Bored never changes
BlogSpot Archive Review
It’s safe to say that I’m a little late to the game here. Fallout 4 has already been out for almost four months now; I meant to write this about a week after the game released. However, things have been getting in the way and I’ve been getting distracted by other games like Destiny, Corpse of Discovery, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Rainbow Six: Siege. Add on top of all this, my class schedule for college and work, and I’m sure you’ll understand why this took so long. At this point it will serve less as a way to inform potential consumers of the game, and more as a critique of the game itself. That said, keep reading.
Fallout 4 is an interesting entry in the series of the popular post-apocalyptic games. Following the success of Fallout 3, and to a lesser extent, the spinoff Fallout: New Vegas; Fallout 4 was met with extreme hype and critical praise. Sadly, what makes Bethesda’s most recent entry interesting isn’t that the game itself, but rather the way the game feels.
Fallout 4’s gameplay is fairly simplistic, albeit with a few changes from previous games in the series. VATS, which was introduced in Fallout 3 as a throwback to the series’ turn-based beginnings, no longer pauses combat, instead it slows down time. As a concept, I felt as it was the final nail in the coffin that was Fallout’s call-back to its heritage, but despite the purist in me screaming out, it felt like it fits better. Old school VATS felt like cheating most of the time since it allowed the player to stop the action completely and give a huge advantage. Now that edge has been whittled down a little, forcing the player back into the action.
More generally, the shooting and movement have been improved. Weapons give the feeling that they are actually connected to the controls (unlike the laggy controls of Fallout 3/NV) and there are many base level weapons to choose from. Almost every weapon has a plethora of customization options thrown at you as well, giving you a near-infinite number of possible combinations to create. The only thing that saddened me was the change from New Vegas’ array of weaponry to a very truncated and oddly designed list.
A pet peeve of mine regarding the weapons in Fallout 4 is the design choices Bethesda made. The firearms seem to have been made to look like early 1900’s style weapons; the assault rifle in particular has a look that resembles a Maxim machinegun. Other things like the combat rifle being chambered for .45 rounds but having a magazine designed to look like it holds 7.62mm NATO rounds is puzzling to me. What can I say; I’m a bit of a gun nut. Don’t judge me.
Far more detrimental to the game are the changes to the series’ conversation system. Bethesda decided to axe the old way of doing things to adopt a system that is somewhat similar to Bioware’s conversation wheel design in Dragon Age 2. Conversations now only allow four choices, and most interactions follow the formula of offering a nice, mean, sarcastic, and disengage option. A common complaint I’ve seen regarding the change is that the player can’t see what is actually going to be said in a conversation, leaving the options up for (often incorrect) interpretation.
All in all, the gameplay itself doesn’t appear to have improved at all in this sequel, and in some areas even appeared to take a step backwards. I’ll give credit where credit is due however, the gunplay feels much more streamlined. So there’s that.
The visual presentation of Fallout 4 is competent, and that’s about the best I can say. This is perhaps due to Bethesda’s choice to use a modified version of their Creation engine (from Skyrim) to provide the backbone for the game. It doesn’t look bad; not anything like Fallout 3 looked like, but sadly it also doesn’t look particularly good in comparison to other games released recently. It’s all just kinda meh.
The audio in comparison fares better, offering a decent soundtrack despite using a large number of songs from previous Bethesda-made Fallout games. The rest of the audio is really what sold me on the presentation. It just oozes atmosphere in the audio. Wandering in the open wastes feels desolate and dangerous. The sounds of enemies skittering and patrolling around you, the warble of a Sentrybot locking onto you, and the alert of your fusion core running low in your Power Armor all serve well to suck you into the game.
Did I mention that some of the soundtrack was reused? I was thrown back into memories of Fallout: New Vegas when I heard one of the songs they used in that game.
