What Makes Factions Feel 'Alive'?
Fallout is a well appreciated series, from the very beginning to the most recent installment, but some players, including myself, felt the newest release was a lesser game compared to the others. In my opinion it has something to do with the social constructs in each of the games, mostly the factions and how they react to each other and act on their appropriate feelings for them. I will be speaking mostly about Fallout: New Vegas, and Fallout: 4.
I'll start with Fallout: New Vegas. When you begin the game you almost immediately come across a faction, albeit a small and borderline insignificant one but New Vegas has a few of these. Insignificant being less relevant to the end game where the true power struggle lies. The Powder Gangers, Jackals, Vipers, Scorpions, and other groups of Raiders play as the savages of the Mojave. They basically rule the lands they're camped near and attack with explosives, rifles from the hills and melee up close. Although some raider groups dont rely on raiding alone, some trade drugs, and others even trade in human slaves with clans you would hesitate to call "savages". The other clans provide a more civilized environment, whether they are protective of their land or the Great Khans, who are in a very weakened state of their heritage. All these people are vying for survival amongst the wasteland. Even if that struggle is internal with their past or with a secret outside force, or in the case of the NCR, and Caesars Legion, a struggle for total control of the surrounded area and main town of the map.
All these groups come together in a mixture of war, stalemates, trade, and strategic positioning. Everyone wants the same thing, but each person of each faction of New Vegas has their own means of achieving prosperity. When they collide it is terrific, most factions keep to themselves but the Legion has no problem with using their pure manpower and strategic base up the river to pressure everyone across the Mojave to either rely on the NCR for protection, or become their slaves. Even the Khans feel the pressure, they see it as diplomatic immunity, but in reality it was a plan to enslave their people. The NCR cannot protect everyone, however, they are spread thin trying to keep the wasteland safe from multiple groups of fiends. Then you bring in Mr. House. This man is the weakest individual in the town but he has the most power under his thumb that only one other man can unearth. When you find it each faction with fight till tooth and nail to gain control of this force. The end game of New Vegas, is a mixture of diplomacy, firm dealing and ending with brute force in the final battle. Lets see how this compares to Fallout 4.
Fallout 4 sets up fairly well with their factions by letting them surface with your own exploration. you don't meet the Brotherhood unless you search for them, as with the Railroad. You will eventually come across both of them, even if you try not to. They all have their specific views, some being full-blown racist (I'm looking at you the "Brotherhood"). They all stay away from each other, including the ones who are trying to help members of the others. The Railroad is very important but doesn't play into much, as they have their own mission. However, the main fight in the Boston wasteland is between the Institute and the Brotherhood of Steel. The Brotherhood has a lot of control of the wasteland, so you never really see the Insitute, what you do see if the synths they create, looting specific places for important materials. The Brotherhood constantly chasing them down to find out why and where they are taking these materials. There are other factions as well such as the Gunners and many others who are area specific. They mostly don't play into anything really. We should talk about how these groups interact.
In Fallout 4, from what I have seen, these factions have little to no interaction. When they do collide, it's a mess. Theres some specific missions where you can have the Railroad, Institute and the Brotherhood all fight each other. When the Railroad and Brotherhood have the same mission and seem to be non-hostile to each other. This leads to these factions feeling mostly dead, the Brotherhood patrols the wasteland on their massive ship but doesn't do more than that mostly. They don't trade with people on the ground, they just set up bases to patrol areas that have high synth activity. The Railroad just works on saving synths from control of the Institute and the Institute just sends out Coursers to retrieve them. That, however, is where the interaction runs dry.
In the end, Fallout 4's quests within these factions falls short after you complete the story missions. Some small storylines begin and close, little to no controversy takes place with a couple exceptions. Radiant quests make these factions feel even more braindead, like they would rather do their job than follow their quest for their worldviews. There doesn't feel to be a power struggle like New Vegas had, and altogether it makes the Boston Wasteland feel like a plastic graveyard with toy raiders set up to knock down over and over again.
Now, please let me know how you feel in the comments! I want to hear anything more you might have to add in Fallout 4's defense, as I am more than likely biased in favor of New Vegas. I haven't put nearly as much time into Fallout 4's environments and complexities as I have with New Vegas. So once again, let me hear your ideas.