I’ve been making it clear that I’m a big RPG fan, and my choice of Fallout 4 for game of the year is therefore going to be quite predictable but fuck you, I can’t be original and exciting all the time (and that’s a phrase that can be fairly applied to a lot of Bethesda adventure games).
Fallout 4 appeals to the self centred part of my brain by placing me in a world where everything has shat itself and I’m the only one with toilet paper. There is literally nobody in the Commonwealth who can achieve anything without my help, to the point where Fallout 4 could plausibly turn out to have a giant Truman Show metagame behind it, the entire thing faked for my character’s benefit. The comforting warmth of my self satisfaction, however, is very real.
You can tell the team that made Fallout 4 enjoyed dicking about with it a bit before I even arrived. There are so many weird little things to find on a map that sprawls past its own borders. Countless fragments of half-finished lives and half-finished love affairs are there to be unlocked in random holotapes and computer entries, for the people like me with overactive imaginations and limitless curiosity. And then of course there’s whoever went around placing soft toys in odd positions in buildings. I imagine they were their own one-person department during development.
We don’t get random soft toy mode, but the settlement system is a pretty good trade off. I’ve spent hours crafting huge multilevel settlements, with fully functioning bars and separate market areas, even though I know there’s no real benefit to doing so. I have changed the face of the entire map on a whim. It all feeds back into being the most important person in the entire game: in years to come my character will most likely become an actual god and be worshipped by settlers.
If games are escapism from the dreariness of having to get up and go to work and be a functioning member of society then surely Fallout 4 is one of the most honest acknowledgements of that. “Come away, o human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand. For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. Also this pretend place has massive guns, and all your mates want to shag you,” wrote Yeats, probably.
My desire for escapism is well founded. I’m originally from a small countryside market town so unrelentingly terrible to live in that William Golding, who grew up there himself, did an entire book about how shit it is (there’s one of those blue plaques on the side of a house saying he lived there, but it doesn’t add ‘and he fucking hated it’). I think this background may have contributed to my enjoying Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture so much that it’s beaten out everything to my second place (including other odd things like teen girl simulator 2k15 Life is Strange, and Soma, which still makes me shiver a bit).
The village of Yaughton is real in a way that only those of us who’ve lived in places like that can understand. As you wander around you can read the passive aggressive notice boards, and listen to the memories of quietly bitchy old women. The name itself conjures up gossiping locals: ‘Oh, everybody’s gone to the rapture. Did you not hear?’ and I, the player character, was the only one not invited, probably because I went to the wrong person’s bake sale. Even the gates into fields look right. Other games made worlds on a more grand or exciting scale, but none of them did it as perfectly, disturbingly accurately as Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture – although the by the end the story admittedly veers into the sort of stuff a philosophy A-Level student would ramble about after smoking a joint for the first time.
With no segue whatsoever I’m going to give a final shout out to Tales from the Borderlands. Yes, yes, I know I know I haven’t mentioned things like The Witcher III in an article where I start by announcing I’m an RPG fan. Step off. I really liked that as well, but so did everyone else and Geralt is fine on his own.
Tales from the Borderlands was a bit of a critical darling, but I need all of you to buy it to absolutely ensure there’s a second season, otherwise every Telltale game that comes out is going to be in the same depressing vein as The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. It seems very unlikely, for example, that their effort at Batman is going to be a laugh a minute. I need the ridiculous, joyous lifeblood of Tales from the Borderlands. So go. Get it now.