I am a huge fan of the Fallout series. The original Fallout games were a bit before my time but Fallout 3 was a revelation and inspired me to check them out. I love their satirical look at society, comedy, pathos, melodrama, and, of course, shooting things in V.A.T.S. As such, I was very excited about Fallout 4's announcement and interested in what sort of changes they would be making for the series.
Flawed but fun.
I'll get into a discussion of the game's storyline in a later article as the work deserves my full attention but both it and the gameplay have their ups and downs. This is a revelation of a game, truly, and I would remiss in not giving it a 10 out of 10 but this is because the massive amount of content as well as fun to be had compensates for its glaring flaws rather than the latter not existing.
|My survivor looked like Ned Stark and his wife Daenerys.|
The premise of the game is you are the Sole Survivor of Vault 111. You, your spouse, and your infant child are living a happy life in the Pre-War era of America when nuclear was breaks out. You all swiftly head out the door to the Vault, only to discover it is a cryogenic freezing chamber where you and your family are put in suspended animation. During your sleep, your spouse's chamber is attacked and your child taken away before you're awoken to the brave new world of 215 years after the apocalypse.
Cute joke on the time, Bethesda.
There was some mild controversy with the fandom over the fact the protagonist is voice acted now given the traditional blank slate protagonists of the series. Gay and lesbian fans of the series also expressed some displeasure over the fact that, in a series where homosexual relationships had always been possible, you were shoe-horned in a heterosexual one in the Pre-War era. I, personally, think it would have been better to have been able to determine the sex of your spouse as well but note the Sole Survivor can have actual gay and straight romances later. I'll get to the romantic element later, though.
|Recognizable landmarks become excellent battlefields.|
The changes to the leveling system are also questionable with the new Perk system replacing the perfectly serviceable and comprehensible skills system. The various Perk trees were confusing and complicated, making it more difficult to know who and what I wanted as well as what was available. The lack of a level limit is appreciated, though, because it allows you to eventually get everything you want. I also dislike the loss of the repair system since that provided a sense of rarity and decay to items.
|Poor Garvey is the nicest guy in the Commonwealth.|
Companions are an area where the game improves on previous editions quite a bit. In addition to taking the complex stories and personalities of Fallout: New Vegas, it also allows the much-desired romance plotlines for them. I was particularly fond of Piper and Garvey, the former being a post-apocalypse version of Lois Lane and the latter reminding me of Boone from Fallout: New Vegas. There's also guaranteed crowd-pleasers like Nick Valentine (an android detective) and the endearingly sycophantic Codsworth.
|Nick has a face only his robot mother could love.|
Another welcome addition to the system is the revamped radiation system. Before, you could very easily ignore radiation throughout the game. Now, it replaces hit points and can swiftly fill up a meter with damage. This makes concern over radiation exposure much more immediately dangerous. I had to make ample use of both Rad-X and Rad-Away throughout the game as well as pay multiple trips to the doctor. Stimpacks and food are changed too, making both of them much more relevant to daily survival.
|I played on Easy and Super Mutants were *terrifying*!|
I will say the graphics aren't noticeably all that improved from the Xbox 360 version I played years ago. The character models are much-much better and that's not nothing but the gameworld doesn't feel all that different. It still has the same vaguely plastic, vaguely cartoonish style of the original game. Compared to say, the Witcher 3, it looks last generation. On the other hand, that same plastic and cartoonish style made the original Fallout 3 look more advanced than it should have been. Funny how that works.
The Commonwealth is beautifully detailed with some real crowd-pleasing sights like Diamond City (constructed on a baseball field), the Brotherhood of Steel's zeppelin (The Prydwen), and the U.S.S Constitution now outfitted with rocket boosters. The developers do an amazing job differentiating it from the Capital Wasteland, going for a dried scrubland look over Fallout 3's radioactive hellhole. The detail in individual levels is sometimes stunning with a comic book shop level containing dozens of unique models not used anywhere else in the game. It doesn't have a moment quite as amazing as seeing the Capital Wasteland for the first time but it has a few which come close.
|Piper is awesome. That is all.|
Fans of the series will be interested in several changes to the lore. The Eastern Brotherhood of Steel has reverted to the West Coast's doctrines in certain areas and is now an expansionist feudal state which eliminates all nonhumans it encounters. They're closer to Space Marines now than the heroic order under Elder Lyons and I couldn't be happier. Those who thought Bethesda should have come up with original factions for Fallout 3 will note all of the ones in the Commonwealth are really interesting and worthy additions to the setting's lore. I'm particularly fond of the Institute and think it's a great "villain" you might actually want to side with.
Indeed, one thing I really liked about the game was the addition of a very gray and gray set of morality throughout. Despite the fact Garvey, Piper, and most other characters are good, the simple fact is all of the major factions have serious flaws. You have a choice of evils to side with and everyone brings something different to the table. There's no group which is so awful, though, I didn't see why anyone wouldn't want to side with them, though. This is a stark change from the usual Black and White handling of things like the Enclave as well as Caesar's Legion. Hell, if I have a complaint, it's that your character has to work *REALLY HARD* at being evil if you want him to be a bad guy. There's no opportunity to nuke Megaton or be genuinely evil in this game and that's actually disappointing in its own way.
|What is this strange object? A...tree?|
I'm also a bit back and forth about the music. The majority of the licensed soundtrack, as mentioned, is from Fallout 3. I loved the soundtrack there and its very evocative. However, there's also an additional set of orchestrated music which is sometimes a bit too loud for the events onscreen. I would have preferred silence as an option since I could literally turn on a radio station if and when I wanted to hear the music. On the other hand, songs like "Atom Bomb", "Rocket 69", "Don't they know it's the end of the world", and "The Wanderer" are really-really good.
In conclusion, this is a good game with some serious flaws. I'm very-very glad I played it but fans should be warned it has a number of problems. The increase in enemy strength, well-designed companions, imaginative detail, and simple joy of exploration are contrasted with the bugs, mediocre protagonist, and unnecessary gameplay changes. The good heavily outweigh the bad but this is a game I repeatedly asked myself, "why did they change this?" I'm still going to give it a high score, though, because it's quintessentially Fallout and I'm off to play it some more.