Tag Archives: Fallout 4

Rolling dice never changes with Fallout: The Board Game

I am still surprised to this day that I did not fall head over heels in love with Fallout 4. I mean, I like it well enough, but the obsessive amount of exploring I did in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas never reared its pretty head in the same way, and I’ve tried going back to the campaign about finding my stolen son and defeating–or teaming up with–an army of synths several times now to see things from a different perspective, never really getting too far in and eventually petering out when something more interesting comes along to demand I play it. Still, if anything, Fallout 4 brought with it some fun side stuff that I enjoy more than the main gig, such as Fallout Shelter and Fallout: The Board Game; I’ve already talked about the former, and this post is most definitely about the latter.

Initially, I balked at Fallout: The Board Game‘s price tag. Sixty dollars plus tax sure seemed like a lot for…a board game, but maybe I’m still new to this cardboard, tiles, meeples-run world, considering I’ve looked around online and seen other games priced much higher than that. Still, that price is in line with a brand-new videogame release, and I don’t often get a lot of those. Well, regardless of all that, in March or April of this year–sorry, my chemo-drippy brain is fuzzy on the details–I entered V.A.T.S., selected a copy for a 100% lethal shot, and watched as Bloody Mess played out at the register. Er, I bought a copy. Sorry, sometimes I lose myself in both the world and language of Fallout.

Okay, time for the nitty-gritty. No, not that Gritty. Fallout: The Board Game is a post-nuclear adventure board game for one to four players. Naturally, it’s based on the mega-popular series–well, maybe not Fallout 76 as it currently is–by Bethesda Softworks. There are multiple story scenarios to play through, and each is inspired by a familiar story from the franchise. Survivors begin the game on the edge of an unexplored landscape, uncertain of what awaits them. With just one objective to guide them from the very beginning, each player must explore the hidden map, fight off ferocious, irradiated enemies, and build up their survivor’s skills as they attempt to complete challenging quests and balance feuding factions within the game. To win, you must reach a specific amount of agenda influence points, and the number of influence points required for victory is dependent on how many players are participating.

Fallout: The Board Game is played in a series of rounds, with each player getting two actions on a turn. Different actions include moving, exploring new tiles, fighting enemies, questing and encountering, and resting. After all players finish their respective turn, the round ends with monsters activating and looking for wanderers to attack. Combat is handled with three custom dice. Every monster has vulnerable areas, represented by the V.A.T.S. icon, and players must roll to hit these specific areas. Having a weapon and matching S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats will grant re-rolls, along with other cards and perks. Defeating monsters grants XP and sometimes loot, but the monster doesn’t go away entirely, instead it retreats into a dormant stage to fight again another day.

Experience is handled through a pretty nifty leveling system attached to a tracker. Each point of experience will move a peg along the player’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. track, skipping over any empty spaces. Once it completes a circlet, the player gets to draw a new S.P.E.C.I.A.L. token to add to their stats. Duplicate tokens will instead grant a perk and single use abilities, and having certain S.P.E.C.I.A.L. tokens will affect combat encounters and mission quests. You also track your amount of radiation on this board, and if your HP every goes below the current radiation peg…your character perishes. The tracker also has slots for companions and inventory items.

There are quests. Lots of ’em. In fact, the base game comes with a 150-card deck of numbered missions to complete. When a player has an encounter, another player will read the card and options to them, but not the results. The player must then decide which option to choose without knowing the outcome. Alas, when playing solo, it can be difficult to not read the results as you do this to yourself, and I often based my decision on already knowing what goodies I got. Many quests will branch off into multiple cards after granting experience points or loot, and some will also reward you with influence points. Following an entire questline to its end is fun and just as satisfactory as in the videogames, but sometimes you have to juggle multiple quests, which can become overwhelming.

