Given the title of this list you probably clicked knowing full well that there would be some spoilers ahead, and you’d be right. But since the game has been out for a couple months there’s a good chance you already know the only detail I intend to spoil, which occurs within the first thirty minutes of the game. That means that hopefully I’m not about to ruin anything important for you, but if you think I might then consider this your final warning. Cool? Cool.
One of the very first things that happens when you start playing Fallout 4 is that you meet your spouse, love of your life and co-parent of your child. You can even configure their appearance to your liking before editing your own character, ensuring that the next five minutes of bonding will make an impression on you because you just did your boy’s hair and he’s looking slick as heck, dang. Then a few minutes pass, and hopefully you didn’t get too attached to that face because some random shouting guy just shot it off. Next, your son Shaun is taken and the door of possibility for his whereabouts left wide-open, while your spouse is… Still very dead. Super dead. Door closed. Literally fridged. It’s an emotionally jarring moment, but only in the absolute cheapest and most unearned sense. Frankly, they could have done so much better if they had left that door open just a crack. Maybe the shot wasn’t fatal, maybe they fled the vault before you did, maybe they never made it there in the first place. We got stuck with the dullest out of all the parallel universes, and I’ll prove it.
10. They Could Have Tried to Raid Your Settlements
Imagine you get the call that one of your settlements is in danger. You show up, shotgun in hand, only to see your once-partner tearing the place up. Maybe you have a tearful reunion, or maybe you don’t. Times have changed and so have both of you. Instead maybe you’re stuck negotiating with them, knowing that love’s grand but survival in the wasteland is even grander. Maybe you’ve been piling points into Charisma and manage to talk them into doing some armed escort work for your caravans. A little quid pro quo and everyone’s happy.
9. They Could Have Been Dogmeat’s Real BFF
Dogmeat’s more than a stray dog who wanders off with the first person who looks willing to provide him with a meal. Mama Murphy sets the record straight when you meet her and what remains of the Minutemen in Concord. But what if Dogmeat’s connections went even deeper? What if he was actually trying to lead you back to your significant other? It’s not that much more absurd than him leading you to the Minutemen, anyway.
8. They Could Have Been on a Toilet Somewhere
The only way to avoid seeing something silly happening on or around a toilet in the Fallout 4 wasteland is to stop playing Fallout 4. The developers obviously had a good time with set decoration here and there across the map, and just about every bathroom you’ll come across seem to have some like “lol” moment (but usually not a “LOL” moment, the distinction matters) waiting. Maybe it’s a teddy bear with the morning paper and a pair of glasses on, or maybe it’s your partner just trying to take care of some business. Stranger things have happened.
7. They Could Have Become a Sassy, Lore-Packed Ghoul
Fallout’s ghouls are always some of the most appealing characters to interact with. Most of them have firsthand knowledge of exactly how everything has gone down over the past few centuries—they’re a wealth of information, and information that’s not scattered in old terminal logs and discarded notes for that matter. Not all ghoul characters pay off as well as they could in the lore and world-building department, but if your spouse had ended up as one it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t.
6. They Could Have Become a Feral Ghoul, and then…
Weren’t expecting Until Dawn spoilers in a Fallout 4 list? That’s fair, so feel free to skip to the next point if that’s not something you’re in the market for. Cool? Cool. If the player has been diligent near the end of Until Dawn, they’ll have found a journal entry that identifies one of the cannibalistic wendigos on the mountain as one of the main characters’ sisters who went missing a year prior. When that character encounters said Wendigo he recognizes the tattoo on its shoulder and calls out his sister’s name. She’ll recognize him too, and haul him off for a family reunion that is marginally less pleasant than the other outcome, which involves that same character getting his head crushed like a very large performance captured grape. What does any of this have to do with Fallout 4? Well imagine your spouse became a ghoul—not one of the cool and funny ghouls but one of the rabid and terrifying ones. Now imagine that they recognized you, and that instead of dragging you into an abandoned mine to eat corpses they just wanted to hang out. Not everyone would want to have a feral ghoul with a wedding ring as a companion, but it would be pretty neat to have the option.
5. They Could Have Had Their Consciousness Uploaded to a Synth
I’m going to admit that in the point-form blob of notes where this list began to take shape, this was the very first idea on the page, where it was outlined only as “super dope robot husband—with/without skin??? weigh options.” If you’ve finished Fallout 4 then the full implications of this will hit you way harder, but lets avoid delving into spoiler territory any more than we already have. Suffice it to say that synths are very cool, and considering popular feelings about synth companion/sci-fi noir dreamboat Nick Valentine I’m willing to bet most of us would be cool shacking up with one.
4. They Could Have Been Doing the Exact Same Thing You Are… On The Other End of the Map
Oh and P.S.: They’ve hooked up with someone new, too. You moved on, so why should they?
3. They Could Have Been Doing the Exact Same Thing You Are… But They Already Succeeded Because They Didn’t Spend So Much Time Hanging Out With Piper And Building Community Gardens Like There Was Nothing Else to Worry About
I spent 30 hours doing yardwork instead of looking for my lost kid. I can accept my own shortcomings as a parent in the post-apocalypse.
2.They Could Have Been a Radio DJ
Some time ago a Twitter acquaintance of mine proposed the idea that Diamond City radio’s delightfully awkward DJ, Travis, should have been the player character’s son Shaun, all grown up and operating under a new name. I still don’t know where the real Shaun is, but I bet it’s infinitely less cool than it would be if he was Travis. Now I’m not going to say it would be better if Travis were your spouse instead, but I can’t help thinking about how novel and surprising it would be to spend hours upon hours listening to a vaguely familiar yet put-on voice filling the airtime between mid-century pop classics only to meet them in person and realize they’re actually your significant other. Everyone knows how attached we can get to these virtual radio personalities, so why not lean on that? Use it against me. Tie my emotions up in sponsored messages and awkward jokes about Frank Sinatra. Heck, after we’ve met up again let them send me cute coded messages… Or spiteful and bitter ones, depending on how things go.
1. They Could Have Been a Mannequin
If there’s one thing the level designers behind Fallout 4 like more than silly things happening on or around toilets, it’s probably mannequins. There are mannequins everywhere. Mannequins could be considered one of the dominant races in this incarnation of the wasteland, probably sitting squarely between synths and ghouls on a demographic chart. Sometimes they’re exactly where you would expect them to be, standing naturally askew in old shop windows or museum displays, and sometimes they’re standing around a corpse in a bathtub holding various weapons in a sinister manner. Then again, maybe somewhere on the map there’s already a mannequin shoehorned into an old refrigerator, wearing a vault jumpsuit and clinging stubbornly to a teddy bear. Considering how many little easter eggs are built into Fallout 4 I can’t really say for sure that there isn’t.
Janine Hawkins is a games writer based in sunny Canada. You can find her written and video work on HealerArcherMage.com or follow her on Twitter @bleatingheart.