Fallout 4 has yet to be officially confirmed but damnit, I'm ready. I was ready yesterday. I was ready as soon as I finished Fallout 3. I was ready as the moment I first played Fallout: New Vegas. I've put in 403 hours on F:NV according to Steam, and at least another 350 in Fallout 3. I've suffered through endless bugs and glitches, good mods, bad mods, and tweaks and exploits with instruction pages that go on for days. I'm as ready as one person could possibly be.
But Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say, and so I wait. And as I wait (and obsessively contribute to the Fallout Wiki to pass the time), I dream of what could be. Of forgotten tech and mad scientists, of vault dwellers, and inter-faction warfare. Join me as I fantasize about Fallout 4 and what I'd like to see happen in this next installment in the series, from technical improvements to story elements and beyond:
1. Improved facial animations
The Fallout series is rife with thoughtful storytelling reflecting a broad depth of human emotions and experiences. Unfortunately these are often undermined by the complete lack of animation in characters’ faces. The wastelands might be a dreary place, but it’s still weird to never see a smile or hear a laugh (not even from dippy Moira, who sounds like she’s been hitting a secret stash of post apocalyptic happy gas on the reg). The limited and sometimes crude facial customization features are almost understandable in a world that for 200 years has been fishing from a limited genetic pool. But it’s time for Fallout to catch up with the current generation. Games like LA Noire have been greatly improved by the realistic animations delivered by their performers. This is a necessary step in securing their legacy as providers of some of the most thought provoking missions and stories in the games medium.
2. Improved Dialogue Trees
From Fallout 3 to Fallout: New Vegas there was a discernible shift to the increased use of unlockable dialogue options that made use of the points invested in the character’s skill tree. Skills, perks, and attributes could all potentially open new paths of conversation that would award points and sometimes start questlines. This made the strategy of your character build much more important. And it was fun having a new way to strategize. I enjoyed seeing the clear benefits of my particular playstyle validated by having the right resources at the right time. They should do more of this, as it will also emphasize additional playthroughs.
Another area that could use some work is the flow of the dialogue trees. To get the full story and dialogue options from many of the NPCs, the player is required to backtrack and repeat certain elements of the conversation. There are times the exchange has been spliced to accommodate multiple branches of dialogue, to sometimes crude effect. This seems to have been cleaned up somewhat in Skyrim, but further improvements need to be made.
3. Weather Effects
Fallout: New Vegas was initially a tough sell for me. There’s really little challenge left after spending 300 hours between Fallout 3 and its vast mod community. I’ve also never been a fan of deserts, and the constant orange haze of the Mojave was unappealing. Hardcore mode was a nice change of pace but it wasn’t enough. New Vegas was just too easy.
Enter the Western Sky mod, an impressive piece of work that added all new sky patterns and weather effects to the game, pitting the player against the ultimate enemy: the environment. Having to account for the innavigable black of night, sudden storms, and reduced visibility due to dust clouds and heavy rain shifted a great emphasis on the aspect of survival, a thematic necessity that reminded us that ultimately the most dangerous threat to post apocalyptic America is the land itself. I want more. In the past Bethesda has not shied from taking inspiration from their mod community, and this is one feature that they should make their own.
It would also provide them opportunity to improve the water effects, an addition that should have come a long time ago. Water that doesn't splash is just creepy.
4. Revisit The Institute
Fallout is the absolute master of the lore tease, constantly baiting us with tiny snippets and clues towards events outside of the immediate game universe, from the Enclave’s presence in Chicago to The Institute, located in The Commonwealth, or rather, future Massachusetts.
Briefly introduced in Rivet City during the mission The Replicated Man, little is known about The Institute, except that it is in Boston, built on the remains of M.I.T., a college that in present day is among the most prestigious schools in the United States. How did their researchers survive the bombs? What difficulties did they face in rebuilding? How, over the course of two decades, were they able to pull together enough resources to perfect the technology that would allow them to build fully aware and sentient androids? And how did they manage to do this without interference from other major factions, like The Enclave?
