Weekly: The Hero’s Return

An obvious fact: the Survival mode in Fallout 4 is there for immersion. One of the things I like about it is that it really makes you realise the importance of places like Diamond City or Goodneighbor. After all, they are the safe havens and beacons of civilisation amidst the ocean of chaos and violence which is the Commonwealth. But I wouldn’t have realised it without finishing a really funny but somewhat exhausting quest.

Supermutated spoilers below!

Meet the Silver Shroud, a comic book superhero from the age before the whole US-Chinese misunderstanding happened. When in Goodneighbor, you can meet Kent Connolly, a ghoul who has been Shroud‘s fan for the past 200 years and has is own radio station broadcasting episodes of the hero’s adventures. After a short conversation it becomes obvious that he wants to revive the legend – and the Lone Survivor is to play the main character. The first step is to obtain the Silver Shroud costume and his iconic weapon from the ruins of a comic book company. Then Kent, a trained radio technician, begins to transmit the names and locations of local villains who are in need of superhero treatment (which involves lots and lots of shooting). What is really interesting, when you confront the baddies, you can choose between having a conversation in your standard voice or impersonating the Shroud in a really hammy way. Eventually, after delivering justice to some lesser minions you have the chance to meet Sinjin, the supervillain. At this point, things got really interesting and led to a wonderful conclusion.

I returned to Goodneighbor after disposing of the last Sinji’s henchmen only to find out that Kent had been kidnapped. Since I really enjoyed the quest so far, I decided to do the hero part and immediately go out to rescue him. This required a rather long journey south and clearing several floors of an old hospital. The hard part began when I reached my target, Sinji and his gang of goons, holding Kent at gunpoint. Without boring you with the details, I can just say that killing the former and saving the latter required a lot of reloads and experimenting with Charisma-enhancing drugs. Seriously, it was the most frustrating experience in my Fallout 4 experience so far. Needless to say, in the end, the hero saved the day.

 

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The hero. The villain. The author.

 

Then the wonderful thing happened. It was late in the night on both sides of my PC screen. The Silver Shroud finally got back to Diamond City, wounded, tired, hungry, sick, suffering from radiation – and wasn’t feeling much better than him, minus a few gunshot wounds. After crossing the city gate, we both saw this…

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…at the first moment, I didn’t really realise what was happening, but I quickly checked the in-game date on my Pipboy. 25 Dec 2287. After surviving a difficult and demanding adventure, I (we?) can finally sit down, rest and have a deathclaw steak for Christmas supper.

Hey, the game even dropped a Christmas gift on me. Here’s what I found on a Legendary Raider‘s corpse shortly before getting back home.

 

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The Ultimate Weapon.

 

True catharsis. The perfect union between the player and his alter ego. You play games for moments like this.

Maybe Fallout 4 isn’t a bad RPG after all.

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Weekly: It’s Good To Be a Survivor

Damn, it feels like being alive again. For the past few months, I found little joy in playing video games, constantly skipping from one title to another and finding no satisfaction whatsoever.

 

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Maybe I’m just too old for this kind of hobby?

 

To my surprise, this changed after I finally got Fallout 4 downloaded to my disk.  To say that I enjoy it would be saying nothing, as I’m simply hypnotised by everything happening on the screen. So, maybe it’s the right time for little introspection. Let’s sit down and think about the reasons why I like Fallout 4 so much.

Survival of the Stealthiest

While the so-called Hardcore mode in Fallout New Vegas was a disappointment, adding only minor challenges to the gameplay, the Survival difficulty mode in F4 is something completely different. First of all, hunger, thirst and radiation are serious issues now and if you forget about them, the game punishes you by severe stats penalties. Even more importantly, even rank-and-file characters are deadly now — fitting for the highest difficulty setting — but so is the player character. If he’s careless enough, a bunch of angry Raiders can shoot him down in a few seconds, but since your basic damage is considerably higher than on lower difficulties, you can turn the tables by quietly climbing up a building or a hill and taking them out with well-placed sniper shots. Generally, sneaking is one of the most valuable skills now and I’m all happy about it.

