Sunday, December 20, 2015

PC: Fallout 4, Pt 1

The term MurderHobo comes from D&D. It describes a method of playing, wherein characters are the usual wandering vagrants but with homicidal tendencies. Essentially, everything they see, they want to kill for gold or experience points. Dragons, kobolds, city guards, innkeeper -- all are potential fodder for the murdering vagrants who wandered into town. Staying true to the heroic origins of playing D&D are abandoned for the fun of wanton mayhem.

When I play a video game, I always subscribe my character to the heroic quest.  Despite the freedom most games give you, to choose a path, I always end up choosing to be the hero who is liked by everyone. And yet, because video games, I have to choose to be a Bringer of the Wrath in order to be that guy. I have commented on this before, about how the standard violent paradigm in games leads you to become a mass murderer. But I continue down that path because the game has laid out before me what is Right and what is Wrong, with only a gun to differentiate between each.

And yet, Fallout 4, like others in the "open world" concept, allows you to go against the murderous hero idea and just be... murderous. To be the MurderHobo. Everywhere you look, there are encouragements to be amoral. I want that, so kill that guy and take it. Those people are annoying me (seriously, your daughter has been kidnapped 5 times? Maybe she is not so much as being kidnapped as running away with her boyfriend?) so maybe I should just take them out of the equation. I just waded through the bodies of 25 Raiders, gleefully separating limbs and exploding heads, so why stop when there are so many Settlers around me? As you get more powerful, after you have laid waste to so many hundreds of ne're-do-wells, you start to feel The Power in you. The reasons to do good are pushed to the back. Kill, loot, level up. Being Good is not always as rewarding.

Unlike other games, there is no introspection into the violence of the character. Given the already established premise of you being the One Good Man in a world gone bad, as the game again has you awaken in a vault (highly advanced fallout shelters), a man out of time, a man who remembers a less violent (50s influenced) era, it just goes with that. And assumes it is enough. There are none of the moral quandaries as presented above in the actual play or story line. Sure, you can chose to be an asshole, you can chose to run with the violence but the stories, in order to be progressed usually lead you to do The Right Thing.

By now I would have liked to see some commentary of the death in the game, other than "War, war never changes...." There are some subtle attempts, such as having the Scavengers be people not much different from you, but still marked red as enemy -- likely they are attacking you before you attack them. But like Rick in the latest seasons of The Walking Dead, we have gone beyond hoping the next humans we meet are going to be nice people. We start shooting first, wondering about motives later. If he has a gun and some armor on, he is likely seeking to be shot by your Righteous Authority.

I am about half-way through the game, a very very powerful force of Good in The Commonwealth, the wasteland that surrounds ruined Boston. I have been dragging my ass on the main quest where I seek to find my kidnapped son. I have been too busy doing sidequests and helping out every dirt farming settler who needs my help, and they never stop needing my help.

Next part, I talk about these Settlers and how an entirely new element of gameplay allows me to sidestep the MurderHobo and play The Sims: Post-Apocalypse edition.