Website: Fallout 4 Official
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Category: Post Apocalyptic, Solo
The release of a Bethesda game seems to carry the gravity of a major scientific phenomenon in the gaming community – like the Magnetic Belt surrounding the Earth reversing or a comet colliding with a planet. The advent of Skyrim turned me into this blathering excited idiot who garbled out incomprehensible rubbish to my non-gaming friends, family – strangers etc you get the picture. I get this uneasy feeling too – like all the people I love will soon disappear because if it’s as good as it normally is I will not leave my house or maintain relationships like I normally do.
That being said? I have a miserable completion rate on Bethesda games and when I talk about their games I talk of Fallout and primarily the Elder Scrolls series. I finished Morrowind but could never kill Vivec. I finished Fallout 3 and FO3: New Vegas twice even though I’ve probably rolled more than twenty characters in both. Oblivion? No. Why? Because it’s the freedom hard-coded into Bethesda games that holds me and you’ll hear me crap on endlessly about this in my review of Elder Scrolls Online. If I liked human interaction so much I’d probably interact more with actual humans. Instead I find myself considering potential interaction through a scope, weighing up threat versus reward. For the record this trait runs through all of my relationships. I possess good albeit artificial people skills and am comfortable in a leadership role or talking on a stage but when it comes to real outside the job or scope of duty interaction I consider my target and weigh up whether all of the bullshit of getting to know a person is worth it.
I want to assure you that what you are reading right now is not mindless blather and in fact goes a long way toward why I really didn’t enjoy some aspects of Fallout 4. I’ll get right to it.
I have a child in Fallout 4 – a baby when last I see him called Shaun. After narrowly escaping a nuclear explosion my family are cryo-frozen in Vault 111 but I am woken mid-process to watch my partner executed and my child stolen. When I finally escape the vault I am exposed to a wasteland where suburbia used to be and returning to Sanctuary – my home, is emotional. Shaun’s cot has survived armageddon and, although worse for wear, everything is pretty much exactly where we left it before the bombs hit.It fair to say Preston Garvey and his crew of misfits are fifteen minutes from death at most when I meet them. Surrounded by raiders they are holed up in a tiny room making their last stand. Raiders are literally within spitting distance of the door. It takes you almost no time at all to hate these people. Sturges in particular – the man with the plan about activating a suit of power armor on the roof, grabbing a minigun and cleaning house. But when you ask him why he doesn’t do it himself he simply says “I don’t do the gun thing”. Garvey is the sole survivor of a dead order – the Minute Men and he’s in the process of becoming extinct himself. Him and the Jet-scoffing junky prophetess who could be manipulating your love for your child to score just one more hit and a couple of others from the destroyed town of Quincy who have absolutely no redeeming personal qualities.
From here they move to Sanctuary and literally take it over. To add insult to injury you will complete a series of short quests for Sturges where you will spend your time and energy making Sanctuary more comfortable for them while they stand around doing nothing. Once completed and after the occasional gripe about the quality of the comfort you are providing Sturges will advise you that you are free to visit these motherfuckers any time you like. That you are welcome through their door whenever. This as it turns out is your audition for Preston Garvey who will now use you to rebuild the Minute Men. And by ‘rebuild the Minute Men’ he really means ‘do all the work while I stir on my ass critiquing your performance’.
Okay I’m going to stop right here.
On a good day and with careful character progression I can kill pretty much anything in Massachusetts. Anything. Any number of anythings at the same time and i do – enthusiastically. Nothing weak will survive in the wasteland. So why am I so eager to make Preston Garvey’s dreams come true? Moreso than my own in fact because this story arc cannot be avoided or my position in it improved. It doesn’t bring me closer to my son.
When I first understood my situation in Sanctuary with these people I took to Preston Garvey with a tyre iron to make it stop. But it didn’t and he has such thick face that he did not try to kill me back. He merely stood and waited because he knew I would be back. He knew that I couldn’t move my game forward without him. This is where Fallout 4 really started to go downhill for me because for the first time in a Bethesda game I wasn’t free.
I found myself locked in a cycle of liberating equally useless people and scrounging resources to once again build homes for weaklings – homes I would never own. Homes I would find myself constantly returning to to repel raiders, gunners, super mutants – even ghouls and rad scorpions or I would see the infrastructure I so painstakingly built destroyed and the standard of living collapse in these settlements. Whether I succeeded or failed I again find myself having to return to Preston Garvey for performance evaluation so I can again move his worthless dream forward.
