There are spoilers in this post. Go finish the game, then come back.
Another aspect of Fallout
4 that entranced me was the settlement system. A wasteland is only a
wasteland until some knucklehead like myself decides to start cleaning
up and organizing it. The game allowed you to scrap rusty car bodies,
tires, and fallen trees. I spent hours just cleaning up the areas
around my settlements. It took me a few tries, but I found an efficient
hub-pattern of supply lines that connected the resources scrapping gave
me, making them available to build useful new structures in any
settlement. Clothing and arming my settlers was another fun time sink.
that made clothing found in the wasteland meaningful, in much the way
that requiring materials for repairing things made scrap more real.
the beginning of the game I was anticipating big changes involving
restoring society, like getting bottling plants back on line or
resettling cities like Concord. With all the defenses you're able to
build and the emphasis put on how happy settlements are, I also thought there
would be a big struggle for the hearts and minds of these little towns
by the factions in the game.
happened. And, as I slowly learned how settlements worked I had less
and less interest in messing with them. For example, no matter how
clever or overpowered your defenses, if you don't go to help when a
settlement is attacked, it will lose and be conquered. Which makes a
certain design sense because then it makes the player want to drop
everything and rush back to help, right? Well, except a settlement that
is completely overrun pops back to it's full population the moment you
travel back. And it takes only a tiny hit in happiness.
In fact, the
only way for settlers to truly die, seemed to be when I did travel back to help them and the battle was a rough one. And you want to talk about rough battles, the irony of a leveled-world is that the higher in level I get the worse the world gets for everyone around me. As a 90th leveler you don't want to return to a settlement unless you want to see everyone slaughtered around you. So the game trained me to leave settlements to their own devices and ignore their cries for help.
What are Settlements for?
had hours of fun playing Fallout 4, and no game is perfect, but
Bethesda made some design decisions that seemed to work against it's own
goals. Maybe these aspects of the game are related to different play
styles and I'm blinded by my own preferences, but let me continue
talking about settlements to explain what I mean.
players can have fun dressing and arming settlers and cleaning up and
building in a settlement. That's enough of a reason to have them.
Well, to have one, or two, or even a few. But 30? Having places to set
up artillery seems like an good reason to have a well-developed network
of settlements, except the times I found artillery useful were very
few. You basically have to have some enemies in a walled-in area they
can't run and engage you, for the slow artillery to be helpful against
them. And by the time that you have a well-developed network of
settlements, you're probably powerful enough to just go in blasting
I think the best reason for settlements as
little outposts for exploring the world. You have a safe place to rest
and heal. You can dump all the junk you find in local ruins and with
the supply lines feature, you don't have to worry about hauling most of
it anywhere else. As you go up in level you can make shops and sell the
items the supply lines won't transfer. Settlements make for perfect
little outposts in a exploration
Except . . the game pushes you to fast travel. Early on it gives you missions that are randomly spread all over the map. Some of the settlement missions are time sensitive. Because of this hopping and rushing around it made sense for me to pick a place to set up a home base. Once I did that fast traveling back to it became normal procedure and all those many settlements became superfluous in game terms.
I think to make the settlements more than aesthetic time sinks, Bethesda had to either limit fast travel in some way-- which would make them useful explorations bases-- or make the plot involve the settlements somehow. The latter seems so obvious, so almost there, I wonder if it was planned and got cut.
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