Fallout 4 EP16: Fallout 4 is the Best Anime

By Shamus
on Jul 6, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

80 comments


Link (YouTube)

We’re here to rescue a private detective, in the hope that he’ll be able to help us find Shaun. To do that, we have to fight a bunch of thematically dissonant prohibition-era styled gangstersHats. Pinstripe suits. Italian names. Tommyguns. that don’t mesh with either the cold-war or the post-apocalypse aesthetic the game is allegedly based on. This is on top of the fact that “organized crime” makes no sense in a society this primitive. What sort of criminal activity would these guys engage in? Whose laws are they breaking? What government would oppose them? Who are they extorting? Who are their customers / victims?

I’m not saying Fallout 4 needs to spend hours burying us in exposition and codex entries to build up some Tolkien-sized mythos. I understand that this is a game about shooting and looting. But the game tries to adopt this super-serious tone and then presents the story of a cartoon world of goofy childish nonsense. These guys aren’t “The Mob”. They’re an all-male tribe with no visible means of making a living. This isn’t even a “What do they eat?” level question. This is far more basic: What do these guys DO? What do they WANT? These guys have the same needs (none) and motivations (endless murder) as the psychos in Borderlands. But the psychos in Borderlands are a comical element of a deliberately absurdist world, and the Triggermen here are attached to what is ostensibly a serious story. (SHAAAAUN!)

“Maybe this world isn’t supposed to be serious?”

Okay. But then where are the jokes? Where’s the sense of madcap fun? The only comedy here is watching VATS fight with the physics engine to create emergent chaos. That’s cute, but Garry’s Mod does it better and it doesn’t make you sit through infantile dialog in the process.

When we confront Skinny Malone, what is the player supposed to be feeling? Dread? Amusement? Anger? What’s the mood of this scene? I honestly can’t tell.

The writer went to all the trouble to write, design, and cast these two unique characters. Yet we bump into them with nothing in the way of dramatic buildup and then they vanish from the story. We can kill Darla or spare her, but that choice has about as much meaning as deciding if you want to kill a supermutant with a shotgun or a sledgehammer. We know nothing about her and have nothing invested in her story. We don’t even know what her relationship is with Skinny Malone until we meet them, at which point the game immediately offers you the chance to attempt to spare her.

Would you like to spare this total stranger Y/N?

Whee. “Roleplaying”.

You can tell a Saints Row style story. You can tell a Last of Us style story. But do not put The Last of Us story inside of a Saints Row world and expect it to work. The virtue of Saints Row is that it knows it’s dumb and it invites you to laugh along with it. The virtue of Last of Us is that it’s a drama between carefully written characters. This is the worst of both worlds. We don’t get the pathos of a proper drama, but we also don’t get to revel in the absurd fun of a playfully ridiculous world. It’s just lazy drama that’s hopelessly neutered by the incoherent worldbuilding and complete lack of self-awareness.

Spoiler: The game isn’t going to improve anytime soon. Buckle up.

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From the Archives:

  1. Wait, who is this “Chris” guy? Has he been on the show before?

  2. Honestly, it makes a certain kind of sense with regards to the loading screens. Beth’s engines have always seemed to have had a ‘bubblegum and popsicle sticks’ quality to ’em. Suddenly, it looks like they miiiiight have finally gotta a bead on something relatively stable with Skyrim just in time for the next-gen to peak around the corner and demand fidelity and scale they just can’t hack anymore with the production pipeline they’re known for. Something’s gotta give.

  3. Warclam says:

    Yeah, Pipadour is in the house!

  4. James Porter says:

    Its kinda weird, guy characters with pompadours look kinda weird, but everytime I play a lady, getting the wig is a priority! I’m also just not that big of a fan of the default lady hairstyles. Right now I’m rocking the unladylike in my game though, thats a pretty good one.

    However, this has opened my eyes to a new possibility though, where every character has pomp/sunglasses combo! I’m sure Preston will look great!

  5. The Rocketeer says:

    Shamus,

    For lack of anywhere better to raise it, I thought I’d point out/ask about something that’s amused me since day 1.

