WHY I LOVE
In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. This week Samuel celebrates Fallout 4's best quest.
I enjoyed my 70 hours with Fallout 4, but despite finishing Bethesda’s latest open-world RPG around a year ago, I find myself unable to recall much about it. Perhaps this is because it felt so structurally similar to the other 3D Fallouts and Elder Scrolls games, despite looking a lot nicer and having significantly better combat. Or maybe it’s because following up such a rich vision of a postapocalyptic American city was always going to feel like slightly diminishing returns.
When asked by a friend recently to recall the best bits of the game, two moments came to mind. One was stepping into the heavily irradiated wastes of the Glowing Sea and finding the eerie chassis of a passenger plane destroyed in the epicentre of a nuclear blast. The other was The Silver Shroud quest, where you assume the role of a Dick Tracy/The Shadow pulp hero. It reframes Fallout 4’s systems to fit the exciting life of an in-universe radio serial vigilante—it’s essentially another layer of roleplay within a roleplaying game. This successfully gets you to invest in the game in a different way, even though you’re largely doing the same things you do in every Fallout quest: going to a place, fetching a thing, and killing a bunch of guys. This time, though, you’re doing it in a trilby.
You start by tuning into The Silver Shroud radio station, where old episodes of the serial are playing on a loop. In these broadcasts, the Shroud stalks the shadows and delivers justice to bastards with a shiny silver machine gun, and it’s performed with the hammy gusto of something broadcast in the first half of the 20th century. Like many players, I understand this frame of reference through secondhand pop culture infl uences, since everyone who remembers listening to American radio in the ’30s is almost certainly dead by now.
The serial leads you to Kent Connolly in the uncouth town of Goodneighbor, who runs the station. He’s a ghoul, sincerely trying to make the town a better place by offering people a slice of yesteryear fiction. “Sometimes you just got to escape a little to make it through the day.”
Since your character has been cryogenically frozen, you remember listening to the broadcasts live before the war and connect with Connolly over the show. Kent wants The Silver Shroud to come to life, to confront the escalating crime in Goodneighbor and offer people hope. He’s fashioned the character’s machine gun himself, and asks you to retrieve the costume from Hubris Comics in downtown Boston. Kent then asks you to don the outfit and assume the role, since your own comic booky Fallout origin makes you a good fit.
The quest then has you patrol the streets of the town, murdering thugs and assassins at Kent’s suggestion, while yelling trash talk at them in The Shroud’s exaggerated voice. Your character clearly gets into the role, which is oddly sweet. Meanwhile, residents around the town react to your new getup in amusing ways. “You look like one of the wankers from those posters,” says Whitechapel Charlie, the British Mister Handy bartender working at The Third Rail. Unfortunately, Kent ends up crossing the wrong people, and at the quest’s climax you must track down his kidnapper, Sinjin—and save Kent from execution, if you can, or if you want to.
The nuts and bolts of The Silver Shroud are extremely similar to the game’s other quests, but it demonstrates how context is everything in an RPG. In my experience of the genre, the difference between a good and a bad quest is usually just the writing and the way the world reacts to your actions. Here, Bethesda really makes you feel like you’re stepping into the shoes of The Shroud, having previously spent hours as an ordinary survivor of the wastes. Some NPCs on the streets mock your getup scathingly, but that persona is also powerful enough to scare some of your enemies into thinking this fictional character has actually come to life. It’s magnificent.
Meanwhile, Kent’s own sincere intentions to improve his hometown make you feel like you’re doing a genuinely good guy a favour, in a world where there aren’t too many decent people around. It’s a convincing simulation of becoming a superhero, and believing in it is the successful combination of a campy costume, daft voice acting and some of Bethesda’s best writing.