Bethesda has this uncanny ability to release the same open world games over and over and people seem to remember them a lot more fondly as time goes on. Since Morrowind released, it has been much like re-watching a movie you loved as a kid before realising it was just a shining beacon of nostalgia that you relied on instead of the actual movie. Enter a 5 year old Fallout: New Vegas which has been remembered as an amazing, open-world game with in depth characters but going back to play the original now (without mods) left me wanting more than what it ended up giving. Now with Fallout 4 being one of the most anticipated releases of 2015, does it live up to the hype?
Let’s first set the scene with some background imagery. After the first atomic bombs were dropped ending world war II, humanity discovered that they could actually use atomic energy for good and now in the year 2077, humanity heavily relies on atomic power for most devices including vehicles, appliances and even robots. This reliance on atomic power soon brought back the need for bombs to start falling again and for humanity to revert back into another war. Luckily, you and your family are swiftly evacuated to Vault 111 where you will live out your days safely underground, providing for the next generation until the all clear is given.
Instead of this all going according to plan, while caught up in the chaos you are cryogenically frozen and some 200 years later awake to watch in horror as your partner is murdered and your son is kidnapped right in front of you. The kidnappers leave you frozen as “a backup” and quickly disappear before you are frozen. As the vault systems fail a while later, you defrost and venture out of vault 111 for the first time in 200 years. You enter the Commonwealth to get revenge on the people that murdered your partner and to hopefully find your son.
But forget about your kidnapped son for a minute, we want to know about you and what you’re all about. The character customisation is more in depth than it’s ever been before. Instead of looking at a page of sliders you can instead change each part of the character face as you select it. You can drastically alter hairstyles, markings and structural changes which will then dynamically alter how your child looks in the time you get to see him. The two voice actors compliment their partner’s as you alter their faces and it’s really cute to see that character interaction.
Once you enter the Commonwealth as a pre-war survivor, you have the opportunity to build upon certain plots of land that take your fancy. This is usually allowed after you have helped the inhabitants with some menial task. Taking on this responsibility means you will need to take care of its citizens with food, water, power and defensive measures. You can gather or create resources for theses activities by clearing out the local debris and finding items along your travels.
I feel like this aspect, while new and focused on quite heavily, serves no real purpose other than existing as being the Commonwealth’s Overseer. You literally clean up after its inhabitants, give them food/water, tell them what to do with their life and defend them from the a variety of beasties. Unlike other games with similar features, in Fallout 4 you cannot send members of your strongholds out to do anything. You can assign them a duty around the settlement and then they just do that for eternity which lacks a bit of creativity. It would have been a great opportunity for citizen management to be able to send them out to add resources to your stockpile.
I’m not sure at what point this will make a difference to the world but it just seems to be just a time sink. But this is a time sink that I ended up enjoying and lost multiple hours restoring a variety of settlements to their previous glory. I will say that unfortunately there is no central hub for all of the junk materials you have leftover which means when you dump your latest batch of coffee cups and tv dinner trays they will not be available anywhere else. You’ll need to pile them up and fast travel to another stronghold for delivery.
You are also rebuilding these settlements in the standard first/third person camera and positioning items like this can be a real pain. This should have been done with an isometric view because running around each settlement in first/third person with glowing buildings blocking your view is a general pain in the ass. As settlements continue to grow larger due to the increased population the game doesn’t actually tell you which citizen is doing what unless you actively see them doing that task.
All UI elements of Fallout 4 are still a huge pain to use much like the previous games. While the physical qualities of the pip boy have changed, the UI is still the same save for some new animations. It’s annoying to navigate and comparing/sorting items is more of a chore than actually doing the chores assigned to you. With the amount of gun and armour customisation that’s been included, I would have thought that the UI would have been updated to be able to compare your various items.
I feel like the combat of Fallout 4 has been improved dramatically with the ability to modify weapons/armour in every possible way. Changing receivers, grips, sights and more has allowed for a vast array of weapons to be created and modified. These modifications will be made from items that you find around the Commonwealth which means there is a lot of junk searching going on. Each piece of junk you find lying around now has properties that make up the item and these be used for modification and workshop purposes.
In addition to modifying your own weapons there are a variety of special weapons and armours that are given to you by significant characters or dropped as loot from rare enemies. These have special abilities like increasing critical damage, resistances against melee attacks and various others. With the chance of special loot in mind, it keeps me exploring a majority of the dwellings that I come across. Even if I don’t find a rare item I come across various junk for my next settlement, extra caps/ammo and precious XP to level up and progress further into the perk tree.
Fallout 4 has changed it’s perk system slightly from previous games to allow for a longer progression for a greater reward. Now each of the perks available to you has both a level requirement as well as a S.P.E.C.I.A.L skill requirement before they can be unlocked or levelled up. It rewards players who have specialised in a particular skill type and allows them to really focus on that play style. Players who have instead opted for an across the board style of gameplay may feel a bit under powered as they will need to dedicate levels into a specific stats before they can unlock the really cool perks like ‘Human Pacification’ and ‘Nerd Rage!’
While most people already know about Dogmeat being a faithful companion there are a variety of others that can accompany you on your journey across the Commonwealth. While I haven’t seen any familiar faces along the way I’ve acquired an assortment of familiar character types that always prove to be useful in their various ways. It adds to the customisation element of the game and allows for a variety of weapon/companion options. Utilising these combinations effectively allows you to tackle any challenge you are faced with.
Like the previous Fallout and Elder Scrolls games, you are given a relatively simple task and then let loose on the game world to create your own adventure. With this in mind Fallout 4 is no different with its open world progression system. You meander around working out what’s happened in your absence and what you can do to shape the future. You can decide to make a beeline for the main objective and miss some interesting adventures or you can take as long as you want.
Fallout 4 can be a very slow game if you want to play that way and it’s all the better for it. You can spend your time upgrading every settlement to fulfill its owner’s needs, join various groups in the Commonwealth and fight against many different adversaries with a slew of created weapons. This is all while not even touching the main story and it’s an aspect that I have come to enjoy from the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series. There is a lot of exploring to do and a lot of interesting characters to meet along your travels. With Fallout 4 I think it turns it up to 11 and really goes out of its way to allow you to explore as much as possible.
Experienced vault dwellers will already love this addition to the series and will be happy to know that this will be more of the same. With the additional management options within the settlements and customisation options with the weapons there is so much extra to do within this new adventure. Newcomers to the series can set the pace of this new experience and tailor their adventure however they want. Each player can experience unique stories, acquire special weaponry and equip themselves with a Nuka Cola for the wild ride ahead. I certainly believe that Fallout 4 has lived up to its hype and can only get better with mod support from the community.
Fallout 4 was reviewed with a PC copy of the game on Steam, provided by Bethesda Softworks.
While the PC specs required to run Fallout 4 are starting to max out systems, my rig was able to perform well on Ultra settings with 60fps thought my experience. Switching my display to Borderless Windowed resulted in a capped 40fps no matter how much I lowered the graphic settings which was a bit of a pain, but this could be fixed with updated NVIDIA drivers. If not then this will be a definite hindrance on players, but otherwise it was a relatively smooth run in terms of glitches and nothing game breaking occurred during my playtime.