The build-up to Fallout 4, and the overwhelming hype, can still be seen in the form of never-ending GIFs, memes, tweets and whatever else it is that those hip, crazy kids are doing nowadays. But is all of the attention just a byproduct of impatient anticipation, or has Bethesda done it yet again with another tongue-in-cheek, radiation-filled trek through the wasteland?
Although the hype for Fallout 4 never pulled me in, and I didn’t personally know that I was purchasing the game until the night of its release, I nevertheless found myself walking out of Vault 111 and tuning into the Diamond City radio station within an hour of entry into this world. The familiar tracks that screamed Sinatra and pin-up girls would yet again do their best to soak up the shock of nuclear fallout as I decided which sector of the map to explore first.
See, to me, this series is about adventure, so when the first NPC pointed me in the direction of the nearest storyline quest, I cautiously made my way in the opposite direction (it took me 10+ hours to finally start the main quest). Raiders, super mutants, gigantic mole rats and all sorts overgrown insects would do their best to tear me limb from limb, and on a few occasions, succeeded. But as my journey within post-apocalyptic Boston blossomed, my arsenal grew. Before I knew it, I was done with my first ‘dungeon’, got my greedy hands all over the first set of my very own power armor and was about three hours late going to bed. The sleepless nights of Fallout 3 were here all over again and I couldn’t have been happier.
A good 110 hours later, and I’m finally done with my first playthrough of the game. Thanks to side quests, a colossal overworld filled to the brim with loot, and an extensive list of stat-boosting collectibles, a title with 20-30 hours of main storyline gave just over 4-and-a-half days of enjoyment. If Fallout 4 does anything right, it’s the overabundance of on-disc content it gives players right out of the gate. So even though the game does offer a season pass for additional downloadables, the base game is more than enough to justify spending $60.
No level cap also means that players who do choose the life of a nomad not only benefit from the loot they acquire, but also the experience that comes with earning that treasure. Picking locks, disarming traps, killing enemies and successfully lying are just some of the ways to earn levels in Fallout 4. Although this isn’t anything new, the inclusion of no set level cap means there’ll almost always be a point to roaming around and taking on the occasional band of psychopaths.
Despite the sheer amount of content in Fallout 4, there will always be the matter of storyline quality. Like any good book, the amount of pages only matters if solid writing is present to keep the reader interested. Bethesda at least did it’s job in keeping the plot enticing as it always teased progression in the right ways; but the story as a whole was only decent at best. The plot follows a pre-fallout army veteran living in Boston who brings his/her wife/husband and child to a vault and is forced into cryosleep after the first bombs drop. The protagonist then wakes to see their child kidnapped and their partner murdered at gunpoint. The rest of the story is a search for the missing child, Shaun, and the player is known for the rest of the game as the “Sole Survivor.” Without spoiling anything, the plot reveals a twist 3/4 of the way into the main storyline that could be seen a mile away. The rest of the game has the player picking sides with one of four factions that inhabit Boston and destroying two others.
Companions and enemies are made along the way, which creates choosing a side all the more difficult, but the lack of end game options feels frustrating more than anything. These options lead the player down a road that will always result in two factions being killed off, which feels like a forced answer the player has to give, rather than a choice they can eventually make themselves.
Maybe this was intentional on Bethesda’s part, as living in a nuclear wasteland would surely challenge you with tough decisions at every turn, but considering all of the feats the player is expected to accomplish throughout the game, it seems silly that there is no way to spare each faction. Even being able to save three out of the four would be nice, but unfortunately, your options only extend as far as the four endings, one of which gives slightly more information than the rest. On the upside, much of the story is told in a way that creates excitement and wonder in the player. It’s just a shame that the enthusiastic curiosity set up in the first half of Fallout 4 succumbs to a slow finale riddled with difficult decisions that demand explanation, and a string of tedious missions given by the faction of your choice.
