Making your way through the Commonwealth takes everything you’ve got. Taking a break from the deathclaws and raiders sure would help a lot. If you would like to get away, Bethesda has carved out a little space for you in the Prost Bar, a fairly overt reference to the bar from the ’80s sitcom Cheers. Modeled to look like the Boston watering hole, Prost includes baseball memorabilia and skeletons dressed like the show’s recurring patrons. The deceased crowd at Prost may not know your name — not everyone can be Codsworth, after all — but on the bright side, they sure do make great listeners.
Between Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, Bethesda is probably the biggest name in Western RPGs, and although the two series occupy very different universes, there are times when the worlds collide. Fans of Fallout’s fantasy counterpart will find an interesting easter egg in the Brotherhood of Steel’s flagship, the Prydwen. In the section of the ship where Senior Scribe Neriah conducts her experiments, a variety of flora can be found. While many of the samples will seem ordinary by the wasteland’s standards, one specimen named “Experimental Plant” may seem out of place. Elder Scrolls fans will note the plant’s uncanny resemblance to nirnroot, a common plant throughout Tamriel. Although the plant cannot be used to brew potions (sadly, scientists in Fallout have yet to pursue alchemy), players can consume it to heal damage and radiation.
The Fallout games are a celebration of ’50s pop culture, and aside from nuclear war and suburbia, nothing is as representative of ’50s attitudes as aliens, specifically of the little green man variety. The previous Fallout games have all featured appearances by aliens in some capacity, and Fallout 4 continues the tradition in spectacular fashion. While wandering the Commonwealth, players may see a UFO crash in the distance. The wreckage can be found south of Oberland Station, with a trail of blood leading to a cave and the ship’s pilot. Sadly, the alien pilot will attack on sight, but this close encounter of the violent kind does have a happy ending, in that you can loot its corpse for an alien blaster pistol.
Fans of Golden Age comics will find many allusions and easter eggs in Fallout 4, including Grognak the Barbarian comics and, if they wander around the town of Goodneighbor, a radio drama called The Silver Shroud. Literate players will note these characters are inspired by Conan the Barbarian and The Shadow, the latter of which is a grim vigilante from the 1930s and a precursor to Batman. Players can even dress up as these heroes by visiting the ruined headquarters of Hubris Comics. The Shroud’s full costume can be found on a brightly lit dummy on the top floor, and a certain quest will actually direct players to pick it up. What players might not notice, however, is Grognak’s equipment. The Grognak costume, which increases the player’s melee damage, rests on a shelf on the top floor, while the Grognak Axe, which staggers enemies and causes them to bleed, is in a locked case on the first floor.
It’s no secret that there are fans of H.P. Lovecraft at Bethesda, with both Oblivion and Fallout 3 containing numerous references to the author’s works. Given that Lovecraft was a New England native, it’s fitting that Fallout 4’s depiction of Boston pays homage to the horror writer. In the northeast section of the map, there is a massive quarry titled “Dunwich Borers,” a not-so-subtle nod to Lovecraft’s short story The Dunwich Horror. Beneath the quarry is a long, labyrinthine-like mine occupied by raiders and… others. It would be telling to explain any further, but those who remember the Dunwich Building from Fallout 3 may have some idea what’s in store.
Another Lovecraft reference can be found in an unassuming house north of Goodneighbor. While the front of The Pickman Gallery looks like any old Commonwealth dwelling, inside are horrific works of art. The most mild are paintings reminiscent of Dore, but there are some sculptures made of… unique materials that are sure to disgust. Exploring the depths of the gallery, players may come to learn what madness drives the artist responsible. Pickman is inspired by the artist of the same name from Lovecraft’s story Pickman’s Model, in which an artist creates troubling paintings that seem to radiate evil.
Massachusetts has churned out quite a few important writers, and Henry David Thoreau is one of the most famous. Players exploring the Commonwealth can find a tribute to Thoreau at Walden Pond, the site where where he wrote his famous transcendentalist manifesto, Walden. There is a gift shop containing booby traps and a locked door, and in order to get inside players will need to crawl through a nearby drainage ditch. In the shop’s basement are some raiders having a conversation about Thoreau and transcendentalism, which says good things about the quality of the education system in post-apocalypse Massachusetts.
Those who follow the Minutemen faction’s quest chain will eventually find themselves deep in the bowels of their fortress, The Castle (known in our time as Fort Independence.) One room features the corpse of the previous Minutemen general, who drank himself to death while hiding from enemies, and, weirdly enough, a skeleton chained up inside the walls. This decor might seem a little strange even by the Commonwealth’s standards, unless players notice that the bottles of wine near the general contain amontillado. The room is a reference to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado, in which the narrator gets a rival drunk and entombs him alive inside a brick wall. Another wrinkle to this reference? Poe was stationed at Fort Independence during his military years.
Diamond City has its share of noir motifs, with private investigators, intrepid journalists, organized crime, and so on. There are subtler nods to noir, however, like the Japanese-speaking noodle vendor, Takahashi. The robot will sell the player noodles, and in conversation will only say “Na-ni shimasu-ka?” (“What will you do?). This is an homage to the sci-fi neo-noir film Blade Runner, where protagonist Deckard eats at a noodle bar run by a chef who asks customers the same question. This is far from the only Blade Runner allusion in Fallout games; New Vegas featured a pistol modeled on Deckard’s unique revolver.
The Mysterious Stranger, a trenchcoat-clad gunslinger straight out of a noir film, has been a presence since the original Fallout, with perks that occasionally summon him to the player’s aid. But who is he? Where does he come from? What does he want? Players have been asking those questions for years, but characters in Fallout have never acknowledged the Stranger’s existence. Well, not until Fallout 4 introduced android detective Nick Valentine, that is. Players who travel with Nick and use the Mysterious Stranger perk may have noticed that Nick comments on the Stranger’s appearances. If players do a little detective work of their own, they can even find Nick’s case file on the Stranger, stashed under the bed in his office. It’s an entertaining read, and a good treat for longtime Fallout fans.
One of the repeatable quests for the Brotherhood of Steel sends the player to a variety of locations to pick up high-tech equipment. Most of these items seem to be random gizmos, but one in particular hides an easter egg for sci-fi fans. The flux sensor has “CM-88B 180924609” written on the back. This code may seem random, but Alien fans will recognize it as the serial number for the Nostromo, the CM-88B Bison freighter that the film is set on. It’s unclear what Scribe Haylen intends to do with all the parts the player collects for her. Perhaps the Brotherhood is a front for Weyland-Yutani?
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