My hands shook and my stomach churned in excitement as I feverishly tore into the package before me. All I could think was “Finally – the day has come”. The day I’d been waiting for, for what seemed like a lifetime. Today was the day that the latest installment of my favorite game franchise Fallout 4 arrived and I could barely stand the wait and I paced back and forth waiting for the install to finish.
Fallout for me has always been a world I can get lost in. That goes back to the days of the original. I’ve played through fallout 3 and New Vegas 3 times a piece each time differently than the last and each time took no less than 80 hours so to say that excitement that filled the air in the days leading up to release was high to say the least.
In typical fashion of the Feed Your Console team, we will endeavor to avoid spoilers despite there being countless sites out there who divulge the game’s story. The basis of the story sets the player on a mission to find who took his/her son and for what purpose did this happen. For the first time in the franchise, we’re treated to protagonist who not only has a voice but can be a woman as well. In the beginning of the game when setting up your character, players are met with an incredibly powerful character creation tool which morphs the main protagonist’s face in unimaginable ways (See link for some amazing examples). From there, we’re placed smack dab in middle of a pre-war suburban area set within the series’ 50s-esque era. It doesn’t take long to throw you into the world of Fallout with the bombs beginning to drop, the player and his family must run through the streets to their local Vault-Tec vault for protection.
One thing to that’s always struck me as funny about the Fallout series is it’s ability to set you on track to a main story yet distract you from the main mission so easily. I was bound and determined that I would focus heavily on the main quest then after, I’d jump back into the game and continue doing the side missions. That last all of 45 minutes as I suddenly found myself spending no less than 3 hours screwing around in my first settlement.
The team at Bethesda has made a plethora of changes to the games some of which I loved and some, I have to say I wasn’t overly thrilled with. The combat system is still as awesome as it ever was with a few changes. Actually playing the game without utilizing the VATS system is a completely viable option now whereas in previous games it felt much to cumbersome and I rarely ever did in 3 or New Vegas. It just gives the game a whole new feel. VATS has changed a little as well in that now instead of freezing time, time slows down AND the player manually triggers a critical hit after their meter has filled up. It’s no longer a random successful critical hit.
More companions! You read that right. There are 13 companions to find throughout the vast expanses of this wasteland. Each with their own unique style, missions and dialogue help to keep the game fresh and exciting over multiple play-throughs. My personal favorites are Strong, the Supermutant, Nick Valentine the old school private investigator and Dogmeat the ..well… German Sheppard.
Settlements – Perhaps the single biggest addition to the game is the ability to find and build settlements. If you’re the Minecraft/creation gamer, this is going to be your thing. Basically, settlements are found and built from the ground up using supplies you find and break down in the wastelands. Seriously – Everything has a purpose now including pre-war money all the way to the cleaning solvents. It can all be broken down into it’s base components and turned into something else which you can use to rebuild civilization within your settlements. When building your settlements, the people will demand things and they look to you to provide for them. They need water, crops, defense, beds all of this falls to your shoulders. At times when out exploring, you’ll be notified that one of your settlements is struggling and needs help. If you wait too long, you will lose settlers. For some reason Bethesda opted to leave us to our own devices when figuring out how to set up supply lines and their importance. I feel the settlement building needed a solid tutorial. Chances are someone like me would probably have spent more time mucking about in the building options.
Another aspect of establishing your settlements, you must build. I’m not a Minecraft fan. I don’t understand the appeal or the success. Maybe that’s dating me and I’m showing my age but building things in games is not something I have any desire to do. Not in Halo’s Forge, not in Minecraft and not in the Sims. For Fallout though, I was game to give it the old college try and try I did. I literally spent an entire day travelling, scavenging, scrapping, selling, sleeping… Rinse repeat for 9 hours bound and determined this was going to be the game that got me on board with building things in my games. After all that time, I spent no more than 30 minutes struggling with how to build a simple home with power and lights and furnishings. The game beat me. I tapped out. I found that building wasn’t as intuitive as it first looked in the videos online. I couldn’t get the lights to power on in my house save for 1 lowly light in the middle room. I have no idea what I did but I stopped frustrated.
The leveling system has been tweaked a fair amount. Instead of earning skill points and perk levels, now the player gets a single perk point for each level they gain and that point is put into one of the various basic skills OR they can apply the point to a more focused perk (“Bloody Mess” for example) some of which have minimum level (ie:lvl 21) AND skill level (Strength lvl 8). Some people will find this to be a more focused and streamlined level system, I for one was mostly impartial but it did feel to me like my character was vastly under powered or unable to do certain things by the time I had reached a character level 20.
Weapon/Armor crafting and modification also makes it’s debut in Fallout 4. Gone are the days of weapon/armor degradation (Except for the Power Armor). Now by using specific work shops, Weapons can also be modified and created using parts found across the wasteland or the parts and pieces from scavenging. You can also find legendary items during gun fights with Raiders, super mutants etc. This is a fun and extremely welcome addition to the franchise and I would really like to see Bethesda expand on this feature going forward. Perhaps some sort of system to combine items to create highly specialized weapons and armor.
A major issue I have with the game comes from the dialogue system and Karma system. Let’s start with dialogue. It’s too basic. In previous games, your relationship with townsfolk and other NPCs could directly be affected by the choices made within the dialogue system. It could also affect your karma as being a good guy or a bad guy. Which brings me to the Karma system. There is none. It’s gone the way of the Do-Do Bird. At least it appears to me that it’s long gone. When I act like a jerk, my NPC might hate that or they might love it. None of that matters though because you can always have a romantic relationship with your followers (not all of them thankfully).Why they would make the decision to scrap one of the most fun little pieces of the franchise. I can only speculate that it was omitted to allow for simpler decision making by the new generation of Fallout players. I feel these 2 changes were huge missteps by the team.
Graphically I think the game looks outstanding. I know the engine is a little old and even a little tired but I’m not understanding the chatter on the internet about how people think the games graphics are terrible. They’re not. Granted they aren’t up to spec with some of the other titles out there on Xbox One/PS4/PC but I’ve never expected that from Bethesda. In over 60 hours of gameplay, I’ve noticed some framerate dips and a few hilarious graphical glitches but I don’t feel that is something that deserves much time on.
When Fallout 4 was announced I was hoping for a big, engaging game that was worthy of $70(the standard going rate for games here in Canada now). I wanted long game play, a massive world to do some serious exploration in, more guns, explosions with an engaging story and side quests. I wanted the new title to be something I fell asleep and had dreams about. What I got was exactly what I had hoped for. If there’s one game you play this year, make it Fallout 4. I’ve yet to get a game that packs so much punch for such a small price compared with other games out there today. Hats off to the team at Bethesda once again. Now… Please sir – May I have another?
Feed Your Console gives Fallout 4 an enthusiastic 9 out of 10