Fallout 4: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Wasteland

You ever get that feeling that you’ve played a game too long?   It happens to me in all the games I’ve played; the sky will be getting dark and I’ll be off in the corner of the map, in one of the odd little one-off places they added for the completionists, and no one has any new dialogue, and I swear once an NPC was like, “don’t you have a home to go to IRL?”  And I get to thinking, “maybe I’m really just picking at crumbs by this point.  Hey, when did winter arrive?  What month is it?”

Of course it’s just my perception – I’ve played Skyrim for like 10 million hours1 and I’m still finding new quests. What happens is I put off doing the main quest in the hopes of not missing the sidequests, only to find that you come across the most sidequests while involved in doing something else.  Sigh.  It’s like jobs and girlfriends; you never have one, you have none or too many.

Same applies to power armor.

Now that I’d won Piper’s heart, I figured it was time to grab my oldpal Nick Valentine and go find Virgil in the Glowing Sea.

Nick was cool, ’cause he’s a robot, but if I was gonna come out with all my limbs intact, I was gonna need more than Bactine – I was gonna need sum power armor.  No problem; I left a set back at the Red Rocket Truck Stop, it looked just like in the main loading screen, except for the methed out alcoholic redhead that was living there.

I said goodbye to Piper and learned the lesson of Lot’s wife:

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NEVER look back.

Yeah, she doesn’t take abandonment well.  Which is probably why when I came back, she’d let crackheads room in our house2.

And actually, it turns out nothing in the Wasteland takes abandonment well, because when I hit the Red Rocket …

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We’d like to show you a picture of this power armor, but Raiders won’t let us.

A Raider stole my power armor!  What’s worse – he did it when I was in Sanctuary!  I heard the gunfire, and when I get there, the power armor’s gone, and there’s a dead Raider wearing every. bit. but. the. torso.

Because, you know, the point wasn’t to get power armor, it was to fck with the PC.

Sigh.  So you know how it is … like car keys, now I’m looking around for that spare set I left somewhere…

I was pretty sure I’d left one over by outpost Zima or whatever it was … Preston sent me there to clear it out and set up a recruitment beacon, and one of the raiders had some power armor.  OK, let’s fast travel … hey, how come my happiness is so low… whoa, how the HELL did I get 8 settlers?  That recruitment beacon ain’t whistlin’ Dixie … and of course, they scavenged the HELL out of my power armor, but they. can’t. plant. a. tato.

Or build a water pump.  I know you have steel, ’cause you scavved my power armor.

Alright, the Glowing Sea can wait – let’s see what these freaks want.

“To be honest, we’re kind of short on food.”

Yes, I can see, that, considering I haven’t planted any.  Say, what were you eating before I arrived?  There weren’t, like, 10 of you to start with, were there?  Ick.  Here – how about sum Dandy Boy apples?  Fancy Lad Snack Cakes?  I know these product names are supposed to sound super-consumerist whitebread Americana pre-Resource War and ironic and all that, but some of them sound like things I could buy at Safeway right now.  Blamco Mac and Cheese?  Isn’t that next to Kraft’s?  Aren’t Sugar Bombs out of Calvin and Hobbes?

Whatever, my settlers ain’t eating ’em.  Apparently they only want farm-fresh food.  Listen, you mutant freaks, we’re living in the Wasteland!  You can’t buy free range super mutant at the local Whole Foods.  There’s a crater where the Whole Foods was!  Now it’s a Hole Foods, but it’s filled with Deathclaws and you’re the food!  It is all very terrible and ironic and oh what the hell, I’ll plant sum razorgrain and you can make noodles …

… wait, you’re still not happy.  Maybe if I assign a settler to farm?  Still not enough food … here’s a gourd, some tatos – okay, how much food do these people need, anyway?   Can’t they just .. eat less or something?

OK, that’s enough food .. got enough water pumps to open a car wash, assuming we still had cars.   Why are you people still not happy?  Beds?  Can’t you just share some?  Free love, man!  Okay, maybe not … of course, it’s not like I have a lot of room to build here.  We’re not talking Spanish oak four posters, I’ll be lucky to even fit enough sleeping bags for you lot … of course Preston has me build the recruitment beacons at the smallest possible settlements.  Sanctuary would have been too easy.

There’s 1 … 2 … dammit!  I’m out of cloth … ok, should be easy enough, what’s around here …

… there is not cloth in the entire settlement.  That’s because the previous inhabitants were all wearing power armor.

Okay, let’s put this on hold and go find some cotton.

Fortunately, I almost immediately ran into a raider settlement:

Let’s just loot these corpses here – hey, whaddya mean “Leather Armor” doesn’t count as “cloth.”  Haven’t you ever met Piper?  Okay, never mind – there’s a trailer full of mannequins here, and they’re all –

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Nothing lootable here.
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If only I could find some cloth …
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Not a stitch of fabric anywhere …

I was reduced to rendering toys into stuffing to make beds, kind of like some perverse children’s hospital commercial, but I finally got enough beds to make them happy, and all that was left to do –

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No, sorry, can’t help you with levitating cows.

Was go find some power armor.  I know I left some around here someplace –

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Maybe it’s under this bookshelf.

There were like, half a dozen around here someplace – I never paid attention, ’cause I always had a set.

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Maybe I left it at the hotel?

I finally found a new set at a government checkpoint.  And just like when you give up and buy something new, you find a half-dozen of them lying around – one just sitting around a raider settlement, two that had been formerly occupied by BoS and were currently occupied by corpses … eventually, I couldn’t go 10 feet without tripping over one –

 

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“In yo’ FACE.”  Luv, Fallout 4.

Okay, so now, FINALLY, I’m ready to … wait, what was I trying to do again?

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  1. Of course that’s an exaggeration; it’s probably really more like 5 million.
  2. But that’s another blog post.
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Fallout 4: Love Shack

Sigh.  The course of true love ne’er did run smooth, and neither do Fallout quest lines.

I’ve been flirting with Piper because, you know, leather trenchcoat, and she finally admitted she has feeling for me.  Granted, she did it in the middle of Railroad HQ.

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“OMG.  Get. A. Room.”

But the fact that her reality only tangentially intersects the real one is half the reason I love her.

But now I’ve got a problem – since I’m at her highest “level of affinity”1 and have her Gift of Gab perk, I should really get a new companion.  Which is kind of … awkward, considering we just got whatever the gaming equivalent of engaged is.  Luckily we’re in a video game; it would probably be even worse if this were a love story.  Titanic, for example:

“Hold me, Floyd – ”
<splash>

What to do?  What to do?

