I’m not sure I’m liking the way Fallout 4 makes companions essential. Not essential as in “can’t die,” because that is entirely a good and necessary and true thing; I mean, I feel guilty enough dragging an innocent dog through the meatgrinder that is the Wasteland – even more so because he has to do all the heavy lifting, since I can’t even figure out which end of a gun the bullets come out of – without the added guilt of finding his lifeless corpse littering some super-mutant infested hellhole.
But essential as in “can’t complete the quest without them.”
I like using Codsworth, partly because I enjoy the dichotomy of having a stuffy English butler looting mutant ghoul corpses (and his constant repetition of “sir” reminds me of my cat Tabby), partly because he gives me lots of purified water (which are better than Stimpacks, because they work instantly and don’t just restore a percent of health) and partly because, hey –
but you need to have Dogmeat with you to track down Kellogg in his Evil Villain Lair of Villainous Evilry:
Turned out I didn’t need to go that way.
How he (Dogmeat’s a “he,” right – I mean, you call him “boy.” Maybe it’s some kind of Lassie thing, where Dogmeat’s a he but he’s played by a girl ’cause the code was easier) manages to track a decade-old trail across the wasteland using only a half-smoked cigar is beyond me, but hey – I was frozen for 200 years, maybe that got better dogs these days.
I don’t know if they did it that way because they already had a dog in the game, or if that’s the whole reason Dogmeat’s there, but while I like the way they’ve integrated companions into the gameplay, I don’t like how it narrows my choices. Of course, Fallout 4 (or, as I call it, “Wasteland 2: the FPS”) does keep to its own pace, like when I left the Evil Villain Lair of Villainous Evilry and saw this:
which, their zillion-decibel loudspeaker announced, was from Oz … I mean, the Brotherhood of Steel, which definitely upped the urgency factor on Paladin Danse’s offer of “join us or I will blow your head off.”
Fortunately, it turns out that when Paladin Danse says “no more mercenary work” he’s just kidding, because there’s only so far you can go with dynamic world building, and not letting the PCs loot the entire landscape just isn’t gonna fly.
But now there’s Brotherhood Paladins running around in power armor, and since I fickin’ HATE the Brotherhood1 I sure hope my companion is carrying some serious firepower – like, more than German Shepherd teeth.
And now that I’m in Diamond City, the game is very … intent on me using either Nick or Piper.
I mean, I like Nick …
not least of which ’cause he looks like the cover of an ’80s-era Rush album2, but I haven’t finished Codsworth’s storyline yet, which means I haven’t got his perk (Robot Sympathy) but even worse, he won’t be in the ending slideshow, and since the entire point of playng Fallout is to get drunk and maudlin while watching the ending, every missing epilogue is a reminder that I am a failure as a human being and a gamer.
Like in Fallout NV, you’d spend hours trying to unlock a companion’s questline, until finally you gave up and read the walkthrough, which helpfully informed you that you had to go with your Level 20 companion to some place you cleared out at level 2, which meant you basically had to replay the entire game for each possible companion (I’m lookin’ at you, Arcade Gannon – I mean, seriously, why would I go back to the Repconn Factory after I’ve cleared it? I mean, Cass was easy3, but Raul? Even with the walkthrough, I almost didn’t get his.) so I’m not too happy with the fact that I still haven’t unlocked Codsworth’s perk, and now the game really, really, really wants me to use Piper as my companion.
I’m guessing she’s like the Lydia of Fallout 4. All the Fallout articles I read rather than having a real life talk about meeting Piper, and what’s involved in her storyline, or how to romance her, or how the author got a Piper tattoo, or how Fallout 4 carved her name into the side of a tree outside Ubisoft’s headquarters. But frankly, I think she’s kind of annoying. And anyway – if I can’t even get the intro character to give up the perk, what hope do I have with Piper?