Fallout 4: Permadeath

By Shamus
on Dec 6, 2015
Filed under:
Video Games

I’ve mentioned before that I played Skyrim with a lot of mods, many of which contributed to a sort of hardcore / survivalist gameplay style. Someday maybe we’ll get similar mods for Fallout 4, but in the meantime I thought I’d try a similar idea with the base game. It’s not actually a great idea, but the heart wants what the heart wants.

So I’ve been playing Fallout 4 with some self-imposed rules:

No Fast Travel

Being able to teleport all over the world at will trivializes distances and encourages the worst sort of obsessive loot-gathering. It’s no fun to make five trips to the store in the process of cleaning out a ruin, but when money is in such short supply and the store is only a click away, it feels like you’re leaving money on the ground. Removing arbitrary fast travel curtails the worst of my OCD hoarding.

On the other hand, crisscrossing the same half dozen cleaned-out ruins is really dull after a while. So I allow myself to fast travel between settlements under my control. If I can use the workbench, then I can go to / from there.

Permadeath

If I die, I start a new game. This only applies to mistakes on my part. If I clip through level geometry and fall to my death, or a grenade bounces off an invisible wall and kills me, I go ahead an reload. This is supposed to be an immersion-based permadeath, and there’s nothing immersive about dying because of some random nonsense glitch.

Mods

Like I said last week, I use some mods that arguably make the game easier and take the edge off that permadeath.

No main Quest

At the start of the game I run into Conchord, kill the raiders, and grab the bobblehead and comic out of the upstairs room. That’s the last I see of Preston Garvey and his band of helpless rubes. I don’t get the power armor and I don’t fight the deathclaw. This isn’t so much a rule as a preference. When you’re playing with permadeath, you end up playing the first few levels a lot of times. It’s maddening to hear the same terrible, plodding, boring, overlong dialog again and again.

No Companions

This isn’t a rule, it’s just an effort to aid my immersion. While companions are fun to talk to, their AI is so hilariously bad that it launches me right out of the game.

Also, having help actually adds to the danger. Sure, they help in combat. But the big danger in this game is not combat. We’ll talk more about this later.

I’m always female.

This isn’t a preference, this is a limitation of the stupid idiot bungling annoying shitty Bethesda opening. In Skyrim, the game thoughtfully gave you a save just before character creation. In Fallout 4, they give you one just as you leave the vault. You can’t change your gender at that point. I suppose this is because you’ve already established the gender of your spouse, and therefore changing your gender would require a retcon of the entire introduction. Or maybe the interface guy just forgot to put in the “change gender” button. It’s always hard to understand why Bethesda does the things they do.

Well, I’m not going to run through the intro every time I want to change genders, so I’m stuck playing as a female until I get the urge to play the pre-war chapter again. (Projection: Not anytime soon. Ugh.)

So here are the adventures I’ve had so far:

Zoe

These windows look tall enough to crouch through. Heck, they almost look tall enough to WALK through. But don`t try it. While bullets can pass through, this is effectively a wall. You can`t even crouch-jump onto the counter.

These windows look tall enough to crouch through. Heck, they almost look tall enough to WALK through. But don`t try it. While bullets can pass through, this is effectively a wall. You can`t even crouch-jump onto the counter.

A stealth build character. She was killed by a bottlecap mine at the Starlight Drive-in. I was inside the building when I heard the warning beep and atavistically sprinted forward towards the window like I was going to dive out. But you can’t actually fit through the window. So I was caught in the blast radius. Dead at level 9.

Moxy

Another stealth build character. I was in the Federal Ration Reserve at level 7, and I knew I was pushing my luck. The place is a gigantic underground complex and the foes were just a little too high for me to engage safely. But I was making progress by playing hit-and-run and exploiting the extreme stupidity of the Bethesda AI.

My luck ran out when I tripped a grenade trap. I sprinted away the moment I saw the warning indicator, but I couldn’t escape the blast radius. (It’s actually three grenades that bounce down the stairs at you, which really spreads the death around.)

Morgan

I ship it.

I ship it.

Another stealth build. As my level got into the late teens, I started thinking about what my win state ought to be. I mean, I could hang around the Red Rocket gas station forever, so I needed some sort of long-term goal to work towards. Eventually I decided that once I filled a rack with collected magazines, I’d retire.

That came together a bit sooner than I thought. I retired at level 22.

Next time I think my goal is to fill two magazine racks. That seems like a reasonable goal that should require about the same degree of exploration and dungeon-diving as the main quest, but without actually doing the main quest.

Donna

My first melee build. Hilariously died to one of the first raiders just outside of the museum in Conchord. I hadn’t done any melee combat yet and was sort of running on Skyrim muscle memory, which is bad. The raiders kept interrupting my power attacks. (Protip: Use regular attacks when you’re swarmed.) I thought I was getting stunlocked because my attacks weren’t landing. I think I figured it out just as I dropped dead.

I actually hate the attack interruptions in this game. Ghouls in particular can lunge through your attack radius. You swing at just the right time to connect as they approach, but then they jump the distance and hit you with a little bullshit quick attack. Even though my swing was 90% of the way complete, the entire attack is canceled and must be restarted. What you actually need to do is block, let them bounce off, then counter-attack. All ghouls have the exact same attack pattern and there are a lot of them in this game, so this gets to be a bit of a chore, particularly when you’re just trying to wade through a bunch of trash low-level ghouls.

There really ought to be a perk or something that will make your attacks un-interrupt-able. Or I should be immune to interruptions when I out-level them. Or make fast attacks interrupt-proof. Or slow attacks. Something. Anything. Just let me fight in a way that doesn’t require me to always play block-and-counterattack. Not sure why a sissy-slap can deflect my sledgehammer. I mean, GUN actions can’t be interrupted. Ugh.

Donna 2

Behind the Slocum`s Joe sign is a walkway where a power armor raider with a rocket launcher is waiting for the chance to make your day very interesting.

Behind the Slocum`s Joe sign is a walkway where a power armor raider with a rocket launcher is waiting for the chance to make your day very interesting.

Melee build again. I actually just re-loaded my save, since the only thing I’d accomplished so far was walking into town and I didn’t see a point in going through character creation again, since I was going to make the exact same choices.

I NEARLY died at level 6 to the same damn bottlecap mine that killed Zoe. I thought the mine was inside the building, but actually it was on the counter and I blundered too close while scouting the outside. I moved away as fast as I could. I was probably eight meters away (pretty far, according to common videogame logic) when it went off. Donna had a super-high endurance of 9, a full set of starting armor (some of it was upgraded) and was at full health. Also, I’d taken the damage reduction perk. And despite all these advantages, I survived with just a single pixel worth of health left in my HP bar.

I’m starting to think that explosive damage is overpowered.

Donna made it to level 11. She was killed in Lexington by – wait for it – an explosion. There’s a raider with a rocket launcher on a walkway over the street. By that point in the game I had a game-breaking damage reduction score of 113, which is astronomical for level 11. It was actually only possible because the mods I’m using allowed me to stack DR perks and armor upgrade perks that aren’t normally available to characters at this level.

I was actually starting to worry I’d broken the game too hard, because I could run into a room full of five bandits and beat them all to death before their guns did enough damage to warrant a single stimpack.

Yet even with this clearly unbalanced degree of damage reduction, and even though I started running as soon as I heard the “incoming” sound, the missile still destroyed me, from 100% health, in a single hit.

I am really, really starting to think that explosive damage is massively overpowered.

Jane

Yet another melee build. I found myself at the Cambridge Police Department, helping out the Brotherhood hold off waves of ghouls. Like most of the rest of the game, this feels sort of trivial. For the cost of a few stimpacks and rad-away, you can hold off the ghouls basically forever without any real risk to yourself.

But it was getting annoying having the little bastards constantly magically negating my attacks just before they connected, so I backed up onto one of the walkways nearby so I wouldn’t get swarmed.

Apparently, one of these Brotherhood dipshits put landmines on their own fortifications? I couldn’t get past the ghouls to escape the blast radius. Dead at level 11.

Yeah. Explosion damage is ridiculously OP.

Audrey

Tried an unarmed build. Hated it. Yes, about once an hour I’d get to suplex some dude, but I’d spend the rest of the hour winding up a huge punch, launching it someone’s face, and then they would elbow me just as the punch reached their face and the attack would vanish. This is quite possibly the most unfulfilling way to play this game.

You have to constantly use VATS to prevent your attacks being interrupted. And using VATS all the time means watching the same slow-motion punch animation again and again, only half the time the camera is stuck behind a tree and I can’t see what’s going on.

I abandoned Audrey somewhere around level 10. Yuck.

Jack

Yet another melee build. Went into Lexington and sniped the raider that killed Donna 2 with the rocket launcher. Then I went upstairs to take care of her compatriots.

I got to the third floor where rocket-launcher lady had been camping. Three important things happened here:

1) A ghoul woke up nearby.
2) Another raider picked up the rocket launcher.
3) Raider proceeded to shoot at the ghoul with the rocket launcher. I was hiding around the corner and hadn’t been spotted yet, but I was still in the blast radius. Dead at level 9.

You know, this is actually taking a lot of the fun out of things. The point of playing like this is to encourage a sort of immersive roleplaying thing. I want to play in a way that will discourage reckless behavior and force me to take encounters seriously. It was lots of fun in Skyrim, but it’s not working at all here. I’ve been stacking more and more durability, trying to make my character able to survive explosive mishaps. It doesn’t work, but it does basically make me immortal to regular raiders.

So I walk around all the time invulnerable, until I’m insta-killed by a random explosion that often could only be avoided with foreknowledge. This game is chaotic and unpredictable by nature and so it’s not possible to never get caught in an explosion. What I want is a game that encourages caution and forethought, and what I’m getting is basically playing DOOM with cheats on, mixed with a periodic surprise round of Russian Roulette.

Gretta

This is actually two racks worth of comics spread out over three racks because I NEED everything to look JUST SO.

This is actually two racks worth of comics spread out over three racks because I NEED everything to look JUST SO.

I was exploring the northern wilderness when I crested the hill a bit too close to Outpost Zimonja. There’s a guy there with power armor and a rocket launcher. The rocket missed my face by a few inches. I wish I had a video of it. The rocket was aimed right at my head, which is actually pretty impressive shooting for a rocket at fifty meters. It was just a perfect circle, growing larger and larger on screen for a few brief frames. I sidestepped it out of reflex and then ran off.

I head for the Railroad as soon as I’m able to survive in the city, and do a few quests to unlock ballistic weave. This gives me a damage reduction of ~350, which is almost like wearing power armor. Once I have that, the game is fundamentally broken forever. I can finally survive an explosion, at the cost of never having to be afraid of anything else in the world, ever.

Again, this sort of ruins the game. Ideally, I’m looking for a harsh world full of danger and a million ways to die, but instead I wind up with one way to die. Deathclaws and Supermutants are far less terrifying than just one regular raider with a rocket launcher. Swan – the overleveled Supermutant boss hiding in the pond downtown – is far less dangerous than just a regular Suicide bomber Supermutant. I could increase the other dangers of the wasteland by turning up the difficulty, but that would just make explosions even more deadly.

This is why I don’t travel with companions. They are idiots when it comes to traps. No death feels more unjust then when you’re painstakingly creeping forward to disable a landmine and your companion blunders over it and kills both of you. Or when you step on a trap and need to back away before it kills you, and your companion decides to stand in the doorway. Companions help in gunsfights, but make explosives and traps even more deadly. They help with the easy thing and exacerbate the most dangerous thing.

I manage to fill up my magazine racks and retire at level 25.

Wrapping Up

I already HAVE a screenshot solution bound to the print screen key, Bethesda. Which means your screenshot `feature` is actually RUINING my screenshots. You ass.

I already HAVE a screenshot solution bound to the print screen key, Bethesda. Which means your screenshot `feature` is actually RUINING my screenshots. You ass.

I was going to experiment with some different builds, but I think I need to wait for the mods. With permadeath, Fallout 4 is basically “Avoiding Explosions, The Game”. Nothing else matters. The extreme damage of explosions pretty much forces you into a fairly restrictive design:

  1. Stack perception to give you more time to react to traps.
  2. Stack endurance to make the explosions less likely to kill you.
  3. Wear the heaviest armor possible. Add the “dense” mod as soon as you can. Get ballistic weave as soon as you can.
  4. Invest in the stealth perks that let you walk over traps without setting them off.

Gretta did so well not because I’ve gotten good at the game, but because her entire design was built around surviving explosions. This single threat eclipses all others.

