Fallout 3 is my favorite game of all time, as demonstrated by my numerous writings on the subject. After being disappointed with Fallout New Vegas’s lackluster world and missions, I was pumped for Fallout 4 to come out and almost was tempted to grab a Pip-Boy edition. I was really excited to see what the game held to offer….and I was left disappointed. I’ve also discussed a bit of my feelings on Fallout 4 in the context of its character creation, but I think it’s time for me to put my opinions of the game proper to rest. I normally beat the main story, but this game is an exception and I’ll elaborate on that in a bit. Fallout 4 is a beast of a game and there’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get to it-buckle up, I got a lot to say.
Mechanics and Gameplay
Fallout 4 is a first person shooter that has a third person camera perspective and RPG elements. Now, while Fallout 3 and NV’s gunplay sucked a uranium rod, Fallout 4 has streamlined its combat and made itself a competent FPS-the first person sights work, the gunplay feels satisfying and the health systems remain from the previous games allowing you to be as cavalier or conserved as you wish. It works well, and it’s far preferred to Fallout 3s clunkier systems.
Sprinting now takes up AP-actions points that are usable in V.A.T.S. which is a slow motion thing that allows you to target and cripple enemies-which is interestingly enough something that is taken right from a mod. The game feels pretty solid, even if the team behind the game should be embarrassed that Fallout 4 has no FOV slider-there’s no good excuse for it at this point, especially as someone who likes to see more of the world in front of them than the gun they carry.
Settlement building is a new mechanic, and one that I find a good addition if a bit half baked. Again, this is taken from a popular mod and personally I think its good policy to do that. If fans add something you hadn’t considered or fix something you didn’t know was an issue why not incorporate it into the next game? Settlement building is something really appealing to me, and despite its issues it’s a welcome add on. Rebuilding little towns and connecting them is deeply satisfying, as is figuring out new technologies to use and interesting ways to set things up.
Unfortunately it’s a bit half-baked-elements that should have been in it have been chopped off and sold as DLC which leaves the base games content a bit underwhelming and while mods are making the situation much better it should have been better fleshed out from the beginning. Still, I had a great amount of fun with it while I played with it and it’s a cool concept-rebuilding the wasteland and helping unite people again to make life better. It’s also easily ignorable after its introduction and the tutorials so if you lose interest or don’t care then it’s not something you need to worry about.
Power Armor is a new thing and honestly, it’s a new thing I really like. At first I supposed that I wouldn’t enjoy it and elected to not use it-but after using it for a bit it’s actually pretty enjoyable to use. It can add benefits to your stats, provides additional protection and can have new parts put on to make it more useful as well as being upgradable. It’s a good upgrade to the power armor in the previous games and it makes the armor feel like the game changer it should be as opposed to a more Skyrim-esque heavy armor setup.
Weapon degradation is now out and upgrades are in-and I approve of this. As you travel you find junk, but unlike previous Fallout games where it was basically just fluff to flesh out the world now it serves a purpose. You can use junk to aid in settlement building, or use it to upgrade gear. This is a welcome upgrade and one that I think fits-it makes the games junk useful and fits with themes of rebuilding society as well as letting you customize your weapons more to suit your playstyle. I do kind of wish weapon degradation was still a thing but it’s not a deal breaker for me.
And finally, the good/evil elements have been replaced with companion systems that impact how you might handle certain issues. Your companions like or dislike certain actions, and basically the morality is how you act around them to try and improve your relationship. Once you improve it enough, you get a special perk and the character likes you more which feels gratifying. This is the best part of the game-NV did a good job with its companions, but this allows even more depth for them and makes you want to really dig into all of their stories and learn more about them-not only because they’re interesting but because it provides benefits to you.
However, despite these improvements-which I would argue are needed or welcome-Fallout 4 makes several missteps that belay a worrying trend that Skyrim started to put up flags about and that make me worry for the future of Bethesda games.