    Right up there in the top right corner of the page, you’ll see the link to the forum. As one of the forum regulars, it’s a button that gets a fair bit of use from me. But still, since the first time I saw it and often since, I laugh out loud when I see it.

    For those that don’t recognize it, that’s a picture of Socrates, indicating in a manner suggesting instruction. It might seem a natural choice to represent a forum; one of the most famous icons of reason and debate in humankind’s history! But that little portrait is cropped out of this painting, “The Death of Socrates,” by Jacques-Louis David. And right there in the title we come to the problem.

    The painting depicts the great teacher on his deathbed, sentenced to either renounce his philosophy or be executed. Here, we see him raising the grail of deadly hemlock poison to his own lips, teaching even at the moment of his administration of his demise. The compleat Stoic to the last, he has sent one of his students out of the room for failure to maintain his bearing, where he is seen weeping into the stones. It’s a fine painting. I mean, it’s not “The Oath of the Horatii,” but not bad by any means.

    The representation is, in effect, the murder and suicide of reason itself. Both by imposition and volition, the image represents the snuffing-out of a gentler enlightenment by an unaccepting dogmatic force. So, yes, whenever I scroll over that little rectangle reading, “Forum,” I see the hand of the mentor raised in emphasis, but I sense the hand unseen, bearing its bitter nectar to his willing lips. And I laugh, almost every time. If it was done intentionally, as a joke with tongue planted firmly in cheek, then it’s a joke of such sublime succinctness that I will never match it. But I suspect it’s merely a gaffe, the result of a Google image search without much regard paid to context.

    Or maybe The School of Athens was just too obvious.

  6. Yummychickenblue says:

    Rutskarn I want you to know that I like your pro strats

  7. Pyrrhic Gades says:

    Not having played Fallout 4, each of my rebuttles are under no coherient vision.
    Aren’t the triggermen robots synthetics? They do robot stuff.

    The triggermen have been living under a rock for the past 220 years. It makes sense that they’re aesthetics derive from something that predates the Space 50’s by 20 years, which is the era of space prohibition.

    This is on top of the fact that “organized crime” makes no sense in a society this primitive. What sort of criminal activity would these guys engage in? Whose laws are they breaking? What government would oppose them? Who are they extorting? Who are their customers / victims?

    Rome didn’t fall in a day! Their over-expenditure and lack of a functional economy to participate in would have eventually led to their downfall. Their lack of a functional society (supported by quest givers) left their leadership highly vulnerable to Vault Dwellers and Dragonborn.

    Stable governments don’t have mortal leaders in Bethesda games.

    • Sunshine says:

      I like your headcanon and hope you don’t shoot your head off with it.

    • I just figured the “mobsters” were a gang, but with a dress code.

      • GloatingSwine says:

        I think they’re supposed to be.

        But they don’t do any ganging.

        They’ve got their robit racetrack thing, but they try and murder anyone who gets anywhere near it.

        There’s the raider fighting pit thing too, but they just try and murder anyone who gets anywhere near it.

        How to these people make any profit out of gangery? They’re as bad at being gangs as Skyrim’s thieves guild are at stealing stuff.

        • That’s more to do with Bethesda not putting any role-playing into a game than it is to do with the setting.

          There’s no faction in this game you can approach and decide to interact with isn’t automatically hostile or insufferably not willing to react to you being a dick. The gangsters (and Gunners) should have been like Caesar’s Legion: You can approach in a non-hostile manner and you’re at least asked why you’re there. But that’s hard work and requires effort, so instead, Bethesda saves you the time of all that thinky-stuff and just makes everyone kill you right out of the box.

    • MrGuy says:

      Their lack of a functional society (supported by quest givers) left their leadership highly vulnerable to Vault Dwellers and Dragonborn.

      Now I really want to see a faction/tribe in a Bethesda game who are straight-up questers. Their entire economy is built on the rewards that their heroes gain from going out and doing quests for anyone willing to hire them. They quest to feed their children, for it is their way. No quest is too small, too vile.