Note that I’m not really blaming Fallout 4 here. It’s not designed to be played with permadeath. Fallout 4 has a lot of glaring design flaws, but I don’t think it would be fair to list this as one of them. Having shit blowing up all over the place is obviously part of the design goal, and it’s more hilarious than frustrating when quickload is just a keypress away.

Having said that, I have no idea what Bethesda is trying to do with the encounters in this game. You’ll plow through a maze that has 20 completely trivial mooks, and at the end you’ll bump into a guy who:

  1. Is over-leveled relative to the others.
  2. Has a really dangerous weapon.
  3. Has an advantageous position.
  4. Is wearing power armor.

Now, it seems to me you could give the levels to somebody in one room, the weapon to someone in another, the position to a group of raiders, and the power armor to someone else. Then you’d have four interesting and varied fights. But instead you get 20 identical trivial fights and one fight of extreme danger. Is this a deliberate design decision, or the result of too much copy-paste game design? I have no idea.

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A Hundred!A Hundred!203223 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. Izicata says:

    From what I’ve heard, I’m pretty sure explosion damage hits all limbs within the radius, rather than all actors within the radius. You’ve got 6 limbs and your head takes 2x damage, so you take a total of 7x damage unless you’re just on the edge of the explosion.

    I’m not ever going to play Fallout 4 though, so I can’t test this myself.

    • Sam says:

      What?! That’s insane! I’d noticed explosives being powerful as hell, but I just assumed it was a low level thing since I routinely dump Endurance to clear my precious SPECIAL points for the important stats. That’s just completely bonkers.

      I mean, just, who in the design process made this decision? Could someone with knowledge of the games under the hood numbers and calculations clarify this, please? This is huge knowledge to those that try (and usually fail on my part) to min/max for their preferred advantages.

      • Syal says:

        The multiple hits decision is fine; explosives should be able to cripple all your limbs, after all. The problem is with the explosive’s base damage (and maybe critical hit rate? Haven’t actually played); nobody would complain about x7 hits if each hit was 1/7 normal damage. Even 1/4 normal damage would probably work.

        • Sam says:

          Exactly. If I’m taking a bunch of damage because I minimized my Endurance (a bad idea) that’s on me. But if I’m dying like Shamus is at 9 Endurance and with preventative care because the mine is hitting me 7 times with its already mid-to-high base damage that’s not okay. That’s more suitable for a rage inducing trap in a roguelike.

          It should totally cripple limbs if you have standard Endurance and/or haven’t taken any perks to circumvent limb damage, but to make it a shotgun mine? That’s just silly.

          Although, we are taking this on the word of someone who may have misheard or misinterpreted information without having played FO4. No offense Izicata. If we could verify this or debunk it we’d know for sure if this is actually the case.

          • Ayegill says:

            I’ve definitely noticed that missiles do way more damage than the VATS display indicates, although I’m not sure it’s 7 times as much.

          • Metal C0Mmander says:

            Even in most roguelikes I played I’ve never seen an instant kill trap. Either they’ll fuck you up real bad once if you’re poorly prepared, they’ll induce a status effect that’ll let other things kill you easier or they’ll do constant damage until you die or stop it some way.

  2. Chris says:

    I’ve been playing mostly unarmed and have long since given up on fighting without VATS. One thing you can do (easier once you get the Blitz perk) is queue up attacks and then cancel VATS before you deliver the first blow, essentially letting you teleport into melee range and cheapshot enemies for free.
    Using VATS normally the worst part is the incredibly long headlock/chokeout finisher that I got every time instead of the suplex – which occasionally stuck my character to the floor until I brought up my PipBoy.

  3. Mattias42 says:

    I’m terribly sorry, but this article really made me laugh for all the wrong reasons.

    Playing iron-man style for added immersion and realism… but expect explosions to tickle.

    Haven’t played Fallout 4 myself yet, but frankly I think I prefer explosions being realistically bad news. Fallout: New Vegas in particular had a nasty tendency to have that entire weapon-class feel like blowing kisses at anything with the slightest bit of armor.

    The enemies always having an easy time interrupting your attacks while you can do near nothing to them is genuinely crap melee combat design, though. I frankly expected better of Bethesda after Skyrim.

    • Shamus says:

      “but expect explosions to tickle.”

      Don’t put words in my mouth. I very explicitly didn’t say that. I went out of my way to NOT say that at several points. And the whole time I was like, “Have I sugar-coated this enough? Is someone still going to feel the need to tell me how wrong I am for not enjoying this? How else can I possibly placate the reflexive gainsayers of the world?” I did what I could for you.

      “Haven’t played Fallout 4 myself yet, but frankly I think I prefer explosions being realistically bad news.”

      “Realistically”? Bethesda does a lot of stuff in their games. Some of it is great, some iffy, some terrible. But it would be madness to defend ANY of it in the name of “realism”.

      • Sam says:

        Don’t fret about it Shamus, it’s clearly understandable with the three times you iterate the thought process of understanding the true evils of explosives in FO4.

        Let alone they’re criticizing your approach to dealing with a problem that’s clearly caught you while on your guard without experiencing the unexpectedly huge effects the problem has created.

        Also, there are two Bottlecap Mines in the Drive-In. One is on the counter you talked about. The other is actually hidden deviously well. It’s attached to the side of the counter at foot level just as you open the door. Plus, Bottlecap Mines are, as far as I can tell, the most powerful mines in the game.

      • Pandabearparade says:

        Amusingly, a lot of our character deaths lined up exactly. I was killed twice at Starlight Drive-In, twice by the guy on the bridge overlooking Super-Duper Mart, once by the same guy with the Fat Man east of Sanctuary.

        Also once by a mole rat with a mini nuke strapped to his back.

        What I learned from all that was pretty much what you did, explosions hurt. Also that permadeath might not be a great idea in survival mode. So I took to wearing power armor around constantly. Explosions are much less of a concern now.

        Ever try lugging around power armor? You can find it without grabbing the free set in Concord.

        • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

          With the rules and build types he’s going for, it might be difficult. You can pick up pieces of power armor pretty frequently but empty power armor frames are harder to find. Good ones anyway. And some of the best ones involve really difficult fights that you wouldn’t want to risk on a permadeath run (like the X01 where you have to fight a Sentry Bot and an Assaultron at the same time). Though if he went into that one in one of the weaker sets of armor, it might work.

          The other thing is, I wonder how many settlements he’s managed to establish? If he avoids Preston Garvey, he won’t get any assignments for settlements until he meets the Railroad (unless that breaks his “no main plot” rule). Even then, can you invite a settlement to join your network if you don’t represent the Minutemen? So he’d just have Red Rocket and Sanctuary.

          You know, I might actually do a third playthrough now. I’m curious.

          • Chuk says:

            I found a whole suit of power armor just standing on top of a highway. (I think — might have been missing an arm or leg?) Also you can buy the frames from some vendors (for gross amounts of money).

    • Shamus says:

      THIS PARAGRAPH WAS FOR YOU:

      Note that I’m not really blaming Fallout 4 here. It’s not designed to be played with permadeath. Fallout 4 has a lot of glaring design flaws, but I don’t think it would be fair to list this as one of them. Having shit blowing up all over the place is obviously part of the design goal, and it’s more hilarious than frustrating when quickload is just a keypress away.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Realistic explosions arent that fatal.Especially from rocket launchers.They take out limbs if you are close to the bomb,yes,but most of the time its the shrapnel that gets the most casualties.So yes,in a game where you can easily shrug off sustained gunfire,you should be able to easily shrug off explosions.

      • Decius says:

        The problem is that you can withstand sustained gun/laser/plasma fire, but not lesser explosions.

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          I get all the objections to this making the game unfun, but basically since their invention, the majority of non-disease related casualties in war have been the result of high explosives (not, actually shrapnel -the reason the early years of WWI were so deadly is because the artillery doctrine of the armies used fragmentation rounds which just turned the landscape into a mess, but didn’t kill anyone who wasn’t caught in the open), not bullets (and in the future, presumably lasers), so I read this and thought “that makes a surprising amount of sense -frustrating, driving me up the wall sense, but sense all the same.” All the armor in the world doesn’t protect you from a shock wave from a high explosive shell -that is the point of the HE round. Even today, the basic IED that kills people in armored cars is just a really large explosive -it isn’t even a shaped charge. At close range the shock wave alone can break bones and cause head injuries to people inside an armored humvee.

          Now, the Power Armor probably should be better at protecting you (though see the humvee example above), and it seems like it would make sense for there to be levels of explosives -rockets should kill you more than grenades than mines.

          • Decius says:

            Sure, bullets don’t kill a lot of people in wars, compared to explosives. But I shouldn’t be able to rip multiple clips into someone’s face without doing significant damage.

            “Armored” humveess aren’t blast-tight; to prevent the occupants from suffocating there is a path for air/pressure waves to enter and exit. Power armor is presumably mostly airtight, and the air intake can more easily be fitted with a blast suppressor.

  4. PeteTimesSix says:

    Ah, yes, Lexington Billboard Guy. Everyone seems to have a story for that. The thing is… its not a missile launcher – its a Fat Man. And for added fun raiders seem to not be shy about using explosives in close quarters.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      I could swear the guy in Zimonja was also wielding a Fat Man in my playthrough (could this be randomized?). I remember after being nuked a few times I finally managed to sneak up enough so that I could close the distance when I was eventually spotted… only to find out that nukes at point blank are apparently a thing for these guys.

      • Da Mage says:

        This (like most things in the game) is most likely levelled. Since Shamus is skipping the first few quests where you gain 5-6 levels, he might be sneaking under the level requirement for them to get fatmans.

        Bethesda is Bethesda and they auto-level near everything. They hid it really well in Fallout 4, but if you restart multiple times and do the same content in different orders you’ll see how the levelling effects the content.

        Pro-tip: It’s actually really hard to get many suits of t51 power armor, since it only start appearing at level 14 (once you’ve ‘seen’ many of the easy to reach suits and level locked them) and will be replaced by t60 armor sometime around level 20, so you don’t see them in the late game locations.

        • YurikaGrant says:

          Yup, I’ve only actually seen one suit of T-51, and that was only two armour pieces in that garage shack thing over the west middle section of the map. After that, I got a full suit of T-60 from the National Guard Training Yard and never saw anything less from that point until I spied a couple of X-01 pieces in that toll booth dealie on the way out of the Fort (at which point I was level 35+).

        • evileeyore says:

          “Bethesda is Bethesda and they auto-level near everything. They hid it really well in Fallout 4, but if you restart multiple times and do the same content in different orders you’ll see how the levelling effects the content.”

          Even after they promised that most areas well only “range-band leveled”? So did they lie or are there areas that will always be low, mid, or high ranged levels?

          • YurikaGrant says:

            You’ll always have areas with high level mobs like Behemoths, Deathclaws, Sentry Bots, and so on, and higher level enemies with a skull next to their name appear randomly from what I’ve seen. But I’ve also seen people saying that once you enter an area the enemies in that area spawn to your level… and STAY THERE. So if you come back 20 levels later to an area you entered at level 3… yeah, those enemies will still be level 3 trash. Haven’t confirmed myself, but it seems like this from my own random returns to some areas.

          • GloatingSwine says:

            Fallout 4 still has level scaling, but the scaling has an upper and lower bound in each area. The area around Sanctuary, for example, will always spawn low level enemies even when you’re well into the 50s.

            The difficulty level you play on also affects the scaling bounds. Turn the difficulty up and you fight higher level stuff.

          • Incunabulum says:

            Oh, they lock the level to what you were when you first entered – within that range band. So if the lowest level in the band is 12 and you show up at level 8 everything will be at level 12 and stay that way forever. So you can come back later.

            Similar to how Skyrim did it when you entered one of the dungeons.

            BUT

            It stays at that level *forever* and you’re likely to spend a large part of the early game exploring rather than clearing dungeons, so you’ll be tagging locations (and locking in the mob levels) for a lot of content that you’re ‘not intended’ to be in yet.

            So if you run through a level 25 area at level 10, those areas will be locked to their lowest spawn limits – including the loot. Coming back a lot later and you’ll find that the loot is now at the minimum level for the area.

            The design actually *discourages* non-combat play. If you’re not going around killing things as you find them then you’re screwing yourself for late-game combat play.

            • Alex says:

              The smart thing to do would be to clear that variable once a “dungeon” is cleared. So if you sneak into Bunker Alpha at level 10, it will still be level 10 when you come back at level 20. But then once you kill all the level 10 mooks in Bunker Alpha, and somebody else moves in a week later, the replacements will be level 20.

