Note: When I originally wrote this article it was in a quick rush for a local newspaper. While I stand by the things I stated in it, it’s more of a musing than a review. I think the biggest thing anyone needs to know about this iteration of Fallout, and the thing I should have gotten across in the review, is that Fallout 4 is not a game about choice. It’s an excellent open world action game, and while there are many quests with branching stories or NPCs that can react differently to you, the weight of responsibility never comes across.
Looking at other games in the series (even 3 which had the weakest options when it came to personal choice), if two players did the same quest but slightly differently you often ended up with two different stories. In this game most ‘choices’ end up making those two stories into something like: “Yeah that’s how it went for me, but I got 100 caps instead of a fusion core”. The idea that choices are good or evil or carry shades of moral grey never really feel like they come across. HOWEVER the game itself is still excellent and very much worth playing.
Ah Fallout. For some, fond memories of isometric turn based wasteland adventures. For others, action role playing games with old music and hilariously explosive gore. Regardless if you’re an old fan of the series, someone who experienced it for the first time in the hands of Bethesda or starting your own stories in the post retro-future apocalypse, the title on the lips of most gamers right now is Fallout 4.
If you’ve never played a Fallout game this is what you’re in for: a sprawling open world filled with shades of gray morality around every corner. Think Mad Max, a Boy and His Dog, Six String Samurai and A Canticle for Leibowitz all rolled into one. Dark humor permeates the game, with colourful characters (often voiced by celebrity folk, if you’re into that) and horrific foes. You could find yourself deciding if you should or shouldn’t kill a cannibal who is just trying to put meat on the table for his family or taking an essential component to an underground vault because the same part in your own vault broke down even though it means the people there will starve and die. There’s very few ‘right’ answers in Fallout.
Historically, the world is a vision of the future circa the 1950’s. Atomic powered cars, assistant robots and patriotism being reinforced with soldiers in giant mech suits, it’s a world that Popular Mechanics may have predicted way back in the actual atomic age. However, the bombs fell, China invaded. The Government of the USA had everyone run into underground Vaults for protection. Now it’s decades later and people are surviving any way they can.
So an interesting world and a premise of a world equal parts similar and dissimilar to our own but that’s not what a game makes. In Fallout 4, you’ll find yourself wandering the wasteland in search for your son. To that end you’ll scavenge around, craft items like armour and guns, find medical aid and fight (a lot) of mutants, monsters and depraved raiders. Oh, and building settlements. Lots of building settlements, which is a new feature to the series.
So far, in over 20 hours of PC gameplay, I’ve yet to experience a single bug or crash. Coming from Bethesda, that’s a huge improvement. Their games are beloved but well known for being quite glitchy and crashing often. Modding support, present in the last two entries in the series, isn’t in place yet although mods have already appeared on the internet and it won’t be long before there’s a user interface to install them without difficulty.
So who should buy Fallout 4? Obviously, fans. While older fans might lament the lack of dialog trees (you only get around 4 things to say at any time), I don’t think it detracts enough that it would be a problem. People who love open world games, especially one with a difficulty streak that’s actually a challenge. Of course, anyone who enjoys Bethesda’s games (because, frankly, it’s precisely the open world gameplay we’re used to them delivering) and anyone who enjoys a light role playing game (the main story isn’t tremendously long, the NPCs are the most interesting that Bethesda has ever written but still far off from your 80 hour epic fantasy rpg NPCs).
Who should avoid it? Anyone who abhors graphically detailed gore (a hallmark of the Fallout series). Anyone looking for an old school experience (try Pillars of Eternity or the recently updated Wasteland 2 if you want more of that). Anyone looking for real depth and emotion (Telltale games like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, Square Enix’s Life is Strange or even Bioshock Infinite all have much more emotional stories). Anyone wanting an easier game (even on easy, there is lots of dying). Anyone looking for a quick game. While the main story isn’t that long, you will spend lots of time exploring that world. Anyone looking for a hardcore shooter (Arma III is an excellent choice for people wanting a more military accurate shooting game). PC Gaming elitists (the game is well made and is excellent, but still has some technical issues like tying physics to framerate, so gamers with bleeding edge computers will actually see more problems than those with middle of the road rigs).