Back in 2018 I wrote a review about Heather Casdin on my old blog, back before I started Digimorphosis for my tech stuff. For those still playing Fallout 4, still interested in mods, I thought I’d revisit it through a newer perspective.

Here we are in 2024 (at the time of writing this), nearly 10 years since Fallout 4 was first released. If you’re an OG Fallout player like me, we can probably both say we were somewhat different people back then.

At this point, I have over 1800 hours into this game over a ton of characters so I can definitely say I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

I’ve tried basically every major companion mod on the Nexus over the years, including some gems with a lot of potential that for whatever reason never really took off like the others.

Mods like I’m Darlene have a lot going for them and I praise the author’s work, but it’s more a mod I’ve enjoyed once initially and then again last year after updates, and otherwise isn’t in the rotation.

Heather, on the other hand, has been present in a lot of my play throughs whether I travel with her briefly or for the whole game.

My longer term perspective on mods like this one has allowed me to appreciate it in a way I hadn’t in my 2018 review.

First, Heather feels like a native character in a way most other mod companions don’t.

There are several pretty well done mod companions out there, but in a lot of cases I feel like it’s still clear to the player they’re a mod companion.

I’m Darlene is like that. She’s different enough from other NPCs that although I like the mod she does strike me as something added to the game, if that makes sense. Same goes for all the companions in the Thuggyverse, even though those mods are sort of a genre of their own.

How I’d define a companion that feels more natural is this: Suppose someone added that companion into my game but didn’t tell me it was a mod. As I played and encountered that character, would I just accept them as part of the vanilla game or would I wonder if it were a mod?

There are only two mods I can think of where I can really say that: Heather Casdin and Tales of the Commonwealth.

(The latter is a whole collection of quests and other content in one mod, but also adds 3 companions which are all very well done.)

The voice acting, recording quality, and even the setting the characters inhabit make each of them feel like they were supposed to be there.

Other well done mods like The Machine and Her have an awesome story and excellent voice acting, but also introduce quest elements and locations that are different enough from the core game that they feel foreign despite also being fun. For some players, that may be the whole draw of such a mod.

Heather’s comments about the world — her little observations about caravan guards and how major cities like Diamond City and Goodneighbor are set up, as well as her own backstory with University Point — all make her feel organic.

In an interview the mod’s author LlamaRCA did she mentioned that exact thing being important to her while making the mod. I thought that was cool to hear, and I think she succeeded more than most.

Heather’s reasons for joining you make more sense than some of the vanilla companions.

When you recruit Cait, she’s basically being offered to you by her manager and it’s pretty clear she doesn’t have much choice. In one of her affinity dialogues, she even says she expected to hate you because of the way you took over her contract and is surprised you’re becoming friends.

Her story ends in a meaningful way, but it’s still a little weird expecting someone who doesn’t know you and didn’t choose to follow you to watch your back.

The whole reason Strong joins you is a mistaken belief in the Milk of Human Kindness, something Rex Goodman just let him believe and that you, if you have Strong join you, also kind of let him keep believing. I mean sure he’s a Supermutant and he isn’t that bright, but you’re still basically deceiving him to get him to put his life at risk with you.

And then he travels with you, never to actually discover the thing that was his whole reason for tagging along.

Piper offers to join you to follow what she sees as a juicy story, which in and of itself may be believable. But it also means that she abandons her young sister to go get shot at with a stranger she calls Blue. Piper later tells you their parents are gone, so she’s all Nat has, and Piper leaves her behind pretty readily.

MacCready starts out as a hired gun, but then before long he’s giving you missions to help him with. Apart from his inconsistent and confusing affinity system, each time I’ve taken him along I’ve had mixed feelings.

Nick Valentine, Danse, Preston, and Deacon are IMO probably the best fleshed out and have the most plausible reasons for being companions.

Although I’ve basically never used Preston because I tend to avoid the Minuteman quest line altogether most play throughs. Side note, did you know the game lets you do that? You can still build settlements and your character will phrase it more like, “Do you want to work for me?” rather than “Do you want to join the Minutemen?” I’ve had entire games where I never went into the Museum where you find Preston and had a complete adventure without any of that.

