In Fallout 4, Food Is More Important Than You Think

The first thing you need to do in Fallout 4, obviously, is find a decent weapon. The Wasteland is a deadly, dangerous place and to survive, you’ll need to defend yourself. Make it through that first fight, though, and you’ll soon need to find something else:

Food.

In a desolate environment where Stimpaks are in horrifyingly short supply, food is fundamental to survival. Though often steeped in radiation, food is a far more ubiquitous way of regaining health than the chemical alternatives, with snacking opportunities scattered all over the post-apocalyptic environment.

But food in the Fallout universe isn’t just crucial for survival, it’s a critical part of what makes Bethesda’s remarkable world as immersive as it is.

Within science fiction and fantasy- be it a game, movie, TV series, book, graphic novel, comic or tabletop game -- food is often used as a concise and effective way of grounding the fictional world in a familiar reality.

Regardless of our individual experiences, our need to eat is universal. So when a character goes desperately hungry, no matter how bizarre and unrecognisable the rest of the world may be, we can relate directly. We might not know what it’s like to lose our spouse and child, to be lost somewhere dangerous and unfamiliar or to be attacked by Super Mutants, but we know what it’s like to be hungry.

Likewise, if a character is forced to eat something revolting, we instantly understand on an innate level.

In the Fallout games, when your character eats an ‘Iguana on a Stick’ to regain health (a consumable that’s been present in the series since the first game in 1997), you probably don’t think “boy, that sounds delicious!” Instead, you’re simply relieved that, in your desperate condition, you managed to find something edible at all.

It’s the video game equivalent of finding those frozen mini dim sims in the freezer at 1am after a few drinks.

In Fallout 4, as in all the major games in the series since Fallout 2, food is available in two forms. Both are remarkably well designed for their ability to not only provide a fundamental game mechanic, but to help deeply and powerfully build the lore of the universe the games are set in.

The first, a staple of fantasy-based RPGs, is the food your character scavenges from the world itself.

Whether cut from the corpse of a defeated monstrous enemy, picked from a mutated plant or found hidden in a cash register somewhere, the environment provides a buffet of choices for the indiscriminate diner, as long as you’re prepared to deal with the radiation.

Life in this decimated Bostonian nightmare is hell, a fact that’s never more obvious than when the only thing you’ve got in your ‘Aid’ inventory is a Bloatfly Steak or Mongrel Dog Meat. But you can’t be fussy (or vegan…) when that’s what it takes to survive.

With Fallout 4, Bethesda have also expanded a mechanic introduced in New Vegas (and also a key aspect of Skyrim): crafting food. The effectiveness of scavenged ingredients can be greatly increased by combining them at any of the many ‘Cooking’ crafting stations found in and around Boston.

The available recipes range from the simple: combine three Radroach Meat (+15HP, 0.1 weight, 3 caps value) to create Grilled Radroach (+30HP, 0.5 weight, 7 caps value); to the complex: to cook up a Squirrel Stew, you’ll need bloodleaf, a carrot, a tato, squirrel bits and some dirty water.

But it’s worth the effort- squirrel stew will boost your XP by 2% for two hours. And, like the toy in a Happy Meal, you’ll pick up some delicious XP with every craft too.

As with most aspects of Fallout 4, the joy of this feature is that it’s completely optional. Cooking in a game not of any interest to you? Ignore it. But if, like me, you’re slightly obsessed with food in games (and in general), you can turn the entire game into a survivalist ‘bush tucker’ cooking experience.

The second of Fallout’s food forms also happens to be a crucial part of the effectiveness of the world’s overall design. Like everything else in the Wasteland, from weapons to fashion, food can be found scattered around as beautiful, melancholy remnants of the pre-apocalyptic world.

Convenient packaged foods, remarkable in their robustness, have survived centuries of nuclear fallout and are as edible now as they were when they were originally produced. Their gleeful, colourful packaging is a visual irony when found among the dislodged shelves and human remains in the Super-Duper Mart.

In reality, the 1950s saw the introduction of the iconic ‘TV Dinner’ in America, tinned foods, ready-made meals and ‘instant’ dinners changing the way families ate in the post-war economic boom.

This sudden disregard for fresh ingredients and desire for convenience is elegantly parodied in the Fallout series, where even centuries after the downfall of humanity, perfectly preserved and still-edible packets of ‘delicious’ foods are strewn around the Wasteland.

Most are direct takes on real products: Cram is the unsubtle stand-in for Spam, Fancy Lads Snack Cakes evoking the Dolly Madison range of snack cakes, Insta-Mash reminding us of these horrors, and as for Sugar Bombs breakfast Cereal, well, just watch this.

Personally, I’m fond of a bowl of BlamCo Mac & Cheese, washed down with a NukaCola.

