Wasteland Witch Hunts

There’s plenty of tension and more than a few grisly scenes out in Fallout 4‘s wasteland, but very little in terms of outright horror.

That is, until you come across a quest that tasks you with investigating the Museum of Witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts (Fallout 4 is set in and around Boston, see, so it’s a quick jaunt).

There will be some spoilers here, so don’t click read more if you’re planning on playing this one.

First of all, does anyone know where, precisely, this quest comes from? I don’t remember hearing anything about the museum until I saw it tucked under miscellaneous in my quest log.

Anyway, it’s one of the more-memorable quests in the game (so far), to be sure. The buildup is impressive – when you arrive at the museum, you find the front door’s sealed up. Scouting around the side and rear of the building, you find a mangled corpse with a holotape, and nearby an unlocked cellar door.

Inside, the museum is a wreck. Musty, dusty, broken and creaking. And upstairs . . . something. It’s big, whatever it is, its footsteps showering you in dust and debris. There are mannequins. Of course. (What is with Fallout 4 and its damn mannequins? It’s giving me Condemned flashbacks.)

There’s even a legitimate jump scare, complete with a music cue, as a body drops through a hole in the floor above.

Making your way upstairs, you find the source of all that commotion – a deathclaw. A really nasty one, too – I did the quest at level 28, and it still had a little red skull beside its health bar (maybe it scales or something. I don’t know).

The ensuing fight reminded me, somewhat, of getting chased around by that werewolf in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines while waiting for the tram or whatever. Deathclaws are big, after all, and while this one isn’t invincible, nor does defeating it require the use of giant crushing doors, it is relentless and really, really tough to beat, especially in such close quarters.

After you’ve dealt with the deathclaw, you find another holotape along with some deathclaw eggs – most are cracked, but one’s pristine.

The quest’s story goes that the dead people were unwittingly delivering some deathclaw eggs to the Gunners, and they were followed. You have the choice to complete the delivery, or return the pristine egg to a deathclaw nest up north (I did the latter. Deathclaws really need to learn to use their words. Especially when saying thank you).

As mentioned, Fallout 4, like its predecessor, doesn’t really do outright horror. The radiant gameplay leads to plenty of tense moments, but there isn’t much in terms of scripted quests or events designed to actually scare the player (or not that I’ve found as yet).

But the games certainly dabble, and when they do, they dabble well. Fallout 3’s Dunwich Building is a great example, what with its creepy audio logs and hallucinations.

So be sure to visit the Museum of Witchcraft during your wasteland wanderings. It’s a good quest. A bit short, but tight and atmospheric, and a nice change of pace.

As an aside, I think it may be time to revisit Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines soon, if only to play through the Ocean House Hotel, one of the finest horror levels ever designed, one more time.

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