      I want to see you have to help a poor, down on his luck questor out so he can feed his family. I want you to have a quest where YOU must hire a group of questors to do a distraction mission while you do the main quest. I want to see one questor walk up to nearby NPC with an exclamation point over his head, hold still for a few seconds, then say “Ding, muthaf*cka!” and have another nearby questor say “Gratz!” back to him.

  8. Hermocrates says:

    Whoo, the return of Galaxy Gun!

    I knew the dialogue in this game was awful, but that . . . “thing” with Darla was an absolute trainwreck. Now I can’t wait to see the shit Chris was complaining about.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      That’s the second of the two flavors of speech check in this game. The first is a sequence of three increasingly-difficult checks to wring successively more caps out of someone. This, the second, is where a blasé platitude overwrites someone’s motivations, beliefs, or personality in the space of an eyeblink.

      • Echo Tango says:

        Haven’t played the game*, but I can see that they’ve got the mechanics working well enough, that they could do a better job of this. Like, besides the incredibly short descriptions of each of the four dialog options, the system actually works. It’s just that the dialog, choices, and consequences (i.e. the writing in general) is of poor quality. I’m hoping the Creation Kit is powerful enough and non-hassle-y enough, that we can get a good mod/spinoff game out of Fallout 4. :)

        * I just need my laptop to last a liiiiiittle bit longer, so I can get a properly new one. :)

      • Henson says:

        This kind of persuasion conversation used to be, and I’m sure still is, all over RPGs, but I think writers have started to get a little wise to the fact that they need to build up to persuasion, not just have it flip a switch. Witcher 3 was excellent in this regard, where each ‘persuade’ dialogue would be followed up by at least one back-and-forth before resolution.

        Yeah, this Darla example was cringeworthy.

        • MrGuy says:

          I had some issues with the “boss conversations” in DE:HR, but man, I really miss having a mechanic where persuading someone to do a thing is something that requires a sensible-sounding conversation and paying attention to the cues someone is dropping to you.

    • McNutcase says:

      What.

      That appears to be doing no damage to the perpetrator. How is that possible? I mean, it’s impressive, I just keep thinking of umpteen different ways it makes no sense in context.

      • Ledel says:

        My guess is that the trash can is acting as cover for the explosion because it’s programmed as a whole cylindrical hit-box rather than trying to program for the mesh of it all. Thus all the explosion is forced out of the opening, and no side or back damage is dealt.

  9. Ninety-Three says:

    This is on top of the fact that “organized crime” makes no sense in a society this primitive.

    You know what else doesn’t make sense? In this section alone you kill about as many criminals as there are people in Diamond City. Even if you somehow answer all the “But what do they STEAL!?” questions you just raised, how on Earth is there enough for them to steal?

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You forgot to tell the worst thing Josh did previously:He hit dogmeat with a bat.

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    To be fair,this game is at least comically bad drama.It would be far worse if they tried to do comedy and failed,because with bad comedies you cant even laugh.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Eh, I don’t even know if this is comically bad. Maybe just tragically bad? Because of the unused potential?

      • Ninety-Three says:

        It’s not so much that the game is funny on its own, rather it’s funny that Bethesda thought it was shippable. The Room is funny if you come to it with the right mindset. Prayer Warriors is absolutely hilarious.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          The Room is funny because it exposes so much about it’s maker’s mindset unintentionally. It is nakedly Tommy giving his one sided account of a story of heartbreak punched up with some extra drama most likely Tommy didn’t shoot himself for example, and if he did he obviously didn’t die from it. Although frankly, after everything I’ve heard about him, I wouldn’t rule out anything strange.

          I keep waiting for Wiseau to break character and reveal that the production and his offscreen personality have been part of a decade long performance piece playing the role of a strange eccentric director of mysterious origins. If you like the mystery of his origins, don’t read the following spoiler.

          He’s Polish. His original name is Wieczor, which he changed when he moved to New Orleans.

        • Echo Tango says:

          Yeah, but The Room is so-bad-it’s-good. This appears only to be mediocre-bar / uncomfortable-bad, with occasional spikes of bafflement.

  12. Sunshine says:

    The whole “this world makes no sense” screed leads me to a vain wish for a DLC of a deconstructionist plot like John Scalazi’s Redshirts, where a new character tells the Sole Survivor that they are the Protagonist, and as such the only one to help them free the Commonwealth from the influence of “the player” and “Bethesda”, who sustain it as a static arena of wacky violence.

