Fallout 4, the game that seemingly EVERYBODY had been waiting for, finally came out last month. For years it was basically a myth, and then it got officially announced at E3 2015. What a magical moment that was. But now the game is out, and the big question is, is it any good? Was it worth the wait? And although the answer to that is undoubtedly yes, it does come with a few asterisks.
Graphics so pretty, you almost want to live there.
Let’s start with the good stuff. The game is gorgeous. Now you might be thinking “wait, what? Most reviews I read say that the game almost looks last-gen” well, yeah, if you look closely at textures they can be kind of muddy, or indeed the characters are nothing to go crazy about. However if you look at the scale of it all, it’s quite impressive. I’m not usually a fan of the Fallout series’ look because I tend to find the gameworld to be a tad on the ugly side. I’m not a fan of ugly environments, sadly. I like my games to be lush, vivid, and to make me feel like I’d like to live there. Fallout 4 kind of manages to do that (I mean, I wouldn’t live there, but). It still keeps that trademark Fallout apocalyptic destruction feel, however this time everything has kind of this eery beauty to it. The dead forests feel serene, and the first time you see that huge broken up bridge you might stop breathing for a few seconds. It’s very impressive, even more so considering that I am playing the Xbox One version, which is most likely the worst looking of the bunch. While the gameworld in Fallout 3 looked like someone had dropped a huge turd on everything, Fallout 4 looks like you might want to take out a chair and chill for a while. Not Netflix and Chill mind you, just normal chilling. Except during storms. Believe me, you don’t want to be there during those.
As a quick aside, the game takes place about 200 years after the nuclear catastrophe. However, if that were to be true then the game’s look should be quite different. Radiation slows down nature growth, but it doesn’t stop it. If you look at real life Pripyat, the town that was built next to the Chernobyl power plant, it’s actually quite green. As in, nature is slowly growing back, and it’s only been 29 years since the disaster. After 200 years nature should have overtaken everything in-game, and most of the buildings should have fallen to ruin without maintenance. Also, why are people living with 200 year old skeletons in their houses? I feel like the game isn’t very consistent with how it would be in reality. They most likely did that because the Fallout series has a specific vibe to it, and having the place all green and stuff wouldn’t have felt very Fallout-y. I’m okay with that, but it’s still an interesting observation.
That being said, the game is still gorgeous, and the ethereal beauty truly adds to the experience. Now all of a sudden I want to explore everything. I want to see what’s on the other side of that hill, because there’s a good chance that it’ll be kind of breathtaking. Usually for me that’s a feeling reserved for the Elder Scrolls series, not Fallout. And since these games tend to be all about exploring, it just makes everything better. And explore you will, oh yes. You can still quick travel to previously explored locations using the map, but it’s usually much more fun to just walk everywhere.
RPG shooting mechanics done right.
And during all this exploration you’re bound to get into a few scrapes, and guess what? Fallout 4 has the best shooting mechanics of the series. One of my usual big complaints about FPS/RPG hybrids is that the shooting really sucks. It’s often a by-product of having stats dictate how effective you are with a weapon; therefore if you have low skills in, let’s say, shooting handguns, then your aim goes everywhere or you do almost no damage with them. Plus, often in these games enemies don’t react or recoil to your gunfire, and enemy feedback is a very important part of player immersion. If enemies don’t react when you shoot them in the face, it kills your feeling of actually being there. Fallout 4 still has that problem for the most part, but in general gunplay feels satisfying and hectic. It might just have the best ever first person shooting mechanics in an RPG. Here’s a clip of me exploring, and then getting into a fight. I play on hard mode, by the way (it’s my excuse for dying at the end of the video).
But if you don’t like the FPS style shooting, then you can always rely on V.A.T.S. The trusty turn based system is back from the previous games, and it still works great. I tend to use V.A.T.S. a lot during close ranged fights, especially since I try to avoid shooting my dog during tussles (LIKE HELL I’D SHOOT MY DOG). For long range fights, I use my own aiming skills. It works out quite well. Overall I’m very satisfied with the game’s fighting/shooting mechanics.