The dialogue system in Fallout 4 is unforgivably bad-it’s been dumbed down to an almost Mass Effect level and given the variety of discussion options found in both prior games, as well as the ability to pump people for a decent amount of information and learn more about the world or setting or themselves. Here, it’s generally a four option thing that’s got a terrible layout that doesn’t even show you all of what your character is going to say as in prior games.
This means dialogue trees are much rarer and discussions are far less interesting than in prior games. I have a feeling that this was done to accommodate the voice actor-a new feature in a Bethesda RPG. Now, regarding the VA…..its fine. Some people consider it heresy, but on its own I think it’s alright and it’s tolerable even if I don’t think it was the right decision persay. However, if it was put in at expense of the dialogue system then I think it was an idiotic move on Bethesda’s part.
Dungeon design is really bad-every place has the same exact lots of chaff and then a super impossible tough boss guy as the last and as Skyrim. Its lazy design that is easy to see through, and its honestly distressing to see considering the dungeons in prior games had some variety in layout and felt more well set up.
The RPG elements are abysmal and honestly Bethesda deserves some major shit for it. Whereas in the previous games you would role-play and build a character to specialization, here it’s been dumbed down and it makes it far harder to make a unique character. The new skill tree is simplified and lacks the depth of the original making it far less impactful. Yes there are useful perks, but it robs the game proper of a lot of depth and makes S.P.E.C.I.A.L choices basically meaningless given how little if impacts the gameplay.
While in the previous games your skill levels allowed you to tackle problems in different and interesting ways, here it doesn’t feel as fleshed out and it doesn’t even appear in the dialogue trees making it feel even less impactful. There’s also bizarre decisions to be had-skills for hacking have to be found in magazines, which means you can’t reprogram turrets to attack everyone or a variety of different tasks-it’s an idiotic decision that I cannot begin to fathom. The game feels like it has less variety in how to deal with a problem besides shooting it and despite the improved gunplay it’s just not as enjoyable as Fallout 3 or NV to me.
Music is something that’s been pretty integral to all of the Bethesda games-who doesn’t still have Dragonborn’s Dovakhin tune beating around in their head?-and Fallout 4 is no exception. Inon Zur is the man behind the music in this and both prior Fallout games and I think he’s done a pretty swood job. The music fits really well, feels good to listen to and there’s a decent variety on the tracks or little variations that help the music keep from being too overplayed. Opening the vault at the beginning and wandering out into the wasteland is accompanied by some of his best music yet, and I’m always happy with his musical stylings. Personally I prefer his orchestrations-Jeremy Soule does a good job with Elder scrolls games but I feel like there’s a bit too much repetition in tunes between games, even if it’s not egregious.
Of course, with Bethesda Fallout games there is also the aspect of 50’s music playing over the radio-a staple that is continued here. I do think there could be a bit more variety and new songs, but the overall track list is still rock solid and it still fits pretty well.
Graphics and World
Honestly, the backlash against Fallout 4’s graphics was….confusing to me. Fallout 3 and New Vegas, for all their aesthetic charms, are ugly, ugly games and I would say that Fallout 4 is the best looking game yet-I think it looks better than Skyrim even. Everything looks pretty good honestly, and while it’s not the prettiest game around it still looks pretty good in my opinion. Seeing the updated versions of old characters, enemies, and other stuff is really gratifying and there’s a lot more color in the wasteland.
The 50’s retro aesthetic is still in place here-I do think it could be a little more present and pushed to the forefront, but this game has plenty of it and it’s always welcome. As with most Bethesda games, the world is pretty interesting to explore and has a lot of interesting stuff going on. I do think there are some elements that are a bit of a misfire-there’s a bit more magic stuff in the series where I don’t know that it fits, but considering it fits with the 50s theme I’ll let it slide. Overall I found the world interesting, with cool locations, people and things to find. There’s still so much for me to explore, and I suspect most of my time with the game going forward is being spent doing that and the side quests.