Phew. I know that is probably a lot to take in, and for me, it took several attempts at playing Fallout: The Board Game for most of that to sink in. I’m still not 100% certain how the shop works, but whatever. Also, the agenda points system isn’t great, especially in solo mode, but it’s how you win the game. Personally, I wish it wasn’t, as I have more fun doing quests and exploring unflipped tiles than trying to balance two factions or simply focusing on a single one only to betray it at the end if you suddenly see a way to get more agenda points with the other faction. It just doesn’t feel cohesive, but maybe it works better with more players fighting to gain these points first.

So far, I’ve only played solo, and it can be a lot to pay attention to. Each game has roughly taken me two to three hours to complete, and my first time having a go at it, most of that was dealing with the game’s initial setup. There’s a lot to set up, from the placement of tiles, to the shop, to your inventory, to the multiple quest decks, and so on. The game pieces look amazing, and I love the little enemy tokens. It’s pretty exciting to see things I barely glanced at in the videogames represented as useful cards here. I’ve occasionally also forgotten some rules and flubbed my way through a mission, and there was one mission card related to the alien mothership that simply broke my brain; I tried searching online for an explanation of what to do, but couldn’t find anything so I simply packed everything up and called it a day. The game is aesthetically cool, but not perfect in how it plays.

Oh, and I just became aware that there’s already an expansion available called New California. Right, and this gaming mat looks really neat and would certainly help me keep things more organized because I generally don’t know where to keep some of the decks and other items in relation to my health tracker and other cards…though its price tag is not immediately desirable considering it costs just as much as an entire game expansion. Hmm. Either way, I’ll keep having a go at Fallout: The Board Game in hopes that I can actually win it without getting a rule wrong or forgetting to do something vital. Y’know, like moving all the monsters towards me at the end of a round.

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Grinding Down’s Top 10 Pumpkins in Gaming

I tried to get this post done long before Halloween hit, but life got in the way, and I got distracted and well, here we are now, a week into November. Thank goodness that November is also a month where pumpkins are totally topical and appropriate, so my post about 10 cool-as-heck pumpkins in videogames remains relevant. Whew. Also, it’s finally beginning to feel like fall here in New Jersey, though I’m sure, like a leaf detaching from a high-up branch and heading gently and quietly to the earth below, its journey will be short and quickly forgotten.

Also, here’s the pumpkins Melanie and I carved a few days before Halloween that almost instantly went moldy due to the high temps here in the Garden State:

I’ll let you figure out which one I did.

And now, some other cool-as-heck pumpkins!

10. King’s Quest

There’s a dark cave full of hungry wolves blocking your progress at one point in that new take on King’s Quest, and to get through it, you need a very strong and bright light to keep the beasts at bay. Eventually, you discovered you can purchase a magical blue ball of fire from the eccentric Hubblepots in town, but need some kind of vessel to hold it. A giant pumpkin from the local garden will do just fine, and it’s both silly and awesome to watch Graham hoist the heavy thing over his head and march through the illuminated cave with newfound confidence.

9. Fallout 4

Fallout 4 is a world without holidays, despite the Christmas surprise, where radiation and destruction are the focus. Still, time exists, and time passes, and you are from a long-lost era where holidays were a big deal, something people centered around and made special. Remember, the bombs dropped around Halloween. The plastic pumpkin is a reminder of a simpler time, of dressing up not to better protect yourself against raiders and swipes from a legendary Deathclaw, but to go door to door and collect candy. There’s not many of them out in the wild, but seeing one still gives me pause. Also, it can be broken down into individual components for use in crafting, so it is not just a piece of cosmetic dressing.

8. Clayfighter

I did not play a ton of ClayFighter in its heyday, being more of a Street Fighter II dabbler and a Mortal Kombat on-looker, but see here, Ickybod Clay is a punderful name for a ghost with a jack-o-lantern head. You just can’t beat that. Also, he can teleport and throw balls of ghost goo at his opponent, which irrefutably makes this is one excellent use of a pumpkin.