              • Mephane says:

                The smart thing to do would be to not auto-scale and lock the levels at the same time. Either you auto-scale everything continuously (which can be done decently, btw, if the game only looks at combat-relevant skills and stats, and doesn’t level up enemies because you took a level in, say, fishing), or you lock enemies to a specific level, at design time.

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          Googled a little and apparently that guy is a named raider called “Boomer” and, if I understand the wiki correctly is always there, as is the Fat Man. So I assume Shamoose got nuked, rather than just plain old exploded, there too.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I was clearing a building of raiders, and had to deal with a legendary raider with a fat man in a narrow corridor, who obviously decided to use it as soon as he saw me. I found it equal parts hilarious and frustrating, but at least I’m not going for a permadeath run!

      None of the enemies seem to have any sense of self-preservation, just throwing explosives all over the place.

    • Will says:

      I was going to say, that guy definitely had a fat man when I fought him. Shamus talking about “the ‘incoming’ sound” seems to corroborate that: mini nukes make a very distinctive (and gut-clenching once you know what it is) whistling sound when launched, and they (obviously) do a huge amount of damage.

      I fought that raider with a sniper rifle from the nearby overpass. He never actually saw me or got a chance to use his doomsday weapon on my face. Given the propensity of enemies to engage in totally suicidal tactics (it doesn’t matter how often they die, because more will always spawn, but they only need to kill you once), I can see how meleeing a fat man-wielding adversary could get… tense, shall we say. I don’t think the problem in this case is the damage, which probably should be at the instakill level; it’s that fat men are not actually especially rare (I probably had a half-dozen stored up before I started selling them because there’s no reason to have more than one) and enemies will absolutely spam mini-nukes. (I’ve used exactly one, against a boss. Sure, I’ve collected another 50 or so that would definitely be fun to lob at particularly annoying enemies—but what if there are 50 more tough bosses that are most expediently defeated via shoulder-fired nuclear warheads? I would certainly not blast some random tresspasser until I was sure they were a serious threat.)

      Speaking of nukes, I died three or four times to the same deactivated legendary protectron, which kept going up in a giant explosion when it died. I was meleeing it to save ammo since it was deactivated, and the first time the explosion caught me by surprise; the second time, the blast radius (very wide) caught me by surprise; and the next time, the blast radius (very wide) caught me by surprise again. Eventually I just spent the ammo to kill it from across the building.

      • Shamus says:

        Yeah. Must be a fat man. I assumed it was a missle because:

        1) I obviously didn’t continue the game to see what everyone had.
        2) It can’t be a fat man, because that would be totally insane. I mean… right?

        • Andy says:

          Well, they want you to get the “Touchdown!” achievement…

          • LAOJoe says:

            I love that that achievement can be done in two ways. Either you catch the TD with a fat man to the face or you have a mutant suicider score on the ground by running into you.

        • SyrusRayne says:

          The worst thing about rocket launchers and Fat Mans (Fat Men?) is that the AI does not know how to use them. Run right up into their face – which seems like a decent way to handle an explosion-toting enemy, hm?- and they’ll just explode themselves along with you. It’s dumb.

  5. The Rocketeer says:

    Shamus, if the game lets you make a save right before the point where you can change your appearance but not your gender, and you already have a hard save at that point as a female, could you just play through the very beginning once more as a male and leave a male save at that same point? Or does it not work that way? Or or, is the opening so bad you don’t want to see it again even one more time, even for the sake of character variety?

    • Shamus says:

      I’m pretty sure this would work.

      I’m probably done with the game for now. (I expect to have a serious relapse once the mod tools hit.) But I plan to start over and play a dude when I go back to it.

      • Andy says:

        Console commands for if you just HAVE to play again:

        “Sexchange” – you’ll never guess what this does

        “Showlooksmenu player 1” – brings up the character editor. The camera is kinda screwy, though, so you’ll have to fiddle around some to see yourself.

        The sexchange can maybe mess with the story (since, your kid now has two dads) but you’re not doing it anyways…

  6. Alrenous says:

    There’s a design problem with mines, because they’re out-of-combat damage. If you don’t make them one-hit kills, it will never kill a conscientious player. It will be a stimpack tax. “Might there be mines? Okay, get to full health – now my body is a minesweeping tool.”
    It feels like making them have proper damage dropoff and a warning would work, but it doesn’t really, it even makes it worse. Either you get enough warning reliably, or you don’t….and, if remotely balanced, this will vary from player to player. Some will find it trivial to dodge every mine. Others will have to put up with being blapped now and again, as if Bethesda implemented blue-sky lightning bolts.

    If you do make them a one-hit kill, then every player has to put up with being randomly blapped now and again.

    • Syal says:

      I would argue that a stimpack tax is exactly what mines should be.

      • Izicata says:

        In New Vegas Hardcore mode, you couldn’t use stimpaks to heal limb damage. You had to use either Doctor’s Bags, which take up inventory weight and only heal 1 limb by about 90% or all limbs by about 20% at max medical skill, or Hydra, which will heal you up to 100% over time and is addictive. It’s a tax on a different resource than stimpaks, and it works well to make the player really not want to set off a mine because that resource is relatively scarce and has downsides.

        But Fallout 4 has no hardcore mode.

      • Shamus says:

        Setting aside the argument on explosives, this game REALLY needs a stimpack tax. Or less effective stimpacks. Or fewer stimpacks. Alrenous makes a good point: Non-lethal damage is trivial because health is so abundant.

        • Ringwraith says:

          Annoyingly, Survival (which also makes you take double damage and deal half) makes them less useful, as it cuts healing speed by a massive degree, meaning your best bet is stuffing yourself with as much food and a stimpack at the same time (so the restoration stacks) and desperately trying to not get hit.

        • Alrenous says:

          To solve the stimpack issue, Fallout would probably have to be completely redesigned. When I played Fallout 1, I recall ending up with something like 90-odd stimpacks. Over the course of a game, player skill can change stimpack usage by several orders of magnitude. A younger me could easily have run out of stimpacks and had to desperately scrounge for health. AAA titles have to cater to that entire skill range. A five-setting slider doesn’t exactly cut it.

          Consider the DOOM analogue: either you’re good enough to get through the level with the health available on the ground and you’ll do so basically every time, or you’re not and that level is DIAS. Fallout shares health pickups across the entire gameworld.

          Do you think they could get away with having to grind for bottlecaps to afford stimpacks?

          • Humanoid says:

            When I first played Fallout, I thought Stimpaks were drugs just like Mentats, Buffout, Jet, etcetera, so I never used a single one because I didn’t want to get addicted to Stimpaks.

            • Jarenth says:

              Same thing here. I think I’d actually like it if it was that way — put just a little bit of a sting on your endless supply of magic health needles.

              “I don’t need stimpacks. I don’t need stimpacks. I can quit any time I want, okay!”

          • Ambitious Sloth says:

            There’s a problem with supplying players with enough resources, when you’re trying to balance the game for all skill levels. You’d rather have more than enough supplies for players so they can get through the dungeon, and build up a little bit of stock on chems, and healing items.That in itself is not bad, but it does trivialize the the difficulty for better players as they build up a larger and larger back stock more quickly than some new to the game, or less skilled. Which can ruin the game for those better players because the spikes on both your interest curve and difficulty curve can be smoothed out -even completely flattened- by them thinking: “oh well I guess I’ll just use some of my extra 40 stimpacks and stop caring about this boss’ damage output.”

            And there’s no good fix for Fallout, which is a game about building up resources as you go from having nothing to having everything. Or, there’s at least not a solution that keeps the game as accessible to everyone as it is. Which is ultimately their goal, because they probably want as many people to buy the game so that they play it, and talk about it. Which in turn convinces more people to buy it.

            • Mephane says:

              Yeah, it’s an age-old problem: those in actual need of a stockpile of health potions are the least likely to ever acquire it. I’ve long since converted to the regenerating health camp: just let our health refill automatically out of combat, and design health potions as emergency healing during fights, then you can make them rare, something to use sparingly in times of desperate need, not just chugging one at every 2nd corner.

            • Alrenous says:

              Dragon Quest 1 solved it. Large, but finite health pool, and how good you are at the game determines how far you can venture out of town, which determines your hoarding efficiency. Everyone gets rich, the bad players merely get rich slower.

              Metroid has a different solution: have a second minigame which you can play to get advantages in the combat minigame. In Metroid, you can look around for more missiles and E-tanks instead of bashing your head against the boss, and return with overwhelming force. Maybe Fallout would have some dialogue-based quests that reward stimpacks.

              That said, DQ and Metroid have their own balance problems with prevent these systems from really shining.

              I might’ve tried for stimpacks as overhead. Not strictly necessary for small ventures, but consuming a decent chunk of the profits of a dungeon dive even with perfect play.

              The major problem is you really want stimpacks to be expensive for good players and cheap for bad players, which means rewarding the player when they screw up. Which is hardly impossible, but it’s tricky to discourage the good players from hacking the system by screwing up on purpose, without discouraging the bad players even more.

              I’d really like to try a market simulation. Let the bandits buy and use stimpacks. A good player scares the bandits into buying more, A) buffering difficulty a bit and B) increasing the price. However, large chunks of Fallout would have to be redesigned to take this into account.

              • Ambitious Sloth says:

                I really like how DQ1 did it. The other system I’ve seen that worked really well was Dark Souls, which puts a very hard limit on the number of healing items you can get but lets them replenish at certain checkpoints. But that wouldn’t work for Fallout because it would cut down on the freedom and exploration aspect.

        • Nidokoenig says:

          I made a mod for Fallout 3 where you could scrap robots, based on another guy’s butchery mod, and some things you could get were buff items that would do tremendous damage over time, but would make you incredibly deadly if you had the Cyborg perk. Basically it meant that you had shorter, deadlier fights if you were prepared to spend stimpaks.

          What about a way to spend them in settlements? Presumably you have villagers doing foraging and defence, make them better at it if you throw supplies at them, give the player a reason to give it up or try to cut down on personal use.

          • Ambitious Sloth says:

            That is actually a pretty good idea. Presumably your settlers go out of town to scavenge. Being able to drop extra guns/stimpacks/chems with the idea of increasing their scavenging efficiency would be a great edition to the game.

            • Nidokoenig says:

              I can’t really take credit, as it’s basically ripped from Monster Hunter 3U, where you can use resources from hunts to equip the fishery and farm. They’re separate from your own potions and rations, but use of those in battle is limited by your having to sheathe your weapon and wait out the drink/eat and flex animations.

        • Trix2000 says:

          For me, I started out using everything I had to heal aside from stimpacks, thinking they would be at least somewhat precious.

          When I hit ~100 of them, I stopped touching anything which gave rads. Figured it wasn’t worth it anymore.

          When I hit ~300 of them, I stopping actively looking for food or other sources of healing. I gotta use these damn things!

          I now have more than 500 stimpacks. I could probably start using them as currency by this point…

      • Alrenous says:

        I’d rather place fewer stimpacks, taking the tax off the top.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Like Syal above I’d say that I don’t mind mines being a stimpack tax. It’s still a price for being careless or caught off-guard and I guess on higher difficulties or, eventually, with rebalancing mods stimpacks can actually be a limited resource so it would be relevant. Plus I think that a mine explosion alerts enemies in the area (I generally don’t enjoy stealth builds in these games so someone might correct me) so if you’re skulking around it’s an extra risk. Also, I appreciate that the games have feats for making the mines not trigger for people who don’t like the trap mechanic (though they can come a bit late in the game in some cases).

    • YurikaGrant says:

      “as if Bethesda implemented blue-sky lightning bolts.”

      They actually did, lol. Tesla traps effectively count as blue lightning bolts from the sky (ceiling) :)

    • Loonyyy says:

      Yeah, they ought to be a stimpack tax though.

      Thing is, if it kills you, you just load, and then you know where they are (Unless you’re playing self imposed Iron Man).

      In New Vegas and 3, they also damaged your gear which was a big problem, but armour repair was fairly cheap.

      I think mines are meant to be an atmosphere thing. They keep you looking out, and create more emergent events in combat. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many areas where you get mines and enemies, or any reason to rush through a trapped area.

      What always bugged me about mines was some areas are really mine and trap heavy, which is cool, 3 did that a lot, and that worked well, but often there are long sections between traps, and you forget entirely about it. Sometimes it’s a game about being careful through traps. Sometimes it’s not. And you can pick up mines, but using them doesn’t usually really work. You don’t often get to mess with the field of battle before a fight.

