Vegas was awesome and ambitious and pretty well written, but unpolished and rough around the edges.

  8. Corpsie says:

    When I started this Fallout 4 I beat an old woman trying to protect her son to death with a tire-iron for some gangster drug-dealers because they were paying me 25 caps more. It felt good. I would have still done it if they paid me less, to be honest. It felt like the beginnings of my Fallout 3 character that used to work for the slavers.

    Since then though, I’ve not really done anything like that. I can’t really see the point in randomly killing everyone. If you kill everyone, you have no one to fear you and exploit. I mean, where are the slave collars? Or why can’t I chose to blow up a town with a nuke for some executive type?

    It even seems to me like there isn’t as much stuff to steal. Everything is green. Even when I played FO3 as a good guy, I couldn’t resist a good five-finger discount.

    Bit disappointing, but still love the game. Hopefully they’ll bring out some crazy bastard DLC where they accommodate the darker side of the vault-dweller a bit more.

  9. Moonracer says:

    Only slightly related due to remembering “killable children” mods for FO3 and Skyrim, but I’ve seen only one child in the game so far. The little sister of your reporter friend in Diamond City. Just another odd bit of flavor missing in the world.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I’ve seen two kids running around and chasing each other in Diamond City, and there’s a small classroom full of kids there too. The town does seem a bit low on kids though, for what’s supposed to be a thriving community and the safest place in the area.

      None of the survivors outside the city in the Settlement areas seem to be reproducing either. Maybe something to do with the radiation…

  10. Jac says:

    There’s a completely stupid quest in diamond city where the owner of the bar having only just met you decides you’re the man to help the dj who you’ve never heard of gain some confidence by setting up a bar fight. I butchered the two hired goons with a sword.

    Next thing I know the man whose arms and head were just scattered across the bar is holed up in a brewery fully limbed and alive. Makes me sad.

    • J. Cosmo Cohen says:

      I just started that quest. When they asked me I didn’t really understand why. I did nothing that would make them feel I’m the person for the job. Baffling.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        I’m pretty sure many things won’t happen until you’re interviewed by Piper, and by then you are actually quite famous around.

        Pass by Cambridge and help the brotherhood with the ghouls and the radio guy ( even though i mostly listen classical ) will report there have been sightings of them in the commonwealth but especially of you saving their ass.

        The above is just an example and you don’t have to do that, the point being is that the radio dude loves talking about you.

  11. a very affectionate parrot says:

    Fallout 4 seems to be striving to be something it shouldn’t be.
    It’s trying to be an epic adventure with a pre-existing character, while bethesda have always succeeded with games where you can do whatever the hell you want and do the main quest at your own pace (I still haven’t killed aludin).
    The huge world of ruins that’s taken 24 (and counting) hours from my life is as wonderful as ever and crafting gives me a reason to search every goddamn building I find but anytime I get into the story I feel like an idiot for ignoring the implied urgency of the plot.
    Also it took me a while to realize there’s no karma or reputation system except with companions.
    They’re the best companions bethesda have designed so far but the lack of a karma and rep system makes being the bastard this diary deserves very difficult.
    May I suggest taking some of the companions a’murderin and documenting how they react to it? They seem to be the main indication of the game’s morality system.

    • Doganpc says:

      Got a little BioShock in your Fallout?

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Kill randomly and most companions will abandon you.

      I even got attacked by Codsworth for killing some people in Sanctuary just to try, as in it took side with the rest of the city instead of ignoring me or something.

      Other than that the Karma system wasn’t really the best answer, it was kind of lazy especially since some people should still have no idea what you are and what you did.

      If we exclude the very different game Morrowind was, Bethesda always kind of sucked when it comes to letting you completely break their game, which might be either good or bad depending as you see it, but it sure isn’t a Fallout 4 exclusive.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I think there is only one companion (the obvious one) who doesn’t care if you murder people at random. Kind of a hint about how the game wants you play the main character, but at least there’s this one companion for it.

      • Coming Second says:

        Is he the one that throws a strop every time I lockpick a door? Because he can piss off and all.

  12. a very affectionate parrot says:

    (pls gif edit butan) Maybe fallout 4 has the same way as 3 where if you wait a week the guards stop trying to murder you?

  13. Premium User Badge

    Skabooga says:

    Does anyone know if the “setessential 0, setessential 1” commands in the console to make NPCs mortal/immortal, respectively, still work in Fallout 4? If so, we might have a workaround to accomplish John’s original vision of murdering everybody.