7. the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

For some reason, I’ve not come across many pumpkins in my playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, so I use them fairly infrequently in my cooking sessions. But when I do, the results are always supreme. Here’s a tip: combining them with some type of meat will get you a meat-stuffed pumpkin that can restore a ton of hearts.

6. Final Fantasy VII

Okay, this might be a stretch, because I can’t seem to find any official ruling on whether the hilariously named enemy Dorky Face from Final Fantasy VII is a pumpkin-headed shuttlecock, but it sure does look like a pumpkin-headed shuttlecock to me, and so it is making the list. You fight a bunch of them in the Shinra Mansion in Nibelheim, and their main attack is called “Funny Breath,” which causes confusion. Huh. I wonder if they’ll show up again in the Final Fantasy VII Remake, which is obviously never going to come out.

5. Costume Quest 2

It should come as no surprise that pumpkins are prominent in both Costume Quest and Costume Quest 2, games highly passionate about pumpkin time. I decided to go with the latter title, if only because it is somewhat fresher in my mind because of what I did with it during last year’s Extra Life event. Also, all the Achievement artwork is carved pumpkins.

4. Minecraft

There’s something about a square pumpkin that honestly cracks me up. Thanks, Minecraft. Keep on being square.

3. Borderlands 2

Look, I’ll just come out and admit it, but the only DLC I played for Borderlands 2 was the first one called Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty. I had a good time with it and have continued to dabble in the game, but never got any more additional content. Which is a shame, because it sounds like Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep is a lot of fun, and the smaller add-on called T.K. Baha’s Bloody Harvest is ultra-fitting for this post. Zombie T.K. Baha, last seen in a piece of DLC for the original Borderlands which I also did not play, sends players off to fight Jaques O’Lantern, a giant pumpkin boss who gives out new character customizations as rewards for being beaten. Sounds cool to me; however, Borderlands 3/Borderworlds needs a gun that endlessly fires giant, flaming pumpkins. Please make this dream a reality.

2. Stardew Valley

Ugh, I really do need to pick Stardew Valley up again and at least see it through to when grandpa is supposed to visit or whatever. Yet, after completing the community center, I feel like I’ve done the thing. The big thing. Anyways, that’s a topic for another post. Pumpkins are big in the game, especially during the fall season. They grow 13 days after being planted and are one of three crops that might produce a giant crop version, along with cauliflower and melon (see above). After Starfruit, it has the second-highest per unit base price of all the normal crops, which makes it important if you are looking to be rolling in a coin bank. Oh, and you can also make a jack-o-lantern by combining a pumpkin and a torch to keep things spooky year-round.

1. Animal Crossing

Jack, the self-proclaimed Czar of Halloween, is a character from the Animal Crossing series–except for Wild World–who loves candy, naturally. Especially lollipops. He appears once a year for Halloween, from 6:00 PM until 1:00 AM the following day. Jack distributes spooky furniture to the player, which can only be obtained through him, and it is all very orange and pumpkin-themed, and I believe I got every piece for my copy of New Leaf, but it’s been many years now since I played, so I can’t confirm this. I’m also scared to look for fear of getting sucked back in. Either way, he’s a real cool gourd-wearing dude.

I’m sure there are lots of other cool-as-heck pumpkins out there in videogame-land. How about you tell me of the ones you love or think rock. Please do so in the comments, and I’ll try to respond before any of them get moldy and start caving in on themselves.

Warning: enter Vault 713 at your own risk

fallout-shelter-29

I waited a long time to play Fallout Shelter; I probably should have kept waiting. This free-to-play mobile room manager from big ol’ Bethesda was revealed and released to the world–well, for iOS devices–in June 2015 during the company’s E3 press conference. It later came to Android devices in August 2015. It never came and never will come to those that use a Windows phone despite that making some degree of sense. You might not know anyone in that last category, but if you are reading these words and follow Grinding Down, you at least know one sad soul–me. Well, it recently made its debut on Xbox One (and PC).

