Preston Garvey had sent me on yet another mission to help yet more settlers, and I had begun to believe they were all the same. Go in, kill some bad guys, get out. This time I found myself at the bottom of the Dunwich Borers quarry, looting the left arm of a dead raider’s power armor—the last piece I needed for my own set—when I saw a door tucked away in the side of a cliff. Curiosity drove me to open it, and that’s when the nightmare began.
The storytellers at Bethesda created an open-world experience in Fallout 4, and sure, the main story is about finding your kidnapped son, but the more terrifying stories are told in the background, in hidden snippets that require you to dig deep and uncover the secret lore of the game. This was one of them.
The Apocalypse and Lovecraft
As I ventured into the caverns beneath the Dunwich Borers quarry, flashbacks shook the screen. Flashes of times before the Great War showed men hard at work carving out the tunnels, only to snap back to the present era where I found only ghouls—humans that had been exposed to too much radiation, their base natures twisted and warped beyond recognition.
The horror should come as no surprise. H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos has long influenced the Fallout series. One of the core stories of this Mythos is known as The Dunwich Horror, a tale set in the fictional town of Dunwich, Massachusetts, the same state where Fallout 4 is set. Fallout 3 included a location called The Dunwich Building in which people worshiped Ug-Qualtoth, an unknown being with god-like powers.
The naming convention of this creature is similar to Lovecraft’s Yog-Sothoth and Yuggoth. Coincidence? Not hardly. The Dunwich Horror features a deformed main character named Wilbur Whateley that is barely recognizable as human, much like a ghoul. The story revolves around mysterious events 0n his family’s farm. Wilbur purchases a lot of cattle, but his herd never grows—and the animals that remain in his heard begin to have hideous open wounds.
I won’t say more. If you haven’t read Lovecraft before, check him out. The man is a master of atmospheric horror. He can scare even the most hardened horror fan. Lovecraft’s words creep into your brain like a fog and leave you unsettled.
It was this same atmospheric effect that made the Dunwich Borers so terrifying. The meaning of the flashbacks is never explained. Their cause is never explained. But their effect is immediately apparent.
Deeper into the Caverns
The ghouls came from every nook and cranny. Bodies I had dismissed as corpses stood and attacked. I began to fire a single round into the skull of every corpse, just to make sure. More than once, the corpses stood and attacked. With each step I took, the lights flickered erratically.
The path descended deeper into the cavern. Bodies and ghouls littered the lower levels more heavily than in the better-lit areas above. The flashbacks seemed tied to power sources within the mine. The moment I flipped one, another flashback would dominate my screen. Moments after it ended, ghouls flooded the hallway.
I fought through tunnel after tunnel until I reached the lowest level. A dimly-lit pathway opened into a larger cave. Construction equipped dotted the room, and a makeshift bedroom had been erected to one side. I dispatched the single ghoul that greeted me and looted the room. I thought I had reached the end; after all, I found a Sneak Bobblehead that permanently upgraded my abilities. Items like that aren’t left about haphazardly.
Then I saw another exit. Tucked away in the darkened corner of the room, a tunnel led deeper into the cavern. I stepped inside. I didn’t expect a flashback. I had grown used to their appearance after flipping a power switch, but I had not found one in the previous room.
When light filled my screen, I watched the eeriest flashback yet. A crowd of people knelt in front of an altar, their hands bound behind them. A man named Tim Shoots addressed the crowd. Just as suddenly as it appeared, the flashback faded—and a named ghoul attacked. I gasped at the name Tim Shoots over the creature’s head. Two more ghouls, Bradley Ramone, and John Hatfield, also joined the fray.
I had just watched a holotape with the three men, but I had not understood their intent.
I killed all three. My last round dropped Bradley Ramone feet from where I stood, and the momentum of his charge carried his now-dead body past me. I walked into the room with the altar, ready to fight more undead, but nothing remained of the flashback. A massive hole filled with radioactive water occupied the space where the altar had been.
At the bottom of the hole, I found Kremvh’s Tooth. This weapon looks like a machete forged from the jagged fang of some otherworldly beast. Upon further investigation, the weapon can be given a unique mod called “Sacrificial Blade.” This causes the target to bleed and deals a tremendous amount of damage.
A simple mission to kill a few raiders had led me to the remnants of a cult that worshiped a Lovecraftian god. Despite the hours I sank into Fallout 4, no other mission created the same level of unease and apprehension that descending through those flashback-filled tunnels did. The storytellers at Bethesda managed to pull me into the long-forgotten lore of a half-destroyed world and used my curiosity as the vehicle.