    • Erayos says:

      They still work, but it would be a bit tedious to have to “set essential 0” all immortal characters. And as far as I know, selecting the character in console mode doesn’t do the trick, you have to search for its base ID first with something like “help ‘character name’ 0”. (I might be wrong here, I’ve just begun messing up with the console commands.)

      • C0llic says:

        It seems pointless doing that when the whole reason for the series is to see how the game handles indiscriminate killing. It would just break the game in horrible, unexpected ways too.

  14. AKidAndASquidNow says:

    A big part of me wishes that Bethesda games didn’t have a main quest, and instead would have a variety of different and smaller quests tying in to each other in different ways with unique well thought out themes. That way the game could be more accommodating to a variety of play styles. If you mess up one particular quest due to certain actions, a different quest or quest line could open up to you based on those actions. Sure, that would significantly increase the development time for a game where the average player might only see roughly 20% of the entire package on their first playthrough, but what the games might lack in longevity they would immensely make up for in replayability. For a company like Bethesda who touts their games as the ultimate vessels for player agency, I think a change such as this would go a long way.

    In my opinion the main quests have never been the main draw of most Bethesda games (that I have played) anyways.

    • Doganpc says:

      Wait, are you suggesting that you actually let players wander a world and not just set their own pace on the specially tuned, choreographed piece of modern art they paid for?

    • moridin84 says:

      Main quests are good because if you don’t know what to do, you can just do the main quest until you find something more interesting to do. This is especially important for the beginning of the game.

      I don’t really see why there being a main quest is a problem. They aren’t forcing you to follow it (as far as I know, I haven’t finished the game yet).

  15. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    What a god damn downer. There WILL be a Josh Sawyer west coast Fallout 4 somewhere down the line, right? Right? Obsidian basically will do anything these days.

  16. Monggerel says:

    The only immortal NPCs in New Vegas were Yes Man and child characters.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Nope.

      Even without counting companions and children, the list is still quite long.

      link to nexusmods.com? This is a mod that removes essential status and shows the other NPCs affected.

      I loved New Vegas but please guys, drop it, this is becoming ridicolous and you aren’t looking clever despite what you’d like to think.

      • DrGonzo says:

        The npcs mentioned in that list are non-essential and can be killed. I believe that mod actually makes them immortal and not the other way around.

        “I loved New Vegas but please guys, drop it, this is becoming ridicolous and you aren’t looking clever despite what you’d like to think.”

        Quite ironic!

      • Premium User Badge

        Grizzly says:

        Jup – that mod makes them essential because they can die randomly. There is a playtrough that tries to and succeeds in murdering everyone (except Yes Man who can not be killed – which is something that the story explains as him being in a mainframe somewhere), and the game’s endings account for it.

  17. tonicer says:

    Ah yes the simplification of games. The reason? Consoles!

  18. Nokturnal says:

    Yea I started my second playthrough testing just how evil the game would allow you to be as well. What I noticed was a complete lack of the ability to be evil. There’s even certain quests where an evil option is given. (Spoilers Ahead) Like during Paladin Danses’ quest to clear out the Arclight system facility. During it you are given the option once during on the generators to lock the doors to his room, and initiate a rocket test fire… in his face while he’s trying to fight off Synths…. doing so DOES NOTHING to him. He magically survives a giant space rocket test firing into his face, his excuse is “his power armor saved him.” Even though he’s not even wearing a helmet.

    In order to roleplay as evil in this game and not break the game you have to basically roleplay someone with multiple personality disorder. Do everything the way you’re supposed to, only mindlessly kill people without names, choose the greediest options you can and do the main storyline as normal as possible (while being greedy) until you can choose the evil path of siding with the less than nice factions.

  19. SanguineAngel says:

    I think my issue with these games (Bethesda games) is that killing is so bizarrely trivial. It actually feels completely incongruous with the worlds and characters they create and it’s a two way street. As mentioned in the article, in most cases you will stumble into NPCs in the wilds and they will try to kill you on sight for no reason at all other than “These are bad guys” when the world crafting goes to such lengths to convince you this is a living breathing place and not a simple whack-a-mole computer game.

    And even that isn’t terribly consistent because there are always a few NPCs on the road who are NOT “bad guys” but by now you’re attacking everyone on sight because this world is full of bloodthirsty maniacs. And besides, killing a person ain’t no big thing.

    Consequently combat itself quickly loses its tension and the ramifications (if there even are any – this is also inconsistent) either lose any meaning or the mechanics behind them become all to visible. I’d sooner see less combat altogether in these games with what combat is there being more meaningful in both context and consequence.

