By Ron Scopelliti
Last month, the Fallout game franchise celebrated its twentieth anniversary. While, unfortunately, Bethesda Softworks hasn’t released a new game to mark the milestone, they have given us some updated versions of older games. The one that caught my eye, and my wallet, was the Game of the Year (GOTY) Edition of “Fallout 4.”
For those unfamiliar with Fallout, it’s a post-apocalyptic role-playing game with first-person-shooter elements, and a unique personality. “Fallout 4” takes place 210 years after a nuclear war in 2077.
But in the alternate-history Earth of Fallout, the world developed in a way that late-fifties, atomic-age sci-fi writers might have imagined. It’s a history where nuclear power grew to dominate the landscape, and the player emerges from a fallout shelter into an environment littered with the wrecks of tail-finned, bubble-topped atomic cars. Hovering robots survive, performing tasks from security to house-keeping. Nuka Cola posters adorn steel diners. Soldiers from various factions wear fusion-powered exo-skeletons, and the must-have weapon is a shoulder-fired launcher for “mini-nukes.”
Perhaps the best feature of “Fallout 4” for New Englanders is that is the game set in the Boston area, and while traveling through the desolation, you’ll come across familiar sites that have a decidedly different look. Starting out in the vicinity of Concord, the player’s main quest takes him through Lexington, past Walden Pond, through Cambridge, and straight into the heart of Boston. But the rich, open-world environment spreads well beyond that, offering myriad opportunities for adventure and exploration.
The game can be a bit frustrating to start out, since some of the most basic mechanisms aren’t clearly explained. But there are plenty of on-line forums and tutorials to help you out. After fumbling around with the controls a bit and giving in to a few rage-quits followed by forum visits, the logic became clear, and I found myself delving into the hostile environment, scavenging for resources, and building relationships (not always peaceful) with the various factions and settlers I came across.
In addition to compelling storylines and a large, adventure-filled landscape to explore, the game offers a settlement-building option that could probably become as addictive as “Minecraft.” There are dozens of YouTube videos with “Fallout 4” builders showing off their creations.
The Game of the Year Edition adds gameplay updates that include a challenging “survival mode,” and enhanced graphics. It also offers free access to six downloadable add-ons that previously needed to be purchased separately. And it does this for less than it would cost to buy a used “Fallout 4” copy and download all the additions.
The two story add-ons are “Far Harbor,” a large expansion that sends players further up the New England coast for a new series of adventures, and “Nuka-World,” which sets you loose in a vast theme park inhabited by raiders.
On the crafting/sandbox side, “Wasteland Workshop” offers new objects to build, the capacity not only to capture creatures and train them, but also to capture enemies and set them against each other in gladiatorial combat. “Automatron” allows players to create custom robots, and “Contraptions Workshop” allows players to build whimsical Rube Goldberg machines. Finally, the “Vault-Tec Workshop,” allows players to build and outfit their own elaborate fallout shelters.
In addition to the “Fallout 4 GOTY Edition,” there are two other recent updates to the Fallout franchise:
“Fallout Shelter” is a free-to-play, mobile-friendly game that has been available for iOS and Android since 2015, and for PC since 2016. Earlier this year, it was made available for Xbox One. The most casual of all the Fallout games, “Fallout Shelter” focuses on building and managing your own vault, and taking care of its inhabitants. Though it’s free to play, there are micro-transacions.
And for those with well-tuned middle ears and strong necks, Fallout recently joined the virtual reality ranks with “Fallout 4 VR.” According to Bethesda, it offers the largest open world of any VR game, and early reviews say it’s less likely to produce motion sickness than many other games of the sort. It’s currently available only for PlayStation VR and HTC-1.
“Fallout 4: Game of the Year Edition” is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows. It’s rated M, for mature. “Fallout Shelter” is rated T for teen.