It's a place all right.

June 26, 2016 (Originally posted on Tumblr)

Fallout 4 Review

Here’s a game that people can’t seem to decide if they like it or not but people seem to but also don’t. I played it pretty much all the way through so I think I should write this up before I forget stuff that happened.

Since the whole Fallout thing was obtained by Bethesda from Interplay a while back, they’ve definitely made it their own. In more ways than one. There’s a bit of a pattern to your typical Bethesda RPG, a first-person perspective (with optional third-person), carry weight, some kind of stat system, massive worlds with things scattered everywhere, considerable amounts of bugs, and so on. Just so happens to be a lot of what I look for in games, namely the exploration angle.

Fallout 4 is definitely a weird game as far as Fallout and Bethesda games are concerned. You have a voiced character with a set base story, which hasn’t really happened in either before, and of course, is going to bring a lot of weird feelings to the table. Are you playing your own story or theirs? Even if there are multiple endings, which one would feel “right”?

So, as far as the story, you actually get a small peek into the pre-war world. A very small one, like right before the bombs. Then you get shoved into a Vault, and it wouldn’t be your usual starting Vault if disaster didn’t strike. Then you’re thrown out into the wastes after the whole tutorial segment that was.

From there, you can follow the usual guided path, or, if you know what you’re doing, run off on your own. And the game actually has some consideration for doing that if you come back even after beating one of the storylines, though not a whole lot, it does recognize the fact that you’ve done some things a little out of the usual order. A neat touch at least, but not one many will see unless they look for it specifically.

Your main path will eventually come to a point where you have to choose your faction, though it’s not all set in stone at a single point, you can go back and forth until you do something that makes another as your enemy. And here’s another weird thing. Like New Vegas, you have four factions to pick from, and each has their strengths and shortcomings. However it’s hard to find one that’s truly the “best” option for moral or practical reasons, though you can find an option that leaves the most factions alive at the end, but at least one will have to be destroyed to achieve what the game considers and ending. I do like how the choices aren’t entirely black and white but at the same time there’s not a ton to root for in each faction, either, and it’s tempting to just leave the story in limbo and do your own thing, which I ended up doing for quite some time.

What I do enjoy most in these games isn’t sticking to the main path, but seeing what else there is to do, and like other Bethesda games before, it has a fairly expansive world. There’s a few main areas, the low density wild areas, the high density Boston ruins, and the Glowing Sea which might surprise you in just how big it is on the map. However, once you’ve found all the places around, there’s not a whole lot of reason to come back to a place.

And that’s where settlements come in. You can ignore starting your own group of settlements if you like, but if you do, be prepared to tend to them from time to time, but making a self-sufficient one is actually somewhat easy. That won’t stop them from occasionally calling for help, though (outside of a few faction story-specific ones) and you may be expected to answer, even if you’ve cranked up the defense ratings by placing turrets anywhere they fit. While these calls for help might happen when you’re busy taking care of a quest, you can totally ignore them as well or hold them off until you feel like it. And the building system itself is interesting, though it seems a bit weird and kinda in place due to trends in the industry regarding “crafting and survival”. It’s still neat, but I’m not sure if it was worth spending 3 small DLC packs on it exclusively. I’d suggest if you find a settlement on your own, keep it for your own creative purposes if you’re so inclined.

As well, you can craft parts for most equipment you find, from weapons to armor to even the much-advertised Power Armor. Unfortunately this sort of nerfs the idea of finding special unique items, because you can find Legendary grade items on random enemies that have an additional special effect which might be good but is often not the best. And many of the “unique” weapons and armor in the game are pretty much base models with a specified effect attached, which makes them feel less special, though a few actual unique equipment items, in model and everything, do exist. Once you have the right perks and materials, you can throw together nearly anything.

For the perk system, it’s essentially replaced the skill stat system from previous Fallout games. The SPECIAL stats still exist, because that has to be there to be a Fallout game, but skills are now just directly from perks and SPECIAL. It’s a weird simplification of the system, but the lack of a level cap means you could eventually get every single one if you played for a very long time. Also another weird departure from previous Fallouts, the unlimited perks and levels. While I won’t exactly complain about that change, it’s still weird to have skills be purely perk-driven. Which means things like speech challenges seem a bit more randomized than anything, even if you’ve maxed that line.

