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Falling out with Fallout 4


Unlike one former Russian worker,  Fallout 4 addiction isn't likely to be a problem for me. Not because I possess any measure of self control, but because as far as said game goes, I'm done. I'm still highly enamoured of the Fallout series as a whole, but Fallout 4 just falls flat for me. I was about halfway through my second playthrough, when I realised I just wasn't enjoying myself any more.

This might not seem such a big deal given that I'd already played the game for a good forty hours or so, which does seem to represent good value for money – compared to some games, at least. Yet I played Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas through multiple tomes, something that I can't see myself doing with Fallout 4. So what is it about Fallout 4 that has failed to set my world on fire?  Pull up a scorched, partially irradiated chair, and I'll explain.

WARNING: This will contain spoilers for Fallout 4 and 3, so if you've not got all the way through the game at least once, you might want to hold off on reading this.

1. Your character is too clearly defined.

While Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas both gave you a role of sorts, they let you fill in the gaps. New Vegas, for the most part, didn't specify what kind of a person the Courier was, or what they'd done prior to becoming a courier.  Were they a scientist? A mercenary? An assassin? How had they survived growing up in the wastelands?  This made the main character nothing so much as an empty suit that you could slip into. Yet Fallout 4 presents you with a very clearly defined character, casting you either as a housewife or an ex-soldier,  both apparently very much in love.  I found this somewhat jarring, since it meant that many of the choices I wanted to make were contrary to the nature of the character.  I understand that maybe Bethesda wanted to try something different, but I'd rather have been presented with a blank slate.

2. Everybody Hates Shaun

Okay, maybe 'hates' is too strong a word, but I felt nothing but apathy for the main character's son, Shaun, who was kidnapped early on in the game. As was pointed out by former Destructoid writer Anthony Burch,  games designers can't just tell you to care about a character and expect it to stick, without crafting some kind of in-game relationship. Shaun may have been the main character's son, but he wasn't my son and, as such, I couldn't care less. Fallout 4's Shaun-centric storyline also lead to a great deal of what has been coined 'ludonarrative dissonance', where a game's storyline and gameplay contract each other.  Specifically, Shaun's kidnapping was meant to be the impetus for the whole game, yet you could happily wander around for weeks on end, setting up bases without any real sense of urgency creeping in.  

3. Randomly generated filler quests.

Skyrim was the first recent Bethesda game to feature randomly generated quests, where you were given an NPC to kill, or an object to collect. However, these quests typically cropped up when you'd reached the end of a faction's storyline. Fallout 4, on the other hand, has NPCs that issue these quests willy-nilly. On my first playthrough, I completed about fifteen of these filler quests mistakenly believing this was holding up my progress through a particular faction's storyline. In actual fact, I just hadn't progressed far enough through the main quest for faction quests to trigger. I know some role-playing gamers don't object to grinding (ooh-no, missus etc) as a method of gaining experience, but there are enough monstrosities roaming Fallout 4's wasteland to make additional grinding quests unnecessary.  It also took me right out of the game when I was sent to the same location I'd cleared out three missions back, to kill the same bunch of raiders. Again.

4. A weak storyline.

Fallout 4's main storyline features an intriguing premise, albeit one that's been featured in a whole range of other media.  A shadowy organisation has been manufacturing androids that are largely indistinguishable from real people and, in some cases, has been replacing people with these androids. Also, some of these androids – known as synths – have become self-aware and have tried to escape from the aforementioned organisation. But despite this promising start, I found the game's storyline to be rather unsatisfying. You never quite find out what the Institute is up to – though the cynic in me wonders if this is reserved for DLC.  Your ultimate decision doesn't have much impact on the wasteland as a whole, either. This is a direct contrast to Fallout 3 were you were able to give the wasteland clear water, or New Vegas, where the game detailed the impact your actions had upon the populace.

5. Relegating perks to books and magazines.

This might seem like a relatively minor thing, but it has a massive impact on the game. No longer can you access all of the game's 'perks' or 'additional powers' by either selecting them from a menu or by completing a challenge.  Instead, some perks can only be accessed by stumbling across the right book or magazine on your travels. So if you want to create a character who is skilled in using energy weapons, for example, you're up the creek. Unless you use a walkthrough to find the locations of all the appropriate magazines, that is, which seems like an unnecessary fix for a flawed system.

There are a few other gripes I have with the game – the way certain quest lines force you to indulge in base building, the way you can't chose your exact dialogue – I'm on the PS4, so no mod fix for that one. Ultimately, I'll look at the DLC to see if it adds anything to the game, but I doubt it'll fix what needs fixing. For now, Fallout 4 has stopped being fun. In fact, the only thing it's doing is making me want to dig out Fallout New Vegas and Fallout 3 instead.  Sorry, Fallout 4 - we're through. 

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Rico the Penguin   4



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About ChrisHannardone of us since 4:27 PM on 09.03.2015