The long awaited sequel to the wildly successful Fallout 3 and the either love or hate Fallout: New Vegas was finally released into the world by Bethesda a few months ago. 107 hours lost and three characters later I thought I would try to review this monster of a sequel.
I am a huge fan of Fallout: New Vegas made by Obsidian Entertainment, it is in my eyes the pinnacle of what a new age Fallout game should be. It set a standard for me going into Bethesda’s Fallout 4… that standard might have been a little too niche for what Bethesda imagined. Well, that and my recent delve into the famous tabletop RPG Dungeons &Dragons. Fallout 4 is an RPG game, but it’s one of the more “streamlined” RPG’s I’ve played.
Story + Setting + Graphics
Taking place in the year 2287, 210 years after the bombs drop, you emerge from Vault-111 to the view of a now radioactive dystopia that was once your vibrantly beautiful home. With vengeance spinning around in your disoriented brain pan you are to set out on a quest to find your wife’s killer and son’s kidnapper. It’s up to you to wade through the dangerous wastes of the commonwealth to seek the justice you so desperately want… or not, it is an open world after all and your parents are most likely to dead to tell you what to do anymore.
My biggest gripe with the main story-line in Fallout 4 is that it’s uninteresting. Instead of being the orphan this time around I was forced to create one instead, kind of. I wasn’t attached to my child because the only interaction I had with him was to awkwardly tickle his tummy and spin his crib toy for a few seconds. After that I couldn’t care less about finding him. It wasn’t like in Fallout 3 where I was brought up by Liam Neeson who made me feel loved throughout my life in the vault, or in New Vegas when I was shot in the face and left for dead. The only thing I wanted was to figure out who that son of a bitch Benny was, find him, and then watch the life leave his eyes as my hands gripped tighter around his neck. Fallout 4 just took both of those plots and made the same events happen to someone else as I watched. There wasn’t enough time and meaningful interaction between me and my family before they took it all away in order for me to care, so naturally I just wondered the wastes instead without any motivation or purpose from the get-go.
Bethesda has never really been known for great story telling, and after having Obsidian do an amazing job with story between Fallout 3 and 4 it was a real let down to find that FO4 didn’t have an interesting character arc for me, or a wide range of interesting side quests and characters.
But the graphics are beautiful! If there is something that a big developer like Bethesda can do it’s make a game look gorgeous. FO4 might have been a bit too gorgeous though. I don’t have the beefiest custom built computer out there but it’s no wimp when it comes to running ultra-settings. FO4 ran great at a constant 60fps until I entered the heart of the city. In the city the frame limit is a strict 30fps at best if your rig isn’t up to par, however, while roaming around freely out in the waste I found it to be a nice change from previous Fallout titles. The wasteland in Boston seemed more vibrant and alive. There were actual colors instead of various shades of brown and grey. Big red abandoned box cars were left on the tracks, blue walls with caution yellow rails and stairs wrapped around the interior of factories, light pierced through thick green mists of radiation storms as I strolled along admiring the ambient occlusion and sounds of menacing thunder. The wastes had never been so lovely to walk through as they are in FO4 for sure.
Decision Making + Dialog + Quests
Bethesda made a huge change to how dialog is delivered. Not only does your character have a voice, but your dialog delivery system has been simplified to a vague four option approach. A huge downgrade in my opinion, and your options only consist of one or two words. The rest is a mystery until you make a decision. There was an incident I had during one mission where I was helping some trench coat wearing bartender, and a defeated husband with spouse issues steal some drugs from a lady ghoul. After the less than exhilarating battle between me and four armed guards I actually got to talk to the lady ghoul. Her name is Trish and she wants to make a deal. After asking her to tell me what she knew trench coat blows her head clean off ruining my special dialog option. Why the fuck would you entice me with bright yellow text to use one of my skills, only to have some jack hole who looks like a public flasher, take a possible outcome away from me permanently? You dick!
Another annoying thing about this dialog system is that you just don’t know what you’re going to say. I pick the sarcastic option all the time because my character usually makes a likable joke, but sometimes the sarcastic joke turns me into an asshole as I say something completely dumb and the NPC takes it negatively. It’s a very limited system too with the top option almost always being a question for plot reasons, left option for sarcastic mode, the right option agreeing to do whatever bullshit quest an NPC may have, and the bottom option for no. The only special dialog you get is usually to ask for more money out of an already struggling waste lander, or to romance every male/female NPC you come into contact with. Some options seemed to have the same outcome too. You either accepted or accepted a quest. Sarcastic became too much of a gamble without knowing what would come out of my mouth if I had picked it.
Quests are… quests? I don’t know some of them are really cool and interesting, like when I stumbled upon a wrecked airship commanded by a robot army, who invited me on board to ultimately help them repair the ship so they can fly away, or when I’m tasked to go find a sister who ran off with some shady fedora wearing weboo who made a cult out by the lake. Then there are the endless fetch quests. Every major place you go especially in faction areas have one person dedicated to sending you out to either find a piece of gear, set up an antenna, or help a settlement. I heard that these quests existed before I had sat down to play the game, however, it wasn’t until the 10th piece of pre-war gear that I found for the Brotherhood that I realized they really would never end, and the only thing I’d get in return were some caps. On my second play through I avoided them like the plague and had a much more enjoyable experience without them. I’m here to play Fallout not grind bullshit like I was in World of Warcraft.
Weapons + Mods
I really enjoyed the repair system in New Vegas where If I had two or more of the same gun I could merge them together to somehow make a stronger weapon. Fallout 4 showed me that that repair system sucked. Holy hell was I glad I didn’t have to search around for a specific weapon just to make my current one not jam in tight situations. Instead I got to search around for specific junk to make my current weapon more badass… yay?