Allow me to run down what you do in Fallout Shelter since there’s no story to follow, save for whatever adventures you create in your brain as you tap and drag and force people to breed with one another. Basically, you build and manage your own Vault as an overseer–a.k.a., the never-questioned ruler of this nuclear safe haven. You guide and direct your Vault’s inhabitants, keeping them happy through meeting their essential needs, such as power, food, and water. You can rescue dwellers from the wasteland and assign them to various resource-generating buildings in your Vault, using the SPECIAL statistics system from the other Fallout games to key you in on their strongest abilities. Your dwellers level up over time, increasing things like health points and how good they are at producing resources. The number of Vault dwellers can grow two ways: waiting for new survivors from the wasteland to arrive at your doorstep or by pairing a male and female dweller in a living quarters room to, after some time has passed, produce babies.

Some other things exist to mix up the waiting on rooms-on-timers gameplay. You can take a risk and “rush” a room to completion. If you’re successful, you’ll get the resources right away, as well as some bonus caps. However, if you fail it, badness arrives in the form of fires, radroaches, or attacks from raiders. There are challenges to be mindful of, such as equipping a dweller with a weapon or gathering up X amount of food, and completing these will earn you caps or lunchboxes, which hold randomized loot. Once you build the Overseer’s room, you can send your people out on quests to find better items (weapons, armor) and caps. Everything takes time, and that makes way more sense for the mobile versions, but after sending out three people to shoot some wild radroaches I found myself staring at a bunch of rooms that wouldn’t be ready for harvesting for at least ten minutes with nothing else to do. Fallout Shelter is a game of waiting, which is not what I want when I plop down on the couch to play something.

On the Xbox One, navigating around the Vault is done via the thumbsticks. This can be a finicky process, and I once accidentally spent caps on removing boulders after the cursor jumped too far from the room I really wanted to select and gather resources from. This wasn’t the worst because, yeah, eventually I planned to clear them rocks, but I wanted it to be my decision, on my schedule. You can zoom in closer to the rooms to see some funny if frivolous bits of dialogue from your dwellers. The majority of the game is driven via menus, and accessing them is thankfully pretty simple and easy to use with a controller. That all said, I’m not a huge fan of the combat; it’s basically hands-off and hope you get some good invisible dice rolls like you’re back battling cliff racers in Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, which is frustrating to witness. Here’s a true scenario from my time in Vault 713: a teeny tiny radroach nearly depleted my level 14 dweller’s health as she missed shot after shot after shot with a decent hunting rifle. Blargh.

I should have mentioned this earlier, but it’s pivotal towards my future progress in Fallout Shelter, of which there probably won’t be any more, so here we go: my Xbox One is broken. Or perpetually breaking. One of those. Some time after Black Friday last year, something happened. My “pins” disappeared from the front dashboard with a message saying, “Sorry, we can’t show these right now.” Then I discovered that I could access the store tab, but nothing I clicked on would work. I could mash the “A” button to no effect. Same goes for a lot of the advertisement tiles on other pages, unless they were tied to the Internet Explorer app. I tried doing a hard shutdown, unplugging my router, resetting the WiFi connection, and checking for further updates. Nothing seems to work. I am not interested in a factory reset, and I’ve managed, for the most part, to survive. I can still access apps like Netflix and Twitch and download those Games with Gold freebies by logging in on my Xbox 360 and adding them to my account. Lifehack central, y’all.

However, the other night, after gathering enough food, water, and power to keep my people beaming with happiness, I saved and shut the game down. A message came up that said the game was trying to sync my save with the Cloud, and so I let it do its thing, not wanting to mess anything up. Which never seemed to finish. Five minutes went by, then ten. Then twenty. Then thirty. There’s no way a game the size of Fallout Shelter takes that long to sync save data that is probably as big as a Cheez-It crumb. Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait much longer and simply closed the console down as it was. When I tried to load the game up the next day, it couldn’t find my save even though it is also on my console’s internal memory, and the screen that shows your three save slots just spins infinitely, unable to find anything. I can’t even start a new Vault. This happened over a week ago, and I still can’t access Vault 713. And I was one room away from unlocking the Achievement for building 25 rooms. Grrr.

