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.