Discovery is at the heart of most Role Playing Games. Digging and traipsing the innards of vast, varied and unpredictable worlds is a large part of what makes the genre irresistible and enticing besides the accumulation of hours you pack into your adventures. What you don’t find however, is a super mutant stomping towards you hand-cradling a miniature nuclear bomb as though he was your son dashing up to you and showing off the model ship he just crafted, only this wooden ship explodes in your face and bursts him (and potentially you) into bloody chunks of limb and carcass on the concrete floor. Surprises in the Fallout world are abundant, ensnaring you in a false sense of safety at one moment, and relaxing you the next. You feel calm and chilled when you interact in a friendly settlement, but are monstrously eager to accrue experience and rid of enemies when you’re embroiled in all-out warfare. Fallout 4 retains and the patented necessities but crams in a ridiculous amount of perks, abilities and stuff to craft and build that Fallout 4 is to Fallout what GTA V was to the GTA series, a massive, incomprehensibly explorable open world with too much to do and so much to upgrade that you’ll feel overwhelmed with attributes you want to assign to your character. Within these depths Fallout 4 finds a nuclear bomb’s worth of excitable playtime, but all the gameplay improvements under its external core is what empowers Fallout 4 into the annals of true excellency.
In convincing Fallout fashion, you start your journey in Fallout 4 in a swanky urban neighbourhood, full of colour and cheer and growth. You own a house, you have a beautiful wife and now a baby has entered your life, some life for a ahem “nuclear family”. Another 20 minutes or so later your wife is killed and your child is taken away to a place called “The Institute”, where robotic figures called synths come from, who can embody the appearance of real human beings, but are really just cyborgs, or terminators for the less erudite among you. The quest is simple- find your son, but like many RPGs, there are a myriad distractions and the road ahead is long, complex and very destructive. You spend your opening hours finding sanctuary, both literally as the name of the first settlement you encounter, and figuratively as you gather your bearings and find allies to help you forward on the traversal towards the freedom trail. You’ll meet various factions, exchange barbs and quips with them, ally with them, turn against them, all to move forward to the central goal of finding your son.
Like the Fallout games that have come before, Fallout 4 is an open world wasteland embedded with hostility,conflict and a nuclear factory’s worth of radiation. You can go anywhere you please, but keep in mind there are ferocious settlements infested with super mutants, rotting feral ghouls and raiders. Be sure to tread carefully too because there are various poisonous creatures and nasties like mirelurks that aptly ‘lurk’ near lakes and open water sources, and an assortment of flying monstrosities that spit bile. Beware of deathclaws and Yao Gai too because they will not relent until your limbs are torn asunder and you’re nothing more than roadside meat. Just in case you enjoyed Codsworth’s company at the beginning, know that if you try to get smitten with assaultrons, they’ll happily explode in your face, so beware of robots and then some. Like its predecessors, Fallout 4 does a tremendous job of making the wilderness feel like a dangerous place. You need to feel secure in yourself everytime you head out with a hefty ammo supply and an overdose of stimpacks to ensure you don’t end up being savagely mauled and unprepared for the threats you encounter. Thankfully you’ll come across a range of friendly neighbourhoods too, allies who will help you out and potentially become crucial to your progress in the game. You will want to head straight towards Diamond City as it is the jewel of the Commonwealth and there are always interesting things going on with the townsfolk. You’ll also want to dive right into the history and politics of each area you visit because you will be embroiled with information from the citizens and the numerous terminals you unlock and holotapes you pick up on your excursions.
As you can tell, there is a seemingly endless supply of information in the Fallout 4 Boston Commonwealth, but even this pales in comparison to the substantial strides Bethesda has made in making Fallout 4 a remarkable RPG to play for hundreds of hours. Apart from the familiar scavenging for loot including caps, ammo and other supplies and surprises, the base game has seen a positive mutation, a feistier, meatier, meaner, more malicious and macabre Fallout than ever before. Attacking with projectile weapons feels tastier than ever because your enemies react to each and every blow, and a single whack from a heavy weapon will splatter their greymatter all over the place. Using conventional weaponry feels more devastating too because manual firing no longer feels rigid and unsatisfying, but can be just as gruesome as when you decide to utilise V.A.T.S. You won’t feel like Fallout has morphed into a First Person Shooter, but you will feel like the franchise’s versatility is richer and more enticing than it has ever been.
