WARNING: MANY, MANY FALLOUT SPOILERS AHEAD
I believe it was Arnold K. Clarke, Arthur C. Clarke’s dumb idiot brother, who said: “any game, sufficiently large, will make people go bananas over tiny details”. And so it is that diving into Fallout 4 forums is like reading a Pynchon novel, or listening to that guy shouting on the street corner for too long - semi-informed speculation is rife, and doomed investigations into the existence of Fallout leylines are ongoing.
And yet some people might just be onto something. For every five people saying they swear down they saw their own specific Fallout 3 character fly by in a Vertibird, there’s one making salient points about genuinely curious discoveries, and how they think it points to future DLC. Is it possible that Bethesda have been dropping clues, or just easy foundations for future add-ons? In these cases, I think perhaps so.
The Underwater Sphere
Remember when someone spent days mapping Fallout 4's ocean floor (opens in new tab)? Well in the course of his James Cameron-ing, Reddit user Lavonicus found a strange, semi-buried sphere, seemingly a model found nowhere else in Fallout 4’s huge world. It’s led to the game’s biggest hunt for clues, and its most plausible hint as to where story DLC might take us.
Almost a third of the game’s map is covered by water, a colossal use of space for something so empty. Couple that with the existence of the sphere, a series of buoys with working bells (which reminds us of Fallout 3 DLC, Point Lookout’s same items) and the conspicuous, but unusable pipe access hatch located out the back of the unused Nahant Oceanological Society building. We have ourselves a pattern. “Isolationist, insane undersea society”, anyone?
The Ghoul Whale
Granted, this could fit into the purview of the last entry, but “Ghoul Whale” demands to be its own headline. It’s also a very different kind of underwater rumour - where the sphere indicates a human influence, this is anything but.
One of Bunker Hill’s caravan workers has a vague obsession with a blue whale called Ol’ Peg that’s been ghoul-ified by radiation - she’ll tell the story randomly to other NPCs (you can watch that above), and sometimes spout off about it to you, saying: “The ghoul whale is real. Ol' Peg. Right outside the harbor. Dark and ominous things swim in the deep.” Some have pointed to that location being similar to crippled Chinese submarine, the Yangtze - so it could be a purposeful misdirect to get you to go looking for that hidden mission - but Boston’s historic ties to whaling could yet rear their blowhole.
The Glowing Sea
Let’s talk about a different kind of sea. This sickly stain on the Commonwealth is one of Fallout’s most eerie and interesting locations. Practically deserted and merely dotted with stuff to find, it’s ripe for expansion - which is exactly what people think might happen.
The fact that it’s relatively empty is the first clue for people - even it’s most interesting inhabitants, the mysterious Children of the Atom don’t offer much in the way of quests. And then there’s how it extends beyond the apparent boundaries of the world map - how far could the Glowing Sea extend, and what does it cover? As Reddit user, prettygrayt (opens in new tab) points out, that’s backed up by science; air currents from the Atlantic would likely blow the Fallout further west. And if there’s one thing American explorers enjoy, it’s travelling west.
Our little spheroid buddy in the sky has been the source of countless conspiracy theories over the years - it stands to reason that it gets the same treatment in Fallout. If you paid close attention to the Museum of Freedom at the start of the game, you’d have noticed the mural and dedication to the men and women who died at, amongst other places, the Sea of Tranquility - i.e. the site of the real-life moon landings.
That alone has led people to speculate that we’ll be heading skywards for one of Fallout’s “clean inventory” DLC packs (like Dead Money, which essentially forced you into a fresh start in a new location). Combine that with the fact that ArcJet systems, which you visit with Paladin Danse, is rammed full of terminals mentioning boosters built for travel to Mars, and there’s your starting point. We can only speculate on what could happen once you’re there, so I’ll just say: Zetans! Enclave! Peaceful lunar settlers you corrupt and destroy! Moon fascists!
H.P.Lovecraft’s work has the serendipitous position of being hugely influential and basically in the public domain. It means that, rather than go through the troublesome business of coming up with clever references and knowing allegories, creators can outright reuse his names, ideas and plots for their own work. Sensational!
Fallout 4 doesn’t quite go as far as nabbing Lovecraft’s work, but it does reference it rather openly - Dunwich Borers and the Pickman Gallery both take names and storylines from his books, and the ancient aliens and Rub al Khali backstory mean the Cabot House subplot is likely a reference too. What the fans are saying is, “why doesn’t Bethesda just nab some ‘craft”? The setting is right - his Miskatonic university is a Boston institution, and the transmogrified village of Innsmouth is only a little further north than the map extends. Are these existing hints a knowing nod, or are they a nod and a wink , indicating that there’s more horror to come?
Canada is a repeated background theme of the Fallout universe, the northern neighbours being annexed by the US and subsequently descending into nuclear hell shortly afterwards. NPCs have explicitly come from there, and one of its post-apocalyptic cities, Ronto (as in, Toronto) is mentioned specifically in Fallout 3’s The Pitt DLC. Fans have long expected to at least hear more tell of the U.S’ newest state.
That’s led many to expect Fallout 4, with its close-to-the-border location and redolant Synth Railway storyline to believe that this is the time. There’s no specific evidence in-game to support this, but the long wait and convenience seem enough for many to believe.
In a gameplay sense, the Gunners are probably the strangest faction in Fallout 4. Far more specifically named and armed than Raiders, but barely interactive in terms of conversation, and never an option as a joinable group. What’s going on with them?
With no real evidence of cut Gunners content, it’s led people to believe that they’re being set up for a fall (or, indeed, a rise) in upcoming DLC. The most compelling case beyond that is the Gunners' base in Vault 75, the under-school experiment in breeding generations of children to be the best soldiers or thinkers, and killing off any less genetically gifted results. Some believe the Gunners are researching how to build a Commenwealth-conquering armies - others think this seemingly nondescript mercenary group hides a dark origin story.
The Boston Tea party, the beginnings of colonial resistance - Boston is a town saturated with British history. Fallout 4 features John Hancock, Paul Revere’s House and the USS Constiution - it’s pretty saturated too. We know Britain is still at least partially standing in Fallout - 3’s Allistair Tenpenny is a post-apocalyptic English immigrant, and 4 features Whitechapel Charlie, the bowler-hatted Mr. Handy with a whopping great Union Jack slapped on the aluminium abdomen.
There’s only one major clue as to a British Invasion in Fallout 4, but it’s a very neat one. If you head to the spire of the Old North Church, you’ll find two lanterns lit. As Youtuber, Flakfire points out (opens in new tab), Paul Revere's signal was one lantern in the spire for a British land invasion, but“two if by sea”. Are the British coming?
The simplest route for any conspiracy is this: “why would they make it if they weren’t going to use it?” And there’s a lot of underused stuff in Fallout 4. From the single Zetan model (alien invasion!?) to the reason the Memory Den workers don’t mind which faction you ally with (pre-War flashbacks? A Silver Shroud storyline?), there’s certainly stuff to work with and expand on.
Then there’s the material that got cut. Curious PC players discovered a jettisoned ending to the Brotherhood of Steel plotline in which you can become the leader of the faction yourself. There appears to be far more to the Raider fight arena, the Combat Zone than is actually included. It’s possible that these cuts were a timing issue, and the rest is still to come.
And then there’s Grenade Guy. Raiders across the Commonwealth will tell each other stories about the world’s most action-oriented comedian, a man who regularly “attacks” people by throwing rocks and making grenade noises with his mouth, before zooming away on an imaginary motorcycle. The idea that we wouldn’t get to play as, or at least meet, Grenade Guy is, frankly, unthinkable and borderline rude. Make it happen.