  7. Scampi says:

    Sounds like a nice but very frustrating exercise. I don’t think I’d ever try this, so: Kudos to your willingness to submit yourself to this.
    I didn’t intend to play Fallout 4 anytime soon, but it’s still an interesting read.
    One little detail: Fallout 3 DID allow switching your gender when leaving the vault. I just checked it was subsumed under “Race/Sex”, which can be seen to exist HERE. ;)
    During character creation, you can switch from changing your race to your sex, using the button at the left.
    Edit: Wait: did you mean to only refer to Fallout 4 here and mistyped it? Seems like it. In that case: Sorry for unjustified nitpicking.

  8. DGM says:

    @Shamus

    So Zoe basically died because of an invisible wall in her way? Why didn’t you reload? Sounds like it would have been fair under your rules.

  9. Ledel says:

    I’ve reached a point in the game where I’m almost fused to my power armor and wear it everywhere. Explosions, guns, melee weapons, none of these pose anything close to a threat to me. Yet my worst enemy are fully automatic laser weapons. I have an energy defense near 1000, but I’ve had a pair of laser turrets take me from full health to dead in less than 3 seconds. It’s reached the point where I’m certain it’s a glitch in the system seeing as I can sit around having 4-5 raiders shooting/punching/grenading me for almost a full minute and barely feel any damage.

    Has anyone else encountered this problem?

    • GloatingSwine says:

      I’ve seen it sometimes, but other times laser weapons just tickle as well. In player hands laser weapons are a bit worse at the moment because currently the Rifleman perk doesn’t apply its armour penetration to them (it’s probably supposed to).

      Armour penetration is actually really useful in this due to how the armour system works (it’s based on the ratio of the damage number to the armour number, which also means that single shot weapons are far better than automatics, much more so than the simple numerical difference implies, and also makes stealth builds with their high multipliers even more powerful).

      Stealth Rifleman all the way for maximum brokenness.

      What will really end you though no matter how high you stack defence is poison. High level bloodbugs or stingwings will rip through your health almost as fast as a real Cazador no matter how much armour you have, because the poison effect ignores it.

      • krellen says:

        Automatic weapons being easily thwarted by armour is a thing that’s been part of Fallout since the beginning. In the original Fallout (drink!), I remember being deathly afraid of miniguns, which would rip you to shreds, until getting the Power Armour, at which point miniguns became either completely powerless (as the bullets bounced off) or just as deadly (if they got the “bypass armour” crit).

        • AileTheAlien says:

          Burst weapons in F1/F2 were still pretty broken, but only if you had enough skill, or were close enough, to get all the bullets to hit. Since armor reduction was applied to the total damage, and not to the damage of each bullet, you could rip through armored enemies with JHP ammo…which should just go “splat splat splat” on their armor. :S

          • GloatingSwine says:

            Or, as was far more common Ian would rip through you thanks to his penchant for submachine guns and his disdain for aiming.

          • ehlijen says:

            The way armour and penetration worked in FO1 and 2 was broken.

            AP ammo had modifiers to reduce the armour’s to hit penalty and its damage resistance, but not its damage reduction, but did less base damage.

            So AP ammo would hit easier, get the same set number deducted by the armour’s reduction as JHP ammo, and have the remainder reduced by a higher percentage (damage resistance was DAM*X%).

            Meanwhile JHP did higher base damage but had less to hit% and was multiplied by a lower percentage in the last step. But against any armour with decent reduction, it would still do more damage.

            X*75% was less than 2X*50%
            (hitting was often trivial because you’d pump your skill anyway)

            Autofire was broken because you only made to hit rolls against the primary target. Anything else in the spray zone was simply hit for a random number of bullets. (This was also true in FO: tactics, and made clearing minefields a breeze with any auto shotgun.)

    • Andy says:

      Yes. I’ve had turrets drop me in the time it takes to realize I’m being shot, while nothing else so much as tickles me.

      I feel (unjustifiably, perhaps) that sometimes they generate as covert Legendaries, with invisible prefixes. I swear I’ve seen turrets that set people on fire, etc. If one, say, had the Wounding prefix, it’d wreck you pretty quickly. (The wound effect stacks, so a rapidfire weapon with it is just, uh, brokenly effective. I’ve been mown down by what I KNOW was a legendary with a Wounding Minigun. Feels a lot the same.)

  10. poiumty says:

    What difficulty was this all on, Shamus?

    I find it strange and amusing that you do permadeath runs in fallout 4 yet can’t stand Dark Souls. But anyway.

    Fallout 4 needs a great mess of an overhaul with regards to its gameplay balance – in that it’s not balanced at all. Scarcity of resources is probably one of the most important things for developers to get right… except for Bethesda, who seems to think just *giving you everything* with minimal effort is actually better on your gameplay experience. Even more hillarious is that difficulty settings are just straight up damage modifiers on you and the enemies.

    I finished all I want to do on one character, and I’m not playing Fallout 4 again until someone makes a super-balanced mod that is both interesting and stable. For all the hours of content it has, Fo4 is pretty lame on the replayability front.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      To be fair, Dark Souls is a very different experience. I’ve got as far as getting the Lordvessel and found it an incredibly frustrating experience because it requires certain player skills and is quite happy to kill you quite quickly.

      Fallout 4 generally is extremely forgiving, other than certain boss encounters or explosive damage.

      Totally agree on the replayability, which is why a permadeath playthrough would drive me insane!

      • Bitterpark says:

        So you beat Ornstein and Smough and got the Lordvessel, and AFTER THAT got frustrated and quit? Interesting.
        I always felt O&S were the peak of skill-based challenge in DS1, and everything after them just went downhill in that regard. So it’s weird that you quit then.

        Everything after that point isn’t really to do with skill, just random gimmicks trying to spice things up. Like Lost Izalith, where the “skill” is learning the perfect path through the boss’ instakill bullshit so you can reach the thing and kill it in one hit. Man, fuck Lost Izalith…

        Anyway, my point is: if you had the skills to beat O&S and get the lordvessel, you should be more than fine for the rest of the game. Personally, my first time around I quit after killing BoC and Nito, because the game just got stale.

        • Andy_Panthro says:

          Actually I had plenty of fun with the normal enemies, and found it increasingly difficulty to beat the bosses. Thankfully on a few occasions I could call in help/summons. After getting the Lordvessel, there just weren’t any people around. (on Steam, I think the peak amount of players was somewhere around 5,000 at any given time, with the majority seemingly on the earlier areas).

          I also had spent quite a lot of time trying to become a “tank” type of character, but that build is not very good for most of the bosses, where you really need to be able to move and roll quickly.

          • Bitterpark says:

            That makes sense. Maybe people like me just check out after O&S, or maybe the latter bosses don’t really warrant sitting around trying to get summoned in the minds of most players. It is pretty tedious to pop down a summon sign only to sit around for half an hour, not knowing if anyone else is even playing in this area.

            There should be some NPC summons around though.

            And yeah, tanking hits sucks, no matter how much armor you stack, it will never be as good as a 100% block or 100% dodge. I think PvE tanking is mostly done with a big, solid shield with high stability. I usually play dodge characters, but I found that a +10 Balder Shield can tank almost all physical boss attacks without stagger.

          • Alrenous says:

            I mildly suggest a tower shield.

            One can easily spend more time getting to bosses than practicing on them, which I find pretty frustrating. The bosses are easy after the practice, though. I have a tank character most of the way through NG+. 78/80 encumbrance, or so. I explicitly tried it for the challenge, but it turns out it’s not challenging. I expected to have to take off my armour for at least one boss.

            I started a no wolf ring / no havel’s ring / no zweihander run, but that wasn’t hard either so I lost interest. The right way to kill bosses is so easy it feels like cheese, except for O&S. Some bosses also have actual cheese.

          • Sam says:

            Combine the Havel’s Armor Set, Havel’s Ring, Lightning Zweihander two-handed, Grass Crest Shield, Father’s Mask, Havel’s Ring, and a few other rings for seasoning. You now have the Giantdad build. Chaos can be substituted for Lightning and Giant’s Armor Set can be substituted for Havel’s Armor Set if you prefer. This is the highest defense and poise with an incredibly powerful weapon buffed for Armor Piercing or Physical Damage paired with increased stamina regen and improved Encumbrance Limit. At worst you’ll probably have a mid roll instead of a full fat roll.

            Minimum 16 Strength to two-hand the Zweihander. Stack that Endurance for more stamina and Encumbrance Limit. Increase Dexterity just a touch.

        • Kalil says:

          My current playthrough of DS, I beat O&S on my first attempt, then beat my head against four kings for ten or so tries.

    • Lame Duck says:

      “I find it strange and amusing that you do permadeath runs in fallout 4 yet can’t stand Dark Souls. But anyway.”

      If I correctly understand Shamus’ problem with punishment in games, I believe the distinction is that the permadeath runs in Fallout come after he’s spent substantial time on normal runs and has learned and understood the systems (for the most part). Whereas the Souls series shackles you with severe punishments for failure right from the get go, before you’ve got any kind of handle on how things work, which seriously interferes with your ability to actually learn why you are failing. And Shamus gets sick of it and quits before he breaks through that brick wall of a learning curve.

      • Shamus says:

        This exactly.

        I’ve done permadeath for Quake, Half-Life 2, and Skyrim with survival mods. I always play Minecraft with permadeath.

        But ONLY once I’m familiar with / bored of the base game. :)

      • GloatingSwine says:

        There are relatively few real punishment in Souls games, once you stop being very attached to your souls because you realise how easy it is to bash in some easy enemies to get them back, and that the soul items are liberally scattered around the early game (much more so than later on) so that they’re always giving you souls you can’t lose because they’re an item and you keep them when you die, and it’s usually easy to just run past enemies you don’t want to bother dealing with.

        All that and the fact that upgrading weapons is a massively better way to get power than levelling up, is cheap, and the game doesn’t ever take those weapons away from you (and repairing them is cheap).

        When everyone starts out in a Souls game they start out thinking “holy shit, holding on to my souls is super important because they disappear if I don’t get back to them when I die and that’s what I need to level up, and I need to level up to beat these super hard bosses!

        But levelling up is actually a really quite slight benefit until you get late into the game, and when you do get far enough in (and have a weapon upgraded enough that stat scaling starts to make a noticable difference) souls are really easy to get because enemies are dropping so many.

        The only “punishment” really in a Souls game is if you use up a weapon buff resin and lose, but even then you can just buy them.

        At some point when you’re playing that mental switch flips and you just don’t care about the loss of souls on death any more, you’ll get some more soon enough. Then there’s no penalty for dying at all.

        You might say “I’m losing time getting back to where I died”, but every time you repeat a section you get better at the game, to the point that eventually you’ll breeze through not only it, but other sections where those skills apply, because eventually you git gud.

        • Shamus says:

          The punishment for me is that I’m trying to learn to fight X, and now I’ve been killed and must fight a, b, and c for twenty minutes before I can have another crack at X. The punishment is time. I want to do this thing NOW, while my fingers remember what I did last time. Twenty minutes later, I’ll probably just make the same stupid mistake again and lose another twenty minutes.

          I anticipate your next argument will be: “There are shortcuts you can learn!” And then I’ll reply with the fact that people usually don’t learn them until after they’ve mastered the game and don’t need them as much.

          Then you’ll point out that I don’t actually HAVE to fight every damn skeleton between the campfire and the boss.

          And then we can have an argument about the risks and hassles of doing that.

          Or maybe you wouldn’t say those things. I’m just guessing because that’s how the discussion went the last dozen or so times I when moderated / participated. :)

          • GloatingSwine says:

            Shortcuts in Dark Souls aren’t something you learn by being good at the game, they’re something you find by exploring the game world, which is one of the primary engagements it seeks to offer. You find them by thinking “I wonder what’s down this other passage?”.

            And yes, you can run and dodge past a large majority of the enemies in the game, which also lets you practice dodging and avoiding attacks which again applies to more than just that one situation.

            Very little in Souls is learning a skill that only works there and then, it’s almost always learning things that have wide applicability to the rest of the game.

            • Ringwraith says:

              There are a bunch of bonfires near bosses.
              There are also a bunch of bonfires that are really far away for no real reason (Bed of Chaos deserves a special mention).
              II tried to mitigate this by if you killed any particular enemy twelve (!) times they wouldn’t come back, but that didn’t quite work either.