I could probably download Fallout Shelter on PC and either start again or see if my save in the Cloud carries over. I could, but I won’t. I’d rather play the Dead Money DLC from Fallout: New Vegas again. Or test my luck out in the wasteland proper. I thought I’d be more bummed about this, but there are a zillion other pieces of digital entertainment available at my fingertips.

Bethesda delivers more anticlimactic endings with Fallout 4

fallout 4 institute ending musings gd

After barely paying attention to Fallout 4‘s main campaign storyline for nearly two months, I rushed through it over the course of two days during my holiday time off at the end of December 2015. Not necessarily because I wanted to, but I wanted to experience it, at the very least, for myself before having any details unearthed while listening to the numerous “Game of the Year” podcasts popping up online right around now. Unfortunately, I really disliked the ending I got and, strangely enough, wasn’t even aware that I was moving through the final mission, similar to what happened in Rage, wherein I think things are just beginning to unravel, but in reality they are winding down.

Let it be known here and now that I’ll be talking a bit about my Fallout 4 playthrough, and there will be spoilers in terms of factions and quests and quests for factions and how there are no more quests for specific factions because of the quests I decided to do. Got it? Okay, let’s roll out. I’m speaking to Dogmeat, by the way, not you.

The sole survivor of Vault 111 in my Fallout 4 is a bearded man who prefers to use a silenced pistol until things go haywire, and then any gun–usually a damage-heavy shotgun–will do the trick when the bad guys/girls/monsters get too close for comfort. He also loves collecting coffee mugs out in the wild, hanging up paintings of cats everywhere, and, most importantly, befriended Nick Valentine early on, before the quests became the sort that demand you make separate save sessions. Y’know, in case everything goes wrong.

Anyways, when I play a roleplaying game, I roleplay–shocking, I know. So, for my character, a reasonable man who ensured that Nick Valentine got answers to the questions nibbling away at his synthetic mind, I ended up siding the Institute. From the very start, the Institute is portrayed as evil incarnate, kidnapping people from the Commonwealth and replacing humans with metal lookalikes. That said, I had already seen the good that Synths could be by the time I reached the Institute in my playthrough, some fifty-plus hours in, and after exploring the facilities beneath C.I.T., I was a believer that the world above needed these people to thrive. Sorry, Brotherhood of Steel, but it’s true.

No, really sorry, Brotherhood of Steel. See, by siding with the Institute, the final missions for this decision demand you murder and eradicate every last member of the Brotherhood of Steel. Ugh. As well as everybody in The Railroad, an organization I had only briefly interacted with via the main quest. The Minute Men were allowed to continue existing, not viewed as any tangible threat. I looked up what happens when siding with the other factions, and you, more or less, are forced to killed others to ensure the strength and longevity of your chosen faction. I’m not a fan of this–at all. Sure, my sole survivor has killed bandits and raiders and plenty of too-far-gone ghouls, but has never once shot an innocent bystander. That’s not the type of person he is.

I will say, murdering all of the Brotherhood of Steel was a whole lot easier to do–gameplay-wise and morally–than the Railroad. Perhaps it is due to all their armor and weapons and advancements that they feel like a foe on equal footing with my sole survivor and his brood of Synth assassins. Murdering all of the Railroad really hit a disgusting chord with me; I walked into their base as a friend and left as a ghost, bodies piled here and there. I did not loot a single soul. I did not take anything from anywhere. I did what I had to do, apologizing before each and every V.A.T.S. headshot, and I got out of there. I wish there was some other way. In Fallout: New Vegas, and I think Fallout 3 as well, if your charisma and speech skills are strong enough, you can basically talk your way to the end and around a big ol’ bloodbath. Doesn’t seem to be the case here, and that is a major bummer, especially since I unlocked a ton of perks related to these skills, thinking there would be some options down the line.

