For many gamers, the name Bethesda ensures quality. As a publisher, they have brought us some of the most creative titles of recent memory like Wolfenstein, Dishonored, Doom and The Evil Within. However, for most of us, the name will forever be associated with The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. As developers, Bethesda Game Studios have crafted some of the most beloved open-world adventures around. Sure, there may be some bugs or hiccups along the way, but there are very few games that match the rich worlds and deep exploration of those flagship franchises.
Fallout 4 is no exception. Ever since acquiring the series in 2004, the studio has brought familiar Elder Scrolls gameplay tropes and mechanics to the post-apocalyptic wasteland. The player is given a main storyline to follow, but the real joy of Fallout comes from exploring the huge list of side quests and activities available. The freedom to join factions, make friends and enemies across the game world and carve out your own identity keeps players hooked. But following the path set by Fallout 3, the narrative in place is incredibly restrictive when it comes to immersion.
Though you have the freedom to create a character, customise their looks and build their stats from the ground up, your protagonist has a fixed backstory. You either fought on the frontlines as a soldier or supported from home as a housewife. You have a lovely family home in Sanctuary Hills, a baby called Shaun and a robot assistant named Codsworth. As someone looking to dive into the story and truly explore the wasteland, the narrative prevents me from doing that. Why would I bother running around building settlements and joining up with factions when I should be finding out what happened to my son?
Enter ‘Start Me Up’.
Unlike most mods which offer cosmetic changes or new items and gameplay features, Start Me Up directly alters your Fallout 4 experience for the better. After designing your character in the bathroom of your Sanctuary home, you can continue as normal, skip the pre-war sequence or choose from one of several options regarding your origins in Boston.
Depending on your selection, you’ll find yourself dropped into the world of Fallout 4 (mostly) free from the narrative confines that the game establishes. As well as giving you a range of cool starting points for your adventure, the mod also cuts out the constant references to your child Shaun. If you choose to remove yourself from the role of parent, you will experience the main questline from a new point of view. Rather than witnessing your partner get killed in Vault 111 and making your way through the structure, you will approach the Vault as an outsider. After hearing rumours that a pre-war Vault exists in the area, you will head over to Sanctuary and explore, finding the body of Shaun’s father, the original protagonist. After finding a tape recording of the baby being taken, you will embark on the quest to find Shaun by tracking down an expert in kidnapping cases. Fans of the game will see how this feeds into the storyline, but for those looking to roam freely among the wastes, the experience offered by Start Me Up is incredible.
I’ve barely touched the main quest myself, empowered by the creative control the mod offers. However, my interactions with the faithful robot Codsworth showcased how much thought has gone into the project. Though your character doesn’t know or recognise the machine because they have never crossed paths, Codsworth still behaves like you are his master. However, this isn’t a flaw or oversight within the mod. Rather, your responses to his statements add a whole new level of character to the game. The idea of a robot servant waiting centuries for its owner to return is unique enough, but having him mistake a stranger as his master brings a clever twist to the proceedings. Have his memory units been decaying over time? Has his programming fallen into disarray? It builds brilliantly upon an already novel concept, a small change that makes a world of difference.
If you’re looking for a reason to revisit the wastes of Boston or you want to experience a unique adventure, I definitely recommend trying out Start Me Up. You can grab the standalone mod here or download the expanded version here for use with the amazing Full Dialogue Interface. This great little mod replaces the game's simplified dialogue prompts with complete lines, helping players make the right choice as well as adding some much needed Fallout authenticity.
Got any other cool mods we should check out? Want to share your thoughts about the modding community, especially now that mods have come to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One? Drop us a comment below!
Jordan's love for video games started with late night sessions of Streets of Rage II. Almost two decades later, not much has changed. Check out his blog for more articles, or follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.