Last time on Athena’s Quest for the Best, we hit the climax of the game when we collected our sick power armor. I would say it’s all downhill from here, but the rest of the game is when we get to use our sick power armor, so can’t complain about that. Anyways, yes, there’s the vault to save, mutants to kill, all that. There’s a lot of lives that are riding on our dear Athena! The Vault wants us to slay the mutants so they don’t hunt down and kill everyone we know and love. The Brotherhood is aware of them mustering an army to take over the rest of the wasteland, are possibly the only force around with the power to stop them, but need us to find out more about the mutants before they’ll be able to act. Athena is the crux of so many destinies right now. We should go take care of them.
Instead, we just head off to the Hub. Our pockets are full of loot, and we’ve got a need for cash.
On the way there, we come across someone. Patrick the Celt. A wanderer. He roams the wastes collecting Gaelic remnants, songs, stories, and histories, as a way of keeping his old family heritage alive. Athena chats with him for a bit, and he sings us an old Celtic song. She passes some time with him in that, then the two groups make their separate ways.
Then we continue on to the Hub, and start hitting up the stores there. Which introduces us to a weird facet of the Fallout economy. Namely, that the currency of the land, bottlecaps? Not necessarily the most efficient means of trading now. After our adventures in the Glow, we are full of equipment that we can sell for thousands of caps a piece. But we can only select caps in groups of a maximum of 999 at a time, making trying to move tons of caps between inventories while selling an onerous process. Also, none of the merchants carry more than two thousand in caps, meaning we’re not able to sell our heavy equipment outright. Most players, by this point in the game, trade in guns rather than in caps. So like breaking a twenty with a store, except you’re breaking a sniper rifle for like eight shotguns. I’m more a fan of using drugs as a replacement for currency because they don’t weigh anything, but either way, in a lot of situations, it’s more efficient to just trade for either the stuff you need or at least stuff you can trade for other stuff later than it is to actually make cash.
Not in this case though. The Brotherhood doctors need caps for their services, and won’t take anything else in trade. So we sell off a fraction of our inventory and completely wipe out all the caps from all the merchants in the Hub, and pick up a few lesser guns and drugs while we’re at it.
But then Athena’s pockets get completely full while we’re picking up miscellaneous guns and goods for selling later. We need to clear out some space. Athena chows down on the eleven pounds of fruit I’ve been holding onto for whatever reason, then washes that down by drinking seven bottles of Nuka-Cola in a row. Now we can fit more guns in her pockets. Priorities.
This has adverse reactions on her health, as you might expect. She’s now addicted to Nuka-Cola. She’ll experience a negative impact to her stats until she drinks another Nuka-Cola. This could be an irritation, but Athena proceeds to quit Nuka-Cola cold turkey until her body stops craving it.
On our way back to the Brotherhood, a particularly sneaky Radscorpion attempts to stealth its way up on us.
This doesn’t go very well for it.
Anyways, we make it back to the Brotherhood, and head down to the doctor. After our little reverse shopping spree, we’ve got enough caps for all the surgeries we haven’t taken yet. The recovery time for this takes weeks upon weeks. During which, once again, the mutant menace advances. The more in-game time we take, the deeper they come into human civilization, the more people they capture for their sick purposes, the more damage they do. Many lives probably ended in the time it’s taken us to recover from our completely elective surgeries.
But on the other hand, Athena’s pretty much a goddess now. The way the stat system in this game works, five out of ten is perfectly human average. Yet Athena, with her power armor on, which she will never take off again, has got a strength score of 9, greater than nearly anyone we will ever meet. At night, she has a transcendent perception ability and a 200 point IQ, and is still genius level at both in the daytime. She’s now the most agile woman in the world and has unparalleled charisma. Her only weaknesses are her endurance and her luck, but even those are merely average, rather than inordinately holding her back. This was the reason I stopped all of our stats at 9 at most back in character creation, because we didn’t want to leave points on the table. But between these surgeries and her gifted nature, our Athena is almost as close to perfection as her namesake is.
That done, we head out to the last bastion of civilization on the map that we haven’t visited yet. The Boneyard. Once known as Los Angeles, one of the largest cities in this region, it’s naught but a mass of empty blasted buildings now, with a few gatherings of populations between them.