The names of these products- BlamCo Mac & Cheese, Sugar Bombs, Radioactive Gumdrops- also hint at the intense fascination the nuclear age held before the bombs dropped and the vaults were locked. The same, save the complete annihilation, was true in the real 1950s, with atomic optimism creating more than a decade of hope for the vast wonders of the nuclear future.

In a bloody, grey Wasteland of Fallout 4, these food packages provide not only much-needed HP, but a tangible connection to the world you, the protagonist, has lost. Food so easily transports us to the past, so imagine the deep melancholy every packet of YumYum Devilled Eggs must evoke.

Fallout 4 is an incredibly vast, detailed game that, unlike similarly expansive experiences in The Witcher 3 and Skyrim, is based on an alternate version of our reality. As in real life, it’s easy to get caught up in the demands of staying alive, overlooking the care and consideration from the designers and developers that’s gone into bringing all that food into your Pip-Boy.

But the next time you open a tin of Pork ‘N Beans, consider raising a Purified Water toast to Bethesda for making the act of regaining health such a richly considered experience. Fallout just wouldn’t be the same without it.

Because, in the end, hunger never changes. Tristan Lutze is an Australian food writer and creator of GeekPlate.com. His recipes and thoughts on food can be found in Good Food on SMH.com.au, on 2ser FM in Sydney, at tristanlutze.com and on Instagram (@tristangled) among other places. His pop culture food recreations can be found by following @GeekPlate on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. He recently hosted the inaugural PAX Australia #FoodFight with Stephanie ‘Hex’ Bendixsen, Eve Beauregard, Tripod’s Scott Edgar and Kotaku’s Mark Serrels, which you can see here.


Comments

    In a desolate environment where Stimpaks are in horrifyingly short supply

    What Fallout are you playing? I seem to be scavenging a Stimpak off every 4th/5th enemy, as well as countless stimpaks in the first aid boxes. If you think they are in short supply, you're obviously not looking hard enough (I currently have around 35 in my inventory, with the ability to create more at the Chem station)

    perfectly preserved and still-edible packets of ‘delicious’ foods are strewn around the Wasteland.

    if by 'Perfectly preserved' you mean they coming with a radiation penalty, than yes you are right.
    Otherwise I would class the preserved food you find in places like Vaults to be more benefiting of that moniker

    Last edited 16/11/15 12:09 pm

      Yep I have like 90ish stimpacks without having even tried to make any yet. First aid boxes everywhere.

      if by 'Perfectly preserved' you mean they coming with a radiation penalty, than yes you are right.
      Otherwise I would class the preserved food you find in places like Vaults to be more benefiting of that moniker

      Indeed.. strewn around the wasteland is a big stretch. And by the time you do find preserved food in the vaults, you have so much crafted food that they are not such a big find.

      I just noticed the photo of the food arranged out contains a box of Abraxo. I would be a bit worried if youre eating that

      When event dam animal can be turned into a tasty roast that can restore most of your healthbar, remove rads and add stats why bother with the expensive stimpacks

      also sleeping.... often.

        I haven't slept once yet. I did sit at the noodle bar and let time pass but I still haven't used a bed at all. I'm thinking the reason might be the new lighting. Adventuring at night is way less of a chore now.

          You get an XP bonus for being "well rested"

          And so sleep for a hour every now and then and you get more XP

      Exactly, I have 120+ Stimpacks and have never run out. I also had 50+ of every chem (80 Pschojet and Bufftats) without buying a chem ever. I have 10,000 caps after buying every store I can for my settlement and buying heaps of ammo. This game screams abundance.

        You should try playing it on a difficulty greater than 'easy'.
        I can assure you at hard, very hard and survival difficulty, they are extremely uncommon.

        I'm 20 hours in, looted every area i could find i have come across maximum 22.
        That's with around 40 location discovered and hundred of things killed.

          I'm playing on survival, which i assume is the hardest, and still have WAY over 100 stims, almost 20k caps, and a nice collection of weapons armors clothes etc, and i save at least 2 of every item, just in case i need it to create something later, and because im a bit of a hoarder... but i'm waiting for the needs mod, where you have to eat n sleep and drink, food and sleep wont heal etc, because as much as i do love this game and series, its really too easy when there are so many easy to find ways of healing.

    We must be playing completely different games.

    I'm less turned off by the radiation and more turned off about the fact that these food items are A COUPLE HUNDRED YEARS OLD. Then again, I can be a bit of a princess picky when it comes to food...

    i wouldnt be combining three rad roach meat when i lose out on a potential 15hp lose 2 caps in value and gain 2 points of carry weight. sure xp is nice but carry weight > xp especially when junk can be used for weapon crafting, armour upgrading, base building, and xp.

    It's actually better to cook food than to eat the preserved crap which usually has radiation whacked on.... Much like in the real world where it's healthier to cook than eat packaged food =P

    I ate a can of dog food last night ...

