Here is a change of pace from the “check out these exploits/glitches” and “top mods” articles surrounding Bethesda’s Fallout 4. Let me tell you about the importance of terminals and why you certainly need to read them.
When talking about the importance of terminals, I am not focusing on the benefits of the Hacker perk in terms of gameplay. The purpose here is to show the value of reading/listening to terminals with notes and holodisks in terms of overall experience and lore.
I, as well as many players, have been guilty of hacking a terminal in previous Fallout games and either skimming it for information or altogether skipping it with the excuse, “I’ll read it later.” It is an issue with the massive amounts of content in many RPGs. Many times, players have a limited amount of time and don’t wish to “waste it” on reading long segments of text like the books in the The Elder Scrolls games. Perhaps it is the general atmosphere of Fallout 4 that has caused me to slow down and read everything or some features in the terminal system that never really caught my attention until now. Whatever the case, Fallout 4’s use of notes, terminals and holodisks is absolutely spot on.
Terminals can be broken down into four distinct types that I will be underlying here:
- Gameplay Terminals/Mandatory Terminals
- Lore Terminals
- Dynamic Terminals
- Highly Amusing Terminals
Gameplay Terminals will not be covered in this article as they are in place to further the main story or hack turrets and robots. These terminals are highly important to the story of Fallout 4 or the gameplay mechanics but they do not serve a purpose outside of the game itself.
Lore Terminals, however, are extremely important outside of gameplay. Many players will not care too much for the story of a game and will simply seek to play and complete it. This is of course more than okay, with games like MMOs with many redundant meaningless quests, but players who want to feel like a part of the world should certainly read these terminals. Fallout 4 is, after all, a role-playing game. These terminals give insight into the purpose of specific vaults or cover vast amounts of lore between games. A particular terminal in the game covers a vast amount of the events directly after Fallout 3, albeit from a specific faction’s view. While these are not mandatory to the game, these terminals are a huge factor to immersion. There is, of course, the argument that having to read expansive segments of text detaches a player from the game, which is understandable. Still the value of these lore snippets makes the pause from the game well worth it. The lore surrounding the vaults segue into the next type of terminal.
While many games are excruciating to play when the characters feel dumber than you (much like a kid’s show asking the audience where an object in plain sight is), Fallout 4 will occasionally turn the scale by adding information to terminals that help explain other content in the game. There is a certain vault in the game with numerous audio logs in the overseer’s chamber. Upon listening to them, their content will make very little sense if you neglected to read the terminal at the beginning of the vault. As an arbitrary example (to avoid any spoilers), say that you decided to listen to the audio logs you found only to be vastly confused by their content. Perhaps each log makes reference to some “golly old sunflower.” On your way out of the vault you decide to read the terminal by the entrance. To your amazement, you discover that Vault Made-Up-Number was testing the effects of neurotoxins on ex-farmers. The farmers’ logs could be found on this terminal and each one mentioned in the audio logs you find worked on a sunflower farm. Aha! Just like that, everything clicks. While this is a humorous and somewhat outlandish example, Bethesda uses these scattered points in order to let the player create the full picture.
Dynamic Terminals also are composed of immersion terminals that make your actions seem more relevant. Players love choices and consequences. The trend has been growing rapidly and finds its way into every game today. Did you sneeze on that tree? Uh oh, that’ll cost you eight of your companions. However, it is sad to admit that many games fall short on the consequences portion due to vast scale and difficulty or possibly laziness or disillusionment as it sometimes feels. Fallout 4’s consequences seem to be pleasantly well done. Bethesda has always done a good job of integrating the player. Fallout 3 had the Talon Company that would hunt down players depending on their karma and actions. The Elder Scrolls series has also had features like this. Fallout 4’s terminals give that feeling of global effect an extra edge. While playing, I killed a named raider leader and thought little of it. However, after clearing out a different raider camp I hacked a terminal and found a note on the terminal about the other raider leader being killed. I found this highly amusing that my actions were noted, even if it had no real effect on the game. Something that saddens me, having written flavor text such as this for games prior, is that I’ve seen many reviewers state this terminal as one to skip. I understand that some terminals have little in the way of lore, dynamic effect, or amusement, it’s expected with as much content as the game has, however, to fully experience the game, you should never skip content that adds to immersion.
The last terminal type, and among the most common, is the Amusing Terminal. These terminals often serve little purpose in terms of lore or immersion, however they manage to put a smile on our faces. Many of these feature portions of lore, or tie into lore, or have some dynamic effect but more importantly they are downright “knee slappers”. Whether it is a grin at the humor or irony of a log, a chuckle that you know enough lore to make connections between logs, or just a general smile because while reading that text you are transported from the harshness of the Wasteland (and the even harsher world that is reality) and put into a moment in some forgotten character’s life. These moments really draw players in and make them feel like part of a breathing world that is still distant enough from their own to be an adventure. While not a terminal, one such moment that can tie in the ideas of lore, dynamic effect, and amusement, is the scattered notes and logs in Swan’s Pond. Just be careful.
What are you still doing reading this? Go hack some terminals, listen to audio logs, and read all those notes!