Sunday, March 18, 2018

Fallout 4's Best Mods

Fallout 4 is awesome and I love it. I wouldn’t change a thing about it!

...

No, wait, I totally would. And so would quite a damn lot of other people, it seems, because the modding scene for Fallout 4 seems to be even more ferociously prolific than for the previous installments in the series. The mods for this game range from the useful (such as many fixes to bugs in the game--it may not seem like much, but those sparking wires and misplaced elevator buttons were really driving me crazy!), to the shamelessly bizarre (wanna fire baby-shaped nuclear explosives at Macho Man Randy Savage as you travel the wasteland with a supermutant wearing a milk vending machine, searching for hidden caches of cadbury cream eggs to steal from Doctor Zoidberg? Go right ahead, my friend).

Beyond outrageous fun and improvements to basic functionality, however, there are also many mods for Fallout 4 which legitimately improve it as a Fallout title, mods which I, personally, believe enhance the game to an extent that they should be included in any playthrough, not just for fun or utility, but because they make it a truer Fallout experience. And so, as I did for Fallout 3 and may at some point do for Fallout: New Vegas, I’m going to share with you all a list of the Fallout 4 mods that I believe are an essential addition to Fallout 4, which capture its essence and enhance it.

Do keep in mind, of course, that there are many enjoyable and well-made mods out there in addition to the ones below which are quite good--I’m quite partial, for example, to We are the Minutemen, which basically solves a bit of a logic hole regarding the representation of the faction’s strength over time, Diamond City Expansion, which makes Diamond City feel more like the major city it’s supposed to be, and The Secret of Huntress Manor, as it’s pretty much the only campaign mod I’ve seen in a Fallout game that’s immersive and captures the feel and style of the series. What’s below is just a list of mods that I believe, in 1 way or another, make Fallout 4 a more whole experience overall. Like, if a flavor mod such as The Secret of Huntress Manor is icing on Fallout 4's cake that enhances it without any contradicting flavors, then the mods below are the ingredients you add to the cake to make it the best that it can be.

I'm not sure that metaphor is especially good, but I'm hungry.



The Wild Wasteland: 1 of Fallout 4’s few real weaknesses as a Fallout game is that it’s largely forgotten that occasional random silliness is a core element of the series. From the very start, the Fallout series has been an entrancing mix of 90% serious, thoughtful storytelling and cultural analysis, and 10% ridiculous gags. Dead red shirts, seeing the TARDIS taking off, encountering characters from Monty Python or Pinkie + The Brain, finding a bar in which character models from the first Fallout gripe about their roles (or lack thereof)...the first couple Fallouts have tons of instances of wacky nonsense scattered throughout, and Bethesda just doesn’t seem to remember/know/care about it. Fallout 3 didn’t have nearly enough goofy little scenarios and references, and Fallout 4 has even fewer.

This mod, however, takes a page from Fallout: New Vegas’s book, and adds a ton of locations, encounters, and items to Fallout 4, scattered around the wasteland, that you can stumble upon and chuckle at, all denoted by New Vegas’s little weird sound chime when you find them. From a Steven Universe reference, to an alien outcast who seemed to go renegade for his obsession with Giddyup Buttercup, to a gaggle of callbacks to previous games in the series, this mod’s got a lot of fun stuff to find, and is a worthy part of the Fallout 4 experience by not only restoring the comedy to the soul of the series, but also adding a substantial amount of locations to the game to explore and enjoy. I will say that at times The Wild Wasteland feels a little like it’s going overboard, or adds an item or reference that does feel slightly out of place even considering the spirit of the mod...but ultimately, the increase and improvement to the Fallout experience that it brings to the table far outweigh these slight and insubstantial misgivings.


Beantown Interiors Project: Remember that great Fallout 3 mod, my favorite of the ones I outlined as improving that game, DC Interiors Project? Well, in that same spirit comes Beantown Interiors Project!