Here’s the thing. Bethesda does not have a strong history with the main campaigns and conclusions to its games. You are scarcely involved in the final fight of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I barely remember what happened in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, though I think it had to do with speaking with a dragon atop a mountain and then leaving you to stand there afterwards completely dumbfounded as to what to do next. Fallout 3 did not take into consideration logical solutions to entering that radiation-filled room, and only DLC allowed you to keep playing after fixing the water situation in the Capital Wasteland. Fallout 4 concludes with a lot of seemingly unnecessary killing–your pick of who gets it–and the departure of your child. It’s a boring ending, to be honest, and it feels like little thought went into it based around your character’s actions and decisions leading up to the final blasts. The loss of choice is overwhelming.

This is what I do know though. When I restart Fallout 4 with a new character, which I will definitely do some time in the future, most likely an evil woman with a penchant for melee weapons modded to the extreme, I will only go so far into the main quest. Only to the point where you are on good terms with every faction, where you can help everyone out…to a point. Crossing that murder line is something I’m not interested in doing again, unless it is to murder Deathclaws or a swarm of Bloatflies. Not people, not humans (or human-like humans) that you can converse with and grow close to and revisit from time to time to regale with your wild, crazy adventures out in the Commonwealth.

Ultimately, Fallout 4 is a much better game to play and live in than conclude.

My five favorite games in 2015

my five favorite games in 2015 gd post

While I love listening to “Game of the Year” podcasts and sifting through dozens and dozens of lists featuring, in descending order, ten videogame titles, I myself don’t really participate in this tradition. Instead, I like to muse about the games I didn’t get to play in 2015, as well as list what I consider to be my five favorite games. Yup, five–not ten. I’m truly an outlier.

Chances are a few of these are smaller games or experiences no one else is talking about in big, bold tones, and that’s fine. Take for instance, my five from last year, which highlighted Disney Magical World as the shining star. It’s my list, and these are favorites for a reason, which I’ll go into more later with each game. Also, enjoy some artwork I whipped up for every numbered item.

::insert sound of drumroll here::

::okay, here as well::

::almost there::

::eee::

5. Lost Constellation

gd 2015 top five - lost constellation

Look, technically Lost Constellation came out two days after Christmas in 2014, but I didn’t get around to playing it until February, after a Quick Look from Giant Bomb brought it to my attention. I’m counting it for this year because it has continued to stick with me since then, and I’m bummed that Night in the Woods still hasn’t come out yet. Here’s me going out on a limb and saying that you’ll see that game somewhere in my top five next year, so long as it hits all the same marks as the supplemental demo did.

Anyways, Lost Constellation is a tantalizing appetizer of things yet to come, but stands strongly on its own as a cute, somewhat dark bedtime story perfectly set in the winter. I played it in the winter, but I’m looking forward to going through it again when the summer heat kicks in as it can easily transport you from one season to another. There’s not much replayability to it, other than creating different looking snowmen, but the succinctness of the story–and mesmerizing soundtrack–are worth revisiting. Plus, there’s a rather sardonic cat to converse with, which I’ll never turn down.

4. Time Clickers

gd 2015 top five - time clickers

Here’s the scary thing. I’ve not actually played that much Time Clickers, but Steam says I’ve logged 199 hours on it, and that’s mostly because I enjoy leaving it open while I’m drawing or listening to a podcast. That’s still an insane number of hours, rubbing shoulders with other giants from my past, like Dragon Quest IX and Fallout 3. The difference here though is that those games are more based around actions while Time Clickers is a game of choices. Do I level up this element of my gun or something else? Do I hit the space bar now to use all my power-ups at once or wait until there are only a few cubes left? Do I reset and use Time Cubes to grow stronger, but start over? That last one is easy to answer: no. Never start over. Not when it took around 199 hours to get to the level 500s.