              Although the ones with short walks to the nearest boss and a few enemies in your path do lend it a nice element where provided you can keep getting to the boss, and recovering your lost souls, you’re slowly amassing a pile of them for when you succeed. If you want to bug out early with those souls, there are ways of doing so, but they’re not without risk or cost.

              • Cybron says:

                I did the entire bed of chaos area without finding the hidden bonfire outside the little temple thing. It was miserable.

                I don’t think it would have been that much better if I’d actually found it though. That was just an awful boss.

            • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

              I can’t speak for Shamus but I think I’d find it more worth it if the exploration wasn’t set in the decaying Grimdark of Hell Murder World, where the shambling pile of skulls held together by maggots is the prettiest thing you’re going to see for the next 40 hours and everyone is dead including you.

              So it may be brutal and punishing but at least it makes up for that by being hopeless and miserable.

          • Alrenous says:

            Running past most enemies is trivial. The only real risk is getting stuck, as you’ll be instantly swarmed in most cases. Staying unstuck is not hard.

            However, all the runs are long enough that I mentally check out by the time I get back to the boss, even if I dodge all the enemies. All the runs are long enough that I can easily spend more time running back than practicing on the boss. You know what’s super fun? Getting killed by the boss in less time than it took to get through the fog gate. Even better: spending nearly a minute waiting for the boss to do something, and THEN having the actual fight take less time than getting through the fog gate.

            (I have multiple characters in NG+, one in NG+2.)

            When I beat a boss I frequently want to go back and fight it again to try something else. I’m very Dwarf Fortress: losing is fun. But no way in hell am I going to deliberately lose and have to make that run again.

        • Lame Duck says:

          “You might say “I’m losing time getting back to where I died”, but every time you repeat a section you get better at the game, to the point that eventually you’ll breeze through not only it, but other sections where those skills apply, because eventually you git gud.”

          If you’re getting repeatedly killed at a difficult spot – a boss fight, for example – wading through a bunch of trash mobs really isn’t going to teach you the timings on that boss’ attacks. Back in the day, we used to call this kind of thing “shitty checkpointing”.

          • GloatingSwine says:

            But then even killing trash mobs lets you practice skills that are useful against tougher enemies, like parry timings or getting backstabs, which are useful against a much wider variety of enemies.

            A lot of the learning you have to do in a Souls game isn’t learning particular bosses moves, it’s learning your own. Learning the scope of your own weapon animation set, where you’re vulnerable and how to use it safely is more of the job than learning specific boss moves, where your own parry window is because that’s a function of your character not the enemy, etc.

            Also, the delay on a runback lets your adrenaline subside a little. In games where you can repeat a difficult task immediately you’ll often find that after a good attempt you’re all but guaranteed that the next one will be trash, because you’re washed out with adrenaline and nothing now to do with it because the intensity hasn’t gotten back up to the point you failed at.

            • Shamus says:

              “Also, the delay on a runback lets your adrenaline subside a little.”

              That is probably true for a lot of people, but certainly not for me.

              That runback is the CAUSE of the adrenaline, and it’s a massive, controller-smashing son of a bitch of a dose. The frustration isn’t from the failure, it’s from not being allowed to continue practicing. For me, a delay between attempts is purgatory. I’ll keep making the same mistakes and get a bigger doze of adrenaline every time.

              There’s probably a lot we can learn about frustration if we were to study stuff like this. Some people talk about the “thrill” of beating a hard boss after many tries. I simply do not get that thrill. For them, the bigger the hill, the bigger the dose of dopamine they get when they overcome it.

              For me, I just get more and more miserable while playing. When I finally beat it, I don’t get dopamine, I simply stop being miserable.

              (Breathe out slowly.) “I’m never doing THAT bullshit again!”

              I know lots of people describe this same response, usually word-for-word. I think Rutskarn is one of them. It’s a fundamentally different physiological response not to just the frustration, but in deciding what parts of the experience are frustrating.

              For me the dopamine doses are more in the moment-to-moment stuff. I’ve said before that Batman is basically Dark Souls without the punishment. If you’re good enough, you can get through the game without taking a single hit. It’s about timing, recognizing patterns, and choosing the right tool for the job. The difference is that DS will only let you make a couple of mistakes on a run, while Batman can make a half dozen per encounter.

              For me the “fun” isn’t the moment when I finally stomp that one boss that’s been giving me so much trouble, it’s in the regular grind of pacifying mooks with a greater and greater degree of perfection. I don’t play to beat the boss. I play to be “in the zone”.

              • Bitterpark says:

                I used to feel just like you, but at some point in my life my attitude switched to the “normal” one, in regards to most games. Except certain genres I don’t like, like platformers. Getting through tough platforming challenges still feels like riding through pain, rather than building up to pleasure.

                Thus, I suspect this attitude might have more to do with your own perception: feeling outside your comfort zone, innately believing you’re not up to the task, seeing a greater challenge than the one that’s objectively presented. Those platforming challenges probably aren’t really that tough, and most of them will take me less time than beating a dark souls boss will, but it feels longer and more tiresome and stressful, because the whole time I feel like I’m doing something I’m somehow not cut out to do.

                Or something, I dunno.

                • Deda says:

                  Well, you may have a point there, when I play a game of a genre I don’t enjoy like a shooter or a wester rpg I always prefer it to be as easy as possible. But that’s only because I don’t really enjoy learning the systems of those games in the first place, and in that case, I would rather not play them at all, so I don’t know if making games easier for people that do not like them makes much sense.

                  I guess the real problem comes when you have segments of different genres in the same game (wich happens a lot in modern games), I wonder if it would be a good idea to have different difficulty settings for every type of challenge.

              • Deda says:

                “it’s in the regular grind of pacifying mooks with a greater and greater degree of perfection”

                Well, that’s exactly what you do in dark souls when you repeat the section before a boss multiple times, it’s really satisfying when there is a section that at the start can take you 10 minutes and you are just barely able to get through alive, and after doing it a few times it only takes a few seconds and you can do it with your eyes closed, it makes the “punishment” not feel like a punishment at all. That’s the point of having difficulty in games, it doesn’t matter how deep the gameplay is, if the game is too easy there’s no reason for the player to actually discover it, that’s why you need to give the player an incentive to do it as well as they can, and being able to do something faster or beating a boss that you could not beat at all if you don’t are much better incentives that just getting a better score.

                Also I’m not sure if the batman games are really the same as dark souls, there seems to be too much contextual stuff in those games and the combat is a bit too QTEy for my tastes.

                • Loonyyy says:

                  Except you don’t.

                  What happens is you get worn down by a bunch of relatively trivial foes and die before the fire. You try again, and you get a bit further. You try again, get less far. You try again, something new and horrible happens. You try again. Again and again. You don’t get the feel of optimizing your mook pacification, because you’re not in that zone. You’re in the zone of trying to push through, and it’s all just repeating the leadup.

                  The most frustrating thing about Dark Souls is getting back to the bosses. It’s incredibly annoying. Yeah, you can dodge enemies, you can run, you can smash their heads in. Just to get your 30 seconds with the boss, die, and do it again.

                  Moonlight Butterfly was a nuisance here, fortunately not a very hard boss. The Gargoyles were annoying, especially as I was fairly low level, so the enemies in the church were a pain to get through without a hit. Sif is a nightmare, because you’re heading past the forest, your best bet is to strip and sprint. It’s like 2-3 minutes work, then you get crushed.

                  It’s the time in between the skill you’re trying to master. Games like Arkham give you many, many chances to get those skills right. You miss a counter, another blow’s coming in. And getting hit matters fairly little. Dark Souls does not do this. It strings it’s campfires apart. It is a marathon. And getting hit can be the end of the fight, and the start of your next attempt.

                  It’s the distance between the effects that’s the problem here. Arkham gives you many attempts at a low risk problem in a fight. Dark Souls gives you few attempts at a high risk problem.

                  I like it, personally, but it’s not for everyone. Don’t get evangelical about it, it’s really frustrating.

              • Shrugs McGrugs says:

                I don’t mean to jump on you here Shamus, but I’m not following.
                His point is that practicing on the mobs is practicing every skill you need to beat the boss, and your point is that you want to practice for the boss and that you enjoy grinding mobs but grinding mobs is also controller smashing purgatory, because prevents you from practicing for the boss?

                • Shamus says:

                  The “mobs are practice for the boss” is SORT OF true. I mean, playing one song on the piano is technically “every skill you need to play a song”, since all songs are about pressing the right keys at the right times, but learning one song on the piano doesn’t instantly make you able to play ALL songs. But there’s lots about an individual boss that can only be learned by fighting it. The timing is a bit different. The tells are a little different. There’s often unique terrain. It’s not nearly as simple as “fight 100 skellies, ace the boss”.

                  And even if it was, I was in the middle of fighting the boss. Getting yanked away and made to do something else is still rage time, even if that thing is technically “good for me” in some condescending game-designer-knows-best kind of way.

                • Syal says:

                  To beat the boss, you need to know the boss’s pattern and what makes them unique; if that wasn’t the case, the only challenging boss in the game would be the first one. So you have to practice against the boss, and the more time you spend wading through mooks to get back to him, the less about him you’ll remember when you do, and the longer it will take to make progress.

                  But on my end, the problem is that they put in enough post-boss catharsis to justify x amount of time, and then you spend 30x amount of time to kill it.

              • Jokerman says:

                I seem to get a bit of both… after dying a bunch of times, I always finish a really hard fight saying “What a piece of shit, I’m not doing this ever again” yet still feel achievement after beating it. Weirdly, the games i feel frustrated with at the time seem to end up being my favorites when all is said and done.

                I suppose it depends on how much i enjoy the core game, if i am just about enjoying it, feeling it’s just about good enough to keep going… then the first sign of challenge or punishment will push me over the edge and ill stop. If i really like it, i can push through a lot more annoying bullshit, even if it feels unfair.

              • Harold says:

                When it comes to video games, I don’t really get frustrated. I just stop because I don’t really feel like slogging through a large stretch for the 50th time. I wouldn’t really describe it as misery, more like boredom.
                With VVVVVV. I never got frustrated, even with ‘Veni Vidi Vici’, I just repeated it over and over, but I don’t really remember if I got a dopamine rush when I achieved it or not.
                If there wasn’t a checkpoint right at the beginning of the challenge, I probably would have given up much sooner.

              • Chris says:

                I normally have a very low frustration threshold for game difficulty. As my reflexes creep into old man territory, I find myself knocking difficulties down a notch or two. DIAS stuff drives me around the bend. And yet, Dark Souls has sunk its claws into me to the marrow. When most other games would have me throwing the controller on death 3 or 4, I can sink 15 deaths into the same encounter in DS and just roll with it. I don’t know what’s so different about it. I enjoy DS2 quite a bit, but I don’t have the same patience for it that I do for its predecessor. I really would love to know what it is about Dark Souls that is so unique and, to my mind, perfect.

  11. Bropocalypse says:

    I played New Vegas with permadeath and a mod that makes weapon damage realistic(even the low-level pistols are dangerous at higher levels) while I also did permadeath runs. My experience in these games has always been as a stealth-sniper, so the game actually became much like this: Vast swaths of ridiculously easy portions interrupted by surprising and unpleasant deaths. For example, my head being exploded by a legionnaire’s javelin.
    After about seven goes at this(never getting much farther than the solar plant) I decided instead to play on vanilla Very Hard mode with energy weapons. As it turns out, while energy weapons are not great compared to regular guns, the higher-end ones get better at high difficulties because of their inherent damage reduction bypass. Even on Very Hard I was able to take Deathclaws out in two headshots with the gauss rifle. The game was more fun.

  12. Andy_Panthro says:

    Some of the issues you’re finding here I would argue are exactly the sort of problems that Skyrim already has. (I played Skyrim earlier in the year, with only a few minor mods, mostly cosmetic).

    I certainly found that my Skyrim character was a walking tank 95% of the time, until I met a high level or boss enemy, and then (and only then) was I at risk. Despite being able to shrug off most damage, high level magic using boss enemies in particular were obnoxious. Even when chugging down a few different magic/element resistance potions there were two fights I had to abandon because I’d get killed in 1-2 hits.

    Traps were also an issue if you had a companion, since they were incapable of not triggering them (almost as if the game was designed without companions, and then they were added in at the last minute). Thankfully they weren’t the insta-kills that mines can be in early Fallout 4.

    I can’t even imagine how you’re restarting the game each time either, since I haven’t found any situations yet which I would approach in a different manner. Perhaps when I get around to continuing the main quest that will happen, but at the moment any time I have to reload and replay a section I despair that I’ll be just replaying the section in almost exactly the same way (shoot dozens of guys and loot everything), just avoiding death this time.