    Since I’m building a castle on the air here, I’ll imagine that the character is Fallout 3’s Lone Wanderer, and the DLC comes with a converter that asks for an FO3 savegame to define them. I don’t know if that’s possible. Of course, this is your character as written and voiced by Bethesda, which turns out to be a plot twist when you receive a letter from the Capital Wasteland that says they are an impostor pretending to be the previous PC to curry favour with the player. Not the current player character, the player.

  13. Jokerman says:

    New Vegas did the whole “mob” thing, but i suppose with Mr House’s rules plus the NCR it made a little more sense, not much more mind…

    • Fists says:

      The biggest distinction in NV was that every faction was defined by it’s relation to others, the guys on the strip were trying to take control from house, NCR trying to get power to their settlement and ‘liberate’ people from the legion.

      The Triggermen just sit there. That’s it. Occasionally (twice?) other people hire them to sit somewhere else but they aren’t part of the world, just a gimmicky dungeon or two, as consequential as the Russian raiders.

      • Poncho says:

        Every “event” in this game is so obviously scripted, and it’s painfully dull on subsequent playthroughs because you just get the sense that the entire world is waiting for the protagonist to show up. There’s nothing unique or new to explore and discover, everything happens the exact same way it did before.

        Take this Triggermen sequence; there’s that line the cast talked about with Valentine going “fast and hard, eh? Okay then” but that happens no matter how stealthy or charismatic you are, you just gotta kill everyone in your way. Contrast that with how you deal with Benny in New Vegas and there’s no comparison.

        Now the only way I can really enjoy the game is by ignoring all the factions and rebuilding the commonwealth on survival difficulty with an audiobook playing in the background.

        • Fists says:

          Yeah, I think more than just the “Oh hi, I didn’t see you there. I’m Troy McClure…” videogame protagonist syndrome found with set pieces like Trudy and Wolfgang there are heaps of instances where the NPCs explicitly wait for you, indefinitely, then act like they just got there. This isn’t an easy problem to fix but it’s part of the overarching lack of worldy-ness, might as well be an instanced MMO.

          You’ve got game listening to audiobooks on survival, I find that I need to be able to hear to avoid getting ganked by all the mobs that can teleport or have explosive weapons (or both, stupid molerats). Unless you’re sneaking everywhere. That’s how I play borderlands though, and this game is pretty much just my new borderlands. The goal of my current playthough is to find out how one of the institute missions plays out if you never meet Preston, I’ll probably lose momentum once I make it to that point.

    • GloatingSwine says:

      New Vegas did it. Fallout 2 did it with New Reno. Fallout 1 did as well in Junktown.

      But there the gangsters are all presented in the context of an already thriving economy of trade where they can skim off profit via illicit activity,

      In Fallout 4 the gangsters are completely absent from the biggest economic centre in Boston with no explanation and they are predominantly found loafing around miles from anyone that might have any money (and shooting at them before they can come and bet on their silly robit race).

      They exist in Goodneighbour, but they just kind of prowl around alleys they don’t appear to have much organisation in their organised crime.

  14. Fists says:

    To be fair there was some build up to skinny malone, Valentine’s assistant (Ellie?) has a few lines on him being dangerous or a jerk or something if you ask. A few different triggermen on the way through give you some characterisation, so long as you don’t interrupt them by being noticed. Dino and Nick have a bit of a conversation that further builds on the idea of skinny being ruthless. I’m not going to say any of it is good, worthwhile or even that it works but it is there. There’s a tiny bit on Darla (she’s someone’s daughter) but it does feel like they cut her back story out, not sure if it’s even mentioned who her parents are or if they’re named NPCs you can meet.

    I think the way fallout 4 and probably skyrim too are designed really encourages you to just ignore heaps of the world building, there’s rarely anything under the surface any more and the conversations are easy to skip so ‘very little’ just gets rounded down to nothing.

  15. acronix says:

    Weren’t there prohibition era gangsters in New Reno, in Fallout 2?