As I said while recommending its predecessor, a huge part of Fallout is the exploration of the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Fallout’s setting is the most integral part of the series, and exploring it is a vital part of Fallout’s soul. Much of the series’s gravity and narrative comes from its ambient storytelling, which is only accessible through exploration. Fallout 4 is leaps and bounds above New Vegas and 3 in this department, with far more settings to explore, dotting a larger map, than any other installment of the franchise to date. And yet, in spite of the vast number of buildings you can enter and explore in this game, there are still significantly more that are boarded up, inaccessible, just soulless scenery. Boston, Cambridge, Lexington, Concord, and so many other locations have so much more potential than is being used! So, any mod that expands this unused real estate into more immersive, interesting locales for us to explore and experience the postapocalyptic Commonwealth is a very good one, in my book.

With that said, Beantown Interiors doesn’t entirely live up to its legacy. DC Interiors, I think, had far more creativity and detail put into most of its locations...Beantown Interiors has a bad habit of simply filling the buildings it opens up with a tremendous amount of debris and clutter, and calling it a day. Which is still a positive addition, make no mistake, and admittedly does mesh better with the whole post-nuclear-war thing than much of the actual game’s content does. But it does seem like less thought went into this iteration than DC Interiors, at times. Also, I don’t really see the point of adding the lawn gnomes and the mad bomber items; it’s like someone just mashed 2 separate mods into this project because Beantown Interiors is the only mod of the 3 that anyone’s gonna pay any attention to. Nonetheless, it’s still a positive addition, and there are some spots that Beantown Interiors adds that are pretty neat, so I do definitely recommend it.


Everyone’s Best Friend: Alright, which moron at Bethesda did it? Who was the guy/gal with the IQ of a mollusk who decided that you have to choose between having Dogmeat or any other companion accompany you? This is Fallout. You’re not supposed to have to make a tradeoff to have Dogmeat. You’re supposed to just be able to have a dog at your side, always! No questions, no sacrifice of having any other party member! 1 of the biggest inspirations for this series is the (fairly disturbing) 1975 film A Boy and His Dog, for Garuda’s sake!

Thankfully, this mod exists, and with it, you can have Dogmeat stay by your side, without having to go without a regular party member. Having Dogmeat by your side is a Fallout staple, and hearing the reactions of the various party members to new locations and situations is an important part of the narrative of Fallout 4, so this mod is definitely 1 that I think every player should make use of.


Combat Zone Restored: A lot of the intended content of the Combat Zone in Fallout 4 didn’t manage to make the deadline, and unfortunately, it shows. Sometimes stuff cut for time isn’t obvious--I like the mod The Lost Building of Atlantic, but I wouldn’t have been able to tell there was anything more that had been planned for Atlantic Offices on my own--but since the Combat Zone is where you recruit Cait, it piques your interest a lot more than a random raider location otherwise might, and this extra scrutiny highlights just how abrupt it seems.

This mod restores the content that was cut, and adds/fixes what’s missing/bugged to bring the place up to the standards that were originally set for it. The Combat Zone Restored makes the process of recruiting Cait more involved, which better fleshes out her character and the character of her manager, and recovers the Combat Zone’s functionality as an arena. It’s good for both the character and the lore, so it’s worth having.


Piper Interview Restored: Not everything can make the cut in any game. Hell, not everything should. Still, sometimes you have to look at what got left on the cutting room floor, scratch your head, and wonder why in the world it didn’t make it in. Such as the content that this mod restores. Some of the questions and responses during Piper’s interview early in the game apparently didn’t make it into the finished product, yet, from every way I look at it, they’re completely compatible to the lore, character integrity, and themes of the game. Not only that, but these extra bits make the interview better overall, and assist in developing the Sole Survivor, as well as potentially underscoring the major message of Fallout. Reminds me a bit of Bioware’s inexplicable removal of several lines from Anderson and Shepard’s final conversation in Mass Effect 3. Anyone playing Fallout 4 absolutely should have this mod installed, so they can hear the full thing.


Cut Content: Sanctuary Terminals: Another bit of content that it just doesn’t make any sense to have cut from the game, here. There’s a couple terminals that were created for Sanctuary which didn’t make it into Fallout 4, but they’re still coded and have the entries in them, and given that they better develop Nora and Nate as people (in ways that are completely compliant to their characters, I want to emphasize), I think it’s preferable, even advisable, to use this mod to restore them.