3. Pokémon Shuffle

gd 2015 top five - pokemon shuffle

I always hit a wall in Pokémon Shuffle, and, so far, I always break past it. Might take me a few nights, might take me a week or even a month, and it might take me a number of coins to purchase special power-ups to get the job done. But I persevere. For those that don’t know, it’s a match-three puzzle game where you match cartoon heads of Pokémon to damage the level’s enemy. You get five chances to play before having to wait some silly amount of time to recharge your hearts, but that aspect never bothered me because this was my before-bed experience, burning five hearts. Sometimes making progress, sometimes not–though you are always leveling up your team.

Currently, I’m at level 219 (Spewpa) and plan to keep going. I have no idea how many more levels there are, if there is in fact one for every Pokémon out there. Seems like it keeps getting updated. Pokémon Shuffle is also the third most played game on my Nintendo 3DS according to the stats library, at nearly 65 hours, behind Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Disney Magical World. I expect to be playing this a bunch in 2016, which is the opposite of that other free-to-play Pokémon game that came out this year.

2. Super Mario Maker

gd 2015 top five - super mario maker

As it turns out, I was not able to finish writing about Super Mario Maker before firmly placing this title as my numero two for 2015. The blog post for that is still in the works, so this might seem a little out of nowhere considering I’ve not really talked about it a whole bunch…on Grinding Down.

It’s fantastic, and I’m terrible at half of it. Namely, the half where you construct your own levels. It’s probably the most I’ve ever messed with a create-your-own-level mode other than Super Scribblenauts, and it works just fine, but I think I enjoy playing–and watching others play–Mario levels more than creating them. I constantly check back in to see what new levels will give me cutesy 8-bit costumes, as well as try my hand at a random assortment of levels. Truthfully, I love watching people stream demonically-designed stages and struggle, like with Patrick Klepek and Dan Ryckert’s ongoing feud. There’s a growing community around this game, one I’m finding myself actively participating in.

1. Fallout 4

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I finished Fallout 4 the other night out of fear of being spoiled, rushing through the end of the main storyline. If I could go back in time, I’d give a hug at a very specific time in my life, as well as not rush through Fallout 4 like that. It’s not great. In fact, I’d say that it is a better game to play and live in, but not complete. I’ll have some more thoughts on the various lackluster endings at a later date, but despite that, I can’t get enough of this world. It’s open, brimming with items and enemies and places to discover, and while I struggle with a lot of the settlement stuff and house decorating, it’s still something I think about whenever I find a certain item or resource out in the wild. I’m already thinking about other characters to craft and new ways to build up Sanctuary. I’m already planning a run where I’m friends with every faction in the Commonwealth and stop playing main questlines once those are locked in.

As someone who ate up every ounce (or nearly ounce) of Bethesda’s previous open-world games, Fallout 4 did not surprise me or the industry. It’s exactly what you expect it to be. It’s like going home.

There you go.

As many should now know, I did not get to play many newly released games in 2015, and so it was actually slim pickings when it came to my top five for the year. Regardless, I’m happy with them, and wonder what will grip my head and heart next year. Here’s hoping for a few surprises.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #61 – Fallout 4

2015 games completed fallout 4 institute ending

Sided with my son
For a better Boston, not
Knowing ’twas over

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

Unsure of where to call home in Fallout 4

where to call home Fallout 4

Fallout 4‘s tagline is “Welcome home,” but I’m not exactly sure where that is. At this stage, I’ve put in about 40 hours or so, and home, for most of that, was in Sanctuary, one of the earliest settlements you can come across and begin filling with people and reconstructing. However, I never felt one hundred percent certain that this is where I’d hang my proverbial hat–in reality, my Silver Shroud hat–and thus never stored anything anywhere there and only did the minimal amount of work to make it appear like I was one of the group. You know, built some turrets and a fancy chair for that drug-loving Mama Murphy.

