Review – Fallout 4

Bethesda’s Fallout 4 is a good game. You don’t need some nobody on the internet to tell you that. How good is it though?

I enjoyed Fallout 3 back when I played that but was not as fond of New Vegas. Of the games that I’ve played, Fallout 4 is the best game of the series graphically, mechanically and narratively. It is not perfect though and has split opinion.

With the hype that the game received when it was announced, it was impossible for it to fully live up to people’s expectations without heralding the second coming of Christ. That isn’t to say that it failed to please.

There are a few useful changes to gameplay that Fallout 4 has introduced. VATS no longer pauses the game, instead only slowing time, which makes the game more challenging but more immersive. Looting has also been improved by listing all items within a container/corpse when the cursor is over it. This means that there is no extra menu every time you open an object and the game isn’t paused. The karma system has also been scrapped and replaced with a new companion system where your followers judge you based on your actions.

The change that has brought about the most negative feedback is the dialogue wheel. Unlike previous Fallout games, players are no longer given a list of   dialogue options to pick between and are instead given four dialogue prompts that consist of a few words. You don’t know exactly what your character will say. The four options are always the same too. You can ask a question, be dismissive, be a prick or be kind. This system leaves a lot to be desired for players who want to roleplay different kinds of characters.

And that point there is the crux of the issue. Your character in 4 is voiced and has been given agency. The story is a personal one and the focus on narrative means that there is only so much freedom of roleplaying that you can manage. One Steam review that I read summed it up well by saying that you can only ever choose between differing shades of concerned parent. How do you roleplay as an insane killer when every time you enter dialogue you sound like a man/woman desperate to find their child? For me, I tend to play the good guy character so don’t feel too off put by this more developed character but I can certainly see why it would annoy some.

May people have complained about glitches and bugs. Let’s be honest though, Bethesda has been putting out half broken games before it was cool. Half of the charm in Fallout and Elder Scrolls games is watching as things mess up. To be fair to the game though, I’m 30 hours into the game on a mid range PC and have had no noticeable bugs at all. I acknowledge that some people are suffering with glitches and performance drops but I don’t think that it is as wide spread an issue as some people are making it out to be.

In fact, my biggest personal issue with the game is with companion AI. I love the companions’ personalities, looks and interaction with the player but God damn are they stupid at times. They don’t really help in battle and never seem to go where you want them. Some have special abilities such as hacking computers but getting them to actually do it is sometimes more hassle than it is worth. I tried to get Nick Valentine to hack a PC and I had to physically shove him into the room, kept ordering him to use the computer but he just would not do it. Short of being glorified pack-mules, companions are nothing but trouble who can’t sneak and seem eager to activate mines.

Another annoying feature is the carry weight. Over encumbrance has always been annoying but short of loot runs it is never really an issue in other games. In Fallout 4, every single item in the game now has a use. Things like desk fans are more valuable than weapons and armour if you enjoy the settlement building and equipment modding. This means that where ever you go you find yourself picking up lots of junk or making the conscious decision to forgo building. I’ve spend half my play time moving at a snail’s pace. The carry weight is simply too low for all of the things that you can and should pick up. The Witcher 3 had a similar problem which was later patched so hopefully we will see the same thing happen with Fallout.

So what are my opinions on the game overall? I actually struggled to sum up my thoughts here. As I’ve said, the game is good, and when I am playing it I am certainly enjoying it. From what I have played of the story it all seems pretty solid and well structured. The game really does feel like a Fallout game. I start it up with the intention of playing some of the main questline only to see a map marker on the way there. I go to investigate and get pulled into something new. Next thing I know, three hours have passed, I’ve unlock a quarter of the map, I’m now a walking tank and I still haven’t got any further with the story.

Why then I’m I having such trouble with rating it then? I don’t find myself thinking about the game when I’m away from it. I don’t eagerly look forward to getting back home and getting straight back into the Commonwealth. It is fun but it just seems to lack soul.

Fallout 3, Bethesda’s previous journey into the Wastelands, was released in 2008. That is seven years between 3 and 4. Fallout 4 does not feel like it is seven years of improvement over 3. It is certainly an improvement, no doubt, but there are no massive changes that show that passage of time. The graphics are better but still simple and fairly low-res, and other than the few streamlines in the mechanics I’ve mentioned, the games are basically the same. It is Fallout 3+. This isn’t a bad thing but I expected more.

The Witcher 1 came out a year before Fallout 3. Look how massively that series changed between 1 and 2, then 2 and 3. We see these drastic changes in other games like the Metal Gear series and Grand Theft Auto. GTA IV was released the same year as Fallout 3 and GTA V was released in 2013. Look how different those two games are.

If you enjoyed Fallout 3 or New Vegas, chances are that you will enjoy 4. It is also a good place to jump into the series although the game is pretty difficult so newbies beware. You will sink time into it ad you will have fun getting lost and creating your own adventures. Most of the issues I have with the game will likely be patched or modded but I can’t judge a game looking at how other people can fix it, (looking at you Skyrim).

I have a long way to go yet before I complete Fallout 4, and longer still until I finish playing it, but as of yet, the game simply hasn’t captured my heart. Only time will tell if it can win me over but for now it has not unlocked the passion in me that The Witcher and Dark Souls among others have.

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