The perks you receive for levelling are vast and cater to any kind of Fallout player. There are seven types of skill you obtain and the more you rank up any, attribute the more skills you’ll unlock for that set. There is an autonomous level of choice in Fallout 4, allowing you to play in a multitude of ways, offering you plenty of incentives to challenge yourself and choose perks that rival your comfort zone. Sneaking is a great alternative to using weapon based upgrades, as you’re more likely to feel empowered by a far less messy option. Then again, the Mysterious Stranger is a godsend to players who aren’t yet tuned into the world and need an extra pair of hands to finish off scoundrels. Then there are rewards tailored to companions. Dogmeat, your friendly canine companion can chew up and thus distract enemies, while benefits are given to those who wander without a companion, so you can live up to being a true loan wanderer. Perks from previous Fallouts such as lock picking and terminal hacking are still very useful to have as they provide easier and faster gateways to access otherwise unreachable areas. Upgrades to weapon modifications are addictive perks to have, swapping out attachments and forging your own Frankenstein of destruction. The levelling up system in general is tailored to the longevity of the game, meaning you won’t find it easy to stop playing, which is ultimately how impressively large and in-depth Fallout 4 truly is.
Crafting is another monolithic area of Fallout 4 that should be sampled. Early on you meet Preston Garvey, the leader of the Minute Men- a group of Commonwealth defenders and loyalists. Garvey encourages you aid a litany of settlements by eliminating pests and solving their problems. Once you’ve accomplished tasks for them, you’ll be free to assign unused companions to those destinations and you can help them harvest food, as well as build defences for them and setting up radio beacons.
The crafting station affords you the luxury of building your own settlement as you see fit, meaning you’ll have to forage components from the scrap you get by demolishing whole buildings and dismembering objects to grab the necessary raw materials. Wood and steel are common and will be contained in almost every object you find, but scouring around for gears, oil, plutonium and such will require further rummaging. There are a few knitpicks with crafting though. Firstly, you can’t build anywhere and a green wall shows that you can’t craft beyond the indicated point. Object placement can be a pain and will annoy those who have a thorough vision of how they want their settlement to look. You’d think Bethesda would throw you a bone after all that salvaging you’d have committed to, but instead building things is tempered by the rules the developer has applied to it. If you’re completely bummed out and not knowing what to do with crafting, then the pleasure of doing it will be lost on you.
What’s even more irritating is that there are many missions with Garvey where you’ll have to craft and set up something using the system. Sure, it gets easier the more you do it, but this insistence on building and maintenance comes off as a chore, seeing as Garvey’s missions are on the main quest line this is even more frustrating. Then he has an endless supply of settlement based missions to send you on and they repeat themselves ad infinitum.
One small but worthwhile component to the game that is totally badass, is you can hop into a fully fortified suit of armour. Congratulations, now you are quite literally a walking tank, but be cautious of the damage you’re taking because just as is the case without it, the limbs of the armour can be damaged severely to a point that you might as well be wearing a loin cloth because a damaged suit of armour is a useless suit of armour. You’ll need to keep the power topped up with fusion cores which are fairly rare to find unless you know where to locate the nearest hostile sentry bot, once you’ve minced it there are usually a couple of cores nestled inside. Power armour can be stored at inside yellow hangers at particular locations and the specific location of the armour can be found as an icon on the world map, so you won’t lose it and can track it down as fast as you want to boot it up again.
When there is Fallout there are usually a lot of bugs and not always of the radroach variety. Crashes, irritable framerate drops, awkward and stiff animations- Fallout 4 can be a technical wasteland at time which can have a detrimental impact on the game’s stain power. For as remarkable as Fallout 4 usually is, its high standards can be easily offset by a game breaking hitch that can be hard to forgive, especially if they happen repeatedly. Nothing in Fallout 4 should be so intrusive as to be a total turnoff, but considering the stellar scope of the game, the bugs stick out a lot more than they otherwise would.
