A Second Life in Fallout 4

I’ve clocked 480 hours/20 days or 333 days in game time spent on Fallout 4 so far.

Why? Well, I am a big fan of Skyrim and also Elder Scrolls Online (ESO). I must have spent at least that amount of time in those games, too – likely more.

The appeal for me is the open world/exploring aspect; getting lost in another universe and the inevitable messing and modding with it once my interest in how it works equals its gameplay appeal.

I found that Fallout 4 contains more aspects to it than Skyrim and ESO, which made it even more compelling to play.

Being a Second Life veteran, some characteristics of Fallout 4 hit a note. I liked setting off in some direction to see what I could find, building, making my own home and the role play.

I thought I’d take a day off to share my experience of the game here.

Fallout 4 View

BUGS

The first thing I suppose I need to get out of the way is the bugs. A lot of players have had various problems, both on consoles and on the PC. I prefer the PC, because It’s much easier to fix any issues and there are mods available for that platform. None of the bugs became game breaking for me, however. I will mention a few of the major fixes here, for anyone who may still be having problems.

The first thing I would suggest is to install the ENB mod if you are having framerate issues or seeing mushy graphics. I tried to play without this installed, presuming that Bethesda Softworks must know what they are doing, but seemingly not when it comes to graphics issues. It’s not hard to install at all, just download the latest from ENBdev (I used enbseries_fallout4_v0291) and follow the instructions given on Nexus, which tells you how to tweak it for your system. Ini file downloads are included.)

This was the main gripe for me, but the mod instantly improved my graphics and framerate – no more of that mushy, low-rez look.

Most other bugs were mainly cosmetic and could be fixed using console commands, such as tcl (ToggleCollision ) if you find yourself stuck in some hole. The commands are all pretty similar to Skyrim and a list of them can be found here: http://fallout.wikia.com/wiki/Fallout_4_console_commands.

I wouldn’t use them indiscriminately, only when really necessary, as you are likely to make the game worse if you don’t know what you are doing.

I would turn off Vsync and God rays in your ini file, too. This also improves framerate while not causing any noticeable difference visually.

If you still have framerate issues, then reduce shadow distance or install the FPS dynamic shadows – Shadow Boost mod.

An annoying thing I found with the game’s AI is the habit of followers to wander into your line of sight when aiming at enemies, especially when you consider what an easy fix this would be, but it was apparently omitted from Bethesda’s to-do list.

Fallout4smoker

GAMEPLAY

Two main gameplay aspects I enjoy are the travel/exploring and the building/settlement maintenance.

Once the main quest has started, you inevitably get sidetracked by a multitude of smaller quests that take you all over the map. It seems that a lot of players just fast travel to them (clicking on the map and teleporting there) when they can.

For me, fast traveling takes away a lot from the exploration. I recommend walking to them or taking a vertibird (once you have started the Brotherhood of Steel quests). It obviously takes longer, but is more immersive. You also get to find and start other quests you probably wouldn’t encounter otherwise. You are more likely to bump into travelling NPCs (Non-player characters) too, that can provide some entertainment: the boy trapped in a fridge, the girl and her robot, and others. It’s also pretty hectic at the start of your travels, as everyone seems to be out to kill you, but as you dispatch these and get better perks and skills, it’s not as much of a problem.

I recommend changing the gametime to 6 (set timescale to 6 in the console menu), to bring it down to a more real-time feel (1 real minute = 6 minutes in-game). This way, you don’t get the day/night cycle whizzing by while you are travelling and it just feels better.

Slowing down the respawn time also adds to the realism, so that the next time you go through an area you had previously cleared, you don’t run into the same baddies there you killed just the other day. A mod can do this for you; I will list it below.

Don’t let the race to the main quest be a priority. You may miss out on a lot of side quests and areas to explore.

I got the book “Survivors Guide‘ for the game. It is a good reference for anything you think you may have missed, but there are online Wikis that do a similar job.

If travelling by vertibird, be careful what you shoot from above or you could be making enemies of people who are supposed to be on your side. It’s best to wait until you have a power armour suit and add a targeting system to your HUD that highlights enemies in red; that way you don’t get into a ‘friendly fire’ situation.

Speaking of power armour, getting the in-game jetpack addon as soon as you can will reveal a lot more to you, as you can locate otherwise hidden areas and find more gear, such as power suits, and other quests. If you like the long-distance sniper options, then a jetpack is a must to get to your vantage points more easily. The sniper options are useful in protecting your caravans travelling between settlements by setting up high vantage points and picking off scavengers that attack them.

Renaming your weapons and customizing them to fit particular roles will prove useful in the game. For example, I add “+” to the front of the name so it shows up at the top of the list, followed by the key slot I allocated it to, such as “+3 robot killer” for a plasma sniper rifle that does 50% more damage to robots. That way, I could quickly swap out to what was best suited for the situation. Once I’d improved the weapon to its maximum, I would then add a second “+” as in “++3 robot killer,” so I could see quickly when in the workbench that this weapon couldn’t be improved any more.

When exploring areas, I read any notes or information on terminals, to get the back story to a lot of the quests and along with needed passwords and clues to things that will crop up along the way, thereby helping to deepen immersion in the game.

Fallout 4 Perks ChartThe perks chart seems a bit confusing at first, but as you progress and find your weaknesses you’ll discover a perk in the chart to bolster that, so you can add it at the next opportunity.