    • YurikaGrant says:

      This is where New Vegas really shines (and everywhere else, it’s my favourite game for good reason, but I digress…), because more or less every single quest has multiple ways to complete it using a variety of skill checks or bypasses or alternate routes, you can roleplay various characters with various builds and generally find ‘some’ way to complete a quest using some skill or other you’ve decided to focus on.

      Compare and contrast to The Bethesda Way, where you… shoot something in the face. Then do it again. And again. Until you complete the quest by killing some boss type enemy by… shooting it in the face.

      Fallout 3 at least had some minor options in some quests (especially certain ones like Moriarty where there are a good few ways to get the info you need, it’s like they started with good intentions then just got bored). Fallout 4, alas, has very little variety like that, except for one or two neat sections like using Dogmeat to track a scent. Bethesda knows their audience, I guess, they just want to loot and shoot, not think too much :(

      • GloatingSwine says:

        I think people underestimate just how different New Vegas is from Fallout 3.

        Bethesda’s approach to game design is to build a play space and pack it with stuff for the player to find. They’re great at the little vignettes built out of environmental storytelling underpinned with small amounts of expository narrative (usually in terminals or audiologs).

        When people say that New Vegas hasn’t got as interesting a world they often mean that it’s not as interesting to explore, because it doesn’t have those little vignettes as reward for exploration that Bethesda make. New Vegas’ gameworld was designed specifically for the story of New Vegas to happen in it, it wasn’t designed for the player to just wander in search of stuff. Far more of the map area is involved in the story and far more of the map area is allowed to just have nothing in (also this conveys the fact that you are in a desert). It also has less but larger locations, places like Helios One can have a large amout of realestate devoted to them without having to have three other sites right next door.

        If you approach it with the mentality of a Bethesda openworld stuff hunting game then you’re not going to think it’s so good, because the world wasn’t designed to work like that. (That’s also why I think the common quip that a Fallout game where Bethesda designed the world and Obsidian wrote the story is actually a recipe for disaster, because Obsidian couldn’t properly leverage the world in the story if the world has to be chock full of irrelevant Bethesda vignettes as well, because the density of stuff in the world restricts the amount of it left available to use for story significant locations, and makes those locations blend into each other far more than they do when they’re seperated by stretches of more open ground, and Bethesda couldn’t pack the world with interesting vignettes if it also has to support a real story)

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Im not sure if this is true,but in my experience upping the difficulty also increases the ai smarts along with their health and damage.So maybe you shouldve increased the difficulty,since the one thing that is killing you is already overpowered.

  14. McGurker says:

    Hey Samus!

    Sorry if this is uncouth, I saw this:
    http://www.valvesoftware.com/publications/2010/GDC10_ShaderTechniquesL4D2.pdf

    Which is a valve power point on their graphical innovation in L4D2 (getting more mileage out of the same zombie models) and I was wondering if you’d seen it. It’s pretty dense, so I thought it could be a neat presentation for you to “unpack” in one of your great layman-level explanations.

    I didn’t know where to post this, like a ‘general information’ spot, so here we are. Hope that’s ok!

  15. Abnaxis says:

    The thing that drives me nuts about the explosives, is how the bandits freaking snipe with grenades.

    Seriously, they have better range with those damn things than I do with a hunting rifle. And they throw them constantly

    Oh, and they even do it to you point blank, secure in the knowledge that A: you will die from massive damage, and B: they will not die, because apparently explosives are only dangerous to the player character, while only doing incidental damage to enemies (a fact I learned after I decided “turnabout is fairly play,” and tried to blow stuff up in retaliation, only for the game to reply ,”no, it really isn’t”).

    I hate explosives in this game so much

    • acronix says:

      At least enemies with Fat-Men and Misile Launchers have actually finite ammo. But a raider with a grenade? He will NEVER RUN OUT OF GRENADES. It’s very annoying and eventually kind of forces you to either stockpile on explosives yourself or go around in Power Armor.

      Though I’ve found that armor-piercing weapons are crazy effective against everything.

  16. Chip says:

    I hate to be that guy, but as a Massachusetts native it’s bugging me. The name of the town is Concord, not Conchord.

  17. Can’t help wondering if the extra explosive damage is just a bug that didn’t get caught because it wouldn’t necessarily be immediately obvious? Either way, eep. Guess tcai and tgm’ll be my Wasteland-wandering buddies again (cheats to turn off combat ai and turn on god mode).

    Be a nice world-building touch if you were able to sneak up on some raiders with Fat Men talking about how they have no idea what these damn things do, or talking about how good they must be to get the extra-powerful rocket or something. Just a hint of “Yup, these guys have no idea they’re using nuclear devices that’ll kill them too.” I expect mooks to be suicidally overconfident, but just that little bit of hand-wave would go a long way.

    • Grampy_bone says:

      I believe they made explosives so powerful so that grenades would be effective for any character build. Even late in the game you can clear out a room of bad guys with just a couple frag grenades and zero Explosive perks. The downside is grenades are effective against you as well.

      • Humanoid says:

        How does pants mining work in Fallout 4? I know in New Vegas it was somewhat harder to pull off without getting caught in the explosion (does Long Fuse Dynamite help?) and that Reginald Cuftbert kept crippling his own limbs during assassinations, is that an even bigger problem here?

  18. Somniorum says:

    You might already know about this… and, erm, I might be partly incorrect about how effective this is… but some traps can be detected in VATS. Stuff like the bottlecap mines they often use in traps (and probably just regular mines on the floor), I *believe* you can spot if you just pull up VATS – no enemies around, it’ll just automatically detect it.

    At the very least, I’ve seen that work for certain once (I forget if I’ve tried it other times or not). The mine that killed your Zoe, I accidentally spotted using VATS. I was creeping towards the main building carefully, expecting it to be defended by raiders or something. I was still on a slight hill close to the drive-in, and pressed the VATS key for some reason (might’ve been an accident, as I never use VATS), and it automatically targeted the mine and saved me from a likely death. I crawled through that place *very* carefully now that I knew it had traps.

    Anyway, if you didn’t already know this, you might find it useful. Certainly won’t help with rockets!

    • Mintskittle says:

      Yes, VATS can be used to spot active mines, and is a big part of how I play FO4, tapping the VATS button every few seconds, since my FPS skills aren’t all that great. It’s also great for spotting Ghouls that are playing possum, letting you pop ’em before they get up.

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        Yeah, that’s very good advice. Although there will be plenty of times you’ll forget.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Ghouls are such bullshit in this game. But Molerats are perhaps even worse. They’re both disgusting, they’re unsatisfying to fight, and while they’re pretty easy to beat they’re cheap because they can pop out of the ground or the walls without warning and in enough numbers and they cheat sprint blatantly.

        I always had the goal of trying to take down monsters before they could get in swinging range and molerats and ghouls make that impossible when there’s no other type of monster I have a greater desire to never be touched by (well, radroaches, but I have a mod that replaces them with cats. I really really hate that radroaches are a staple of Fallout, I don’t care how much sense they make.)

        The way they spawn takes a lot of the strategy out of it.

        Contrast the Super Mutant Suiciders. If you fail to catch them in time, you will die, but once you get the hang of them, finding them and shooting their nuke at the right time can help you end a fight quickly (something this game needed more of). Or you can take them down conventionally in which case you get to keep their mininuke. They needed more foes in the game like this where there was some angle and you could figure out based on circumstances whether now was a good time to exploit it. It would have added some nice basic tactical depth to the game.

        • Somniorum says:

          I get the impression that the disgustingness of them is a large factor in your dislike of these creatures (along with the way they kinda ninja all over the place), but I’m personally much less fond of radscorpions. At least most ghouls and molerats die quickly – radscorpions take a lot of damage, and do the same tunneling as the molerats do… and they’re relentless. Sometimes in ridiculous ways. One of the first radscorpions I encountered, I wasn’t in a state to fight it, so I ran, hopped into a large river, and swam to the other side. Moments later, it unearthed near me.

          The game really expects me to believe that the radscorpion not only tunneled underground like bugs bunny, but actually tunneled UNDERNEATH THIS VERY LARGE RIVER and followed me the whole way??

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            Yes. A disgustingness is a big factor in that. I know its a wasteland and I know that means radiation and mutants and nasty stuff. There’s a reason I didn’t give the Fallout series a try until New Vegas and even then it took Spoiler Warning doing a season of it and giving me a glimpse of how much humor and personality it had.

            I know. I’m not really cut out to be a Fallout fan.

            I’ve used the radroach replacer in every game. If there was ever a mod to make ghouls look less ugly I’d get that too. Alas there are not. Actually there are mods for each game that make the ghouls more detailed and uglier. For Fallout 4 I’ve actually seen a nude mod for female ghouls. I will never fully heal.

            • Humanoid says:

              Yeah, I’m very squeamish and every Fallout, including the 2D ones, have been a bit over my limit – but they’re good enough for me to just grin and bear it. Same with VtM: Bloodlines which is probably the only nominal ‘horror’ game I’ve ever played through.

              Actually I think the original Fallouts games have the violence setting which makes most deaths just people falling over in a pool of blood, but the setting doesn’t work for all situations: during scripted scenes it will still use the default, maximum gore animations. And of course it did nothing for generally unpleasant sights like Harold or the Master. Oddly enough though I don’t mind the radroaches, ghouls and molerats are much much worse for me.

              Skyrim level violence is about my level, running people through is fine and dismemberments were rare. Draugr seem less monstrous than ghouls, and spiders, while borderline, were tolerable. (I find the bigger they are, the less disgusting, so all the giant spiders worked in my favour)

              P.S. There’s probably a corresponding mod that replaces the naked ghouls with regular naked women, right?

        • Ayegill says:

          I love fighting suiciders, my only problem with them is that they make the old “fast travel into the middle of enemies” issue about a million times worse.

        • YurikaGrant says:

          Things like this also reduce roleplaying potential even further than Bethesda already have because if you wanted to do something like a YOLO run (permadeath, yes, but also never healing health or radiation) you’ll be pretty well screwed pretty damn quickly thanks to things like scorpions being able to hammer you by coming out of the ground under you.

          It’s like they put additional thought into how they could possibly reduce ALL potential roleplay options. Suppose that makes sense going by their general philosophy now.

          • Metal C0Mmander says:

            I think they thought more how they could make all the creatures of the wasteland use semi intelligent tactics to kill you instead of just bumrushing you with no armor whatsoever while you’re backpedaling all the time.

        • Mintskittle says:

          Yeah, the molerat burrowing right onto you is total garbage. The quest you do in Vault 81 that nets you companion Curie has a ton of special infected molerats, and if they bite you or your companion, you get a permanent -10 HP debuff. There is only one cure for it, and if you use it on yourself, you’ll be letting a child die.

          Admittedly, 10 HP isn’t a whole lot over the course of the game, but it’s a permanent debuff that can’t be gotten rid of unless you’re playing a douche bag.

          • Humanoid says:

            On the other hand, it’s a rare example of being given a choice! Savour these moments!

            • Mephane says:

              Ah yes, the choice of save-scumming the heck out of the entire section, until I get through it without any of the permanent HP debuffs. That’s exactly how I would play it. I know it’s cheap and silly, and I must admit the more I read here about FO4, the less I want to play it.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            Yeah, that was such bullshit, I just console myself another copy of the Vault 81 cure. I’m not going to run the molerats over and over again until I find a way around the bullshit.

  19. Abnaxis says:

    I was thinking, and I think part of the deal with the explosives is the way they changed how armor works.

    Unlike previous Fallout games, in F4 the effectiveness of your armor actually depends on how much damage is being thrown at you–or more specifically, the ratio of the damage being thrown at you to the resistance your character has to the damage.

    Taking your 350 DR tank example:

    ~86% of a 10 damage sneeze from a molerat will be negated
    ~82% of a 20 damage potshot from a raider will be negated
    ~77% of a 40 damage wallop from a raider will be negated
    ~71% of an 80 damage haymaker from a super mutant will be negated
    ~63% of a 150 damage frag grenade will be negated
    ~52% of a 300 damage bottlecap mine will be negated

    And the curve only gets worse at lower armor values. Basically, armor is just tissue paper to extreme high damage attacks like explosives.