    I think the Triggermen are just there as another ‘See? Gangsters like the New Reno ones except lamers! This is totally Fallout!’ checkbox.

    • RubberBandMan says:

      They had a few types really, I think they just hit general ‘mob movie gangsters’ of the more Godfather/Goodfellas mold (Which does have a large time-frame, but…)

      The only family that was mostly related people provided most of the booze for the strip… which they kept from the Head guys wife, because she was a prohibitionist, but it was the gangs only source of income. So you’d get lines like ‘If you want booze, we don’t sell it to the north’ sort of stuff.

      One of the better parts of New Reno was how dynamic it felt. It wasn’t really, but every family had an arc of either rising or falling or trying something or contrast between how it was doing and how it IS doing now.

      You had a family that invented Jet and was getting massive use out of that, the family that was getting weapons from outside that made them untouchable, and all sorts of plots that were already going on before you even walked into town.

    • lurkey says:

      A couple of New Reno’s casinos had bouncers dressed up like mobsters from twenties, tommy guns and all. Other gangster dudes throughout all the ruling families dressed normally, so I guess it was just the uniform for certain organization representatives to look pretty winging those casino entrances.

      And then there was “Family Man” perk that featured Vault Boy dressed up like that. It’s entirely possible a Bethesdian took a look at it, thought “Hey, that looks pretty, lets put it in our game!” and here we are. Context, shmontext.

    • Tizzy says:

      I was about to point out the same thing. There were tommygun-toting gangsters in FO2.

      BUT

      Very different game. Very un-serious tone. Actually, not nearly serious enough if you ask me. Constantly elbowing the player. “Isn’t this funny?” Very inferior humor compared to its predecessor if you ask me.

      But it’s a different issue from the present game’s.

  16. MrGuy says:

    Not saying it’s a GOOD reason, but to me the reason they chose 1920’s gangsters here is pretty obvious. And that’s that they designed Nick Valentine first.

    Here’s what I suspect was the thought process looked like:
    We need the protaganist to go to Diamond City.
    Great. Why do they need to go there?
    Well, to get closer to finding Shaun.
    OK. How does getting to Diamond City help them?
    They could meet someone there who could help.
    OK. Interesting. How does this person help?
    Maybe it’s a detective. They don’t know where Shaun is, but could help you look.
    A detective? Like in a story?
    Hey, yeah! Maybe he can be old timey, like Sam Spade or something!
    Awesome. Maybe he’s a synth too! That’s why he’s so out of place.
    OK. Now why does our synth Sam Spade help the protaganist?
    Hmm…maybe the detective’s been kidnapped by his arch nemesis. That happens all the time in those old detective movies!
    OK. Who’s he been kidnapped by?
    Well, the mob, of course!

    The triggermen are designed to be a foil to their concept for Nick Valentine.

  17. Artur CalDazar says:

    I had the exact same experience as Shamus when trying to sneak through, bloods on Valentines hands and he is just trying to salvage his conscience by pinning it all on you.

    A lot of Fallout 4 makes more sense given things were going a lot better in the region until recently(ish). They reached a stage where they could try and form a united regional government, the minutemen kept things more or less safe, things were on the up until they fell apart although the timeline on it isn’t a good one.
    Triggermen outside Goodneighbour isn’t one of the things salvaged by this idea. New Reno could support multiple gangs because it was a large city with other large cities in contact with it, all fueling their drugs and gambling establishments.

  18. Grudgeal says:

    “Fallout 4 is best anime”

    And, suitably, Reginald has gone from Saitama to Lil’ Slugger.

  19. Couscous says:

    I had assumed that the leader would be some kind of ghoul who had been a mobster pre-war and continued to do what he knew best with whatever scraps of civilization were left and picking up new non-ghoul recruits and teaching them the mobster ways every once in a while. Why else would they put in that ghoul talking about how he could tell the vault was basically a scam based on his pre-war experience if they weren’t going to use that to indicate that the group had formed from those people? It couldn’t be just because they wanted to tell players that it wasn’t airtight and was badly designed because that could easily just be delivered through one of the bajillion audiologs and journal entries.