Downgrades besides technical problems also exist. The conversation response options are no longer a list and boil down to four types mapped to each face button. Pressing x usually results in a positive karma response, with circle being negative karma, square usually being an alternate response such as a sarcastic option and triangle is often a question stemming from the information you receive. The problem comes down to the lack of knowing what will pop out of the player’s mouth. For instance a sarcastic response might yield some clever wit, or it might be too disrespectful and your companion may not like what came out of your mouth, then again they’ll criticise everything you do if you have a companion lugging about with you.
What can’t be denied in Fallout 4 is just how sumptuously varied the wasteland is. Sure there’s still plenty of rubble and rusty bombed out vehicles to go round, but this time the colour palette is pleasing. Bright blue skies in a Fallout game? Yep and they look sharper than the faecal matter of a bloatfly. Environments look distinguished and are populated appropriately. The hospitals and some of the hideouts look quite samey with collapsed floorboards acting as makeshift ramps and the facilities looking like haphazard copy and paste jobs with their labyrinthine layouts and similar looking rooms, yet some of the bigger friendly areas such as Diamond City and Goodneighbour are bustling with life and activity; inspiration is imbued with personality in the latter settlements, as there is a strong whiff of the noir genre permeating like streams of cigarette smoke throughout.
As seems to be the case with Fallout’s presentation, it can be very misleading. Look at the pipboy and the smile plastered across his face when you see him on the upgrade menu or on the titular device, he seems happy go lucky does he not? Then you listen to the classy soundtrack all about love and uranium and being a super cool man about town. All of it is so misleading, the wasteland is full of nastiness and all you see and hear externally from the world around you is a bunch of spurious positivity. Uranium fever might have gone and got you down but you sure won’t be singing about it, you’d just reach into your Pipboy, cross over to your inventory and press on the RadAway. If you’re powerful enough to treat your enemies like ticks you can flick off using your thumb and index finger, then maybe the music will be a suitable companion on your journey, until then stop listening to The Wonderer, because that song will only make you want to feast on dead raiders and jack you up on Psycho to make you furiously made for about thirty seconds. It’s worth noting at this point that certain drugs gift you special abilities such as Jet, which slows down time so you can shoot more accurately and avoid incoming fire.
There is no measuring stick to quantify how successful Fallout 4 is in enhancing the series’ gameplay mechanics and overall autonomy. Fallout 4 is a substantial achievement for Bethesda, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are one of the finest RPG creators in videogames. The Commonwealth of Fallout 4 is staggering, its size is enormous and the fear of treading outside of it matches the comfort of strolling inside of one of the pleasant friendly areas it has to offer. Fallout 4 balances contrasting emotions like it balances the worth of the game depending on how much time you decide to sink into it and getting to know all the nooks and crannies it goads you into trying and applying. There hasn’t been a game so polished but so plagued since Deadly Premonition, but unlike the latter, you seriously have to appreciate the magnitude of Fallout 4 to understand why it will cease up occasionally. Fallout 4 is far from perfect, it will cause you more than a few annoyances and there is still sizeable room for improvement, but were this the last Fallout game ever released, well Bethesda would have unleashed a nuclear bomb of hard-working excellence right on top of us all with the radiation spreading endlessly around the globe. Fallout 4 is fractured but fully capable of providing many hours of top quality entertainment, and that is what truly matters.
+An unfathomably huge wasteland with excellent writing (most of the time) and heaps to do,
+A full blown gameplay design upgrade from previous fallouts, feeling as visceral as the world around it,
+The Commonwealth is inspired and the locations are diverse in so many different ways that we no longer have to compare it to the dankness of its predecessors,
-Not clean enough to squash the bugs,
-Preston Garvey, the Minutemen, the crafting and settlement missions-all boring,
-The main story is perhaps the least interesting part about the entire game.