Speaking of The Enclave…
Fallout 3 famously marked a major deviation in the series, taking place in Washington D.C. instead of California. With Fallout: New Vegas, it returned to the original setting, where the Enclave had been defeated long before the events of Fallout 3. Few “Remnants” of the group remain in the scattered towns across the dusty West Coast (though it is strongly hinted that the city of Hopeville, from the Lonesome Road DLC, was an Enclave-based settlement). However, they can’t be completely gone: side quest missions with ED-E, your faithful Eyebot companion, reveal stored transmissions from the Enclave that indicate they are present in Chicago (and have no idea that Navarro has been destroyed). This raises several questions about the future of one of the series’ most dangerous factions. What is the Enclave’s surviving legacy following their destruction in D.C.? Do they once again flee, perhaps to middle America? And what becomes of The Lone Wanderer and The Brotherhood of Steel following the Enclave’s defeat at the Capitol? Does their memory live on? And what will happen when the Enclave realizes that Navarro is gone?
And what of the Brotherhood of Steel…
Old World Blues is perhaps the most creative piece of DLC written for the Fallout series. It brings back one of the most enjoyable elements of Fallout 3–elaborate sci-fi weaponry–and splatters it with colorful characters and hilarious dialogue that marked some of the funniest moments in Fallout history. It not only exercised all corners of the human imagination, but also created enormous potential for the series’ future. Set in Big Mountain, a secret government research facility manned by brilliant but disturbed robo-scientists, the technology produced by these malfunctioning geniuses is poised to make a huge impact on the wastelands and beyond.
In a few ways, it already has. Big Mountain’s robot scientists were responsible for the creation and spread of Cazadors and Nightstalkers, which the Courier encounters many times in the Mojave. It is likely that their constant negligence and routine blunders would result in more errors, regardless (or perhaps because of) of the Courier’s presence and intervention following the events of Old World Blues. In one Wild Wasteland ending for the DLC, several panels reveal Big MT’s impact on the Mojave, resulting in bizarre fates for many towns across the desert. The experiments wreak havoc ranging from exploding genital infections to man-eating battle Brahmin. One of them even alludes to the events of Washington DC, roping Tranquility Lane into the mix.
Screenshot courtesy of Fallout Wiki.
While this ending was ultimately cut, it’s worth noting its potential. Is it possible that a research facility with the resources and knowledge of the Big MT could remain in an impact-free bubble?
This brings us back to the Brotherhood of Steel. Christine, the ex-girlfriend of Veronica, is a scribe for the BoS who manages to track the rogue Elder Elijah across the Mojave all the way to Big MT and the Sierra Madre. It wasn't easy for her, but any other determined BoS member (perhaps one looking for Christine herself) could probably figure out the trail as well. There’s no telling what the BoS would do with access to all that tech–hoard it, yes, but the resources there would be enough to see the BoS rise to a national security force. They could easily bridge the gap of communication and resources between the coastal chapters and further establish authority across the slowly-recovering United States. Though of course, there’d be new sources of power to contend with.
5. New Factions And Sources Of Power To Contend With
It’s a given that the next Fallout game will introduce us to new factions, tribes of people bound together over the past two centuries to take on the challenges of post apocalyptia. But following the seemingly endless drama between NCR, Brotherhood of Steel, and Enclave, I’m ready for a new big bad guy. Obviously, this is where The Institute comes in. With its advanced android technology and loose concept of morals (as illustrated in Fallout 3 mission The Replicated Man) they could easily become a force to reckon with. I also have a feeling that the ethics regarding artificial intelligence, bot slavery, and the humane treatment of androids is a topic that hasn’t been fully explored yet.
But in general it will be interesting to see what groups have risen and fallen in the time since the Enclave were defeated in D.C. Slavery is a lucrative trade on the post-apocalyptic East Coast and it’s not hard to imagine that various groups have tried to dominate the market across the span of New England, and that they’d be affected by the technological slave trade perpetuated by The Institute.
Other things I’m curious about include the fate of New York City and its inhabitants, the presence of other vaults across the landscape, and what would happen if the scientists of Big MT met the mad geniuses of The Institute. A few Fallout characters also sport accents (Colin Moriarity from Fallout 3 seems to be from Ireland and Melissa from Fallout: New Vegas has a distinctly Australian twang), raising the question of what is going on in the rest of the world following the war. I doubt that they'll explore that topic much, but it would be interesting to see if the United States has somehow maintained its legacy of immigration. That would easily be a situation rife with potential for the inner faction warfare characteristic of the Fallout series.
What would you like to see happen in Fallout 4?