The best solution would be for her to go back to Diamond City and keep publishing Publick Occurrences, but Fallout 4 actually makes it incredibly difficult to send companions back to where you met them.  I did manage to do it once, but I don’t remember how, because it was on dollar beer night at the casino.  I suppose I’ll ask her to go back to Sanctuary, even though it’s already getting crowded and I need to plant more – I know!  I’ll practice using the workshop by building her a house!  A monument to our undying love, a Taj Mahal in the Wasteland.  That way I won’t feel so guilty about dumping her on the sidelines while I go run around with a robot french maid.

Also, given my complete lack of mechanical aptitude both in-and-out of game, I’ll probably end up building her a one-room rattleshack with a dripping sink and a broken fan, and just calling it the Taj Mahal.2 We’re lucky I wasn’t tasked with builing the pyramids, or archaeologists today would be excavating a giant, single, uncarved stone block.

At least this solves one problem: I never remember what settlement needs what, so I never know where to store all my junk.  I end up walking around with 30 pounds of assorted gears, oil, concrete, and wire, because I know one place needs a water pump and another needs a turret, but keeping it all straight requires less alcohol consumption than I’m willing to commit to.  But now – it all goes to Sanctuary!  Nothing is too good for Piper!

First things first – it’s time to clean up this joint.  Let’s start scrapping:

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Today on Hoarders …

I know some of the houses in Sanctuary are still usable, because I’ll find my followers sitting at a kitchen table, presumably drinking coffee and talking about current events.  Fortunately, Fallout helpfully outlines junk in yellow and useful items in green:

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200 years or 20,000 ghoul attacks, whichever comes first.
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Pretty sure the game got this one wrong.

It’s kind of fun, running around cleaning up the town … and certainly much easier than cleaning my actual house, especially after poker night.

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Before
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After

I decided I’d build Piper’s house on the vacant slab behind the main house in Sanctuary – the one with the power armor docking station.

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You know … actually … why is there a power armor station in what amounts to Levittown?  Doesn’t a neighborhood watch normally suffice?  I’m assuming it’s pre-War, since the entire Wasteland has pretty much gone downhill since then, but that leaves some serious implications about what the heck was going on in Sanctuary, back in the day.

I debated on wood vs. metal, and settled on wood; I thought it would feel cozier than cold metal walls, plus a lot of the metal pieces were curved; it would have felt like living in a pipe.  Fortunately, I had a good supply of wood, since in my scavenging frenzy I’d deforested the entire town.

One thing I knew for certain was I didn’t wanna go with prefab.  This would be custom-built for my love.

I chose a large-size corner piece, and kind of sort of managed to rotate it to fit the edge of the foundation, provided you understand that by “sort of” I mean “not at all.”

No matter how quick I clicked off the mouse button, it was either a little too far left or a little too far to the right.  You know, they’ve had “snap to grid” features since I was in high school3, so I am assuming pure hatred of the end user is why they never include them in graphics programs.  Allowing objects to free rotate is an invitation to permanent crippling OCD.  I’m lucky they didn’t find me days later, still spinning that damn corner, murmuring the litany of madness to myself.

Maybe it would help if I laid down a foundation first.  I’m not quite sure of the difference between a foundation and a floor, and if I need both, but I’m sure the tutorial will explain all of that.

I just thought I’d throw in a little zany humor there, because Bethesda really took it to heart about not hand-holding the player.  I’m pretty sure the only reason you don’t have to build a time machine and go back to pre-War Boston and get building permits is because they ran out of time to program it.

Well – nothing’s too good for my Piper, so I’ll go with floor and foundation –

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The units come with numbers, but it takes a smarter person than me to figure it out.

So, um, the floor doesn’t fit on the foundation.  That seems suboptimal.

Now, while I appreciate Piper a great deal, all relationships are built on compromise, and in this case, the compromise is building a house in time for us to actually live in it before the game is over.  I scrapped the floor and put some walls together:

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How Sweet Shack

The walls.  Don’t fit the doors.  I haven’t even pondered the non-Euclidean intricacies of “roofs” yet, and I can’t even get the walls to line up.  I thought maybe I could extend it out by building an entrance foyer, but they didn’t line up either, and I saw myself building an endless labyrinth across Sanctuary, praying one of those endless iterations would magically result in something I could put a door on.  Such is the stuff of nightmares.

I stood there, with my non-connecting house where all the boards looked like something not even a methed-up hillbilly would use, getting rained on ’cause I couldn’t build a roof, and thought back to those halcyon days when I thought I could build a pleasure palace for my love:

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“I’m thinking a split-level ranch…”

I didn’t want something from the back lot of Deliverance.  I wanted a real, pre-War house, with that funky blue siding and maybe a mailbox.  Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.  I finally gave up and decided on a prefab shack … I was looking at the wooden ones, but to be honest, she already had better than that in Diamond City.

I settled – ha ha – on a “large metal shack,” which basically is two pipes stuck together.  I wasn’t sure about the wisdom of the whole idea, especially (as you will no doubt be surprised to learn) because it was kind of crooked compared to the foundation … but then, so’s Piper, so maybe she’d like it.  I was reassured when she immediately came running in.  I initiated dialogue.  She gave me some bubblegum and said, “hey, dollface.”

OK … metal shack it is.

Next step – pimpin’ the crib.

I built a generator so we’d always have the homey stench of diesel fuel nearby, then slapped a power pylon down.  Once I ran a wire to that I was able to put some lights up in Pipe # 1.

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Along with some decor.

I decided on a fan both for the style and because we were basically living in a giant oven.

To my surprise, the lights didn’t come on in Pipe # 2, which was a problem as I had both a TV and a strobe light goin’ on in there:

I’m not sure if there’s a distance or device limit on the power pylon; I solved it by adding a second pylon by that section of pipe:

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Wire from generator to pylon to pylon 2.

 

And all the little comforts of home:

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A hot tub and a disco ball, oh yeah.

I wanted to add some outside lighting, because I think a neighborhood feels more homey when there are porch lights on.  I was hoping to give it a kind of outdoor-market feel, something upbeat and festive, to go with the disco ball, but that’s impossible to do on what amounts to a metal hot dog.  Also, it takes a second generator:

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No line of sight to the first generator.

When all was said an done, I sat with Piper and watched the sunset as crickets chirped in the background; I have to admit, it felt … peaceful.  It was suburbia, of sorts.  A suburbia filled with super mutants and psychotic robots, sure, but then again, isn’t that what we always imagined was lurking beneath the surface of that picket-fence paradise.

Finally, it was time for us to spend the first night in our new home:

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I can buy a disco ball, but not sheets.

Unlike the Skyrim version, where your partner spends the night either sitting in a chair or looming awkwardly over you, Fallout is prepared to admit that your romantic partner will most likely sleep in the same bed as you.  She also yawns and says “wakey wakey” and a few other unique dialogue options.

