Opinions about Fallout 4 may be as sprawling and changeable as the Commonwealth wasteland, but most people agree that the new dialogue system leaves something to be desired. Fortunately, there’s a mod for that.
With their newest game, developer Bethesda decided to change the dialogue system they’d used in previous games like Skyrim and Fallout 3. Instead of a silent protagonist who would “speak” specific lines of dialogue chosen from a list, your Fallout 4 protagonist is voiced by an actual actor who says pre-recorded lines that you choose by picking one of four short, paraphrased summaries.
The new system borrows from BioWare games like Mass Effect, and its effectiveness is uneven. As Patricia noted in her review, it creates a layer of abstraction that further removes the player from their on-screen avatar. For my part, I mostly just don’t like how the prompts are so inconsistent and confusingly arranged, and how they often leave conversations feeling like a crapshoot.
Shortly after Fallout 4 came out, several PC modders took a crack at changing the dialogue back to a 1:1 system like in previous Bethesda games. Today, Cirosan and Shadwar’s “Full Dialogue Interface” (FDI) mod is one of the most popular mods on the Fallout 4 nexus. The FDI mod is an ingenious bit of programming that (educated guess) replaces those on-screen paraphrases with text from the game’s subtitles, which immediately swaps every dialogue option with the actual words your character is going to say.
Here’s what a conversation with a Brotherhood of Steel brat looks like without the mod:
And here’s the conversation with the mod installed:
I’ve been using the FDI mod for the last couple of days, and I like it even more than I was expecting to. My dialogue choices now look like these:
When I started using the mod, I was surprised at just how nice it felt to know exactly what my character was going to say at a given juncture. The mod has also been interesting in how it often exposes how empty some of Fallout 4’s dialogue “options” are:
Often, I’ll be presented with a set of options like the one above, or this one:
Which do I choose? Three of them are basically the same. Is one considered rude or curt? Is another one more agreeable? Will the question still advance the conversation? Does any of this matter at all? (In terms of whether or not it affects the outcome of a given conversation, no, it generally doesn’t matter. In terms of how I’m role-playing my character, it actually matters more than I thought it would.)
That kind of silly false choice doesn’t happen as often as I’d worried it might, however, and by and large dialogue is more like this:
A handful of options, each somewhat different, each letting me role-play a conversation in a slightly different way. The mod doesn’t change the fact that most options lead to the same endpoint, nor does it address the annoying way that some “question” options will advance or end a conversation without letting you circle back to other topics, but it’s still a big improvement.
Even when I’m choosing between minor variations on the same sentence, I’m glad to know precisely what my character is going to say before she says it. It may seem like a small thing, but as it turns out, it isn’t.
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