This is the first time I have not had the motivation to finish a main story yet in any Bethesda game. I might at some point, but I find it uninteresting. You start off in the pre-war era with a wife and baby, and are given little time to grow attached to either character. Thus when both are removed from you, it’s been so short of a period of knowing them that it means nothing emotionally and I don’t feel like continuing all that much except out of morbid obligation to see new stuff. It’s not really well thought out, and honestly the story doesn’t really feel that involving as you go along it. I’ve heard it suggested that having your wife with you in the apocalypse as a companion might have actually made losing her or having her kidnapped be something you cared about-but instead you’re given so little time and interaction caring is near impossible. I cared about Liam Neeson, I cared about finding out what it meant to be dragon born, I cared about finding out what was going on in the Vegas wasteland and I really cared about figuring out if I was the nerevar.
There are some cool moments, but I just didn’t care all that much about what was going on and the writing isn’t all that great-a problem that has grown worse as time has gone on with Bethesda and one that needs attention. While I love Fallout 3 and value its strengths over NV’s, both are interesting contrasts to each other and I’m not blinded to the superior writing and story of NV. But Bethesda’s writing has been getting sloppier and sloppier, and while the companions are well written the rest of the written content suffers-again, I wouldn’t be shocked if this was due to the dumbing down of dialogue discussed before.
The story tries to incorporate different aspects of previous games but it’s not as compelling or interesting as in NV-though I would argue Caesars legion could have been fleshed out a bit earlier in the game to make the more interesting aspects of their movement more prominent. This is one of the weakest setups and stories that Bethesda has put out IMO and it’s something they need to address.
Honestly, I think most of us have mused on what could happen if Bethesda teamed up with Obsidian to make a new game. At this point, I think it’s something that would create the best possible Fallout game. NV’s world was drab and boring, and the atmosphere was lacking, but the writing and main story was pretty good (excluding the DLC). Fallout 3s world is interesting, the atmosphere is compelling and there’s interesting side quests and things to find…but the writing isn’t that good and the main story isn’t as compelling. Combined, I think both teams could make up for the deficiency of the others and make a truly great game as opposed to the previous games.
I was excited for Fallout 4, but I made sure to temper expectations for the game to avoid another overhype situation. And ultimately, I feel like I’ve come away with the fairest assessment I can give based on the game itself. I’ve been ragging on the game hard, but that’s because I compare it to the previous games in the series and I find it lacking-something made incredibly frustrating due to the good stuff to be found in the game. Wandering the wasteland is fun, exploring is fun, building villages and gun upgrades is fun, companions are great-there’s a lot of good stuff here! Seeing the mod community crack into it and have fun with the game so early was great, and they fixed so many fundamental issues and added so much fun stuff that I’m glad to see console players get to get in on the action.
But the negatives just drag it down, lots of elements needed to be in the game as opposed to modded in, and Bethesda needs to get its act together if it wants to keep me coming back. The streamlining and removal of RPG elements has been a consistent thing with them lately and its idiotic-it makes their games blander and less interesting especially compared to the previous games they’ve made. Morrowind and Fallout 3/NV are gold standards to aspire to-not something to shrug off and scorn.
Even as much as I like the game, the decay of different aspects of the game is disheartening. Story is becoming less and less important, RPG elements are being removed and dungeon design is getting lazy beyond the pale. Bethesda needs to stop the blandification of their output or move onto something new if that’s what they need to do-because at this point, I’m not interested in the next Bethesda game. And saying that is weird for me-because I’ve been on board since Morrowind and I love a lot of what Bethesda has to offer. But they need to wake up and improve-or risk pissing away their legacy through oversimplification.
Overall I can recommend this game-at sale price, and with mods there’s a lot of fun to be had and I still plan on sinking time into it. But it’s got lots of issues, and you should take into consideration whether or not those aspects are going to be deal breakers for you. At the very least it’s still a fun time, and I don’t regret buying it-just know what you’re getting into and maybe avoid it on a console if you have a PC option.