Really, this isn’t a review. Fallout 4 is a phenomenon. It has broken the record of most online players on Steam. It caused (or arguably correlated with) the drop in usage of a porn site. It is a game that most people have heard about, and is the latest successor to an incredibly rich and venerable gaming series. Chances are most of you already have it, or are thinking of getting it. So I’ll just do a TL;DR version, and go into what I love about it.
Review: Fallout 4 is a vast improvement from Fallout 3. Yes, the graphics are sub par and the engine is old, but the environments are still pretty (especially weather effects). Yes UI is stupidly tweaked for console, but being able to loot without having to open a new screen is freeing in a way I never expected it to be. Combat has also improved. It’s legitimately fun to play Fallout 4 as an FPS now, and the ghouls are gorram frightening to fight against now. But what won me over was the crafting and the dialogue.
At first I thought that the addition of voice to my main character would decrease roleplaying value. After all, the resources needed for a voiced main character means that the number of lines of unique sentences must be less than pure text right? But they must have recorded thousands and thousands of lines, because I haven’t really noticed many repeats (save for the usual when meeting generic NPCs). Fallout even has non-commital grunts when you fast forward past dialogue, and drunk comments. If anything, I think the rich voice acting has made me care for my character even more.
Bethesda has also put in a great deal of love into the speech and dialogue of your companions and important NPCs, and it shows. The companions in Fallout 3 were relatively forgettable (compared to say Sulik in Fallout 2), and while there may be some forgettable NPCs, they are few and far between. Piper (one of the NPCs you meet relatively early in the game) is a peppily nosy type reporter, and Codsworth is amusingly British. And my jaw literally dropped when he said my name. The name I chose for my character. And he knows hundreds more. Now that’s a level of committment I did not expect, and one I was very impressed with.
As mentioned though, the start of the show is the crafting. While there are arguably less basic weapon types than previous Fallout games (essentially 1-2 per ammo type), the fact that each type is almost infinitely variable provides us with a veritable cornucopia to blast our enemies. A pistol can be turned into an automatic pistol, a rifle, an SMG or its equivalent sniper rifle with the appropriate mods, and that’s not including the ‘named’ variants of the weapons that provide certain buffs (ranging from extra damage to elemental damage and the like). I have never felt such freedom to play with whatever weapon I want. Armor modding is just as deep.
Even worse (or better, depending on your point of view), is the fact that you can build settlements in Fallout 4. Let that sink in. You. Can. Build. Settlements. Wall up a movie theatre! Stick some guns on top of a petrol station! Farm some food in… er… a farm! As a perennial sim lover, I am immensely enjoying my time in SimFarm: Mad Max edition. You can even start generating power for lights and tv, pump and purify water, get your sims (er… settlers) to guard and farm in your settlements, and with the right perks, set up supply lines and shops. Amazingly, you can turn Fallout 4 into something you never had the opportunity to in previous games; a self-sufficient community. I’ve gotten far enough into the game that I have become a food, water and even adhesive baron (players of the game will get it). I do complete quests and loot raiders, but that is technically not necessary any more: I’ve plowed enough resources into my settlements that I could sell water to my own traders and buy whatever I need for them. I’ve essentially become a water baron in Fallout 3. The water must flow.
That level of emergent gaming is the main reason why I have lost most of the past few weeks to Fallout 4. I can explore, and come across two different factions fighting. I can pick them off while they’re attacking each other, or I could just wait and then grab the loot off the corpses, like some scavenger. When being attacked, my settlers will pick a weapon off of a corpse and start using it, if it’s an upgrade. And I’ve learnt to shoot the arms off of ranged attackers and the legs off of melee attackers.
That’s not to say that Fallout 4 is not without its flaws. It is RIFE with them. I haven’t had any game-ending bugs, but I’ve had weird dialogue and scripting issues. Until you get the hang of it, building a settlement is frighteningly obtuse and you are provided with an almost laughable walkthrough (then again some people might not be into building so maybe that’s why the tutorial was so short). Your companions are sometimes (many times) idiots. And you can survive without a head. Worst, I am at a part of the story where I realise that it is likely that allying myself with one faction likely means death to most (if not all) of the other factions, and there is not likely to be a peaceful way out. As an RPGer, that story railroading when everything else is such an open sandbox really annoys.
And yet, I am enjoying myself in spite of all the weird shit Fallout 4 throws at me. I literally lose myself in the game whenever I start it up. Even though Fallout 4 is considered an RPG, it is more like an open world sandbox to me. Yes, the main quest is there, but why complete it when you have settlements to defend, buildings to explore, and places to climb up to and watch the sunrise from? Because quests come and go.
But war, war never changes.