Bethesda is well known for their large open world games, with the Elder Scrolls series and now the ongoing Fallout series. The world of Fallout is a desolate wasteland after nuclear war in the year 2077. So grab a Nuka Cola and get ready to leave the safety of the vault, because Fallout 4 is the biggest and most ambitious Fallout game yet!
The history of the Fallout series is very interesting and offers a great look into the culture and history of building video games. I’m only going to touch on small parts here but I highly recommend looking into it further if you are a fan of the series or just interested in how games are made in general.
Fallout always was a wasteland
Fallout finds its roots in the 1988 game Wasteland, developed by Interplay for the Apple II and published by EA. The game was set in a post-apocalyptic America and uses many elements found in video games and pen and paper role playing games from the time. It received very good reviews from fans and critics alike. It did have a sequel in the works however EA pulled the plug and it never saw the light of day, there was a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014 for a Wasteland 2 but we are not going to talk about that today. Despite this Interplay went on to get the rights to the games from EA and continued working on a spiritual successor called Fallout.
The first Fallout game was released in 1997 and was developed by the now defunct Black Isle Studios (who were owned by Interplay at the time). The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic Southern California and follows your exploits as the Vault Dweller, who is tasked with finding a water chip to replace the broken one in your fallout shelter, Vault 13. In 1998 the sequel Fallout 2 was released. Both games used an isometric view, a turned based combat system and the SPECIAL character creation systems, which stands for the following attributes; strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, agility and luck. The second game also boasted some improvements and contained a plethora of pop culture references. My favourites being the inclusion of the car from the Evil Dead films and a random chance to find the Bridge of Death from the movie Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail. After these two games, during the 2000s there were several spin offs made but nothing would prepare us for what Bethesda had in store.
Bethesda drops the bomb
Fallout 3 was released in 2008 and was developed by Bethesda Game Studios. The game received amazing reviews and blew players away. A completely new take on the game Fallout 3 saw us take first person(or third person) view of the wasteland for the first time. Gone was the turned based combat system and replaced with VATS. VATS is the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, which when activated would stop time and allow you to pick your shots based on percentages to hit. Fallout 3 also saw us travel the capital wasteland of Washington DC. In 2010 the game was followed up with Fallout:New Vegas, developed by Obsidian Entertainment (which would even include team members who had previously worked on Fallout and Fallout 2). Fallout: New Vegas took us to the wasteland of the Mojave Desert surrounding Las Vegas and expanded on many of the survival mechanics in the previous game. You had the option of turning on a game mode called “Hardcore” which would make you have to sleep, drink and consume food to not die of dehydration, starvation or sleep deprivation, while also keeping track of your radiation levels and all the while balancing how much you can carry as everything in this mode adds weight when picked up.
Enter Fallout 4
Shown for the first time at E3 2015, Fallout 4 was released earlier this November and has been keeping gamers locked indoors and trekking through the Commonwealth Wasteland of Boston. Set 200 years after the initial nuclear war which the Fallout games are set after, you play as a protagonist who leaves the safety of Vault 111 in search of your kidnapped infant son. You emerge into the wasteland of the Boston Commonwealth to find that much has changed in the 200 years since the bombs fell. If I go into any more story detail we be venturing into spoiler country, so that is it on the main story.
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: November 10, 2015
Genre: First-person/Third-person shooter, Action RPG
ESRB Rating: M (Mature 17+)
War never changes but video games about it do
Fallout 4 maintains many of same features of the previous two games, a vast wasteland to explore, companions to find and have follow you, tons of items and weapons to find, irradiated ghouls, super mutants, raiders and the list goes. As many returning features as there are, there are just as many that return yet have been changed or streamlined. The biggest and most notable of these changes is the change to the VATS combat system. In the previous two installments of the series the VATS system would stop time entirely and allow you to plan your shots, where as in Fallout 4 when activated VATS now slows down time as opposed to stopping it all together. This seems like a minor change at first, but it really adds a sense of urgency to combat and when paired together with the improved shooting makes for a refreshing change.
Improved combat and shooting
As I just mentioned, the overall shooting of the game has been vastly improved (outside of VATS). Before the real time shooting was one of the largest faults of the series and always felt stiff and just plain off, on many an occasion I was shooting like a stormtrooper where it felt like I couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. In Fallout 4 the shooting feels much more fluid and responsive and in many cases more like the shooting in more common modern day shooters. It’s not the fast paced action shooting of games like Titanfall or Battlefront, yet it still offers some decent firefights. They even managed to add a cover mechanic where, when you are close to the edge of cover pressing the aim button/trigger will have you lean out of cover, it’s not on par with cover based shooters like Gears of War, but is a welcome addition.