Once you have progressed to Act 2 of the game, it gets increasingly difficult to avoid aligning with any one of the different factions, but I would recommend trying to keep neutral as long as possible. If you pick sides early, a lot of other quests become unavailable to you. Hold off meeting with the Institute once the Battle for Bunker Hill quest has ended; that way you can work as a double agent for a while, before you decide to ally yourself to a single faction. It’s also a good point to save your savefile. From that point, you can try the various endings and see the outcome for each.

Spoiler Alert: For myself, I found the best choice was to side with the Minutemen and just remove the Institute. That way, the Railroad and Brotherhood of Steel remained. The other options seemed to involve totally wiping out everyone else, leaving the game feeling pretty empty if you want to continue building settlements and modding.

Fallout 4 Market

BUILDING/SETTLEMENTS

I like the settlement development aspect of Fallout 4. This has a Second Life and The Sims feel to it. You also have management aspects like in Sim City.

Once a settlement is founded, you can start clearing up the area for development and building various structures to help the settlers. This is where game mods are helpful. I will list some recommendations below.

As soon as you can, get the right perks to enable you to run caravan routes between settlements. Your resources will then be combined and shared, so you don’t run out of building materials in one place that are plentiful in another. Basically, you need to make sure there is enough food and water for the settlers already there, and surplus to attract new people. The defence score needs to be at least as high as the combined score for food and water. For example, if food is 12 and water is 16 then make sure your defence is above 12+16, or 28+. Power will be highlighted in red if in short supply, so it is easy to monitor. The harder thing is keeping settlers happy: making sure there are enough beds for everyone and they all have a roof over them. Once a settlement grows they will start demanding more things, such as trading posts, bars, medical centres, etc. Simply wandering amongst them or speaking to a bar/shop owner will provide clues to what they need.

Among settlements, building resources are shared, but not clothes, weapons or other items. I found having a main base where all that is stored helps you get what you need more easily. With various workbenches at each settlement for creating clothing, I could create different hats for each of the settlers’ roles while leaving them to wear whatever clothing they had. This helped me to know who did what at a given place. A mod or an update from Bethesda to enable renaming of settlers by role would improve the game nicely. I gave baseball caps to farmers, flat caps to traders and berets or helmets to security.

EDIT: A beta 1.3 update now partially fixes this by adding a status menu for settlers in your settlements. its not ideal, simply renaming a settler to farmer, guard etc would have been a better option and saved the player having to go in workbench mode to find their role. Bethesda had done this already for provisioner, it just needed extending for the other roles.

Once you have your settlements up and running, it’s a case of maintaining and helping to protect them if attacked. The frequency of attacks drops dramatically if you keep a high defence score.

I built a place of my own to keep all my collectables, such as bobbleheads and magazines, on display. I also added a building to store all my power armour. This is a ‘playing house’ Sims type thing; it doesn’t make any difference to the game but it is just fun to have a place of your own.

Fallout 4 Armor

MODS

In addition to the multitude of mods you can add onto Fallout 4, you can easy tweak it yourself if you have any talent with graphics. I added my own pictures to the game and edited clothes. I put some makeup on a few of the NPCs just because I could, really, and to give it a non-standard feel.

I have over 109 mods in place at the moment, so I’m only going to recommend some of the key ones.

All of the mods I list here can be found on the Nexus website. Just type the name in the search box.

Here is my list of recommended mods:

Fallout 4 Green

Visual:
A Little bit of Green – Makes the world look a little less depressing by adding some greener looking plants.
The Eyes of Beauty – Gives the NPCs slightly more realistic looking eyes.
Worsin’s Immersive Power Armor Paint Garage – Adds colour options to your armour.

Better Gaming:
Better Item Sorting – Adds labels in your inventory for quicker sorting.
Configurable Power Armor Fusion Core Drain – Lets you specify drain rate.
Customizable Targeting HUD – More easily set when the targeting system is on and off.
Faster Terminal Displays – Removes lag when looking at terminal screens.
Improved Map with Visible Roads – Makes the map much clearer to see.
Longer Area Respawn – Increases enemy respawn delay, leaves bodies laying around longer.
Lowered Weapons – Lowers your weapon from your view when not using it.

Settlements:
Rich Merchants – Gives merchants more cash to spend.
Robot Home Defence – Adds a robot option to your defence menu.
Better Generators – Gives the generators a more realistic output.
Better Settlers – Varies the diversity in the look of settlers.
Crafting Workbenches – Adds workbenches for creating more items like clothes or weapons.
Higher Settlement Budget – Raises the limit of how much you can build in a settlement.
Longer Power Lines – Lets you have a more realistic power line length.

SUMMARY

I got an XBox controller, thinking it would help the gameplay, but I have to say console controllers for me are poor. I found myself having to flick the controller ‘left a bit, right a bit’ all the time to get the control I want for aiming. I gave up on it after a day; I can’t get the ease of control and accuracy I get with a good mouse. It may be more suitable for some other game, perhaps something like a Formula 1/racing game.

I am looking forward to the DLC (downloadable content) packages promised by Bethesda. They are due out before March. Also, their SDK (software development kit) is coming soon. I am eager to start pulling the game apart more and add more of my own tweaks and quests. There is still a lot of life in this game yet!

You can see the pictures I’ve taken while playing. I add a few each day to my account on Flickr.

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