“Hey, Piper,” I said, then selected the “talk” option.

She smiled and said “there’s no place I’d rather be.”

We were home.

 

A pack of mentats underneath the bough
A case of Whiskey, sum sugar bombs –and Thou
Beside me snarking in the wasteland —
Oh, the commonwealth were Paradise enow!

Come, fill the nuka cola bottle, and in the fire of Spring
Your leather trenchcoat of Repentance fling:
The bloatfly has but a little way
To fly–and lo! the vertibird is on the wing!

 

  1. Is that what they’re calling it these days?
  2. Which is also how Atlantic City did it.
  3. 2004 BC

The Reason for the Season

Happy Solstice, cultists!

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice marks the time when the sun appears to “die” in the sky.  On the longest night of the year, the sun would hover above the frozen hills of the north, by Kadath in the Cold Waste, before beginning its upward trek toward the promise of summer.

Now, of course, we celebrate the Solstice by getting tanked on eggnog and fighting with relatives, but once, the judgment of the Red Lord wasn’t who got presents and who got coal, it was whether the ice would melt and we would live to see another season.

In the modern world, we know that the seasons are caused by the Earth’s axial tilt:

jGEOA

In the summer, our off-balance planet presents more of its northern surface to the sun; in the winter, less.  As we move from winter to summer, an observer on Earth (i.e., everybody) will see the sun rise higher and higher in the sky, until on the summer solstice (Jun 21), it will appear at its highest point.

Equinox

(When I say it “climbs higher” I mean day-by-day.  It still rises and sets every day, but on Jun. 22, the highest point the sun reaches in the sky is a little bit lower than on Jun 21.  The sun doesn’t just “stop” in the sky on the winter solstice …

… or does it?

On the Winster Solstice, the sun stands still in the sky before weakly setting beneath the ice, heralding the longest night of the year.

When else would “the stars be right?”

Is it not written in the Kitab Al-Azif, that “after summer comes winter, then summer no more …”1?

When the Old Ones return, it will be on the Winter Solstice.  The sun will sink lower and lower, until at last in hovers unmoving in the sky … and never moves again.

Could this have already happened?

Could Christmas be an ancestral memory of the time the Old Ones rose, and the miracle that saved us?  What is the true meaning of Christmas?

Consider the tauroctony:

"Tauroctony" - Mithras slaying a bull
“Tauroctony” – Mithras slaying a bull. Pio Clementino Museum; Hall of Animals. Vatican Museums.

The tauroctony symbolism was as important to the Mithraic Mysteries as the crucifix is to Christianity.  In addition to Mithra slaying the bull, various other animals are often depicted, including snakes, dogs, and ravens.

No one knows why – Mithraism revealed its secrets only to initiates, and they died out when Constantine chose Christianity instead of Mithraism as the state religion of Rome.

The reason why he did that will be revealed in a later post; what is important is that many scholars believe the animals have a connection to the constellations: the snake is Hydra2, the raven Corvus, and the dog Canis. It is also possible that the bull represented Taurus and Mithra Perseus, who are together in the night sky.

Some, particularly Dr. David Ulansey, have taken this further and suggested that the secret of Mithraism may have been that it represented the precession of the equinoxes3. Due to the Earth’s tilt, the position of the stars in the sky appear to change over time:

670px-Earth_precession.svg

“Earth precession” by NASA, Mysid – Vectorized by Mysid in Inkscape after a NASA Earth Observatory image in Milutin Milankovitch Precession.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Earth_precession.svg#/media/File:Earth_precession.svg

To an observer on Earth (i.e., everybody) where the band of the zodiac crosses the celestial equator will change; most recently, it moved out of Aries and into Pisces; during the possible founding of Mithraism, it had moved into Aries from Taurus.

Was this astonishing enough to spark a religion?  To encode the decline of Taurus as “the slaying of the bull?”  To know that we couldn’t trust the sky.  Dr. Ulansey believes so.

However, the precession of the equinox takes thousands of years; even though early astronomers knew about it, it can’t birth the kind of terror and awe and humility that a religion does.

But what if it happened in one night?

What if that is the true secret of Mithraism – that on the darkest night of the year, as the sun died and bled in the winter sky and the screams of madness echoed across the ice as the Old Ones woke and ravened across the world, our ancestors looked up and saw Mithra eclipsing the sky as He shifted the axis of the world.  As they watched, the stars began to move once more, and the Old Ones were banished back into the nightmare corpse city of R’lYeh.

It’s no coincidence that Mithra was said to have been born on Dec. 25.

Nor is it coincidence that his cult flourished in the East, the same direction from which the Magi came.  Two millennia after Mithra, the Stars were right once more – in the skies above Bethlehem, where the Herald of the Old Ones was born.  The Anointed One was born to stop the sun from rising again, and the Magi were sent to stop Him.  They weren’t Wise Men; they were assassins.

They failed.

But the Romans, who still preserved a remnant of that memory in their Mithraic Mystery cults, crucified the Anointed One before He could fulfill His ultimate plan – but like Mithra, He will Rise Again, and on that day all the world will revel in an orgy of destruction, unless we can stop Him.

 

Ftaghn, cultists. And Happy Solstice.

  1. The Dee translation (used by Lovecraft) contained a transcription error.
  2. Not the Avengers one; the astronomy one.
  3. Notice how we keep coming back to the stars?

Fallout Se7en

There are times you flinch at memory’s embrace; the recollection of a name, a face, that meant nothing when you began, and could mean nothing else when finally it’s through with you.

It was a drop of water on my HUD, somewhere in the middle of Boston, and I was tired of Following the Freedom Trail through super mutant fortresses.  All unknowing, I went to see what the unfound location was.

It wasn’t a water drop.

It was a tear.

It was called the Fen Street Sewer.  Just saying that name now makes my skin crawl.

But who am I trying to fool?  This older, wiser self knows he can’t hide from the truth.  I saw the red light, and I went on anyway:

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You KNOW what this means by now.

I’d like to think that I flinched when I saw the thing, but that would be a lie; what came next was as inevitable as fate, and I had gone there of my own will.  From that point, I was in his world.

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Netflix and Chill, Fallout style.

I knew the killer was sick, but smart.  I knew it because I’d been in those places too many times, seen too many lives snuffed out like candles.  This was old hat to me now, and nothing much about it could bother me anymore.  Who knew what that said about me?

Just this last mission, I thought – ah, but that was a younger me… just one last mission, one last hit, one last drink.  One last Frankenstein to feed, and we’ll be free.  Until the next one, of course.  Still, just let me clear this dungeon, I thought, and I’m through – take the gold watch, sit around the house, retire … quit playing these shooters and take up something relaxing like Goat Sim.