    • GloatingSwine says:

      And you know what.

      The game has exactly that character in it.

      He sits in a room which he hasn’t left for 200 years because fuck worldbuilding.

      • Coming_Second says:

        I don’t know if it’s world-building so much as not writing characters as if they popped into existence the moment the PC entered the frame.

        Or having some sort of oversight and guiding hand to your compartmentalised writing teams, so the incredibly obvious idea of making Eddie Winter the leader of the Triggermen can occur.

  20. Cardigan says:

    Am I the only one vaguely disappointed that Nick Valentine wasn’t romanceable? I mean, it’s not like any of the other romances in the game are particularly well-written or anything, but it’d be interesting to see the main character and Nick bond a little more over memories of Pre-War life.

    • Blunderbuss09 says:

      I am an unfortunate regular on tumblr and I can tell you with absolute certainty; no, no you are most definitely not alone. Someone even made a mod so you could.

  21. James Porter says:

    So I just had a realization, Fallout 4 views Charisma and speech skills as morally wrong.

    It’s application is primarily to get more money out of people, usually ever increasing chances. There are a couple times speech can be used to bypass something, or to get some extra information, but its primary use is swindling people. Many of the “good” characters will dislike you for doing this, which is odd, considering that means these good characters would rather me not use my only application of speech in this game.

    I think this is really weird, considering the reason you would make a talky character was so you could understand the world better, maybe bring people together using diplomacy or a greater understanding of people personalities and their wants and needs. That kind of doesn’t happen, seeing as any companion will be okay with whatever leader takes over the commonwealth, so their really is no peoples to bring together either.

    Its weird, I mean maybe you can come up with an interesting direction of speech being morally good or evil or whatever, but I felt like sharing.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Aye, and there’s even one where if you win, the reward is being able to hide your own motivations! (Utterly pointlessly, as far as I can tell: unless one is taking an extreme role-playing approach, there seems to be zero reason why keeping things obscure would be good, bad, or indifferent. (And if you’re taking an extreme role-playing approach you’re probably playing the wrong game…))

      There’s at least one, anyway – there may be others. It’s when you meet Virgil and he asks why you want to get into the Institute.

      Definitely an odd way of doing things – it means you get things like talking that Goodneighbour guy down peacefully (the first time you show up there), and having Piper or Nick disapprove.

      However, the theory that ‘Bethesda hates dialogue’ certainly explains a few things!…

  22. BitFever says:

    I had a horrible realization that you aren’t dressing Piper up as yourself. You’re dressing Piper up as your dead wife. That brings it to a whole new level of creepy.

  23. LCF says:

    Things would work out better if the game was set in a Rebuilt context.
    So yes, apocalypse, nukes everywhere, rad-monsters, wasteland… But a lot of time passed by, the survivors organised, rebuilt towns, and now the population is picking up, to the point we have actual towns, light industry, governements, and thus an ecosystem for organised crime to exist.
    A sort of Red-Scare/mass paranoïa would be justified, in a society of a couple million citizens. Here, we might have a hundred humans or so. Totally inappropriate.

    The problem here was not necessarily the story set 200 years in the future, it was rather parts/most of the universe to stay frozen while the PC was.

  24. kdansky says:

    This post sums up why I think Fallout 3+ are trash. Nothing makes any sense at all, and yet the game keeps insisting that it’s a serious affair.

  25. Blunderbuss09 says:

    The worst thing about this whole scene is that we never learn what Nick’s history is with these guys. The whole speech check hinges on these two knowing each other but it’s never mentioned again and you never hear from Darla or her family; for all intents and purposes these guys might as well be random raiders.

    Which is horrendous because there is a perfectly rational reason in Nick’s backstory – that you learn in his personal quest – that would work with this and add stakes to the situation.

    As for the Triggermen there’s an obvious purpose for them to exist; a protection racket. The settlers of the Commonwealth are basically helpless children so it would make sense for a gang to exhort supplies in return for protection; since the Minutemen are no more there would be a power vacuum for these guys to fill. Then you’d have the problem of convincing settlements to stop supporting these guys and having faith in the Minutemen again. Ooh, actual faction disputes!

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