Dog of the year.
What else is cool in Fallout 4? Dogmeat, that’s what! I’m a big fan of that lovely pup. He’s kind of an idiot, but he’s an immortal idiot so it’s all good. He does tend to forget that you, unlike him, CAN die, but hey it’s all part of the fun! He does things like fall off bridges, boats, sky high towers, or he just drops out of the clouds like he’s an angel. Maybe he is?
All joking aside, I really, really love Dogmeat. His AI routine is solid, and he acts like an immortal idiot dog would. He’s also a walking storehouse, as he can carry a surprising amount of stuff. And guess what? You can equip things on him! Like goggles, bandanas, and even dog armor. Yes, you read that right, DOG ARMOR.
Now, to be fair, you can have other companions. Early on you can take a floating robot with you instead of Dogmeat. But I mean, seriously, get on my level here: who the heck’s gonna do that? Not me. I haven’t unlocked any of the other companions yet, as I have only played about 30 hours (that full time student life), but I figure that eventually I might want to ditch my doggy temporarily for some of the romanceable options. But all this to say that this game has an amazingly realistic dog, and if you ever dreamed of going on adventures with your canine companion, go get this game.
Who designed that inventory system?
So far I’ve kind of been raving about the game, so what doesn’t work well? Well, the game is clunky. It’s not exactly surprising for a Bethesda game, I suppose, but it’s still kind of disappointing. Scrolling through your inventory is a slog. It’s surprising, because the default inventory in Skyrim was decent to use with a controller. The game is also known to be buggy, but I feel that it’s probably the least buggy Bethesda game yet. I haven’t encountered any major bugs myself. There’s visual glitches, such as some of the ugliest smoke effects I’ve ever seen. 1995 games had better smoke than this. Again, this might be an issue specific to the Xbox One version.
The inventory problems aren’t helped by the game’s reliance on its crafting system. Now, I like the crafting. Hell, you can craft dog armor with it. I like that I can truly make weapons my own by customizing them. That being said, you’re basically forced to grab everything that’s on the ground so that you can salvage it for material. Thus your inventory gets cluttered really quickly, forcing you to spend even more time sifting through it. And then once you get to town, you have to deal with the awkward crafting system interface. You can salvage your items for components, but you can’t salvage every item you have at crafting stations, even items that you would expect to be able to salvage at, say, the armor station. So you have to do something weird: drop all your stuff on the ground, go to the workshop, and manually click on everything that you dropped to salvage it. It’s incredibly unintuitive. Basically anything to do with the interface of the game is really meh.
Speaking of the workshop, you’re supposed to be able to build a town with it. But, again, it feels very awkward to use. You have to walk around the village and manually place walls, ceilings, and chairs. You can also build turrets to defend your town (towns?) from attacks, but I don’t think I’ve gotten attacked yet. I’m still very iffy on this aspect of the game, but it feels far from optimal. It feels like they did that to attract the minecraft crowd, but if I want to play Minecraft that’s what I’ll do. I might give it a shot further down the road as I play more of the game.
The other problem that is often talked about is that the dialog system is very dumbed down. I don’t mind it that much. Fallout 4 is about exploration to me, not in-depth character development. Still, in the 30 hours I’ve played I have spent very little of it talking to people. This is a subject that I might revisit in another article down the road once I dive more into the storyline.
That being said, I really love the game and I can see myself playing it a lot more. And that’s a good thing, because games like Fallout 4 just aren’t meant to be played for a short amount of time. If you’re kind the of person who plays games for 20 hours and then moves on, skip Fallout 4, it’s not for you. This is a game that requires you to be immersed in its gameworld, to care about it, to want to explore it. It’s not fun in short bursts, you will get very little out of it if that is how you play games. You need to sit your derrière down, grab that controller, and lose yourself. If you can manage to do that, you’re in for a treat. So far, I highly recommend it.
P.S: The Xbox One version (and possibly PS4 as well) of the game is supposed to get mod support during the winter. It would drastically change the experience! Again, to be talked about in a future article.
All in game images, unless otherwise stated, were captured during gameplay on Xbox One.