The holotape was addressed to “Dear Detective.”  It wasn’t intended for me – I’d come here years after the bombs fell.  I was history’s janitor, picking through the pieces of a dead past.  The killer had lured the detective here – I wondered who it had been.  What was he like?

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Did he like fishing?

I felt I was beginning to understand this killer.  For one thing, he was a sick little puppy.  But funny, too.  I recognized the style – pure Fallout.

When the ghouls attacked, it was almost an afterthought.  We weren’t here for those twisted little things; we were here for the story.

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And maybe some BBQ.

I put them out of their misery.  Mindless as they were, their glowing eyes seemed to thank me as I snuffed out their light.

I wasn’t really thinking about them, though, or even the killer, anymore – or his story, as he told it in the “Dear Detective” holotapesL how he’d felt pressured by society to fit in, how this dungeon was the only place he felt free.  Just another excuse for letting the animal run amuk.  Enough.  I’d done all the good I could in this world, usually by escorting others out of it.  I know my partner would never quit – could never quit – because he was a robot.  But I was ready for my time in the sun.

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Just relax, have a couple of beers…

My partner kept his hand on his gun; he said it was in case there were more ghouls, but I knew he needed the weight of its assurance, some anchor in a world gone astray.  Just like the killer, I thought; following familiar patterns, like a rat in a maze, all the while thinking he’s the cat in a game of cat and mouse.  But the detective was a terrier.  You see enough rats and the thrill of the chase fades away – it’s another day at the office.  9 to 5, just like the next schlub:

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Coffee break’s over, Joe.  Back to work!

I thought about the choices I’d made in life; no wife, no family, no children.  I wondered if it would have been different if I could have seen the world again through a child’s eyes.  Like

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Wait … WTF?!?

You didn’ … you did, didn’t you?  Okay, Fallout, that’s fVcked up.  Strollers?  OMFG … I just … really … lemme reload my gun real quick … okay, deep breath … maybe it’s just strollers – oh, there’s a skeleton in a dress … deep breath …

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A knife and a teddy bear – it’s like any Christmas at Don’s house.

I … the teddy bear is a symbol … I got it, Fallout.  You can’t show children, so you …

… my partner was looking at me funny.

“Might wanna put the gun down,” he said.

“I just … I need a moment, Nick.”

He handed me a holotape.  “It’s the last one.”

“Dear Detective … ” the voice on the tape droned on.  Distant.  Bored.  Like he already knew he was dead by my time.  “I didn’t mean to hurt you, but you hurt me first …”

At least he’d seen justice, then.  All I wanted now was to get away.  Let’s just find his corpse and clear this mission … the voice on the tape kept going.

“Now we’ll be together forever …”

It took me ten minutes to find it:

2015-12-13_00008

The voice on the tape was male … but he’d never said the detective was.

I came to with my partner standing over me.  The sun was bright in my eyes and I was breathing heavily.  How I got out, or why I was clutching the severed head of a Raider Psycho, I still don’t remember.

“You okay down there?” Nick drawled.

“I think so.  Just … ”

“Yeah?”

I dropped the head and checked my gun in its holster.  I stood up and checked my quest log.

“I don’t think I’m done being a gamer.”

Fallout 4: The Winter of Our Nick-Content, Part III

“What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill.  You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that.”1

“Nice sentiment, pal, but I’ve got a head full of someone else’s memories,” Nick said.  “You got the tapes?”

I handed him the last of the Eddie Winter holotapes.

“That’s some real solid detective work.  I can’t imagine what you had to go through to get them.”

“Dead Raiders tell no tales,” I said.

“But I do,” Piper added.

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Nothing stays hidden forever.  At least, not if I have my say.

“Okay, okay – ” I said with a shrug.  “If you’re going to team up on me …

“She had legs that went all the way up the Commonwealth, all wrapped up in a leather trenchcoat.  I’m talking about Piper, of course.  I was travelling with her because I’d run out of options for Nick – I wasn’t ready to face a power armor army of Raiders, at least not without some serious firepower of my own, and all that was left was that fortress called Quincy.  So I sent him back to Sanctuary while I went off with Piper to see if we could find the Story of the Century …

… not realizing, of course, that I had already completed that quest.  I have a hard time keeping my cool around the dames, especially when they’re feeding me sugar bombs and whiskey, which is why we ended up fast travelling back to Quincy when I’d just wanted to remove a quest marker.”

“We’re not alone here, Blue,” Piper said as the bullets timpanied off the shack we were hiding in.

I threw a grenade and counted to ten once I heard the boom.

“We’re still alive,” I said.  “That’s something.”

Fast-travel must have taken us in the back way, because instead of mini-nukes and lasery death from steeples, we just had to face what I counted as an even baker’s dozen of Raider Scum2  and one power armored power-fisted boxer raider named Tessa, who I’m fairly certain is supposed to represent Tessie, of Dropkick Murphys fame.  She certainly knocked me outta the ballpark a couple of times.

2015-12-20_00012
No match for a bladed tire iron, though.

I got the last holotape from the basement and we fast-traveled back to Sanctuary before the rest of Big Ugly’s friends showed up.  I hated to break up a party, but they were looking to break my face, and I had plans for that evening –

2015-12-13_00014
We’re cleaning up the town by painting it red.

“Bring the dame,” Nick said, nodding to Piper.  “She knows her way around a pistol.  Plus, I’m going full NPC for this one.”

“You’re the man, Nick.  Well, technically an android, but – oh hell, let’s go kill something.”

He took the holotapes and the action cut to his eyes, which was good, because I really didn’t want to know how he “processed” them.  A minute later, he said, “I’ve got the code.  He’s holed up in Andrews Station.”

“Great place for a picnic, if you don’t mind eating lead,” I said.  “But I cleared that joint out two days ago.”

“No matter how many times you spray ’em, the roaches keep crawling back.”

“That’s the problem with open-world radiant quests,” Piper said.

At the time, my attention had been taken up by the turrets that kept my doctor in highballs, so I don’t know if the door was always there, or if it only spawned once we were ready to face Winter.  But we made it through the tunnel and int0 –

2015-12-13_00015
Red light district, Lovecraft style

But of course, the blow you’re waiting for never comes.  There was nothing down there but some more turrets and raiders, which was any Friday night in my kind of town.

I was here for the main attraction, the man himself –

2015-12-13_00016
Eddie Winter

After all this time … Nick raised his gun.

2015-12-13_00017
“Who are you?”

“Nick Valentine,” my partner said.

I’ll give the creep this: even looking down the barrel of a gun, he never admitted his number was up.

“The cop?  Is that who you’re supposed to be?  Sorry pal -“Eddie said.

Revenge might be best served cold, but justice is another kind of dish, and this one had the taste of old heartbreak, at least for Nick.

