This article contains minor spoilers for Fallout 4 amid its discussion of the awesome power to interrupt.
Fallout 4’s finest feature is surprisingly easy to miss, yet it deserves to be a fixture of any and every dialogue-heavy game. I’m talking about the rather unique way it lets you skip in-game dialogue. Sure, all but the most insistent creators let you speed through whatever “relevant” information an NPC is attempting to divulge, but there’s something truly magical about the way this post-apocalyptic action RPG handles this. It’s gratifying in its own right, but depending on your gaming history, it can be so much more.
Instead of just jumping to the next line of dialogue, there’s a one-in-four chance that your character will vocalize their displeasure at having all this information crammed into their ear holes. The button you choose to press also determines the tone of your objection, but since I discovered “B” corresponds to “grumbling contempt,” the others have remained neglected.
However, while ending a conversation with “asshole” or “blah blah blah” is fun, that’s only the tip of the exposition-skipping iceberg; sometimes, your character will utter a line specific to the NPC you’re talking to. It’s no secret that Preston Garvey is one of Fallout 4’s most irritating characters, not because he’s evil but because, once you join up with his band of Minutemen, he’ll dole out task after tedious task. So ending our interactions with “Minutemen, Jesus…” is an absolute joy.
Admittedly, I have installed the PC mod that raises the chance of a dialogue interrupt from 25% to 100%, but it’s so, so worth it. What makes these interrupts especially entertaining is that, while Fallout 4 still contains a healthy dose of humor, its central storyline is disappointingly po-faced. I’ve previously talked about how Fallout 4 just tells you to care, and voicing your disinterest is the perfect way of pushing back against that, some small but satisfying act of defiance.
It’s true that the NPCs don’t visibly react to your interjections, but in some ways that’s even better than openly being an asshole. If you try to derail a conversation, for example, by telling Sturges where he can put his fusion cell, Fallout 4 either puts the quest line on hold or assumes you’re going to assist anyway. Hitting B and calling him a “stupid grease jockey” keeps things rolling but still allows you to register your protest.
True, there are occasions when I’ve felt like a complete scumbag, like when I discovered Detective Nick Valentine was missing and mumbling “A secretary? God…” to his frantic assistant. She was just worried about her boss; she didn’t give two hoots about Shaun, the mewling, digital infant that was supposed to be my primary motivation. Whoops.
That’s not enough to stop me from hammering that button whenever I’m done reading a line of dialogue, though, or when I already know what an NPC is going to say. When Piper tries to push me further down the main questline, muttering “stupid reporter” feels really, really good. The one downside to Fallout 4’s interrupts is that, unlike primary dialogue, these interjections aren’t subtitled, so if you have hearing issues you’re disappointingly out of luck.
But Fallout 4’s interrupts go beyond showing your contempt for the game’s central quest and needy NPCs, as entertaining as that is. If you’ve played more than a couple of titles where exposition isn’t so much delivered as dumped on you like a truck pouring manure through your front window, it can be a very cathartic experience.
So in my head, I’m not just telling Preston Garvey where to get off; I’m getting payback for those ludicrously earnest conversations in Death Stranding and Resident Evil Village. And believe me, while I got a kick out of both of those titles, I’d pay good money to have Fallout 4’s interrupts added to either of them, Skyrim too. Imagine the joy of being able to “blah blah blah” your way through another lecture about Death Stranding’s Chiral network, mock Chris Redfield’s tiny, tiny head, or tell a Skyrim guard where they can shove their arrow.
Unfortunately, as much fun as it is, Fallout 4’s dialogue-skipping system seems to be a one-off. It wasn’t featured in any of the previous Fallout games, and it’s not present in Fallout 76, which is a real shame now that the game has actual NPCs. If I had my way it’d be a fixture of all future RPGs, though that would require a game to admit its lore was maybe a little bit too serious.
In the meantime, Preston Garvey has heard of another settlement that’s in trouble, and I may just have a few choice words before I lend a hand.