Here comes the first of what will probably be a LOT of posts about Fallout 4. I’ll try to curb things, since other people are playing it. Full spoilers to come in the Aggrochat podcast.
In general, I don’t love post-apocalyptic settings. They’re kind of a study of what happens to people when civilization is totally destroyed and everything sucks, and honestly the answer is “nothing all that great”. It’s really easy for your post-apocalyptic setting to just become a joyless, bleak world, and without joy, there’s not a lot of motivation to do much of anything. It’s the same problem I have with the Warhammer 40,000 universe– it’s a massive, joyless universe and I’ve never heard anything convincing that explains what anyone in that universe is fighting for.
For the most part, I like my futuristic games to be a bit more optimistic. I tend to believe that the future is pretty much going to be better than the present, and a terrible post-apocalyptic setting doesn’t really mesh with that. I don’t even necessarily have anything against post-apoc per se, I’ve seen the occasional dark future where things are actually pretty okay, even if the world has been ravaged. Maybe we’ve got a cool colony on the moon, or some nice high-tech living spaces away from the devastation. Something to point at and say “this is worth fighting for”.
So, Fallout. I played through Fallout 1 and 2, but they don’t make my list of favorite games, and I didn’t really explore them much; I didn’t feel motivated to. Fallout 3 didn’t grab me– it felt like the exact sort of joyless future that I’m not interested in experiencing. It made things worse by making most of the actual civilized settlements pretty villainous, with Megaton, the Town of Terrible Ideas, being this sad bastion of hope. New Vegas was the first Fallout game to really capture my interest. It showed me the same dark future, but there was civilization, and the civilized people weren’t all utterly awful human beings. There was technology, and places I might actually want to live. It wasn’t just all suck all the time. Indeed, one of the big things I did was rebuild, and establish a bastion of actual civilization in the desert. It felt good.
Fallout 4 feels like it’s continuing the trend. It’s now the second area I’ve lived in that’s been the focus of a Fallout game, and truth be told I’m more partial to Boston than Washington DC. It also lets me rebuild, not just a little bit, but actually put together my own settlements and build real homes. It’s satisfying, and exciting. I’m also operating in real cities and towns. Damaged, certainly, but recognizable as places that people live.
Fallout 4 is a post-apoc world that isn’t scrounging the remnants of a technologically advanced society– it’s possible to get new, fancy technology and not just hope that the one working laser pistol I’ve found stays functional. I don’t have to hope that I run across a place that seems like a decent place to live– I can actually build one from scratch.
It’s pretty exciting, and lets me enjoy the Fallout world without the crushing pessimism that I see in other settings. Now, time to find some aluminum so I can build a new reactor core (!) for my laser pistol (!!).