Eddie died fast – I’d come loaded for a boss fight, but he was a teddy bear.

2015-12-13_00018
A real bleeding heart.

We stood over the body.  I don’t know what they were thinking.  I was thinking I could use a stiff drink and about 10 years of sleep.  I didn’t think I was likely to get either.

“There’s one last thing I have to do,” Nick said.  “I’d appreciate it if you’d come with me.”

We trailed him up through the remains of a Slocum Joe’s Coffee Shop; Eddie’s old hideout.

2015-12-13_00020
Pretty snazzy for a non-copyright infringing Starbucks.
2015-12-13_00019
Now playing: Old World Blues

I was about to hit the door when Piper turned to me.

“Gotta minute?”

“Sure,” I said, keeping an eye on Nick.  He waited, just far enough awayo to pretend politely that he couldn’t hear us.

“You handled yourself pretty well back there, Blue,” Piper said, lighting a cigarette.  “I just want you to know, I like being along for the ride.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I like having you around,” I said.

The cold air of night brought us back to Boston – a living Boston, full of Raider scum and mirelurks, but not Nick’s Boston, the one 200 years dead.  He knelt on a piece of crumbled asphalt that looked like any other to me.  They always do, don’t they?

“Here’s where it happened,” he said.  “Here’s where they put a bullet in the back of Jennifer Lands.”  He looked up at me.

“Your fiancee,” I said.  “His,” I corrected.

“I’d hope with Winters gone, I could move on,” he said.  “But nothing’s changed.”

“You’re free now,” I said.  Free to do what, I didn’t say.  Sometimes you’re only free to make the same mistakes over.

“I’ve got some things to think about.  I’d be more than happy to have you with me, but I understand if, after this, you need some time away.”

I knew what he was asking, but I didn’t know how to answer – he wanted to be my companion, but I’d just reached my first level affinity tree for Piper.  I brooded over the night, the city, and the people who stood staring at me.  Sometimes, being free just means you’ve got no one else to blame.

“I think we should part ways,” I said.  “Head on back to Sanctuary.”

He nodded and walked slowly off into the night.  I tried to think of something to say, but nothing seemed to fit that wasn’t a curse.

Piper came up behind me and put her hand on my shoulder.  “To say goodbye is to die a little,3” she said.

 

    1. Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
    2. That’s what they’re called. It really simplifies the moral element./li>
    3. Chandler again

Fallout 4: Paying the Piper

Piper and I had our first fight today.  It would be nice if she told me what it was about, but as far as I know, everything was fine, and then BAM! she just stopped giving me food.

I had wanted to finish Nick’s quest before getting involved with Piper, but I got stuck on his last mission, out near Quincy (or, as it is known in the original Algonquin, “Place of the Pain Bringers”) so I figured: what the hell, let’s go travel with Piper for a bit.

I mean, yeah, she does do the annoying hand gesture thing, and really she just reminds me of somebody’s unbalanced aunt, but after all, when I first met Liddie-Bug, I called her a “frost-maddened cow,” so you never know.

I walked into Piper’s office.

“We heading out?” she asked.  I said yes.  She lit a cigarette, took a deep drag, struck a pose, and said “let’s go” as she breathed out smoke.

2015-12-13_00012
Now that’s my kinda girl.

Funny enough, I don’t think I’ve seen her smoke since.  But she drinks like a fish –

2015-12-13_00029
Buy a girl … um … another drink?

And smokes like a chimney:

2015-12-15_00005
She smokes other people.

Well, yeah – I gave her a flamethrower.  When a girl dressed in leather and swilling vodka directly from the bottle asks you for something, the correct answer is always yes, even if she is asking for your internal organs.  ‘Cause she’s gonna get what she wants, and that way it hurts less.

Homicidal and alcoholic – I’ve found my soul mate.  Especially when she gives me candy every time I initiate dialogue with her.  I’m not sure how a bottle of sugar-jacked Nuka Cola “literally saved her life once,” but I’m sure it’s an interesting story, and one she’ll probably tell me while we’re trying to sneak through a Super Mutant infested fortress.

Timing – not really Piper’s thing.

2015-12-13_00028
She makes up for it with poise.

Like wanting to chill while sitting in radioactive water filled with ghoul corpses.

OK, I’ll admit, she is a little … absent minded, considering how often says “hey – did you ever wonder about …oh, right – shhhh…” while in sneak mode.  But she can’t help it – she’s programmed that way.

Also, she does tend to get in the way a lot, but she does look darned cute while doing it.  I mean –

2015-12-14_00002
She can’t hack terminals.
2015-12-13_00031
or craft anything.

 

but you know, really, it’s that constant curiosity that keeps a relationship interesting.

Which is why I was so concerned when she stopped giving me food.  What did I do to piss her off, besides push her away from the crafting station before she killed us both?

Well, … okay, maybe it’s because she only offers food once per day.

 

So I waited, and sure enough, the next day she said I looked like I could use a pick-me-up, but nothing appeared in my inventory.  Was she teasing me?  Minx.

I really didn’t wanna reload from a previous save, because I’d run around taking screenshots for my “It’s Electric” post.  “Ugh,” she said.  “Pictures pictures pictures.  Is this normal for other journalists?”

“Yeah – kinda.”

But you know how it is with relationships – once she got mad, I couldn’t help but get a little angry myself.  I wandered through a radiation zone to see what was in the shack inside; turned out to be a ghoul doctor, which was fortunate, because now I had all this radiation.  Kind of a revenue generating scheme, there.

A couple of aspirin and sum Nyquil calmed me down, so I thought I’d talk it out with Piper – and also I was hoping that dragging her through Chernobyl hadn’t pissed her off.

I pressed E and she gave me a Nuka-Cola.

“I just wanted to check in and see how our relationship was going,”  I said.

“We’re fine, Blue.  Stop asking all the time.”

“It’s just … I really wanna get the cutscence.”

She popped some bubblegum and reloaded her weapons.  “Stop trying to live your life for an epilogue you won’t survive to see,” she said.  “Also, here’s some sugar bombs.  Those things literally saved my life.”

2015-12-13_00027

Fallout 4: It’s Electric

There is no feeling quite so lonesome as the one where the Internet doesn’t find anything for your search term. I’m used to it, mostly, because secretly I’m an alien, but it was a little disconcerting to discover that I was apparently the only person in the known universe who didn’t know how to use electricity in Fallout.

Oh, plenty of people had searched for “how do you build a generator,” but that wasn’t my problem – I’d had a generator running at Sanctuary for days, although I haven’t got around to actually hooking anything up to it, which was the problem, as creating power was simple compared to using that power.  That sounds like some sort of backwards Yoda proverb, but mostly it was just screaming nerdrage at the computer.