    ... just hope it was in-game and I wasn't sleepwalking...

      I've not seen any dog food yet after 30+ hours of game time... I'd go to the Clinic- See a doctor :P

        I'll admit that doesn't bode well ...

          I believe the in-game item in question is "Canned Dog Food".... I may or may not be playing too much Fallout 4....

    vegetable starch from the cooking station can be broken done into 5 adhesive, only good I've found for cooking so far

    http://fallout.wikia.com/wiki/Vegetable_starch

    Last edited 16/11/15 12:31 pm

      Thanks for this, Adhesive seems to be in EVERYTHING

        damn right, that and screws are my main bottlenecks when crafting.
        scrapper perk took care of the screws though and with the starch i was able to very easily nearly max out a basic leather armor kit and semi-decent sniper from a bolt-action pistol i found on a ghoul

          I have this bolt action rifle that I love in VATS but hate in normal play because WORK THE BOLT FASTER ROOKIE

            You and me both!!! Have a sexy sniper rifle that is just a pain if you miss that VATS shot. Y U DO DIS FALLOUT ;__;

            For real. The sole survivor works the bolt action like Pvt. Jackson. In VATS that is.

        Lol, they even say that its used in everything during a loading screen (and that it's uncommon). Thanks game...

          They use the word rare :)

            Wasnt sure if it was rare or uncommon. Either way, thanks game for pointing out how restricted crafting is

      cutting fluid is also good for making oil, which ya go thro a lot of on automated defenses

    What's the recipe for Fallout porridge? @markserrels

      Ingredients:
      1 cup oats
      150ml of milk
      1 tsp of uranium dust

      Instructions:
      1. Combine oats and milk together into the cooking pot and stir over fire for 2 minutes.
      2. Pour into bowl and sprinkle uranium for a radiation kick.

      Serves 1.

        I'm on a diet.

        Can I replace the uranium dust with some strontium 90?

    My big question is... Where is hardcore mode? D:
    Guess I'll have to wait for it to be modded in.

      Isnt it in the options/settings screen right at the start?

        Are you talking about Survival difficulty? I didn't try it but from what I read of the description it's just Legendary difficulty with weaker health packs. If I'm mistaken and it actually adds nutrition and hydration based survival to the game then I'm again annoyed because I don't want to play on the absolute hardest difficulty level, I get my butt kicked in Hard mode as is.

        If I'm further mistaken and there actually is a hardcore mode, I must have missed it.

        Edit: Cursory look around on Google seems to indicate that no, there is no hardcore mode in Fallout 4. Again, if I'm mistaken, I would love to be proved wrong.

        Last edited 16/11/15 1:19 pm

          yep that must have been what i saw - Survival. my bad

    The more I read about this game, the more I realise I can just keep playing Don't Starve.

    People who have 90+ stimpaks are not playing on Survival mode. I can guarantee it.
    I get by on Cram and Blamco Mac & Cheese.

      Survival mode and 93 stimpacks. Level 12. Just get shot less

      playing on survival have 82 stim packs - games too easy. Also have 20 fusion cores - havnt made it to diamond city yet.

      snipe from far away if they get close switch to Shotgun + vats. Rarely take any dmg.

    Ironically I find a good supply of fusion cores/stimpacks/water/variety of cola. I am however only playing on HARD mode, didn't want to play on survival mode as I think I would be spending all my time looking at food and water meters all game.

    I kinda want to PLAY the game not look at meters and filling them every 5minutes of gameplay (which I find super tedious and annoying, it's a right pain in ARK).

    Last edited 16/11/15 1:50 pm

      survival doesn't have any water\food restrictions. The only noticeable difference is ya health restore effects are really slow.

    Even if I COULD use a stimpack after combat, I tend to scarf down the mutant hound meat, instamash etc. so I can save my stims for dire straights; healing during a fight or whatever.

    It feels better roleplay-wise, and I DO love to cook.

    Has anyone gotten anything out of the auto-diners yet? That cake looks so good... but that damn claw screws it up every time. And I do try every time.

      The perfectly preserved pie?
      I have only happened upon one and it was added to my inventory thereafter.
      I wasn't aware it could damage it

        You lie... Every machine I've found, the claw goes to grab it but the plate slips through.

          I shit you not. I have said pie.
          Send me your email, D.O.B, and credit card number and i will send you a screenshot.

    Even if food didn't have much benefit- like in Skyrim- I still like to RP a bit; eating, drinking and sleeping at regular intervals. Though I've never bothered with survival mods because it does make it become a chore eventually.

      And that's the best way to play it.

    You fools. Well most of you. In case people forgot fallout is an rpg, one of the best. Point being you can play the game however you want. My current character has scavenged more water and natural foods than rations and stimpaks. And food has always been a valuable boon to the player. Even for the most obsurd horders.

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