In Fallout we are all SPECIAL
Fallout 4 still uses the SPECIAL system to determine your overall attributes, but they have removed the skills of the previous games and replaced them with a perk system very similar to Skyrim’s skill tree system. As you level up, you will be granted a perk point each level, which depending on your attributes, will allow you to place it in a certain perk, granting you one rank in that chosen perk. For example, if you have strength of 5 or higher you could place perk points into the Heavy Gunner perk, with each rank added it will grant you an additional 20% damage when using heavy weapons like missile launchers, miniguns and the iconic Fat Man, which lets you launch mini nukes at your foes. It’s a super simple system and without a level cap, plus enough time you will be able to create an unkillable wasteland wanderer if you so choose.
Exploration is still a vital part of the game
Unlike the previous games, Fallout 4’s wasteland is surprisingly colourful and offers much more varied locations then the previous games. Fallout 3 had a very greenish tone, whereas Fallout:New Vegas had a brownish orange which worked as its was set in the desert, but Fallout 4 just seems to pop and aside from the overall pastel pallet there is no one colour that really stands out. Many of the locations in the game being ruins and shells of them former selves, Fallout 4 somehow seems to make them all a sight to behold.
Just like all the previous Fallout games there is a main quest which will have you travelling all over the Commonwealth Wasteland of Boston as you follow the main story. However just like the previous games, I feel the Fallout series really shows its true self in its side quests. Many of which are bizarre, funny or just plain interesting to say the least. Some of the side quests also when completed will yield some of the best items and weapons the game has to offer.
Finally you can use all that junk!
Fallout 4 also expands on the previous crafting systems and finally makes use of all that junk you used to collect, well aside from using it as ammo in the Junk Jet. Now junk can be broken down into smaller components like screws, metals, springs, gears and so on. All of these components can be used to create weapon mods, explosives, drugs, armour and more when you use a specific crafting bench and have the specific perk needed to craft the specific item or modification. For example you will need rank 3 of the Gun Nut perk and be at a weapons workbench bench to be able to craft a powerful automatic receiver combat rifle modification. You can make explosives with the demolitions perk, drugs with the chemist perk, armour with the armorer perk and so on. There is much more to make in the game than ever before and it allows you to customize your equipment to your needs as you progress through the game.
Along with improved crafting system Fallout 4 introduces us to settlements. As you play through the game you will come across certain areas or liberate certain areas which will then become a settlement, which will allow you to build homes, agriculture, defenses and more. Overtime as you build up your settlement people will come to live and trade there, but with this improved commerce and quality of life you will have to fend off raiders and other wasteland brutes who would take the fruits of your labours for themselves. It’s a pretty interesting system which can be a huge time sink if you so choose but is also optional and can be ignored as well.
Not all the changes are for the better
At this point I have only touched on a small fraction of what is available in the game and many of these features or changes are for the better. I myself however find that many of the improvements take away from the overall difficulty and survival themes of game. Especially the no longer present Hardcore mode from Fallout:New Vegas. Radiation is still a danger but it doesn’t present the same danger as it did before, where you could succumb to different levels of radiation sickness which would slowly diminish your stats. Now it just limits your overall health bar but can be flushed using some Rad-Away. You can still turn up the difficulty in the game but it only affects combat and the rewards associated with it.
Talk is cheap
The game also has a new voiced protagonist and if you choose a relatively common name some of the NPCs will refer to you as such. However this new system also limits your dialogue options and they now have a dialogue system which resembles that of The Witcher or Mass Effect, but this also means you have much fewer options than the previous games and are basically limited to yes, no, more info/reward or a sarcastic response which ends up being a yes anyway. In the previous games the dialogue system offered you numerous choices, albeit from a list, but many of the choices would give you different chats or even rewards depending on your charisma.
As with any huge open world game there are still many bugs to be found. Enemies still get stuck in doors and other scenery object. At times certain buttons just stopped working for me, such as the change view button until I relaunched the game. I understand this is a huge game and tracking down all the issues is nie impossible, but some things are still blazingly evident, like the companion AI is still terrible and leads me to ditch my companions and wander the wasteland alone.
Overall Fallout 4 is a good game but at the end of the day it’s not as big of a step forward in the series as its previous incarnations . It offers a huge and unique world to explore, tons of weapons and equipment to find and tinker with, however many of the changes which streamline the game just make it feel dumbed down in my opinion. With no level cap there is no reason to have more than one play through of the game and with no more karma system my evil deeds are virtually unnoticed. As much as I love the Fallout universe I just don’t see myself spending anywhere near as much time in the Boston Commonwealth as I did in the Capital Wasteland (Fallout 3) or the Mojave Desert (Fallout: New Vegas). If this is your first foray with a Fallout game I envy you, as it will have much to offer, but for long time fans it might fall a little short of expectations. With all that being said, it’s still well worth wandering the wasteland in Fallout 4.
+Overall Combat has been greatly improved
+A huge area to explore
+Great aesthetic and overall Fallout look
-Lack of Hardcore Mode
-Simplified dialogue options
-Lack of skill system as it was in previous games
-Still lots of bugs
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3/5
Overall Rating 3.5/5