This is why I had been avoiding the settlement option, as much as possible while still completing the WaitaMinuteMan missions that were sometimes the only one left where I hadn’t run into an unpassable beef gate of Radioactive Legendary MireClaws, which meant that without really trying, I’d assembled a small seraglio of settlements, usually manned by a lone settler despondently growing ‘tatos in the dark.

But “optional” in this case meant the same as “optional insurance” when the Mafia guy is standing in your bookstore holding a contract and a lighter.  In this case, the bookstore was the former MinuteMan bunker known as the Castle, the lighter was getting Piper to like me, and the contract was hooking up power to the Freedom Radio Transmitter.  I may have stretched the analogy too far, there.

You’d have thought that fighting a Mirelurk Queen would have been enough of a capstone for the mission

2015-12-12_00005
Cloverfield’s Momma

but I guess Fallout was really crankin’ up the hate on this one, because in addition to having to fight the kaiju deathcrab, I had to do some non-Euclidean electrical engineering.

Not only that, but they apparently decided, hey – just being difficult is too easy; let’s also flat out mislead these fools!

Because it turns out that while building a generator is easy, you need some way to connect everything – and that is never explained, clarified, or shown as an option anywhere.  So it’s only natural that you’d see something called a “distrubted power pylon” and think you should somehow make use of it.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Nearly everything else in the game requires the pylon, so of course they’ll teach you to use it by having you build one of the two things that doesn’t.  And just to reinforce the lesson, the next thing you have to build is the second thing that doesn’t require it.

The lesson being, of course, “Fallout hates you and wants you to die.”

So I’m sitting there with my generator belching smoke into the Boston sky, and I flip the power switch on the radio and mutter to myself “this will work if I can get power to it,” because apparently I didn’t already know that, because apparently the game knows I have a drinking problem.

There must be some way to connect the generator to the radio … if only I had some wires, but those aren’t part of the workshop build options …

Now, after you read the internet, it will helpfully inform you that if you’d just read the options on the generator menu itself, one of them said

press space to run wire

but since that is thus far the one and only time you have to do something different in the workshop besides “select, place, build” it’s kind of like one of those tests where they tell you to read all the directions first and at the end you don’t write anything?  And then they always say you failed because you wrote your name and date on it, like you’ve been conditioned to since birth?  F that.

Lesson learned.  Lesson being, “Fallout hates you and wants you to die.”

I pressed space.  I got me some wire, with a nice sparky end on it, like the time the Honorio cut the end of an extension cord and didn’t tell me until after I plugged it in.  Good times, good times.

So … where do I put this here wire?  The tutorial is still telling me to “build something that requires power” even though I have an entire shack that requires power, because the tutorial is f@cking stupid.  I tried putting it “in the shack” – no luck.  Okay, the wire connector thing on the roof?  Was that there, or did I build that later?  I can’t remember.  Damn you, dollar beer night!   Anyway, no luck.   I tried putting the wire on Preston’s head, but that didn’t work, although it was kinda funny.  Did some electro-play on the mirelurk queen, but she was a cold fish.

Finally, through sheer trial and error, I connected one generator to the other –

oh, did I mention you need two generators?  Sorry about that.  Yeah – the radio takes 10 power, and a medium generator puts out 5, and it takes a rank in science, plus sufficient raw materials to manufacture a battleship, to build a large generator.

Also, you can only hook up one thing to another, so you can’t run both wires to the same point.  At least, that I’ve been able to tell.

All of which is helpfully explained in the tutorial … HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Yeah.

So … wire from generator 1 to generator 2,

Generator

then a second wire from generator 2 to a power connector on the radio itself.  I know people sometimes come here looking for answers to Fallout questions, which probably isn’t very helpful, so apologize in advance when I say I can’t remember if I built the power connector or it was already there:

Generator2

Which got Freedom Radio up and running, and more importantly, got Piper to “like” me.  Sigh … if only it were that easy on a Friday night at the casino.  Actually, considering the Oscilliscope Incident from Physics 111, that might be a bad idea.  Never mind.  Forget I said anything.

Now that I had the hang of this wire thing, I thought I’d drop by Hangman’s Alley and built a radio transmitter.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

I already figured the power pylon wouldn’t work, ’cause I’m a savvy Fallout player, but I spent an hour trying to get the wire to connect to the damn radio transmitter, only to finally realize that I’d placed it in just the perfect angle that the game wouldn’t recognize it as a valid wire run.  Because, you know, wire runs are not something anyone who plays video games would ever have experience with in real life, so there’s no way we’d be playing video games to escape that sort of thing.  Next thing you know, they’re gonna have a Tax Simulator game.

 

 

Skyrim: Twilight – Breaking Dawnguard

Sometimes I worry that money can’t buy happiness.

Fortunately, right about then Steam has a sale.

Steam always helpfully e-mails me when games I want go on sale, which is usually ten minutes after I’ve already made another large purchasing decision.  Like Fallout 4 last month … so even with the sale, it was probably not the best financial decision to get the entire Skyrim DLC, but I did anyway, because God bless dollar beer night at the casino.

You’d think, since I’ve already put over 300 hours into Skyrim, that I’d have bought the DLC long ago, but  were two things holding me back:

  1. I thought you couldn’t bring Lydia with you in the DLC and
  2. I’m a cheapskate and they weren’t on sale.

Then I learned that not only can you take Lydia with you, but she proved so popular they added a whole bunch of snarky new dialogue specifically for her.  Which is typical for me – when I guess wrong, I don’t do it halfway.  That’s why they called me “Wrong Way Raymond” during my 10-minute high-school football career.

I was in the middle of Wymstooth’s boss fight when I was attacked by the cultists that start the Dragonborn DLC.  Or at least, I think they attacked me; they may have just talked to me – I’m not really sure, ’cause there was lightning flying around and people were trying to stab me with stuff and also there was a dragon and it was dollar beer night at the casino, so everything was sort of fuzzy and lager-colored.  Anyway, when all was said and done, I had no idea where the cultists went and no idea how to start the Dragonborn quest.

No worries; I’d heard a lot about Serana, so  I decided I’d just start with Dawnguard.

Of course, it turns out that all of Lydia’s new dialogue is for Dragonborn.  Sigh.  See note, above, re: Wrong Way Raymond.

Well, most of her dialogue, anyway.  Because when I asked her to trade items, I got:

wait … WTF?!?

That was the dialogue they needed to improve?  Really, Bethesda?  The line that made Lydia famous?  You do realize we all love her because she don’t take sh^t, right?  It’s the snark we love.  I almost want to uninstall Dragonborn, just to get my old Liddie-Bug back.  Especially ’cause I’m gonna need some snark if I have to deal with all this Dawnguard angst:

L.JPG
Lydia has little patience for misplaced machismo.

and those are the heroes!  The actual vampires

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Serana … oh, Serana …

Meet Serana – or, as I call her, “Demon Queen of Angst.”  You’d think she’d be happier to see me, given that she’s been imprisoned in that sarcophagus for like 10,000 years , but she’s just very, very upset because her dad, the mostest evillest …

… wait.

