Psycho Jet is a hell of a drug. Time slows down, Fallout 4's decrepit, post-apocalyptic wasteland suddenly seems colorful, and I get a rush of energy that makes blowing raiders' heads off laughably easy.
Mentats, Med-X, and Buffout. I've done every chem in Fallout 4, and I was surprised to discover that despite some simulation of the downside of addiction, it's a pretty great way to play the game.
Psycho Jet is my favorite chem. When I'm on it, I feel like I can take on three super mutants with my bare hands. My in-game junky character, Bill, isn't really built for that, but when he's high, he can take on the entire world even with lousy armor and cheap guns.
Take for example this awful standoff at Drumlin Diner. When I happened upon it, a shady character named Wolfgang and his muscle Simone were threatening the diner's owner, Trudy, and her son Patrick. The way Wolfgang explained it to me, Patrick had run up a debt comping chems from Wolfgang, who now was here to collect. Wolfgang asked if he could pay me to collect the debt, and I said yes. I can empathize with Patrick's problem, but as a fellow user I'm sure he'd also understand why I need the bottle caps, Fallout 4's currency.
Bill, despite clearly looking like a shady drug addict, is able to talk people into getting what he wants thanks to his maxed-out level of charisma, a character stat in the game that helps you influence other people. It was easy to convince Trudy to pay up. Wolfgang paid me my caps, which I paid back to him immediately for all the Jet he was carrying. Once I took a hit of that, it was also easy to mow down everyone at the Drumlin Diner with a minigun I found in town earlier. Wolfgang, Simone, Trudy, and Patrick. I killed them all, took whatever positions of value they had, sold those at the nearest town, and bought more chems.
Bill is a real bastard that way.
As I imagined it, Bill already had a drug problem, probably due to extensive self-medicating to treat an undiagnosed case of PTSD from his time in the army. He was a functioning alcoholic and father before the events that kick off Fallout 4, but when the atomic bombs dropped, the world ended, and Bill lost his wife and kid, he spiraled.
In Fallout 4, some players emerge from the vault trying make the world a little better. Some strive to become great villains, accruing power and wealth. Others like to wander the wasteland aimlessly, helping or acting selfishly where they see fit.
I, as Bill, had a much clearer sense of purpose. I knew as soon as I emerged from the vault what my goal was: get wasted in the wasteland. Simply find and abuse any substance I could find as much as I can.
After the incident at Drumlin Diner, I discovered that finding chems wasn't hard at all. The world is littered with temptations like:
- Jet, which literally slows down time, allowing you to line up headshots easily.
- Buffout, which increases your endurance and strength.
- Psycho, which makes you deal more damage.
- Med-X, which increase your resistance to damage.
- Mentats, which increase your intelligence and perception.
- Alcohol, in its various forms, which increases charisma.
My beloved Psycho Jet is something I had to cook by myself with a special skill and a chemistry crafting station, but the basic ingredients are all over the place. Traders on the road, who are easy to spot from a distance by the sight of their two-headed packing mules, always carry something. A store in the game's capital, Diamond City, openly sells most of these drugs. They're expensive, but it's not hard to cough up the bottle caps when getting high is your only goal.
When all else failed, I did all the drugs at once. I did that a lot.
Technically, there's a greater cost. Every time you take a substance in Fallout 4, you risk the chance of getting addicted to it. I don't have the exact numbers for Fallout 4, but in Fallout 3, for example, taking Psycho comes with a 10 percent chance of becoming addicted to the drug, which reduces your perception and endurance stats by one point each.
On its face, this seems like a pretty fair and responsible way to represent drugs in a game. There's no denying they'll put you in altered states and can increase performance in a variety of ways, but there are also no shortcuts in nature. Taking anabolic steroids, for example, can help you grow muscle mass faster, but they can also cause anything from increased aggression to testicular atrophy. Fallout 4 chems similarly have negative side-effects.
Understandably, the first substance I got addicted to was the one that's easiest to acquire: alcohol. Every bar in the game has whisky, vodka, beer, wine, or other drinks, so I was always under the influence. I wasn't that careful with my chem use, but it wasn't until I hit level 13 that I finally got hooked on my first chem: Med-X. I got addicted to the rest of the chems almost immediately after.
At first, I thought I'd have to do despicable things to keep up with this habit, murder or rob innocent people like I did at the Drumlin Diner. I even configured Bill with special sneaking, pickpocketing, and lockpicking skills to make stealing easier, but there was no need. There are more than enough people who deserve to die in the wasteland. Conveniently, raiders who attacked peaceful settlements, are also the most likely to have their own stockpiles of chems. If I cleared out a raider camp at an abandoned satellite station, for example, I didn't only have a bunch of their guns and other junk I could sell for caps, I also had any drugs and booze they were using, or were going to use until I showed up and killed them.
I thought killing would be harder. Putting points into perception, lockpicking, and charisma (which helps me smooth talk people and negotiate for better prices) means I didn't have a lot of points to put into strength and gun skills. However, I more than made up for that with my drug consumption. What I lacked in strength, I made up for in Buffout. When I took too much damage, I took Med-X. When I felt outgunned, I did some Jet and ran circles around my enemies. When all else failed, I did all the drugs at once. I did that a lot.
You could say that the death of Mama Murphy was my rock bottom. She's a lovely old lady with a drug problem you meet early on in the game, and bring back to your first settlement in a town called Sanctuary. Murphy believed that doing chems gave her visions of the future, which sounded pretty convincing, but I suspect that Murphy was just using this as an excuse to get me to score her drugs. I always had some, and I was always happy to share and hear a cool story about my future. I think mostly it was just nice to have a buddy to get high with. However, after she asked me and I gave her a hit of Psycho, Murphy keeled over and died of an overdose.
The rest of the settlers in Sanctuary rushed to her side, but there was nothing they could do. They just stood there and looked at me, judging.
It's at that point I decided it was time for Bill to get clean, which was way easier than it should have been, even for a video game. Fallout 4 addictions can be cured in one of either two ways. You can take Addictol, which you can buy or find scattered around the world. It's rare, it's expensive, but it's not impossible to acquire, and it immediately cures you of addictions.
Alternatively, you can just hit up the good doctor Sun in Diamond City, who for 100 caps will take the monkey off your back, no problem.
Experimenting with chems in Fallout 4 mostly taught me that there's no practical reason not to, unless you don't want to role-play a dirtbag. I've never used them in previous Fallout games, and now that I think about it, the only reason I didn't is out of some vague notion that drugs are bad. When I play games, and deep role-playing games like Fallout specifically, I like being the ultimate good guy, and getting drunk and high all the time just didn't seem to me like something a hero would do.
I'm probably not going do some of the despicable things Bill has done again, but I will definitely be more open minded about using chems in the future. It can make the hardest parts of Fallout 4 so much easier, and using them can't create any problem I can't solve with a Addictol, a trip to doctor Sun, or another hit of Psycho Jet.
Lit Up is a series about heightening—and dulling—our sense of perception. Follow along here.