We head for the old industrial district first, which the locals call Adytum. We’re accosted by one of the town guards, the Regulators, at the gates, but they don’t do much other than let us know they’ll be watching us and give us some directions and the lay of the land.
Just inside is Caleb, trainer for the Regulators. He says a lot of what the guard already told us, just in a bit more detail. There’s a few other groups making their homes in the Boneyard. Up north are the Blades, a weaselly but cruel gang. To the east are the Gun Runners, an isolationist group of weapons manufacturers living in a particularly inhospitable section of town. To the east are both the Children of the Cathedral, a religious cult we previously ran into in the Hub, and the Followers of the Apocalypse, a humanitarian group that seeks to make the Wasteland a better place. John Zimmerman, Adytum’s mayor, has a problem with the Blades and would likely have a job for some super cool adventurer like Athena if we’re up for it.
We go about the rest of the town first though. Mostly looking for more stores. There’s a blacksmith here, which is an interesting sight. He doesn’t have the equipment to make any of the interesting arms or armor that we’d want, but he actually forms a major part of the economy of the town, in that he works with the local chemist to make bullets that the town trades for food. He doesn’t sell anything himself, if we want any of his work, we need to get connected to Miles, proprietor of the General Store here.
Excuse me, “General Store”. Those quotations are important. It’s in the basement of a shack, because a lot of the town is built into basements. And they barely sell anything. They don’t even have enough caps to buy anything from us. Wonderful. Tine does give us a bit of scuttlebutt around the town. Apparently the mayor is super dumb. Worth noting.
Making our way through town, we talk to Miles, the chemist, next. Athena enjoys the opportunity to talk science with somebody who can understand it, and takes the opportunity to nerd out. Miles mentions that the only thing that’s keeping the town alive right now are the bullets he and the blacksmith produce, which they can trade for food. They have hydroponic farms, but they’ve broken down, and they haven’t been able to get the parts they need to replace them. Athena, savior of the wastes she is, offers to step in there. Miles suggests she talk with Sammael about that.
First, we check out their mushroom farm. Not much to really do here, I just wanted to show it off. It seems very rare that you actually see any agriculture in games, but I really appreciate that it pops up a few times in Fallout. Just makes the world seem a little more real to me.
After that, we go to Sammael’s tent and talk to him. He leads a team of scavengers, basically people who roam across the wastes of the Boneyard and pick up anything they can sell. Miles had contracted with him to look for parts for the hydroponic farms, but the guy he had assigned that to never made it back. I smell a quest here.
Anyways, because we’re not done talking to people, we go talk to John Zimmerman, mayor of Adytum, reported stupid man, and the dude Caleb said would have some work for us.
John tells us the story. Adytum has a big problem with the Blades, a nearby vicious gang of murderers that preys on them at every opportunity. Things hit a head with them recently, when they tortured and murdered the mayors son and left his corpse impaled outside the towns’ gates.
Those animals! How vicious! How cruel! The mayor offers Athena two thousand caps for the head of their leader, but honestly, Athena would put these monsters down for free. For the good of the wasteland, the Blades need to be dulled.
We’ve been seeing the average villager moan about the food situation for a while now, but here’s where I was finally able to catch it on screenshot. Without the hydroponic farms, the village is in rough shape. Even the trading isn’t enough to keep it going.
We head our of the village, and north through the Boneyard, before we run into the base of those fiends, the Blades. It’s pretty easy to find, actually. They’ve got themselves a nice sign on this building, an old repurposed night-club. Athena puts on her game face under her power armor helmet and strides up towards the front door, ready for action.
She chats with the guard there. McRae is deceptively friendly, says the Blades are a good bunch, having a tough lot in life between the Deathclaws which apparently aren’t creatures of myth anymore now that we’ve killed one and the Regulators. He teaches them to defend themselves, and they make a decent life for themselves out here. He doesn’t stop Athena at all as she powerwalks into the club.
Inside, she gets her first personal glimpse at the depravity, the inhumanity this gang has brought to the wasteland in the form of Myron a… scrawny little man who’s just… way too into Nuka-Cola?
To the side, there’s a couple. Just… an average couple. They say the Blades have been good to them, carving out a place in the wasteland they can all live together, without harming anybody else. No depravity, no torture, nothing.