I knew she sounded way too much like every single one of my ex-girlfriends.  Really, Skyrim?  Daddy issues?  I play video games to escape reality, not to be reminded of dating in my twenties.   And considering she’s a vampire, she’s been Forever 21 for, like, a gazillion years, which means enough shallow emotional trauma to make Stephanie Meyer hang up her pen.

OK, so anyway, her dad, Baron Harkonnen …

… sorry, little typo there; I mean Lord Harkon …

you ever notice how villains really go all in on the consonants?  Harkon, Sauron, Harkonnen, Saruman, Voldemort, Vader.  You never hear about villains named Jimmy or Jenny or Betsy the Flower Girl.  It’s always some vaguely Germanic or Hungarian conglomeration of nasal stops.  Maybe they’re not villains, they’re just angry ’cause their throats hurt.

Anyway, her dad, Lord Harkon (or, in the original German, Boopsy Thunderkissings) the mostest evillest and powerfullest dread vampire lord of them all, has a sinister plan to blot out the sun or something, and all hope is lost because he is pure unstoppable evil so that’s why she has to get all breathy and sigh like she just got stood up for the junior prom …

um …

… I mentioned I killed a god, right?  And not “Boopsy, Goddess of Flowers and Facial Tissues” either –  I killed The World Eater, the Thing That Eats Gods I’m sure your dad’s probably boss-fight material, but I murdered a deity.  We can probably tone down the angst, here.  There’s really no need to stand like this –

2015-11-28_00012 (1)
Serena brings the angst!

especially when you’re also going to refer to the Keepers of the Soul Cairn, ancient guardians who sound like the next best thing to Lovecraftian Old Ones, as “those keeper things.” That’s crossing the streams.  You can’t simultaneously dismiss everything in Skyrim with an eye roll and a muttered “ugh. boooring,” and act all mopey about how terribly terribly doomed everything is.   You can either be angsty or be meta, but doing both means you’re straying dangerously close to the dreaded Hot Topic line.

But to continue our story –

2015-11-28_00004
“Are you SURE we can’t just kill them all?”

… apparently her mother also went into exile, and of course we have to find her, even though it’s dollar ale night at the Bannered Mare, because she has an Elder Scroll.  She’s hanging out somewhere in The Soul Cairn, which looks like every 90’s horror fantasy game relived –

2015-11-29_00001
I suddenly really want to play DOOM.

and I knew we were in for some serious trouble – ’cause if there’s one thing that will angst out an emo goth twentysomething more than fighting with her dad

2015-11-29_00002 (1)
– it’s fighting with her mom.

 

Fallout 4: I Heard It On The X

I accidentally sold all the ammo for my .50 cal sniper rifle, so the Nick Valentine quest will be postponed while I wander the Wasteland scrounging up caps to buy my bullets back.  In the interim, I give you the following screed –

Pfht.  You kids these days, with your wireless and your smartphones and your DLS cables … we didn’t have none of that back in my day, nosiree.

We had radio.  Which, come to think of it, is the original wireless.

Radio seems to be a staple of American post-apocalyptic imagery: from Alas Babylon to Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell, radio is the link that keeps what remains of civilization together.

I don’t recall anything like that in the Mad Max films, which makes me think radio is something unique to the American mind; of course, Mad Max is also a much bleaker vision of the future than most American fiction, which tells us something about why radio plays such an important role.

The link between radio and the bomb goes back to nearly the beginning of the Cold War, to CONELRAD:

Conelrad_logo.svg.png
Look familiar?

The early ancestor of what would become the Emergency Alert System, CONELRAD was the radio service the US Government developed to warn the public that the End was coming.  Nowadays, the Emergency Alert System warns you that you might lose TV reception1, but once upon a time,  in the early 50’s, a radio broadcast would have been the only warning to Duck and Cover.

WiFi means we live in a culture where we are permanently connected, essentially without effort, to the entire world.  But even back in the Paleolithic days of the 70’s, radio, telephone, and satellite networks connected us so completely that it was guaranteed that any major news story would be covered within minutes.

By contrast, it took the Japanese hours to realize what had happened to Hiroshima2.  And the first person to know was a radio operator who realized the station had gone silent.

The Internet requires a computer, a modem, and a set of protocols to allow one computer to talk to another.  A telephone requires miles upon miles of cable and someone on the other end who had a telephone and wants to talk to you.

Radio requires a transmitter and power – still technology, but a much lower threshold.  And radio was the first method we had of mass voice communication besides just shouting really loud3.  In enemy territory, in virgin territory, into the unknown – radio still works.  Even today, amateur HAM radio operators serve as a reserve communications network in emergencies.

 

It is assumed there won’t be Internet after the bombs fall; smartphones will be, at best, prepaid only.  In the bleakest of worlds, this means we are alone: no help is coming, nor can ever be expected.

But that isn’t American – the American Apocalypse is about hope, and that’s because atomic radio is what built America.

Okay, atoms and radio, but “atomic radio” just sounds cooler.

The Manhattan Project severed the New World from the Old as surely as a new dawn.  At the same time, the groundswell of rock and roll was starting to transform a nation …

… well, not if the FCC had anything to say about.  The outlawing of “hillbilly music” as weakening the moral fiber forced early DJs to move south into Mexico, pumping out music on bajillion-watt transmitters that could be heard clear up into New York, transmitters so powerful the radio towers glowed in the dark.  It was the Golden Age of DJs

398142112_640.jpg
Have mercy!

Those outlawed broadcasts across the night, stretching across the vast emptiness of the continent, found millions of listeners turning the knobs of their radio receivers, hoping to find that elusive frequency –

and that’s what radio is all about, Charlie Brown.  Reaching out, searching, finding.  The music – it’s almost secondary, at least in the fiction of Apocalypse.

Oh, yes – the knobs.  Back in the day, a stereo was a serious piece of equipment:

4610435102_0eb10ff953_z
Not pictured: 70’s faux-wood paneling.  You old Atari 2600 gamers know what I’m talking about.

Not only did you feel like a little Einstein, twirling the knobs, searching for a “frequency”, which was measured in “MegaHertz”, which you didn’t understand but that sounded so super-sciency, but you were also doing something that is increasingly lost today.  What you were really doing, alone in your room in the dark and empty American night, was saying to the world: “here I am.  Come fill me up.  Tell me something.”

