Bethesda games always keep people coming back for more. Even with all the bugs and technical problems, I find myself playing their games for hours on end. Fallout 4 is the latest installment in the series and it’s a big one. While the Boston setting doesn’t really do it for me as an aesthetic, the gameplay is definitely a noticeable improvement over Fallout 3 and New Vegas. There are some bugs but unlike Fallout 3 the game has yet to crash for me. Fallout 4 definitely feels like a Bethesda game and that may be a good or bad thing depending on your feelings towards the developer and for me it’s a worthy entry and an excellent game.
You start the game in a house in Boston and have the option to choose a male or female protagonist, husband and wife with a baby named Shaun. After creating your character the story truly begins. Just before the world turns to shit you sign up you and your family for admittance into Vault 111. Shortly before the nuclear attack begins you and your family rush into the Vault for safety. You are all then frozen and during that time you awake to witness your spouse being killed and your son, Shaun, is kidnapped by unknown assailants. Years go by and when you finally awaken from the frozen sleep you begin you’re quest to find your son. The opening is all pretty typical for a Fallout game and it gets the job done. This time around your character is fully voiced and no matter which gender you choose the voice acting is well done. Honestly, the voice acting all around is pretty well done. I actually found the main storyline to be quite engaging and I found myself constantly wanting to know what happens next. The Boston setting doesn’t really excite me but the level of detail in the environments and the 1940s and 50s aesthetics make the world fun and interesting to explore. You’ll traverse through wooded areas, destroyed urban areas, gang hideouts, caves, and shelters. One minute you’ll be infiltrating a subway station and the next you’ll be thinking of a way to cross a location filled with radiation, deserted, with hostile creatures ready to kill you.
Fallout 4 differs from previous games in that it streamlines the RPG elements. A new perk system is now in place and every time you level up you can apply points to a perk or stat. Some perks require certain stats to be upgraded like charisma or strength. The perk system works well and it really makes you feel like your progressing as a character but there is a drawback. There is no level cap in Fallout 4 so eventually you can fully upgrade every stat and perk and while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it means no character can truly be unique but I can definitely see the modding community changing this system some time in the future. Each perk is unique giving you different effects like the ability to find more bottle caps, increase damage done from specific weapon types, reduce vendor prices, etc. The wealth of perks is nice but anyone who invests hundreds of hours into the game will realize that each character will eventually turn out the same.
The combat in Fallout 4 still feels stale but is clearly improved over the previous two games. The guns feel as if they pack more of a punch this time around and the V.A.T.S. system returns enabling you to choose what parts of an enemy you want to attack, however instead of stopping time it only slows it down. With time slowed down you’ll need to make decisions relatively quick, especially if an enemy is near you. Animations are still wonky and stiff as always and the AI pathfinding can still be an issue with companions and enemies getting stuck behind objects and getting in your way like standing in the middle of a doorway blocking where you need to go and refusing to move. The amount of in-game customization is incredible. Throughout your journey you’ll find junk of all sorts lying around the environments like cups, bottles, tools, toys, etc. You’ll want to collect all of it because this junk can now be used to modify weapons and you’re settlements. That’s right, you can now obtain and modify settlements with defense systems, food, water, shops, and more. You can scrap trees into wood, toys into plastic, broken down cars into metal, then use your junk and resources to craft all kinds of modifications like turrets, beds, generators and even weapon mods like scopes, muzzles, receivers, giving you endless possibilities for customization. You can even name your weapons if you’re so inclined. Each settlement can be customized with all kinds of different things and you can easily sink tons of hours into just one. Over time they will be attacked and you will need to defend it and hopefully you’ll have a decent defense system in place including turrets among other things. Collecting junk is key and I constantly found myself filling up my inventory to the max making it hard for me to decide what to drop or sell because everything is useful. Needless to say, investing in the perk that increases how much you can carry early on may be a wise decision. Even Power Armor can be customized. Power Armor, a giant robotic suit that makes you feel like you’re piloting a mech.
You can definitely expect a ton of side missions and a wide variety of companions that will aid you on your journey. Companions cannot be killed and sometimes it feels nice having a partner always at my side. They can be commanded to do different things and you can even equip them with weapons and armor of your choosing. You’ll encounter several different factions with their own storyline and set of quests and that’s really where the meat of the game lies. The decisions you make can alter a quest line and the outcomes including the main story giving the game a ton of replay value. In addition to the protagonist being fully voiced comes a streamlined dialogue system. When responding to NPCs you are given a wheel of responses to choose from but it doesn’t really tell you what you’re character is going to say which can become annoying over time if you want a conversation to go a specific way.
Not everything in Fallout 4 is amazing. The user interface is just bad and it feels as if Bethesda has learned nothing from previous games like Skyrim. You still have to bring up your PIP Boy to view your inventory, quests, and the map. You can have hundreds of items and you’ll need to scroll through the list to find it. Making it worse is the fact that the interface is only one monochrome color so nothing will stand out. I also noticed some wonky issues with spoken dialogue and subtitles. Sometimes subtitles would get stuck on screen and never change with what the character is saying or another NPC nearby will say something and the subtitles will reflect what their saying while you’re still in the middle of a conversation with someone else. If you don’t use subtitles this probably won’t be a problem for you. I also noticed the camera can get funky when talking with NPCs and many times the camera was positioned inside geometry or an NPC, blocking the view. The PIP boy also has a radio and you can tune into a variety of stations containing music of the era which is really cool but you’ll end up hearing the same four or five songs over and over again which quickly grows tiresome. A few more additions would have been nice.
Fallout 4 is a game all about customization and encourages the player to use their imagination. The new perk and dialogue system may be seen as negatives but anyone who has played previous entries will know the modding community should be able to take care of these things. Bethesda is known for making great open world games and Fallout 4 is no exception. Even with its faults it excels in all other areas so well that these problems are easy to overlook. You can still pour hundreds of hours into the side quests without touching the main storyline. The choices you make can alter how things turn out so multiple playthroughs can yield different results. Fallout 4 is a game that will take up a lot of your time but it’s well worth it.