The wife does talk in some weird code. The Boneyard is when it becomes clearest they were running out of development resources at the end of making it to this game. All sorts of weird ideas, cut content, and random glitches abound around here. Apparently, this code and Athena’s response are logical in some way, but it comes out of nowhere and doesn’t tie into anything.
Still, really, really weird people in here, but no sign of the pure evil Athena was expecting. This was not what Athena was prepared to be dealing with.
See, here’s a bunch of people just hanging out. It’s not like the raiders where there was wickedness and prison cells and slaves all over the place. This is just a place that people are. Athena’s resolve is shaken, but she puts her gameface back on and goes to the back to confront the leader of the Blades, Razor.
Razor disagrees with being called the leader of a gang. Athena, up front about it, says that she was sent by Mayor Zimmerman for Razor’s head in response to the Blade’s murder of his son.
Razor’s reaction is not what Athena expected.
Razor explains. Josh, the son, lived with the Blades. The Regulators have the mayor, who we’ve been told is very dumb, fooled, and have a stranglehold on the town of Adytum without him being cognizant of it. Josh noticed their siezing of power, escaped, then tried to make it back to town to let his dad know of what was going on. The Regulators captured him coming back in, tortured and killed him, then framed the Blades for it.
Sounds a little fishy, right? Well, Razor’s got proof. She hands Athena a holodisc that records some of the regulator’s radio transmission during that. Razor and the Blades would love to put a group together, and free Adytum from the Regulator’s control, but they don’t have the weaponry they’d need for it. But if Athena could possibly connect them with the Gun Runners in town, they might be able to do some good for people. Replace the Regulator’s as Adytum’s security force, one that would keep less of a martial law and be better off for everyone there.
So we’ve got a choice to make. We’ve been offered 2000 caps for Razor’s head. We could still go through with it. Or we could try to free Adytum from the Regulators. We could try to do that all by ourselves. Or we could head to the Gun Runners, and try to arm the Blades for some assistance. What do you all think?
I think Fallout 3 was one of the first games I played that had an advanced character creation mechanic. I remember reading that intelligent characters get more skill points per level, so I invested in that stat along with picking science as a tag skill. Then when I encountered that scientist who engineered those fire ants, I had my character scold him for not properly following the scientific method. That’s what I was reminded of when you had Athena speak science to that NPC just now.
And indeed, what I think is one of the most intriguing things about the Fallout series is how far the writers go to build a world. It’s a post-apocalyptic setting where many people are doing alright for themselves. In some ways, they’re actually better off than they were before the war. I suspect that a lot of this might have to do with practices forbidding the writers from making things too bleak, thus resulting in an unsellable game, but considering most post-apocalyptic fare that gets published these days, it’s a breath of fresh air, as it doesn’t stumble into the typical genre trappings.
I think Fallout in particular has been really good about that, about tailoring little pieces of dialogue to the way your character’s set up. There’s tons of little things that roll out differently depending on how your character is built. I think it was easier to implement back in the days before voice acting put so much cost behind dialogue, but that’s definitely been an important part to the series. Usually it’s either intelligence or charisma, but sometimes they go with other things. Athena’s got a good reputation, and that’s the only reason she was offered the power armor as a reward for that quest.
But the weird thing is that they generally go by without being pointed out. If you haven’t played the game a couple of times, you may not notice, because there’s never any indication that it was a speech check you passed there, or that you’re only offered the dialogue option because you know so much.
That’s another thing I really enjoy about the Fallout series. It doesn’t go huge into it, but it does take steps to make its world feel really lived in. They’re a little more than just flat NPCs, they’ve got cultures, economies, and basic needs to fill.
Patrick the Celt sounds like an interesting character. Does he feature in any of the modern titles? I think Athena should free Adytum. With her godlike Power Armor nothing can stop her.
Nope, Patrick the Celt only shows up here. There’s not too many characters that cross between games, and even less that go from one of the classic games into the modern ones. Harold, who we chatted with waaaaaaay back when we were hunting our first Deathclaw, is the only one that comes to mind right now, as he’d been in every single one of the classic games, then showed up in Fallout 3 where he met his end. A lot of the factions and groups do cross over into the modern games, but individual people, not so much.
Noted. Thanks for your vote!