And then there’s Heather. She’s gone through some tragic stuff and is out for revenge, a path that aligns pretty well with your own. She’s also a trader in need of someone capable to get around, and is looking to put some distance between the road ahead and her past.

Other than her trusting a stranger over a “reputable” caravan guard, which she does actually explain if you ask, everything about her joining you makes sense to me.

Her story can last through most of the game.

Her affinity builds pretty quickly if you get her early on, and if I could change one thing about the mod I’d humbly suggest that the affinity rewards for level ups, using Heather’s products, etc. were lower than they are.

Still, much of Heather’s main aims align with yours, ultimately leading you both to the big confrontation with Kellogg. But even after that, she has goals of visiting remote areas of the Commonwealth. And if you romance her, there’s even a quest line that goes into Far Harbor.

Her vendetta with the Institute aligns her with the late game quests as well, and she has content for all of that.

Contrast that with the vanilla companions and that’s a meaningful difference. Most of the vanilla ones have a personal quest and an arc of sorts, but that’s it. With the exception of Nick Valentine and Far Harbor, none of them have any real content outside of their one quest.

For the most part it feels like they’re just following you and not that they have a stake in anything that’s happening.

Nitpicks

Ok, for the sake of balance I’ll mention a couple small criticisms that occurred to me over the years playing, but honestly they feel like nitpicks.

Heather’s bunker seems nicer and has better amenities — like a working shower — than most of the Commonwealth. In a way, that’s maybe the most borderline lore-breaking thing in this mod to me. It’s not over the top like some player home mods, but it did make me smile thinking of that the first time I saw it.

Heather never explains how she came to have the bunker or how she has such cushy features in it. If we’re nitpicking, how does a merchant who’s been out of the game for awhile, living in a remote area of the Commonwealth, have a nicer home than the most established towns in the area?

The only other thing that ever jumped out at me was toward the end of the affinity dialogues with Heather. Minor spoiler: after completing her personal quest as you near the point where you can romance her, she asks you if you’re still in love with your spouse — the one that died in the prologue.

Your only dialogue choices are basically:

  • Yeah my heart will always belong to them (shutting down the romance), or…
  • I dunno. I need time.

If you want to pursue the romance you have to say you need time. It’s not a big deal, but if you’re roleplaying someone that at this stage of the game has dealt with that loss and is ready to move on you can’t really say that. You can’t even role play that your feelings for her came as a surprise to you as well, like you didn’t think you’d be ready but you find that you actually are.

Even if the rest of your role playing has been as if that’s in your rearview, that you’ve made your peace with it, in this dialogue you have to act unsure of yourself. And then three days later, your character is suddenly ready.

In a mod where so much of the rest of it fits right into the game, that one bit always sticks out to me as un-immersive.

But like I said, in the face of everything this mod does well these are small things that don’t change the big picture.

Last, the mod has had recent updates.

A lot of good mods from years ago have been abandoned, understandably, as the modders move on to other games.

But Heather received a pretty big update last year, and another one in February this year. If you’ve either never used this mod or it’s been awhile, it’s worth a look in your next mod load out.

I see a lot of growth between the mods LlamaRCA has created between New Vegas and FO4. I used Willow back in New Vegas and while it was still one of the best companion mods in New Vegas, there were aspects about it that I didn’t care for. In Fallout 4 I think Heather is more thoughtfully integrated into the story, the world, and her quests don’t feel like they take away from yours.

There are some mods that I find myself leaving in the Vortex app pretty much permanently that are essentially my Fallout 4 canon, and while I spent a few years not using Heather it’s been a staple for a lot of play throughs.

I want to acknowledge modders like LlamaRCA for making great content that’s allowed me to continue enjoying Fallout for almost a decade. For pushing and expanding what quest and companions can be in these games.

Without mods, I would’ve put it aside years ago and probably never looked back. Thanks for your hard work, and thank you all for watching.

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