If the title wasn’t so full of natural personality and interesting lore, then the average storyline might be a deal breaker for some. Luckily, Fallout 4 brings all of the charm that the series is known for, and adventurers like myself will find themselves reading old letters and computer logs for hours on end. This is another area where this game really finds its footing. The small stories within the wasteland ooze out through every battered building and create substance out of nothing more than a skeleton holding a locket at the bottom of an irradiated lake, or an annoying, red headed vault boy who wants to charge you five caps for a grand tour of his home; or even a Chinese submarine trapped on the outskirts of the Boston harbour. It is in these quick entries that Fallout claims its identity – the identity it’s been known for since its inception on the PC 18 years ago.
Unfortunately, another familiar trait is present in Fallout 4: glitches – and a hell of a lot of them at that. After spending plenty of time picking through Boston’s every nook and cranny, bugs/glitches are almost just as much a part of the title’s identity as the small stories mentioned earlier. From floating enemy models to being unable to sprint/shoot, it’s hard to go more than a town over without some issue momentarily detracting from the overall fun. It wouldn’t be such an issue if all of the problems were strictly aesthetic, but many of these glitches hinder gameplay, and have called for a reload to alleviate. And it’s because of this that Fallout 4 might have been unplayable in parts without the returning quicksave feature – a smart inclusion turned necessity in light of a few programming mistakes.
A new inclusion to Fallout 4 is the gun/armour modifications that can be created at workstations throughout Boston using scavenged scrap material. The modifications increase damage, range, accuracy and recoil reduction among many other things. More importantly, it provides a point to picking up items like duct tape, vases and cake pans that would normally be left to wither away. This junk can also be used to create structures in settlements around Boston.
These settlements are established throughout the map by the player to spread the word of the Minutemen – the first faction encountered. Turrets, beds, water pumps and stores can all be brought to the town in order to promote safety, and to create items that will eventually be used by the Sole Survivor. For example, if a player leaves an establishment for a few days that has water pumps, they will be rewarded with bottles of purified water when he/she returns. Other items are used to boost the overall morale of the people in your settlements as happy settlers are more productive settlers.
Unfortunately, where Fallout 4 has implemented a successful system in crafting, it created a confusing one in the game’s dialogue options. When important conversations occur in the game it is up to the player to choose proper responses to questions, comments and concerns posed by NPCs. Four responses appear and are chosen by pressing the appropriate button. The problem with these dialogue options arise because of constant ambiguity. For example, one mission had the Sole Survivor bringing back power to an old generator at a water purifying plant. The NPC who was tasking me with this challenge had said something to the effect of “Be careful over there, though. The place is crawling with ghouls!” One of the responses was labeled “danger.” It didn’t say whether my character was fine with the possibility of danger, if he was upset with the fact that they were just now telling him of the danger or if danger was his middle name (what I’d expect from a sarcastic option, which happened to be my favourite choice throughout the game).
It’s unclear options such as this that, again, demand the need for a quicksave feature (which can be done midway through conversations) just to make sure your character is saying the desired bits of dialogue and not something wildly different. Not only this, but many conversations appear to give the player the option to decline an offer, or show their objection, only to be informed that they have to do said morally wrong quest anyway. It makes the dialogue feel like a cheap feature that only gives the illusion of choice, instead of truly allowing the player to make whatever decisions they want, regardless of what the storyline would like them to do.
However, it would be a shame to bash the dialogue and not at least mention that when you are allowed to choose the path you want, and when the options do not confuse to no end, the delivery and content is quite enjoyable. Thanks to charismatic voice acting and smart writing, many characters come to life, and that is why it’s such a shame to see the few downfalls of dialogue get in the way.
As a whole, that’s really the end all be all of Bethesda’s latest title. Take the insane amount of content and add an enjoyable crafting system, fresh exploration, fluid combat, endless loot and drop an atomic bomb on it and you have Fallout 4 – an adventure you can’t afford to miss.
Fallout 4 Review - Another Wonderful Wasteland
Take the insane amount of content and add an enjoyable crafting system, fresh exploration, fluid combat, endless loot and drop an atomic bomb on it and you have Fallout 4 - an adventure you can't afford to miss.