A common theme in the discussion of Fallout 4's overall design is the notion that it's "as wide as an ocean, and as deep as a puzzle", with a core gameplay loop categorized by (as a Super Mutant's note so laconically phrased it) "Kill, Loot, Return" mechanics. To support this claim, the game's quest design is often cited, with the majority of the quests being characterised as simple "Fetch Quests" which do no more than sending the player to a location inhabited by violent NPCs to engage in gunplay and gather some Macguffin then bring it back.
Whilst this is -in the broadest possible sense- arguably true, the details of the situation reveal a greater level of depth and complexity than a quick summary of any given Quest's objectives might imply, particularly when the environmental design and Survival mechanics are taken into account.
As an example of this, I'd like to give an analysis of the "Giddyup And Go" sidequest, given by Arlen Glass in The Slog.
On the face of it, this Quest is extremely simple. Go to a place, retrieve some mechanical components, and go back to where the quest was delivered. On closer examination, however, this isn't quite true. For the purpose of this analysis, I'll be assuming that any hypothetical player has Survival Mode enabled, as I believe it to be the most feature-complete version fo the game.
To start with, the building where the mechanical parts are kept (The Wilson Automatoys Factory) is far to the south, making it a gruelling journey. It is also in the Region of Quincy, a city overrunning with violent mercenaries who will shoot on sight. This notably means that there are no safe beds where the player can sleep in the vicinity of his/her goal. On Survival Mode, coupled with the long trip from The Slog, this means that dying would cause a substantial loss of progress.
Furthermore, the enemies occupying the factory are high-level Super Mutants, who do not carry very many caps or other useful gear, take a lot of ammunition to kill, and don't grant enough XP on death to be worth killing for any player capable of bringing them down.
The net effect of these factors is that combat is HEAVILY discouraged. None of the game's companions will grant affinity for choosing violence here (Strong is the only character who enjoys killing for its own sake, and he considers other Super Mutants to be his "brothers"). Instead, the level design heavily favours (and facilitates) stealth. A player who has specialised in violence, or is role-playing a violent character, can certainly attack the mutants, but the game does not force, or even encourage this.
The game allows a player to (by various means) specialise into Stealth, arguably more so than any earlier game in the franchise. Rather than a single skill governing the ability to sneak, it directly benefits from Agility (which can, by multiple means, be raised to very large levels), and the Five Ranks of the Sneak Perk, and the "Ace Operator" Faction Perk, and the "Cloak And Dagger" Companion Perk, and the "Special Operations" Magazine Perks, and the Sneak Bobblehead, and the Shadowed armour mod, and the Chameleon Legendary Effect, and the "muffled" Legendary Effect.
By comparison, in Fallouts 1, 2, 3, and New Vegas, the sneak skills was the only factor, plus a single perk (Silent Running). Stealth boys in 3 and NV made the sneak skill largely irrelevant, whereas in 4, they don't last as long and don't reduce the sound caused by movement.
It is also possible to Pacify or incite the Mutants, making them non-hostile or turning them against one another, if the player has a certain high-level Charisma-gated perk.
In any case, once the Mutants are passed, a new problem reveals itself. The door to the room containing the needed parts is locked, and an ID card must be found to open it. There are five such cards in the game, and here's how they can be acquired.
- Arlen Glass (the Quest-Giver) can grant one to the player, if the Player can pass three increasingly hard dialogue checks at the beginning of the quest. To guarantee success, at least eleven points of Charisma are needed, making this an unreliable method for most character builds.
- One is in the possession of a super mutant at the Factory. Thus, one must either kill him (which, as previously stated, will require a dangerous combat encounter), or pick his pocket. Pickpocketing in Fallout 4 is determined by the Agility stat, the Perception Stat, and the Pickpocket perk. This means that it can be specialised in, a feature present in Fallout 1 and 2, but not 3 or NV. This will be possible for the right character build, but unlikely to work for most other builds.
- One is in a desk in the factory, guarded by super mutants. As this requires climbing the stairs to the upper level, which is heavily guarded, a much higher degree of stealth is needed for this, essentially limiting an undetected theft to stealth-specialist characters (even a character with a stealth boy is likely to be heard).
- The Final two are hidden in another building, the Wilson Automatoys HQ. This requires ANOTHER long journey, but the building is guarded by less powerful super mutants, is in a less dangerous area, and also has a great deal of Pre-War Lore. Progressing through the area will be difficult, with various locked doors and terminals (requiring the Hacker and Locksmith perks, as well as being made much easier by Intelligence and Perception).
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After at least one of these keycards is acquired, the player can enter the sealed room to get the parts, and return to Arlen Glass to turn in the Quest.
But there is a final twist. In the Automatoys HQ, there's a holotape. Giving this holotape to Arlen Glass (which is never a quest objective, never highlighted to the player, it requires imagination and attentiveness, very much in the spirit of Fallout 1) unlocks unique Dialogue, a unique item, and ultimately has a consequence in the Gameworld, making an NPC come to terms with his past (Arlen can later be seen at the Cambridge Crater).
So, to Recap: violence is literally never mandated by this quest, and is in fact, the worst way to complete it. Different player builds will find completely different solutions. There is a great deal of effort in storywriting, and also voice-acting evident during the quest. Attentive players can find otherwise hidden content if they pay attention and remember the characterisation of NPCs.
Finally, ALL of these choices will have an impact on how companions view the player character. Arlen Glass can be pressured for more money, pockets can be picked, terminals can be hacked, kindness can be exhibited. Different companions will react to these different decisions in their own unique ways, giving the game a level of reactivity which is at least as complex as the old Karma/General Reputation binary.
All this, from a "simple fetch-quest".
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