What is the purpose of a video game? Much like movies, it provides escapism from the humdrum of routine and unlocks a new skin to slip into or world to explore for a few hours before the alarm shatters illusion. While many interactive gifts over the last decade have offered the opportunity to steady our fear gauge, rack up an impressive collection of loot or boast a winning reign over (what you would call after an intense Mario Kart session) your distinctly average friends, there is a key to ultimate gaming escapism that lies within narrative and the amount of lore available to saturate in.
The Fallout franchise from behemoth Bethesda has collectively been an effective RPG to immerse within its alternate reality since its first point and click debut in 1997. Post-apocalypse has also become a gigantic genre featuring alien invasion, natural extermination or in Fallout’s case, the remains of a man-made nuclear war, which serves us a generous dose of exploration within a narrative that’s not wildly outwith the possibilities of our own future. Bethesda focuses on the wonder of scouting restricted areas whilst wandering through the remains of the past in the boots of the lone survivor. Total escapism from the hustle and bustle. The 1950’s setting continued in Fallout 4 is intricately woven with science-fiction to create a retro-futuristic style that gives off those aesthetically pleasing vibes and earns a creative seal of approval.
Vault 111 is the underground labyrinth in F4 that your protagonist, the sole survivor, must escape from to venture out into the Boston Commonwealth and locate your son, kidnapped by the eerie, Vault-Tec Corp. The base story is classic sci-fi but the completion of quests are hindered while you marvel over glowing Feral Ghouls swaggering next to Nuka-Cola Pin-up girls. As Diamond City radio station gently crackles out ‘I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire’, it encourages multiple recce’s at your leisure, if only to collect another vintage magazine. There is generally no sense of urgency. Exploration is the primary element to why it is so easy to invest in this game.
What started out as confined and linear gameplay, F4 is a true representation of advancing with the times. As our technology grew, so did the expanse of this world, seven years after it’s predecessor (with the excussal of the New Vegas spin-off). F4 was lighter (but somehow I was still carrying too much weight) and brighter. It’s blue skies added a wonderful freshness to the wasteland, as I always found Fallout 3 relatively dark and heavy. It’s extensive new crafting system allowed you to build and upgrade to great lengths. You could even furnish your own settlement that most likely touched the hearts of every Sims fan.
What I love about Fallout 4, in particular, is not only the added perk of Dogmeat – who is consistently the perfect, comforting companion – but it’s ability to submerge the player into their hybrid world and make ‘tec’ seem so much cooler when it’s on a background of vintage decor. Bethesda isn’t my favourite when it comes to graphic quality (particularly The Elder Scrolls), but Fallout 4 has a polished aesthetic compared to its third instalment that lifted the overall game play. In addition to its altered contrast, a larger depth of field was featured that added a better sense of scale when it came to the towering stacks of Diamond City or a Deathclaw towering over you.
Fallout continues its solid narrative and the gratification of foraging through ghost towns and raider camps that hide essential items to expand a plethora of nerdy belongings. Our reality has limitations. Don’t enter. Private property. Keep out. Don’t steal my Fat Man. F4’s biggest accolade was the freedom to roam, loot and rid the wasteland of gigantic, radioactive pests and greedy raiders. Post-apoc open worlds say go where you want to go, be who you want to be, steal what you want to steal, without crossing the GTA boundaries. Moral decision-making gives you a sense of responsibility and righteousness if you’ve been free-playing a steal (I mean, loot) – craft combo for a while, or it offers the option to turn megalomaniac and sanction your own personal campaign to watch the world burn. It’s your choice.