    Also, I just thought of this while typing, but I’m willing to bet another consequence of the new system is that armor piercing is more effective on low armor enemies than high armor ones, since it would have a more drastic effect on the ratio of low armor enemies…

    • Ringwraith says:

      They basically tried to merge their own usual percentage reduction system and the older Fallout one as seen in New Vegas with damage thresholds.
      It’s interesting but also not quite worked…
      What doesn’t help armour-piercing qualities aren’t really measurable, or common, and they help a lot to make damage that’s not ridiculous but can still make dents in armour. (Like how they patched 5mm ammo in New Vegas to always have 5AP, this meant it was more usable against armoured targets without making it destroy everything).

      • djw says:

        I do think that it is superior to the Skyrim system. Straight percentage reduction makes low levels of armor feel like tissue paper and makes high levels of armor overpowered.

        The Fallout 4 system makes even low level armor useful as long as you avoid enemies that can put out large amounts of damage.

        • Ringwraith says:

          Yeah, I still feel DT works better.
          Meant things had niches, like shotguns were great… against unarmoured foes, but as it was damage per pellet, it’d do nothing to armoured ones. You could take a perk to offset that somewhat (10 armour pen on all shotguns) but still buckshot didn’t cut it against heavier enemies. Which is why you had slug rounds as an option, less total damage, but all in one projectile (although the balance on them was maybe a little off…)

    • GloatingSwine says:

      Armour Piercing negates a percentage of the enemy’s armour in FO4, so it’s going to be better the more armour they have.

      One of the consequences of the new DR system is that automatic weapons are much worse than they look, because they have a low damage number enemy armour is far more effective against them. An enemy with 50DR might be stopping only a third of your 100 damage combat rifle, but make it a 30 damage automatic version and they’re suddenly stopping 60% of it.

      Automatic weapons need an additional damage effect to buff their number (or bleed, which stacks with every hit so an automatic can apply it several times really quickly)

      Shotguns appear to not be affected as badly though, they don’t calculate DR against each pellet seperately, but against the whole shot then scaled for how many pellets hit.

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        I was already annoyed that making a gun automatic somehow reduces it’s damage (doesn’t make a lot of sense to me), but now I find out it’s actually worse than that? And it wastes my ammo (although I have quite a lot of that).

        • Decius says:

          Automatic is great IFF you get a unique weapon that has something like “10% chance to cripple a leg on hit.”

          Nothing beats taking out both legs of a legendary deathclaw with cheese.

        • ehlijen says:

          Automatic weapons being weaker than manually cycled weapons using the same cartridges is somewhat true, but with a few points that FO4 gets horribly wrong.

          Reloading takes power, and that power is taken out of the back blast of firing the previous round. But because for every force there is an equal and opposite force, force taken from a weapon’s recoil is also taken in equal measure from its forward thrust for the bullet.
          (For a visualisation, compare pushing off a wall to gain speed to pushing off a wagon on wheels.)

          That is an insignificant portion of the bullet’s impulse, however, and in any case should be applying equally to automatic and semiautomatic weapons. Only manual bolt or pump action weapons don’t have this reduction.

          The reason the game does this, though, is preserve a semblance of DPS damage balance, though it does go too far and make autoweapons not worth the increased ammo consumption.

          • Decius says:

            A better way would be to make recoil absurd. As it is with a reflex sight on a light autorifle it’s reasonably easy to keep short bursts on target but it takes a comically large number of short bursts to the eye to hurt most enemies.

  20. djw says:

    I also find the insta-death explosions to be annoying. However, in the case of the suicide bombers I have made a small measure of peace with it… Primarily because you usually get a warning in the form of that beeping noise that they make before they go off. Its actually exciting to try to figure out where they are and then kill them before they get too close. I could see that sucking quite a bit for a melee build though.

    On the other hand, it does provide a use for companions. Last night I encountered a suicide bomber while I was looking for the Eddie Winter tapes with Valentine. I bravely ran away while I was trying to figure out where the beeping was coming from. The bomber made a beeline for Valentine and blew up while I was far away.

  21. Steven says:

    Ballistic Weave seems to be incorrectly implemented in-game. Ballistic Weave serves as the Railroad’s answer to the Brotherhood’s Power Armor. It is heavily implied that Ballistic Weave is meant for full-armor or outfits. Yet, there is a small selection of under-armor and HATS that can be fully modded with Ballistic Weave (The hats recieve the full 110 DR and ER. To me, this obviously does not seem correct.). Using Ballistic Weave with non-full-armor is considered a exploit/glitch by some.

  22. RTBones says:

    Its interesting what you say about explosions. I am early in my first play through (I waited a bit to get the game) – probably about 12-15 hrs in. There are two things that strike me about this game –

    1) Raiders seem to partake in grenades-a-go-go this time around. Seriously. I dont know if its just my play style or a genuine change to AI mechanics, but it seems I am always dodging grenades or molitovs of some sort. I dont ever remember that experience being so prevalent in previous games.

    2) Explosions do real damage. I’m actually quite wary of mines and grenades chucked my way this time around. In some ways, it makes the game more challenging. In others, its just a pain in hindquarters. I’m only on my first time through, so its still a bit novel for me. I suppose once I have as many go-arounds with the game as Shamus, it will get old…VERY old.

    • djw says:

      Once you get the hang of running like hell when you see the grenade or mine symbol on your screen its not so bad.

      Well, not so bad if you are not playing permadeath. There will be times when you run the wrong direction or your idiot companion griefs you by standing in the doorway while you try to run out of an exploding room. Good times.

  23. Bitterpark says:

    I used to play Permadeath Skyrim with one very cool mod that made it way less bullshit.

    The problem with playing a game like that with permadeath, obviously, is that it wasn’t balanced for it. And it’s a Bethesda game, so it wasn’t balanced for much, but either way, random difficulty spikes aren’t that big of an issue in a 40 hour game where you can quickload, but they ruin permadeath runs, you don’t really get a chance to see the death coming, and you can’t learn from your mistake or say “I see what I did wrong there”, you just stumble into some bullshit and die before you know what’s happening.

    So I used a mod called Death Alternative.
    Very cool mod, it basically gives you a “strike”. If you lose all hp, you don’t actually die at first, instead a special random event occurs. If you get killed by bandits, they take some of your gold and random bits of equipment and leave you to wake up in the wilderness. If you die to dwemer automatons, they just throw you out the front door of their dungeon. In some situations, the enemies throw you in a cell and you have to escape. Sometimes, when you come to, friendly travelers will help you get back to town, and sometimes highwaymen will find you and demand your money or your life. Or, if you have a bounty, a bounty hunter might show up.

    Here’s the twist that makes it interesting, rather than trivial: If you go down once, you use up your one strike, and get a special “weakness” status effect. It massively reduces the effectiveness of healing, slows stamina regen and probably other nasty things. The only way to get rid of it is to sleep in an owned bed. AND, if you lose all your hp again in this state, you die for realsies.

    This creates a cool dynamic, where losing a fight puts you in a rare vulnerable state, when it’s hard to defend yourself and you have to stumble your way back to the nearest town to recuperate, while avoiding dangers. At the sime time, it lets you know the place you were just at is a major challenge, so you’ll know you need to buff yourself up and be on your guard when you try again. And that’s very important, in a game where challenge levels of encounters and areas are not at all telegraphed.

    Combine that with an alternative start mod (which I believe is included in the same mod), and you can almost play the game like a roguelike. The terrain isn’t procedurally generated, but there’s enough of it to see mostly new stuff for several playthroughs, provided you start in different corners of the map each time.

  24. SlothfulCobra says:

    Do you come up with separate backstories for each new character? That’s what I ended up doing in Dark Souls for some reason. It’s a neat thing to keep the mind busy when you’re in transit.

    • Metal C0Mmander says:

      It really does become a problem when you’re not playing permadeath but you already have 8 characters planned out in your head before you left the starting area.

  25. Christopher says:

    For the Concord quest: Did you know if you show up in power armor the dialogue is different? I thought that was really cool.

  26. tzeneth says:

    On a completely hilarious note, after reading this article I found this while cruising the nexus mod list: Mega Explosions. How would you like to have the explosions double the range and damage. :P

  27. Ledel says:

    Shamus, I see that you’ve run quite a few melee builds. Aside from the ridiculous interrupts that happen from it, has it been fun in combat? I’ve messed around a bit with melee, but even when I’m in the zone it never feels satisfying.

    The only melee weapons I’ve found that feel right to me are the power fist you get from swan and the knife from pickman. Yet even with having 11 strength their damage seems to be less than what I get from my 10mm pistol at 4 perception (and I have no combat perks).

    Also, not being able to use a power fist while wearing power armor is frustrating to me.

  28. Duoae says:

    Hmmm. I had noticed that some explosives (i.e. suicide bombers and fatman-wielding dudes) were very destructive to my well-being… However, I have had no problem surviving mines – even the ones in the Starlight drive-in. I encountered the same mine one of your women did, Shamus but managed to back out the door.

    Those three grenades in the Rations depot got me though but they did go off right on top of my head so I can’t really blame anyone but myself! :)

    I’m guessing that I’ve been lucky enough to put some terrain in between the explosion centre and myself each time.

    I’m also wondering if one of your mods has made explosion damage worse than it is in the base game by accident?

    Anyway, one of the most interesting things from your screenshots has been your HUD colour! It was one of the first things I messed with when playing the game for the first time and I went with a sunburst yellow colour. Really makes the torch capability of the Pip Boy nice.

  29. mechaninja says:

    My solution to these games is to cheat on my stats and then play stealth/sniper the whole time. I wonder if that’ll be successful if I get around to this game.

    That said, mobs that are willing to drop nukes at close range are only in games that frustrate me.

    • GloatingSwine says:

      Stealth/Sniper is objectively the most broken overkill build in Fallout 4.

      No need to cheat your stats either, just start with enough Agility to take the Ninja perk and take Rifleman/Mister Sandman/Ninja and use only silenced weapons. Congratulations you now do up to 6x damage to enemies and nothing ever survives the first shot.

      Take Gun Nut and Armorer so you can build silencers and shadowed (stealth boosting) armour and go to town. Once you get all the perks up and boost your stealth with the magazines and bobbleheads you can be so invisible enemies won’t even see you if they’re right next to you.

      (Also, they’ve changed the stealth mechanic so that enemies in the “caution” loop are still subject to sneak attacks, making it even more broken).

      • djw says:

        The laser musket with a 6 crank capacitor does enough damage to one-shot most enemies even with a torso hit. A head crit will take out just about anything. This is with 4/5 rifleman on survivor. You do go through copious amounts of ammo this way though.

        • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

          I loved that about the musket. One of my builds focused on a six crank musket, stealth and luck/crit feats. Its amazing what you can one shot that way. I had brotherhood knights flipping in the air.

        • Decius says:

          Six rounds per enemy is less than a lot of possible styles. You don’t actually have to fully charge each shot.

          My issue is that hitting r repeatedly sometimes loads more rounds and sometimes looks the gib in front of me b

          • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

            Yeah but if you do the full charge, you can one shot on the torso which is often easier to hit.

            The percentage failure was the reason I ultimately dropped the musket. I got tired of my six crank shot being wasted because of a VATS glitch (and yes, i lean heavily on VATS).

  30. Mr Compassionate says:

    I totally agree about the rocket launcher (and fatman) bandits. Even as I fought them I was thinking of how somewhere Shamus is fighting these guys in IRONMAN.

    Often I won’t even see the buggers, only hear their sneaky evil rocket coming to end me. Rockets are the most devastating weapon in the enemy’s hands and the most flaccid in yours. I levelled heavy weapons to as high as possible at all times and a bandito can take a rocket to the chest like it aint no thing at all. Usually they sustain just under half their health bar from directly eating one. Even worse there are so very many bandits with rockets and only one of you. Finally they will fire that rocket or nuke at point black range because they have no purpose in life but to kill the player, it completely breaks my immersion when a random nobody is so invested in my death they will fire multiple rockets an inch from their face if it means me being forced to quickload.

  31. cold_blowfish says:

    As soon as I hear beeping from a mine/grenade I start sprinting. Doesn’t matter which direction I’m facing I just run and usually that’s enough to get out of the blast radius in time. Not always since they occasionally trigger multiple mines in ambush simultaneously but 80% of the time it saves my ass.

    Now mutant suiciders OTOH are the bane of my life. I really need to invest in a sniper weapon with better armor penetration because they are bullet spunges like nothing else.

  32. Somniorum says:

    Mention of the suicide bomber super mutants made me think of something tangentially – while they’re terrifying if they start going after you, if you have the second level of the “wasteland whisperer” perk… let me tell you, it is INTENSELY satisfying to pacify one of these, and then yell KILL and watch as he turns around, rushes his own side, and blows EVERYBODY up.