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The most important element of the Survival mode is the strategic value of beds. Since manual saving and most autosaves are disabled, you can keep your progress only by sleeping for at least one hour. That’s why it’s very important to search your surroundings for a resting place when entering a hostile territory. After all, you don’t want to lose hours of progress due to an unlucky incident with a frag mine or a genocidal ghoul. Obviously, it’s very frustrating when it happens, but it makes exploration of the wastes even more exciting.

Meet the Vault Tinkerer

Remember picking through tonnes of useless trash in Fallout 3 and New Vegas in search of Stimpaks and ammunition? Now it’s over. With the new crafting system, even tin cans and broken clocks can be real treasures. After finding a proper workshop, you can customise your weapons, armour and even the Pipboy to make them lighter, sturdier, deadlier, or simply more fancy. Add enough modifications and your weapon’s or armour’s name becomes ridiculously long, but they thought about it too and you can give it another name.

 

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Maybe I’ll just call her Vera.

 

While most ingredients are common enough, some are quite rare and you’ll learn to value each piece of circuitry or nuclear material you find in the dirt. Things get even more complicated when you find out that you need the same resources to expand your settlements, but I left my settlers to their own devices so far, so let’s just leave it at that.

The Power of the Armour

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There’s been a huge change in the way the game treats Power Armour in comparison with the previous instalments. Now it’s not just a piece of (very heavy and expensive) clothing you wear but rather it behaves like an in-game vehicle. The Sole Survivor enters it using that funny hatch on its back and, just like a real car, it needs fuel, the Fusion Cores, which aren’t exactly cheap but still surprisingly easy to find. Beside standard modifications increasing damage resistance, it has some new options unavailable for other types of armour, like an enhanced HUD targetting enemies or special filters in the helmet which clean your food and drink from radiation. Another minor but nice thing is that your PC sounds really badass in conversations when speaking through his power helmet. In short, for the first time in the history of the Fallout series, they really made the Power Armour something special.

Well, that’s it. I’m sure I’ll have more to write about when I spend another dozen or two of hours of playing under my belt. Meanwhile, let’s get a cup of noodles from that crazy Japanese robot and then set sail for the ruins of Boston.

 

 

 

Monthly: Moscow to Boston

The first months of 2018 were pretty monotonous. Radiation. Mutated dogs. Gas masks. Mutated mosquitoes. Digging through a pile of junk in search of spare parts. More mutants. In other words, I’ve been tasting two different types of post-apocalyptic fiction.

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The Metro series has been on my list since I watched a full Let’s Play YT video of the second game a few years ago. After all, a game made by a Russian and Ukrainian team always picks my interest and I really loved S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. Now, not only I managed to buy both parts of the series for a very reasonable price on Steam but also bought the original novel written by Dmitry Glukhovsky. What a refreshing and interesting experience to read a chapter, close the book, launch the game and play the same part of the story (with slight alterations). Obviously, the game is far from perfection even in its revamped Redux version and there’s a lot of wasted potential due to the absolutely linear character of the plot, but I’ve enjoyed it so far.

Sadly, I had to interrupt my adventure in the depths of Moscow’s underground system. I blame you, Bethesda.

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For someone who’s been playing the series since the release of Fallout 1 in 1997, I was late to join the party. The steep price was one reason, the sad experience with freshly released Bethesda games being technical disasters was another. Most importantly, most reviews I was reading were far from favourable.  “It’s not a real Fallout game”, they said, “it’s too much an FPS and not much an RPG”. And, of course, the greatest accusation: “This is not New Vegas, so it sucks!”.

When Fallout 4 became available for a free weekend in early February, I was prepared to play it for a few hours, write down my impressions as a First Hour exercise, get bored, disappointed, and go back to Nevada. Well, I was wrong. After spending most of my weekend in the post-apocalyptic Boston, I finally paid for the game. The Fallout magic still works.

All right, the reviewers were right about one thing. It really isn’t New Vegas. I can understand that dedicated fans were disappointed by many changes, especially the ridiculous dialogue system (“yes/no/need more info/tell a stupid joke”), but the game is still more than decent. Especially when you go for the Survival mode which, unlike the previous installation, is seriously challenging and makes you doped on adrenaline every time you encounter a band of raiders or supermutants. Yeah, I’ll have to write more about it.

Just in case you played Fallout 4 before I did, I’d really appreciate hints about the DLC’s and interesting mods, since I’m still playing the vanilla version. Thanks!