    • Coming Second says:

      Yep. It renders some quests utterly ridiculous, such as *SPOILERS* discovering the secret behind Covenant. It’s an interesting and classic conundrum – do the ends justify the means? Are you willing to let the girl be vivisected and gain what might be a vital tool, given there’s a decent probability she’s a synth? – which is made laughable by the fact that, of course, you had to kill about 20 security guards just doing their jobs to reach it. Sure, chop her open doc. Shame all those other people had to die for no reason, but hey. They were nameless and therefore not even real.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        You can pass a very difficult speech check if you just barge in there unannounced because yes, there’s even the second option in which you can talk to the town’s major which, no longer able to hide the secret, agrees to let you visit and try to strike a deal.

        I think the second is a speech check too. Still, i guess if you want to be non violent some points in Charisma are needed, you have to at least appear different compared to the next armed random wastelander.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          Also, you’re being quite dishonest there because it’s impossible you didn’t notice the first speech check, or did you expect that even failing that those guards should just let you do your business in a place that should remain a secret?

          Afterall in their eyes you’re not killing 20 guards just doing their job, they actually feel like they are the ones about to kill just another random nosy wastelander that wants to compromise the operation.

  20. Hyena Grin says:

    The weird thing is that there should be relatively easy ways to solve these little problems.

    NPCs who are quest-critical could (and should) have a ‘backup’ like a piece of paper in their assigned bedroom that offers some clue. Not only does it solve the broken questline for a dead NPC, but it also allows stealthy characters a chance to solve a problem without jumping through the hoops that the NPC wants you to.

    Even Oblivion let you pay a fine to get off for causing mayhem up to an extent. I actually quite liked the whole jail-cell problem that it introduced, where you could break out or lose some stats (perhaps for Fallout, a level loss with your last perk ‘turning off’ until you regain the level). This solves the problem of an entire quest-necessary town turning against you, as long as you can either pay a fine or serve the time.

    And finally, if an NPC absolutely must survive, they really should get a couple of extra lines where they just loathe you. Ideally your options should change in how you deal with them (non-quest-related dialogue options would vanish, such as not being able to buy a house in Diamond City after pissing off Geneva).

    They’ve built a big game, and it’s pretty darn good even, but it’s disappointing that they haven’t gone the extra mile when they’ve done so to some extent in previous games.

  21. GlassDeviant says:

    Strangely enough, I am being reasonably nice overall given the situation and everyone is red to me, though some like the Brotherhood of Steel aren’t KOS (just arrogant pricks).

  22. Von Uber says:

    Have to say that given that Life is Strange is supposed to be game of the month, it’s odd that hasn’t been a single article on it yet a whole plethora on the latest SkyFallOblOut game.
    i can understand why it gets coverage, it’s just disappointing that one of the more original games this year (with a lot of things to be said about it) seems to have fallen by the wayside.

  23. SanguineAngel says:

    Although I believe RPS as a gaming blog site can post about whatever they wish, I have to concur. I was really excited to see Life Is Strange as game of the month and looking forward to a wealth of content about it.

    I’m sure Fallout 4 is interesting, as these articles have shown but I am just not quite as interested in it as I would be about Life is Strange

  24. Crusoe says:

    Read the paragrph at the beginning of every game of the month article, they explain why this is, every month.

    • Crusoe says:

      Reply fail. Hey RPS! Please update and/or modernize your comments section. Love you, but still. Gaaah.

      • Von Uber says:

        Oh I know how the Game of the Month system works, but when the final payoff of your article is:

        ‘More Life Is Strange coverage will follow between now and the end of the month.’

        It’s a tad strange (ho ho) when you hit the 17th and you haven’t had one article or opinion piece (sans the news article about the collectors edition) about the game. It’s just a shame that’s all as I was looking forward to reading some interesting pieces about it, rather than lots of articles about the latest Bethseda game (of which I enjoy, but already know what to expect).

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          But do you genuinely want more Life is strange coverage or is that just a veiled way to say that you’re tired/angry with RPS fixating on Fallout 4?

  25. moridin84 says:

    To be honest, most people who play games don’t actually go around murdering everyone.

    Most game that support this (e.g. Fallout New Vas, Divinity Original Sin (I think?)) to a large degree do so because the game developers feel it’s important. However, I’m sure it takes quite effort to do well.

    There are limits to any and every game.

  26. Pizzacheeks McFroogleburgher says:

    Fallout posts persist despite the game being an unfinished mess.