Rad Reviews: Fallout 4 (plot)

Rad Reviews cover all those games that a Quick Snipe just couldn’t do justice on. AAA titles, brand new IPs and just plain brilliant/awful games all find a home here. Today we cover the plot of Fallout 4: no major spoilers, but certainly some minor ones ahead!


I have never put much stock in Bethesda when it comes to telling stories. They have a good track record when it comes to sidequests, with Skyrim, Oblivion and Fallout 3 providing a number of interesting distractions from the main plot. In fact, it seems to be the general consensus that people play Bethesda titles for the sidequests. Whether that is good or bad is very much up to debate.

Bethesda obviously tried very hard to create an engaging main plot for Fallout 4, however. The introduction of a voiced protagonist and a far more adult plot than FO3 certainly made the right steps towards an interesting piece, with a few twists and turns and redirections to keep us on our feet. They seem to have taken far greater steps to make the characters memorable for their reasoning and motivations rather than their outfits and one-liners. While there is some repetition in the side missions and miscellaneous lore from the last games, there is still enough new content to make it all worth exploring.

However, ultimately there are some serious issues with the main plot. It begins with an interesting premise; a person from the past emerging into a desolate future, but fails to capitalize on the concept. There is an uninspired revenge/rescue quest to pursue, but the main story unfortunately suffers from pacing issues. You have to do sidequests in order to continue with the main quest, and it can get very irritating when you have got hyped up to find your boy and then you have to go and do a bunch of relatively unrelated bollocks. You get hyped up, then let down, hyped up, let down, and so on.

It picks back up further in the story, however, as you start working for the major factions. Each of their individual “win” goals are interesting and you don’t have to fanny around too much in order to continue with them, except where it is necessary for the story to make sense. After about the midgame, the plot becomes far more open and cohesive and far more interesting generally.

Where FO4 really shines, however, are the factions and the characters.

Defend humanity from monsters, mutants and itself.

We have The Brotherhood of Steel, who (thank god) have returned to their more interesting fascistic and xenophobic ways under Elder Maxson. They hate mutants, ghouls, robots and believe they are the only ones who are able to safely control the technologies of the Pre-War World, positing that it was the abuse of technology that lead to the war in the first place. This places them in a very interesting space as being both militaristic crusaders but also protective warriors with humanity’s best interests at heart.


The needs of the synths outweigh the needs of humanity.

We have the Railroad, an underground organisation dedicated to helping the Synths: robotic simulants who are a major point of contention between the factions. They are small and secretive, and while you may think they are “the good guys”, there is a definite feeling of unease when working with them. They often sacrifice their own agents’ safety in order to stay undercover, and their exact reasons for helping the synths as much as they do can be called into question.

Smart slavers with a lot to offer humanity, but at what cost?

Finally, there is the Insitute. Super-advanced scientists who built the synths. They kidnap people and replace them with perfect copies, taking over governments and settlements through subterfuge and basically enslaving those synths who do appear to have a measure of self-awareness. They are the boogeyman of the Commonwealth, but they also represent a group of people who have managed to not only survive the war, but better the technology of mankind by a huge degree. Is this worth the enslavement of a potentially sentient group of robots?

There is also the Minutemen, but to be honest they are rather flat and boring compared to the “major” three factions. You can never anger them or make them kick you out, and their questlines are drab and dull (heavily focusing on settlement development).

Within these factions (and of course the unaffiliated groups of the Commonwealth) are various characters who feel very genuine within the world. Whether it is a stuttering radio host or an ambitious reporter, characters feel unique and interesting. I found myself finishing questlines just to see their reaction or to see what was next in their story, rather than for any monetary reward or unique weapon. It is always a good thing for a player to want to want to see what is next rather than to get what was offered for completion.

As for the greater themes and ideas within the game, there are a few solid repetitive concepts that crop up. There is a definite question of “what constitutes sentient life?”. Are the synths the same as humans, or are they just very well-made machines? Are they dangerous as the Brotherhood says, or merely victims, as posit the Railroad? How far do we go for family? What happens if we fail? Can life ever go back to the way it was? Is the Commonwealth (and America as a whole) ever going to recover from the nuclear blasts? Is it even worth trying to save the people who have survived and even thrived in this violent world?

Is all this worth the effort?

These are questions that the game does face you with. They are powerful questions which require a modicum of thought, which is quite a pleasant change from FO3 where there were very obvious GOOD and BAD guys. Even in New Vegas, which is generally seen as having a better plot than FO3, there were the democratic NCR and the really-obviously-bad-guys-they-literally-have-slaves-and-crucify-people Caesar’s Legion. They were interesting certainly, but never really confronted you as a player with questions beyond “do I want to be edgy slavelord or not?”.

In FO4, good and bad are far less obvious. There is no karma system keeping track of what a goody-two-shoes you are: there are merely consequences to your actions and trying to do what is right by your beliefs and experiences within the game.

In short, the storyline of FO4 is uninspired but retains some brilliance through the talent of the voice acting and script. The sidequests are interesting and numerous, the factions and characters feel real and natural, and you nearly always continue with a quest to find out what happens next, rather than just to tick it off in your quest log. Overall, while there are some issues with pacing early in the game and a touch of unoriginal thought throughout, the content is done well and is very enjoyable.

The plot in Fallout 4 gets an overall score of RAD! from us.

Agree? Disagree? What was your favourite part of the FO4 story? Is there anything they could have done better? Stay tuned for the next Rad Review on Fallout 4, which will be covering possibly the most important facet of the game: gameplay and mechanics.

Previous Rad Review: Fallout 4 foreword.

Next Rad Review: Fallout 4 gameplay and mechanics.

4 thoughts on “Rad Reviews: Fallout 4 (plot)

Add yours

  1. I appreciate Bethesda’s efforts to produce a more compelling story, but at the same time we all know the story in Fallout/Elder scroll games is just a framework for the bigger game, i.e. the open world. Like you, I also found the story interesting to begin with, but it quickly resorted to the usual sci-fi and action tropes, done far better elsewhere.

    Personally, I was unhappy with my character being voiced and having the central story feed much more into the world and side-quests. I felt it contradicted my role playing (a combination of psychopath and morally ambiguous mercenary) and broke the immersion at times. As they said in the RPS review, it’s like Bethesda were trying to have there cake and eat it by having an open world game with a big central story.

    Anyway, nice review.


  2. Interesting piece. I like how you’ve separated reviews for certain elements. With the huge scale of Fallout 4, it’s certainly a good idea.

    Overall I enjoyed the story. As a sucker for the philosophical orientations of sci fi, getting to play a lead role in those questionable moral circumstances was compelling. I find it a lot more of a reverent homage than a cliché, and more so than FO3 and New Vegas, so I didn’t really think it was intended to be a solely original story as such.


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