The Internet knows you.  It knows what you like and it gives you endless quantities of it.  Amazon Kindle knows I like animals, and provides me with more free nature shows than I could watch in a lifetime4.
And that is pure and good and true and proof that we did it right.
But what we lost is that exposure to the unexpected – the new song, the strange voice, the book in the corner of the bookshop you didn’t pick up because of any “recommended” list, but because something about it, wholly beyond logic or personality, caught your attention. It’s that spark, that connection, the idea that as alone as you are, someone else is out there …

… which is what the American Apocalypse is about: hope.  Not the End, but what comes after.  Rock n’ roll came after the bomb, and radio will be there after the next one.

  1. )Or, if you live in Modoc County, that you’re about to get 20 feet of snow and will be trapped until spring.
  2. Well, not the people who lived there; they probably knew something had happened.
  3. Now we have blogs!
  4. Especially given how long it takes me to write this blog.

Fallout 4: The Winter Of Our Nick-Content, Part II

I’ve think I’ve figured out who Nick was, before the War.

Satan.

2015-11-22_00008
You ever dance with me in the pale moonlight?

That’s why, since I’ve been hanging around with him, every living thing in the Wasteland is trying to kill me.

I thought I was used to the level of combat in Fallout 4 (i.e., constant, even when you’re hiding in your cryopod trying to eat sum Iguana onna Stick) and the increased numbers of enemies (a million skillion of them, all at once, with rapid-fire nuclear grenade launchers and sharp pointy sticks) but when you combine those two things, it’s like two great pains that hurt a lot together, like getting hemorrhaging artery chocolate in suppurating chest wound peanut butter.  It’s one thing to have entire packs of enemies attacking all at once, but when you have packs of packs of different kinds of enemies, all looking to use your organs for kleenex, you know things are getting out of control.

I was still on Nick’s quest line when it started; that’s why I think he’s actually Lucifer the Morning Star, masquerading as a wisecracking android detective1. We were near Fallon’s Department Store when I ran into a fortress full of gunners, who are a random mercenary faction that of course is inimically hostile to you for no reason except that by this point in the game, regular raiders don’t kill you enough.

Fortunately, they were in the middle of a three-way battle with Brotherhood Paladins and some other random group called the Children of Atom, who of course are inimically hostile to you because at this point, it’s just what all the cool kids are doing.

The Brotherhood of Steel is actually turning out to be kind of useful, in that I can let them suck up all the aggro while I potshot the enemy with my sniper rifle.  And while I do feel kind of guilty when I accidentally headshot one of them, they don’t seem to mind, and they even let me loot their corpses.

I started to head toward the police station when I was distracted by

2015-12-06_00010
Ooooh shiny!!1!

I’m a fool for anything shiny in the distance.  It might be ’cause I used to sell lightbulbs, or some symptom of incipient schizophrenia, but if it’s glowy, I’m gonna go check it out, something Skyrim used to great effect, with the ghosts and the lightning mages

35631-2-1377834789.jpg
and occasionally this guy*

*flamy death courtesy of the Monster Mod, on the Nexus Forums.

Of course, Fallout 4 is rather more … fraught than Skyrim, as I discovered when the path to the glowy thing ran across a lake containing, among other things, a Legendary Mirelurk King

as well as his entire football team.

2015-12-06_00004
So much death, for such a little guy…

So after a half-dozen cutscenes where I watched my head get severed and eaten, I decided to go the other way.  Where apparently Fallout went all meta and got into my head, ’cause what should I see but

2015-12-06_00013
It’s EXTRA shiny!

Which turned out to be full of feral ghouls.  Not that this was a problem, as they were immediately attacked by a pack of mirelurk hunters.

It makes you wonder, it really does – I mean, what do these monsters do when there aren’t PCs around to kill?  Are they all just laying there, nosetip to fang, unaware that they’re packed in tighter than pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, until a footstep awakens them and they just start killing anything they see?2

Nick, showing the usual tactical genius of an NPC, ran into melee, while I sat on the sidelines lobbing Molotov Cocktails at the entire group.  I figured Nick could take it, what with him being the Devil and all.

Wait … something’s still moving … aah!  My face is melting!  This was not an ideal way to discover that Mirelurk hunters spit poisonous acid poison!

I engaged in what Fallout players call a tactical firing retreat, which means I ran backwards as fast as I could, while spraying bullets in the direction the pain was coming from.  It didn’t look like I was gonna make it, when I ran across a train station and heard a grunted “huh?” followed by the countdown beep of a …

… really?  The mixed salad of a mirelurks and ghouls wasn’t enough?!?  You threw in a Super Mutant Suicider?!?

Fortunately, the explosion took out the Mirelurk Hunter

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You can still see the mushroom cloud.

by this point, I figured I’d pretty much survived the worst Fallout could throw at me, so I kept heading south,which is where I discovered why they call it the  Glowing Sea:

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Dear God, the Land Itself Hath Risen ‘Gainst Me

OK fine.  I’ll try a different direction … how about hitting the police station in Quincy?

Nope – bad idea, ’cause Quincy hit back like Mike Tyson in a ‘roid rage … I managed to get around the Super Mutant camp that was being attacked by the Brotherhood, but only by stumbling into a raider camp filled with what I posthumously learned was a new level of raider, the “raider survivalist,” who apparently evolved to survive solely on the internal ograns of player characters.

Next try, I got more supermutants, a Legendary gunner, and the raider camp again, only this time they apparently had nuclear-tipped grenades, based on the mushroom-cloud shaped cutscene.

I eventually  make it into Quicy on the third try, only to find the entire town is another fortified gunner camp, where they apparently also have a working breeder reactor.  Or at least that was my ten-second impression, because all I heard was someone say “here, have some” and then drop what was, based on the damage level, a dinosaur killer asteroid on me.

Attention, Bethesda: An ELE is supposed to be a hypothetical cosmology term, not a gameplay mechanic.

You know what?  Never mind.  Maybe I started that quest too soon.  Let’s go back to an earlier one.  How about … follow the Freedom Trail … yeah, that one was a while ago, I should be able to handle it now.

Oh yeah, following the Freedom Trail … which leads to the Massachusetts State House, which is Filled. With. Mirelurks.

‘Cause the thing to do, when you have a kaiju-sized devil crab that can one-hit small galaxies, is to make ’em in six-pack sizes!

You know what?  Never mind.  I’m a badass now.  I can take these bastards.  Which they knew, apparently, ’cause right about then the floorboards start breaking under me like a bad horror movie  and up pops a

… really …

… really, Bethesda?  A mirelurk QUEEN?

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I actually managed to kill it. Then I was killed by raiders before I could save.

I … I’m gonna go play Solitaire now.

  1. Which is also basically the plot of Wuthering Heights.
  2. Yes.