Now to dialogue. In this game, your player character has a voice. As well, specific names in the name cause Codsworth, your robot butler from pre-war who is totally not Wadsworth, to occasionally call you by that name. And nobody else as far as I can tell. But as for your character itself, their story is pretty specified, they have to find their son (whose name you can’t change) and avenge their spouse in the process (a victim of the disaster). Which leads to a weird situation where you can gleefully talk about murdering raiders or something in one sentence and break down into tears about your missing child in the next. Plus the choices are presented in a Telltale style so you only have up to four at once and they might not be presented the clearest way before being spoken. However you don’t have a short timer to react to them like in Telltale games, you can usually leave a long awkward pause in them and the character you’re talking to will notice. Another nice touch at least. Plus, speech challenges are presented as yellow, orange, and red choices in the wheel, which makes telling an easy speech challenge from a regular option while in Power Armor, which always alters the HUD to a light yellow and can’t be changed (outside of mods, probably).

As far as Power Armor goes, you’re introduced pretty early, but you’ll still have to spend the early part of the game without more than with until you can stockpile Fusion Cores, the required fuel. As well, Power Armor has durability, while no other equipment in the game does, as a weird sort of balance against how game-breaking it can become. And like anything else, it’s upgradeable with the right materials and perks. There’s one set of Power Armor that once you find it, you’re probably sticking with it for the sake of its stats and possibly the look as well, unless you find a unique effect part, which don’t randomly drop from enemies like other Legendary items, so that actually makes them a bit special. You’re free to mix and match as well, and that also goes for regular armor, which actually has a bit more complexity compared to recent other Bethesda RPGs. You can actually figure out a very tough outfit outside of Power Armor, especially if you get the right perk by following a faction to boost even regular clothing to high levels, some of which can fit under armor parts, leaving you pretty tough if you don’t want to break the game with Power Armor (though some areas, like the Glowing Sea, recommend its usage strongly due to radiation protection).

So, throwing all that together, this game brings a lot to the table, between some of the more interesting features and the controversial. And the adage for Bethesda games (as well as other PC games) can go, if you don’t like it, mod it out. This still holds true for this one, however it also brings mods to consoles for the most part, while not as open as the systems on PC, you can use their hosted system to change the game however you like, unfortunately this also disables achievements. While you can get around this on PC with yet another mod, this is probably to keep the consoles in their sterile vacuum of “bad influences” to stay as a controlled platform. They essentially assume you’re cheating if you use mods, but that’s not always the case. So if you’re after those Gamerscore or Trophies, you’ll have to do without mods until you’ve cleared out the game. On Steam, who cares, just do whatever.

I have not yet had the chance to play this game with the DLC, but they took the Season Pass approach this time, which means they can do whatever after they have your money, unless you want to spend more and get everything individually. Plus they jacked up the price halfway through so now good luck finding a good deal on it. Though, if you want the “core” content, you can just get that as well on sale, for less, probably. The rest is pretty much packs for building, but of course those also come with achievements to probably make it feel more “worth it”. From the looks of things, I’d really only consider getting those if I got the Season Pass, which I’d be getting at a discount and mainly for the big DLC, like Automatron and Far Harbor. Long story short, this review covers the base game without any DLC attached, maybe I’ll come back to that but who knows, I don’t know if there’s a lot to talk about in it aside from you get to build robots and go to Point Lookout 2.0.

I guess the summary here is, while it’s a lot of fun to mess around in, I wasn’t as sucked in, but maybe the VR option coming sometime maybe will be even more in-sucking. For anyone who can even afford all that stuff. All I have is Google Cardboard-level stuff. But, yeah, fun, but not sure if I’d go back to it soon after a full playthrough. Though the new Skyrim remaster is an excuse to go back to that, especially if you own all the parts on Steam and get it for free that way. I might have to experiment a lot with mods. Same goes for Fallout 4, maybe, but I’d more look at a total conversion mod in that case if I was replaying. I may just be burned out a bit on it, but I feel “burned out” in a lot of factors as it is in other franchises, too. The new can be good but who knows what’s even the best here.

Arbitrary score: 7.75/10 or 31/40

(Back to blog index)