    (for anyone who hasn’t tried them – Animal Friend, Wasteland Whisperer, and Intimidate are extremely useful IF you get them to the second level. First and, annoyingly it seems, third levels, the pacified one will only temporarily stay on your side, but SECOND level, if you incite them to kill others, they seem to permanently stay on your side, and just mill around trying to kill anyone who isn’t you nearby. Forever. Only downside is that they’ll try to kill people who are friendly to you – like other pacified/incited foes, or settlers. Not sure about companions, as I rarely travel with them. Oh, and sometimes you don’t get exp for the kills they make)

  33. Humanoid says:

    For some reason I thought “magazine racks” had something to do with guns and got mighty confused. Had no idea that actually arranging your paper magazines was a thing.

    Personally I’m done with Fallout 4 for now. Less than 20 hours of actual gameplay in, and having achieved nothing of note. Over the last week I’d launched the game a handful of times but invariably stopped playing within half an hour each time. I simply no longer want to play this character, the only character the game allows you to play.

    As a grand finale, I loaded up my first autosave from before the war, and when the alarms sounded, I walked away in the opposite direction to the vault, and let the ensuing blastwave take me. I felt that was the most fitting conclusion towards this forgettable person and their forgettable family. It may work as someone’s player character ….but not mine.

    • krellen says:

      You actually can die in the War. That’s great.

      • YurikaGrant says:

        Yeah, it was actually kind of neat that if you run off the path the bomb blows and kills you.

        • djw says:

          Those railroading bastards!

          • Humanoid says:

            Well the area gets nuked either way, so fair enough really. :P

            Putting on my serious hat for a moment, in terms of railroading the first thing I encountered which I thought was lazy and the easy way out was not anything that happened pre-war, but rather how conveniently every other person in the vault with you ends up dead. The sole survivor trope is overused as it is, but there’s no justification here why you survive and no one else does (except your spouse, of course).

            I had a thought that having some fellow survivors escape with you, and maybe them ending up being your starting settlement instead of Preston and his pointless crew would have been better storywise. In a roleplaying sense it’s sensible to stick together and rebuild with your old neighbours, whereas in contrast, I found myself on my first attempt through having no desire to follow Preston and never saw him again after leaving Concord. A pitiful group of five of which only two even do anything productive? Yeah, good luck with that.

            • Jarenth says:

              That could actually have been pretty cool. You’d be a group of survivors out of time, making their way in a strange new future world. And since your character has a military background, it’d make some sense that they alone would do all the venturing out and scavenging and such…

            • Decius says:

              I thought that the people who shot your spouse thawed them and locked them in to suffocate to establish that they were evil, or to make it more likely that their “backup” would live.

  34. Nidokoenig says:

    I haven’t played Fallout 4 due to having nothing good enough to play it, but I’m seeing a few references to AI being a lot more grenade happy, and some people mentioning that power armour trivialises explosives. Might it just be that this is a deliberate choice to make power armour a more noticeable boost, by negating a threat you’re going to have a big, visceral reaction to for both mechanical reasons and the sensory burst of having something explode in your face? Alternatively, combat may be balanced around power armour, which has explosive resistance because of course it does, so frequency and strength of explosives has to be upped to make them register.

    The negating a threat bit makes me think of Monster Hunter. A common theme there is that most decent armour will boost one or two things or give an ability (e.g. boosting attack power or reducing the time certain actions take), giving an equivalent debuff, and finally an ability that negates something, often a status effect, like poison, sleep or paralysis, or environmental effects like extreme heat or cold so you don’t need to use items, so essentially you can opt out of a lot of mechanics if you don’t like them, though only one or two at a time, mostly.

    Now, to get the armour that gives you immunity to something you often have to fight something that uses the thing you hate, like killing a venomous monster to get poison resistant or immune armour, though you can often find a weaker substitute, like crafting Wroggi or Iodrome armour to fight Rathian and Rathalos. Makes it kind of satisfying to have to deal with the terrible thing, get really annoyed at it, then have it disappear, like getting the Varia suit after a hell run in Metroid. I guess the Fallout equivalent would be making an explosive resistant armour out of grenades, rocket lawn chairs and bottle cap mines. Or more generally, having different armours that can almost negate explosive, flame or energy weapon damage, but only one, or do things like hack a terminal, break locks or detect mines, and you choose which thing pisses you off enough to spend resources on. That would require lockpicking and science to be good for more than opening boxes, but that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Maybe roll lockpicking into repair.

    • YurikaGrant says:

      Actually, explosives tend to trash power armour as well, it destroys your armour pieces pretty quickly. There’s an upgrade you can put on each part for additional explosive protection… but it doesn’t do much. Honestly I have to agree with Shamus, explosives are OP. On the one hand I actually like that explosives are deadly now… but on the other they CAN be really annoying because it’s pretty much a guaranteed insta-death, ‘maybe’ two hits if you’re lucky.

      • Nidokoenig says:

        Well, pretty quickly is an eternity compared to instant. How many explosive hits does it buy you, roughly?

        Explosives being incredibly deadly can be fun, see classic X-Com, but that has to be constrained somewhat in terms of supply, or at the very least be very clear that you’re playing rocket tag and give both sides the right equipment. In a game where every other skill tree has you grabbing a bunch of perks to become deadly, explosives starting that way doesn’t fit right. I suppose a continuum from ‘spend exp to get deadly’ to ‘spend resources to get deadly’ running from hand-to-hand through firearms to explosives makes sense, but then you have to reflect that in who gets them in the game world, people are talking about getting blown up by resource-poor raiders, not BoS.

        • YurikaGrant says:

          All in all I think it’s reasonably well-balanced… if you’re not roleplaying (ie, you just restart from last save). I always felt missiles in previous games were pointless because they were so ineffective, so seeing them do real damage here is good, but they can also lead to really frustrating deaths.

          And how many hits… dunno, not many iirc, I’d have to head into the game and test but since i have high level fully-upgraded X-01 armour atm I’d have to try and find a suit of T-45 or something to test (hmm, might still have one sitting in storage actually). I recall having parts blown off pretty damn quickly though, at least before upgrading to better armour pieces. And a nuke can trash you (obviously lol). I think the biggest advantage is that you don’t take so much instant health damage in power armour, instead it blows the pieces off (which you can repair later) but you still have the frame providing some protection.

          And yep, raiders have fatman launchers and missile launcher pretty early on, though one or two are special placed enemies rather than random spawns. My first experience on the receiving end of a missile was a raider on a roof who saw me before I saw her. Dead instantly heh.

    • Metal C0Mmander says:

      Wait hell runs are a thing in metroid? Then why does everyone complains about it in Other M? Yeah I get that the reason for you doing it there was horribly dumb but I thought a challenge like that was something they should have thought about implementing sooner.

      • GloatingSwine says:

        Because in every other Metroid game you don’t have the Varia suit. (or other protective gear like the Dark/Light suits in MP2)

        In Other M Samus does have it, she just hasn’t been told she’s allowed to use it yet by daddy despite there being no reason for her not to use it all along because the game’s justification for the unlock system is the damage her weapons might do.

        • Metal C0Mmander says:

          No I get that this is dumb what I mean is that I never heard someone talking about going in a damage over time area without the necessary protection could do for a nice challenge. I guess Echoes did it during most of the game but I haven’t a lot of people say it was a nice addition even then although in that particular case I kind of understand why.

          • Nidokoenig says:

            There was one in Fusion and Zero Mission as well, and Prime had some shortcuts if you want to count them. I can’t speak for 1, 2 and Super, but the hell run in Zero Mission was an addition after the retelling of 1. So Other M’s hell run is a mechanic with at least the better part of a decade’s precedent in the franchise, it’s just that every other example is you going in because bomb and miraculously finding the upgrade, whereas the unlock system in Other M is stupid, you should get the weapon as a reward for overcoming the threat, not a present from daddy to make sure you can . The system also forces fixed progression, rather like Fusion, which was pretty divisive.

            There’s also the story being a pile of dingo’s kidneys, so by the time someone’s reached the hell run, all faith and trust and charity is expended, at least in the loudest fans.

  35. Jarenth says:

    Bloody mines in this game, though. The vast majority of my low-level deaths in Fallout 4 were the same thing you describe here: I’d be walking around, all blissfully unawares, and then suddenly the beeping starts…

    I’d be dead at that point. No matter what I did. Stand around and pray, chug stimpacks like they’re going out of style, run in exactly the opposite direction as fast as I could. Once that little beeping indicator came up, I was 100% dead 100% of the time.

    I’m sort-of running a similar fast-travel limiter to you: I have to walk everywhere, unless… well, right now, it’s ‘unless I don’t really feel like it’. But your settlements comment inspired me to come up with a hard Morrowind-y rule: ‘I can only fast-travel between settlements I’ve unlocked.’

    Let’s see how long I manage to adhere to that one.

  36. Dev Null says:

    “Ghouls in particular can lunge through your attack radius.”

    Yeah, that bothers me some. But far worse is that they lunge through _me_, and then I have to spend a couple of seconds madly spinning around to figure out where they’ve gone.

    I die to explosions a huge percentage of the time. Especially mines. The balance problem there – I think – is that if it hurts you, it penalises the character (by making you use healing resources) but if it kills you it just penalises the player (by making you sit through the load screen, and swear about how long ago the last autosave was.) And the solution seems to be to run around hitting VATS every few seconds, which is also a penalty to the player (immersion and fun-breaking) instead of the character.

  37. Mersadeon says:

    Yeah, I never use official Ironman modes in most games. XCOM, for example – I can’t rust the game to not accidentally misinterpret a click, bug out a rocket or completely screw me for no reason, so I can’t trust the Ironman mode.

  38. Esp says:

    This makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong. I’ve been killed many dozens of times in this game, but only twice by explosions.

    Mines are easy if you remember this: don’t run away. When the beeping starts, turn toward the helpful bright red icon and click the button to disarm the thing. Better yet, spot them from a distance (optionally using VATS), and either sneak up on them or just shoot them. Or, if you find them a problem, take the perk that makes you immune to them.

    Traps in the world are always visible objects. Pay attention to the floor and you’ll never step on one. If that’s too much work, again there’s a perk that makes you immune.

    Super mutant suiciders are a one-shot kill as long as you’re not using a melee weapon. When you hear them coming, because of the distinctive, extremely loud beep that’s audible a mile away, shoot at the right arm and the bomb will explode immediately.

    Missile launchers are a concern, but they’re so wildly inaccurate, those guys seem to kill themselves and their allies more than anyone else. I don’t know if I’ve ever even been damaged by a missile.

    The only times I’ve been killed by explosions were once by a Fat Man shell to the face, and once when a car started burning and I didn’t realize I should have run away.

  39. Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

    This is why I don’t travel with companions. They are idiots when it comes to traps. No death feels more unjust then when you’re painstakingly creeping forward to disable a landmine and your companion blunders over it and kills both of you.

    Is it just me or is the AI worse in this game than in Skyrim?

    Maybe it just has more opportunities to fail.

    Like the explosions. If your companion blunders into a Skyrim trap, you probably won’t be torn to shreds as if often the case in Fallout 4. The famous one is the room with a thousand laser tripwires. As I was disabling them, Codsworth sallies forth merrily getting us both killed.

  40. kdansky says:

    I’ve given up on complaining about Skyrim’s broken mechanics (and Fallout is at least as bad from what I read), I just accept that it’s not a an actual game with depth, it’s a power-fantasy-murder-simulator, best played with “cheats”, e.g. Mods that completely break the game in all ways and make you an unstoppable god.

    The reason is that you end up like that after ten hours anyway, and you might just as well skip them, in favour of not wasting so much time looting containers and looking at menus, because no amount of mods can unbreak the systems to begin with. Believe me, I tried, I even wrote some that unbroke parts of the combat, but then quickly the next killer-issue comes up. Infinite carrying capacity is a must, for example, then you can easily stop fast-travelling without being annoyed. Just head-canon a pack-mule.

    Even if you manage to magically fix all the combat systems, you end up with a game that is dominated by the magic super power of quick-loading, because Bethesda never spent a second to think about how to handle failure. Because you can’t lose, all your wins feel shallow too.

    The only way to win at Bethesda games is not to play.

  41. Joey245 says:

    Wow, that was quite an explosive piece on Fallout 4. It’s a wonder that you didn’t blow up in anger after the first few.

    I’ll just shoo myself out now.

  42. Yaan98 says:

    I took this article to heart as it directly applied to my previous builds. Thanks.

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