There are plenty of mods to choose from. 170+ mods to be exact… well, a handful of mods that were applicable to different weapons. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of mods here to make your guns “Unique”, but for the most part every gun had the same options. Barrel, Scope, Receiver, etc. and each one is locked behind a perk wall. Which means you have to focus a certain amount of levels into science, blacksmith, and gun nut in order to get better mods. Which leads into my next gripe.
Perk + Level system
The level up system makes me sad. With each level I get one perk upgrade… is that it Bethesda? You’re just gonna throw the skill tree completely out and replace it with a one perk at a time deal? Bravo you fucks I didn’t want to have full control of how my character grew anyways.
The thing I don’t like about the new perk system is that none of the perks feel like they do anything unique, and instead just increase stats. I felt like I had to make a choice to throw a certain amount of levels into a single perk in order to unlock a gun mod, or keep up with the enemy scaling so that I wouldn’t keep getting wrecked whenever I bumped into a fight. I had to have a certain level of lock picking, a certain level of science, a certain level in hacker.
For the first six levels I invested in lady killer, lock picking, hacker, cap collector, rifleman, and gun nut just to feel like I wouldn’t immediately die when someone farted on me while sneaking by, and was still able to be self-reliant. That’s six levels of perks wasted just so that I could explore comfortably.
New Vegas and FO3 got this system right by having a skill tree to allocate your level up points and have different combinations allow you to do different special things. Like if my guns skill was up to 75 it would open up a special dialog box with someone near east-side, which would then get me a special ammo blueprint. It’s a great RPG system where if you don’t have the skill level required you just don’t get that special event.
That’s what helped add replay value and is why I still go back to New Vegas today to play different variations and to experiment with my character builds. FO4 just gives you bland stat boosts and perk wall unlocks. New Vegas did the same thing to an extent sure, but at least there were some unique perks like wild wasteland to alter the game, and the skill tree played a factor into what you could and could not achieve. The FO4 perk system just says you can do everything you want in the world, but don’t you want +5 damage too? What about +10 damage now? That silencer would look nice but you need rank 4 gun nut to touch it.
This is a point where a lot of people tend to hate New Vegas for, but it’s such an RPG element that it works for an RPG game. In FO4 it’s just gone though. Streamlined so that you don’t have to worry about where points go and what the outcome of your choices might be. You’re allowed to do everything you run into except seducing a woman correctly. Better dump a couple perks in charisma if you want to fade to a black screen with her, mate.
Exploring in Fallout 4 is actually better than it has been in previous Fallouts. New Vegas had the problem of making you trek over vast and mostly empty dessert. Which in a sense added to the atmosphere and immersion that you were in the Mojave dessert. Fallout 4 does the opposite and jams every nook and cranny with something to look at or a building to go into. You go 5 feet and there is an entrance to some raider’s hideout.
After 30 minutes of killing a looting you take a few steps down the road and there is an abandoned police station with notes to read and holotapes to listen to that recount the events of a rogue cop looking for criminals. 3 steps outside of that police station is the remains of two lovers holding hands in their last moments as the bomb touched down.
It’s through exploring the waste that FO4 showed me it can tell a good story. The only problem is that I have to search through terminal after terminal collecting random pages laying around, and listening to holotapes that are easily missed in order to get the thing I want from casual NPC interactions. STORY TELLING! I spent more time sitting down and reading than I did talking to people and playing the game.
At first I wasn’t a big fan of Power Armor. I hate the default UI Bethesda made for when you’re in it and I can’t stand the slow animations getting in and out of the damn things. However, thanks to some mods that sped up animations and got rid of the ugly UI I fell in love with using power armor. At one point I started collecting them and even built a display back at sanctuary. My most prized suit was a set of X-01 that I spent hours scourging for. I fixed it up and just stared at it like it was an action figure bought off eBay still in its package.
I noticed a lot of people hating on FO4 power armor, most common complaint was that there weren’t enough fusion cores. I don’t know how fusion cores were that scarce for them because I ended up with about 25 by the time I finished the main quest line, with frequent use of power armor.
Settlement Building + Building Tools
To be honest I didn’t mess with settlement building after my first initial introduction to it. Nothing snapped where I wanted it to, it’s hard to make multiple story buildings, and there is just so much junk to get lost in and to mess around with. Not to mention it just wasn’t interesting to me. “It’s like Minecraft in the Fallout universe!”
To quote an overused saying, Fallout 4 “scratches that itch” for a new Fallout game, but Bethesda decided that if they could make it more streamlined to get the CoD kids and more casual gamers into it then they could get away with a boring story telling experience. Which is the underlying structure of any RPG that makes it good. The game isn’t by any means awful. The gameplay has been brought up to your typical modern day FPS standards, the graphics are downright beautiful to look at. Exploration is great and supplies days’ worth of looting. The crafting system isn’t the most fun thing to do just to add a silencer to your assault rifle, and the perk system is such a disappointment to work with.
During the entire time I was playing FO4 I took long breaks where I just didn’t play it, and I had to force myself to at least finish the main quests just so that I could say I beat it. I don’t plan on ever going back into it and starting a new or continuing where I left off. I think my 107 hours gave me everything FO4 had to offer. And in the end… disappointment. I just hope they can get someone like Obsidian back in to take care of the story and RPG end while letting Bethesda work on the graphics.
Ignore the arbitrary number rating system for this review. It is what it is, and what it is is probably incomplete gibberish.