Stumble Upon Interiors: This, to me, is a truer successor to DC Interiors than Beantown Interiors is. This mod adds 8 new interior locations to the Commonwealth, utilizing several otherwise unused boarded-up locations scattered about Fallout 4 to provide you with a bunch of new places to explore and experience, all of which feel completely true to the game, in both their construction and in their light ambient storytelling. Great stuff!


MsRae's Commonwealth Interiors: In the same vein as Stumble Upon Interiors, this mod also adds several new locations to the Commonwealth that you can come across while exploring, all of which, again, feel authentic to the Fallout universe. I had an issue with a couple of the new locations causing slowdown for me, so be aware of that, but since this mod is pretty new, I can only assume that will be addressed in a future update, and all but 2 of the locations worked just fine. This is another mod that provides more of the classic Fallout exploration that the game, huge though it may be, could use a lot more of, so check it out.


Inside Jobs: Same deal as Stumble Upon Interiors, really, in that this, too, adds many interiors to those unused buildings in the game, which all feel authentic. And I gotta say, a lot of these locations look great; the author of this mod really knows how to create atmosphere with lighting. Seriously, some of these locations are basically art. I absolutely love this mod, and heartily recommend it.


Atomic Radio: The last mod I’ll be recommending today is also my absolute favorite of all the ones I’ve seen for Fallout 4, Atomic Radio. This is a rather simple mod that adds a new radio station to the game for you to listen to whenever the mood strikes you. Not a big deal, right? There are tons of radio mods out there. But what I really love about this 1 is that in between playing the standard Fallout music that you can find on Diamond City Radio, Atomic Radio has all kinds of commercials and radio shows which use Fallout 4’s lore. There are ads for dozens of the items you find in the game, from Nuka Cola on down to brands of the junk items you find, such as Suprathaw Antifreeze and Abraxo, as well as various prewar businesses whose locations are found in the Commonwealth, such as Wicked Shipping and Joe’s Spuckies. There are also various trailers for old timey movies, as well as for episodes of Grognak based on the covers of the Grognak comics you can find in the game. Added to that are various Cold War era-esque propaganda PSAs, a couple lore-friendly talk shows and game shows, and several radio skits dramas, including little Twilight Zone-styled episodes. Remember how much I liked the Fallout 3 mod that restored cut commercials to Galaxy News Radio? This is like a whole radio station of those enjoyable tidbits!

And it’s worth noting that the execution is as great as the idea itself. The voice acting in these is clean, clear, and spot-on, and the production value is so high that you would never know this wasn’t intended to be a part of the game. It’s all written really well, too, with most of these ads and programs having the same sort of commentary on American past and present culture as Fallout itself makes. Not to mention, almost all of it is really funny, and a few of those little dramas are actually pretty cool and/or compelling. And, of course, it checks out completely in that most important of categories to me: it’s completely, 100% immersive; Atomic Radio feels truer to Fallout than some parts of the actual game do! Kris Takahashi, the mod’s creator, clearly possesses a perfect understanding of and appreciation for both the lore, and the heart, of Fallout, not to mention a great sense of humor. This is professional work, no 2 ways about it, and it’s a great way to give yourself something new and fun to listen to as you explore the wasteland and build up your settlements--especially since this mod does not skimp out on the content; back-to-back, all the shows and ads and whatnot in Atomic Radio total to around 4 hours! When regularly interspersed by the normal radio songs, this mod will last you a good, long time. It’s definitely my favorite mod for Fallout 4, and I heartily recommend it. No playthrough of Fallout 4 should be without Atomic Radio.

2 comments:

  1. Maybe I'm getting old, or I was getting old 8 years ago, but I spent a good amount of time in Fallout 3 wishing I could take a break from hackin' and whackin', and listen to more about Herbert Dashwood. Any mod that takes a break from white noise music and uses that radio for Mass Communication has my vote.

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    1. Well, all of the standard Fallout 3 and 4 songs are already old songs, so if anything, your dislike for them means that you're getting young, my friend!

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