Fallout 4 doesn’t tell me which quests are important, and that’s fantastic

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Don't prioritise main quests in open world games

We’ve been rather spoiled for choice when it comes to Role-Paying games this year, and I personally couldn’t be happier. Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time (as so many others have) in Fallout 4 and Bethesda’s meticulously designed post-apocalyptic wastelands. For the most part it’s a truly phenomenal game – with lots to explore, engage quests and lots of them. But one thing I really like about Fallout 4 is in some of the finer details.

Fallout 4 has a ton of quests. Walking into a new settlement and conversing with the only NPC not hurrying to put a bullet in your brain is usually the easiest way to get more, and before you know it your Pip-Boy’s Data section will be inundated with quest descriptions from all over the Commonwealth. But there’s something different about it here. Fallout 4 doesn’t like marking which quests are main, and which simply fall under side-activities. And it’s rather powerful.

Fallout 4 never makes you feel like you're going in the wrong direction

But not explicitly telling me what is important, Fallout 4 weighs all of its actions equally. There’s no reason for me to feel guilty about helping out the Brotherhood of Steel instead of heading to Diamond City, because the game isn’t telling me that I’m not doing it’s most important quests. To its understanding, whatever quest I’m currently one is the most important one – because I, as a role-player, chose it. It’s important because I’m carving out my own path, and it’s great that Fallout 4 respects that.

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It’s not something unique to Fallout either. Many other RPGs implement systems identical or at least similar, with Bloodborne (and the whole Souls franchise) coming to mind as a more extreme example. There aren’t even “quests” of any kind here, and in return it makes your exploration all feel equally important. There’s no right or wrong path – only the path that you choose to take, and who you choose to take it with.

This is what happens when you take too many side-quests

Of course that doesn’t mean all quests in Fallout 4 resemble each other in mechanical importance. It’s very easy to tell which are there to act as filler and which are there to progress the overall narrative, but it’s just a neat touch that it’s the actual interaction that telling me this, and not some colour-coded text in my quest log making that decision for me. Going to a location and just shooting things up certainly falls on the side-quest side of the fence, but not being badgered about not doing the important stuff let’s me take Fallout 4 at its own pace.

It’s in direct contrast to a game like The Witcher 3, which makes it very clear when you engaging in a quest that won’t progress the main narrative significantly. Having this type of information does have its place though – and with a game as immense as The Witcher 3 it could definitely be argued that some direction is needed at times. But it also doesn’t help in making me feel like I’m exploring its world in a way that feels organic to may character. Rather I’m just wasting time, avoid the next big “Main Quest” blip on the map for as long as I can. And it wants me to know that.

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Don't want to get beaten up by bullies? Should've stuck to thos main quests

It’s a tricky thing to decide on because, as I’ve previously written, we shouldn’t always be in charge of how games are paced. There is a reason games wrestle control from us at times, trying to keep us on the straight and narrow path in order to keep the experience’s highest beats sounding on queue. There’s reasoning for massive open-world RPGs to mark quests in the manner that they do, but it’s a small part of the game that certainly needs to be scrutinised while in development.

Fallout 4 wants its players to explore and build the character they want through the equal choices that they make. And they’ve really hit the nail on the head here.

Last Updated: November 16, 2015

Alessandro Barbosa

You can all call me Sandy until I figure out how to edit this thing, which is probably never. Sandy not good enough? Call me xXx_J0k3R_360degreeN0Sc0pe_xXx. Also, Geoff's a bastard.

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