I’d have liked options at least. Something like this:
I find myself continuously walking into an ongoing debate about whether the Fallout 4 engine is new or not. New enough or not. After playing Elder Scrolls Online I can’t emphasise enough the importance of visual continuity because when the game world is so different from what you are used to something is lost. This is the same Massachusetts you know but the higher renders and specifically the new lighting will take your breath away on a higher end graphics card.
The mod community has embraced Fallout 4 so once things become too vanilla for you you can reinvent your game like you did in Skyrim. I’m running the Grasslands mod to bring some colour to the wasteland with a plethora of crafting and gear mods to streamline game play. New outfits, new guns and new baby-launching fatboys are merely click away.
The settlement building aspect of the game is a blessing and a curse and brings the Sims to the wasteland. I have to confess that I’ve been consumed by settlement building and I hunt out workbenches more than I quest. Settlements raise interesting tactical and logistical points and create more of a career pathing feel to choosing perks and upgrading skills.
Crafting stations debut in Fallout 4. Almost everything you find int he wasteland can be dismantled and the parts used to create a building or upgrade a gun or piece of armour character level and perk choices allowing. Ammo crafting which was fiddly and meticulous has been removed which is a welcome change and the crafting process has been lifted by some clever mods.
A feature I love is content changes when you start a new game. you may return to a way-point you remember from a previous game to find either what you expect to see missing or an entirely new landmark in it’s place. New encounters, people and quests go a long way to keeping the game fresh and certainly add to the replayability of Fallout 4.
You’ve read my rant about the Minute Men story line so I won’t say more on that but I will emphasise how you can feel chained to the settlements you build. Too often settlements find themselves in trouble and the people lack the ability or the basic motivation to solve their own problems.It may sound minor but if I’m going to do this much work I want to own what I do. To hell with Preston Garvey – I should be the mayor of what I build with these hands and what I fight to defend when the wasteland comes calling.
This is mirrored by an overall poor perception of the character of who we play by many NPC’s in the wasteland. You just fall in line for too many people. Companions are often so selfish and one-sided in the way they tell their stories. We’re not asked to care for people who play such pivotal roles and so we dutifully click the appropriate responses to get the cherry at the end of dialogue which to me reflects a shift in the quality of story development.
The game world is immense in scale but the more you unlock, drop, build or discover the slower loading the game becomes which detracts from the immersion of your game. Silencers and suppressors feel less effective than they were in Fallout 3 and enemies will begin to move in your direction regardless of how far you shoot from as if they can hear the bullet and it feels like a deliberate choice by the developers. However when you consider the level and perk requirements required to unlock silencers for weapons it feels like points wasted. Melee also continues to feel like a dead end skill line and while I admit I’ve yet to fully embrace it as a character choice I will say I’ve rolled melee characters but the benefits of melee-based skills never seem to catch up to the benefits of being able to kill an opponent with a gun at distance.
I could have lived without Boston and I don’t know why we’re back to be honest. New Vegas offered a whole new energy and feel to the Fallout universe and in truth could have been Fallout 4. Surely there was debate at Bethesda on this topic and a decision reached as to why we are back – I’d like to see and understand that decision process because New York, Los Angeles – even Montreal or Siberia could have brought unlimited possibilities filled with new creatures, gear and power struggles.
You won’t regret buying or playing Fallout 4 if you – like me – are a fan of the Bethesda sandbox and this game brings all of the strengths you expect from one of their big titles. It’s the time sink you expect it to be although at times I feel in the wrong ways. There is enough of the new to really lift this game above its predecessors and the flood of intuitive, intelligent or plain ridiculous mods see this game in constant evolution. Fallout 4 is built on the spirit and intention of a true Bethesda title and maintains the quality of storytelling and gameplay I dare say you are already familiar with and deserves a spot on your gaming shelf and a sizeable chunk of your hard drive.
Pros: Franchise consistency, breaks from hub model of FO3
Pros: Smarter perk system, better crafting system
Pros: Characters have own save trees
Cons: Often frustrating companion AI
Pros: Good diversity in quests
Cons: Quest bugs somewhat common, annoying quest NPCs
Pros: Good audio
Cons: Graphics feel aged