In previous Bethesda open-world games, having a home was either something to figure out on your own or work towards via downloadable content as some non-essential side activity, though when I did the latter in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s Hearthfire DLC it was after I had finished the main plot missions and completed the majority of things a Dragonborn dreams of doing, thus feeling ultimately unrewarding; plus, it was beyond repetitive. I remember finding “unowned safe spots” in Fallout: New Vegas, like Victor’s shack in Goodsprings, to store some of my heavier gear without fear of losing it permanently. I was, more or less, squatting and creating my own set of secret caches for somebody else to find.

Naturally, most of this searching and scouring for safe containers to hold all your Nuka Quantum and Daedric artifacts would be unnecessary if it wasn’t for…encumbrance. The dictionary defines the term as “a burden or impediment,” but we all know it as that age-old Bethesda staple, an annoyance that caps the amount of crap you can carry while still functioning like a solid warrior in terms of running and fast-traveling. From a logical perspective, sure, it kind of makes sense, though when you begin to scroll through the lists and lists of items in your Pip-Boy in Fallout 4, reality starts to crack in at the edges. There are ways around encumbrance, but the easiest is building a place of residency so you can swing by between missions to dump gear–or, in my case, dozens of coffee mugs–and restock before heading out once more…for more.

As mentioned before, previous games from Bethesda lightly sprinkled in bits of housing, letting those playing on PCs add more options via mods. With Fallout 4, it’s a full downpour of potential abodes from the get-go, some of which are actual entire settlements, sizable areas comprised of multiple homes for refurbishing. This is where deciding becomes important, because all the potential areas require an investment, both in time and resources. I’ve already dumped a decent amount of stuff into Sanctuary, seeing as that’s where this all began, but have now decided that a full-blown settlement is too much for my little heart to nurture. Instead, I’ve taken up base at…Home Base, which is a small, three-floored house for 2,000 caps in Diamond City, where the first floor offers the most room to plop down furniture and get creative.

You can see a glimpse of what my Home Base looks like in the picture at the top of this post. The first thing I built was the Bobblehead stand, which, for me, really cements that this is where I want to put my feet up at and decorate with as many cat paintings as possible. I like the addition of magazine racks, though the ability to spin them in-game would go a long way to making me smile. Other than that, I’ve hung a few flags, created a nicer bed, and placed all my Nuka Cherry on a shelf because that’s what cool people do. Haven’t decided yet what to do with the rest of the living space, but it’ll surely get filled in over time.

Still, there are some problems. I can’t send any of my companions to Home Base to hang out when not traveling with me; they only like settlements, I guess. Second, unlike the early promotional art for Fallout 4, which showed your weapons hanging against the wall on some kind of pin board, that sort of shelf is not available to build. Or I’ve not found it yet. This means that if I want to display any cool weapons I find, like the Fat Man, I have to simply dump them on the ground and then try to maneuver them just so on top of a table or desk. It’d be easier asking a Deathclaw for five bucks. You can switch to “building mode” to pick up and move items around, but that can be just as problematic, with some clipping through walls or vanishing the moment you drop them. Also, I found a really nice vase with a flower in it while exploring the Commonwealth, brought it to Home Base, placed it on the table next to my bed, and discovered it missing the next time I returned. Boo.

This is my first playthrough of Fallout 4, and knowing what I know now, I don’t imagine myself placing a lot of effort on having a place to call home the second time around, when I play as an evil, red-headed woman who likes to punch people and animals into smithereens. Maybe I’ll just abuse my companions to the point of weighing them down entirely with my full stash of weapons, mods, medicine, and coffee mugs. Maybe I’ll never pick up another single thing again and have no need for a place to store stuff. Yeah, right.

Where do you call home, my fellow Vault dwellers?