Fallout 4 definitely suffers in this department. Many of the features, hell even the engine itself honestly, are taken from previous Fallout entries. Unfortunately, quest structure has even taken a bit of a step backward; most quests start with talking to someone about their problem and end with you hunting down some interchangeable enemy. Sure the same could be said for many other games, but in Fallout 4, it just feels more apparent because there is far less variety compared to other games that Bethesda has developed. For instance, I can remember a Dark Brotherhood quest from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion where the player is tasked with eliminating an entire party of targets in a locked house, but I can’t remember a unique quest in Fallout 4 for the life of me.
However, it does have something going for it. It’s the game feature that I’ve spent by leaps-and-bounds the largest amount of time messing with: settlement construction. My wife can attest to the hours upon hours that I’ve wasted spent building my various encampments and fortresses. What makes this feature even more compelling is that even though the tools aren’t very varied, and not necessarily very good either, I still was sucked in. There was simply no hope for me.
This is one of those areas that Fallout 4 falls flat on its proverbial ass. It simply does not provide a compelling story. You are shoehorned into being a specific character with a singular motivation that is instantly derailed the moment the player is offered his/her first sidequest. You’re thrown into the Wasteland after surviving the nuclear holocaust in a Vault where you are cryogenically frozen. Your baby is kidnapped and your husband/wife is murdered, providing the player with motivation I guess. I’m not a heartless person by any means, but I didn’t care at all about the protagonist’s wife or child in my playthrough. It appears to me that Bethesda thought that the equivalent of saying “This is your family so care about them” was enough to motivate me to chase after my baby and save him from his captors.
It really wasn’t enough, Bethesda. I’m sorry to disappoint. My newborn settlements were far more important to me than my newborn son. My wife was soon replaced by Piper without a thought. My character was apparently a heartless jackass.
The sidequests were decent enough I suppose. A few were pretty interesting, but nothing on the level of The Republic of Dave or scouring though Vault 22. I can’t even remember one well enough to look it up in a wiki article. Actually, that isn’t true. I ran across as settlement in Fallout 4 that was a small, walled town that had a bit of a creepy vibe to it. It ended just like every other quest for me however: I had to kill everyone.
The thing that kept me going for so long with Fallout 4 was the settlement building. Like I said earlier, I would spend hours upon hours constructing my safe havens, scouring the wastes for resources, trading with merchants for useful items, and defending my towns on occasion. The problem I ran into was that the constraints put on me were too confining. In some areas it was hardly noticeable, like in Hangman’s Alley. Bigger areas like Sanctuary, Spectacle Island, and Abernathy Farm don’t have the same limitations though. These are all large, open spaces with tons of room to build, but you have a specified limit to how much you can build in those locations (probably to avoid using too much memory).
The problem with this is that you could still have tons of open space to build, but can’t because the game won’t allow you to. The settlement system suffers from other issues as well like not giving you any indication about how to send caravans to other locations to distribute building materials, not giving you any indication about what person is assigned to a particular job (unless they’re performing it at the time), and not giving you a way to make your damn fences make contact with the ground on sloped surfaces.
As you can tell, I spent the majority of my time here.
I don’t regret my time with Fallout 4 at all. In fact I enjoyed most of my time with the game, though I still don’t understand why people think it is so difficult. The complaint I have with the game is just that it is incredibly shallow. Once you’ve done a few quests, built a settlement, and found some followers; you’ve pretty much seen everything the game has to offer. At this point, I’ve attempted to jump back in and continue playing to finish the quests that I had started and see more of the world, but every time I boot up the game and start playing I’m quickly bored.
I’d say this is definitely worth trying, either by renting the game or buying it at a cheaper price. I just can’t really recommend it as a purchase when Bethesda has done far better in the past.
Fallout 4 is not a bad game, but it isn’t all that great either. I remember getting sucked into Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, spending weeks of my gaming time playing them, but Fallout 4 doesn’t do that for me. Instead, I played it fervently for about three weeks and forgot about it. It’s just a disappointing game.
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