Fallout 4 Review: It’s the Little Things
In the past decade or so Bethesda Game Studios has really made a name for themselves as the masters of huge, open world action-RPGs. The studio brought us both the “Fallout” and the “Elder Scrolls series”. With a repertoire of critical hits under their belt each new release usually comes with a huge amount of hype, especially when it’s the next in the Fallout series. The series is as popular, if not more so to some, than its Elder Scrolls cousin.
Fallout 4 finally drops in our laps after 2010’s “Fallout: New Vegas” and it’s clear that Bethesda is taking full advantage of this current generation’s processing power. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Fallout 4 is a graphical powerhouse (it’s not that much better looking than a lightly modded Fallout 3) the power of the new consoles gives the entire Fallout world a new life.
It’s the little things that make all the difference; nicer looking puddles, better particle effects, new lighting effects making use of “God rays” (volumetric light), different reflection effects for different materials and a new cloth simulation system (amongst other things). The overall graphical fidelity may not be on the level of something like DriveClub, but all those little improvements under the hood combine to make a much more living and believable world.
Ever since its reboot with Fallout 3, the series has adopted a very familiar design style and things are no different here. The post-apocalyptic wasteland (this time in Boston, called “The Commonwealth) should look instantly familiar to those who have put their time into the Capital Wasteland and New Vegas.
Enemies and allies are back in better detail and the overall story has a much heavier focus on androids and robotic tech than before. Yes, you’ll still run into your fair share of super mutants and ghouls, but expect to come face to face with a ton of synths and other robo-enemies. It’s a nice mixture of the technological enemies with the organic creatures found in earlier series installments.
The story of Fallout 4 presents an interesting perspective for the player, since it gives you a look at life before everything went to hell. You get to see how things are with Fallout’s 50’s version of the future, along with the start of the war that wipes everything out. After some fairly shocking events to kick the game off, you’re deposited into The Commonwealth to begin your exploration. I won’t touch too much on the story since even mentioning early events will include some spoilers, so we’ll just leave it at that. Those who have played any Bethesda RPG recently should know exactly what they’re in for: a solid main story with an amazing amount of side quests that should easily fill hundreds of hours of save files.
A few features are immediately different from the moment you start the game. For starters, the dialogue options have changed. No longer are you given a list of fully fleshed out responses, but rather, you’re presented with a dialogue “wheel” with four options. These options essentially boil down to the same answers: yes, no, maybe, why, and a sarcastic, jackass answer to whatever is being asked.
I don’t want to describe it as being “dumbed down” necessarily, but the responses are most definitely more simple and less complex than before. Perhaps that makes for a quicker playthrough as you don’t have to read through all the responses, but it just feels like “less” than what was available before.
Perhaps the biggest additions to the game is a revamped crafting system, a base building, tower defense-esque system, and reworked perks. In previous Fallouts, you could repair your weapons and combine them for a stats boost. This time around, you have an entire, complex crafting system to upgrade nearly every component of your weapons. Take a 10mm pistol, for instance. With the right parts, you can upgrade everything from the size of the clip to the grip and barrel. After spending some time at the crafting table, you could end up with a completely different beast than whatever you had before. The same extends to armor, and power suits. The variety and freedom that you have to create something that’s your own is amazing, and it is absolutely possible to spend hours at a crafting table.
The base building mechanic is also a huge time sinker, and adds a huge new element to the game. Every safe zone you have can be added to and upgraded in order to provide a better living situation for its inhabitants, and also offer better protection against raiders and other less savory Commonwealth wanderers. The Workshop where you do this is huge; the amount of things you can build includes (but is not limited to) living structures, defenses like traps and turrets, water pumps, gardens, beds and chairs, power generators, radio towers, and much more. The Workshop is no joke; it could have easily been a game on its own, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that. I have played full, pay to play tower defense games on my tablet that have offered less. Bethesda really gave players a ton of stuff to do outside of the main story and side quests.
As far as the new perks system goes, it’s kind of hit or miss for me. I had no issues with the old system. It was simple, effective, and pretty easy to understand. I never really played through Fallout 3/New Vegas and thought to myself “This perk system need MOAR.” As it stands, Bethesda did not agree with me, and they changed their perks system. Instead of being granted points and upgrading via a list in your Pip Boy, you now have a fairly complex, sort of Skyrim-ish perk tree system. You still gain point via leveling up, but each individual perk now has levels of its own, represented in the perk tree by a number of stars. Each perk then branches out into sub-perks, allowing you to spend your points as you see fit, whether it’s spreading everything out and becoming a jack of all trades, or specializing in one specific area. Fallout 4’s system doesn’t make it difficult to change focuses during your playthrough, and like Skyrim before it, I am very appreciative of it.
Bethesda games have often let you have a companion tag along in your travels, but Fallout 4 expands upon that by making your companions, for lack of a better terms, useful. Sure you’ll still have moments when your buddy jumps right in front of your blazing minigun like an idiot, and I once saw my dog attack a bush, but most of the time they’ll actually offer some much needed help and give you a hand (or paw) with the enemies. The best part is that any kills your companion gets will still net you XP, so they’re not just out stealing your glory. Other than that, companions function much like any other game; they follow you around, allowing you to issues commands like “stay here, go there, attack this” etc. I don’t know if the companion system just works better in Fallout 4 when compared to other games or what, but I found myself actually having one around at all times…something that has never happened in a game before.
It’s interesting to think that all the things I love about Fallout 4 are because of its familiarity when compared to previous Fallout games, but at the same time, what makes this Fallout completely unique to other entries are all the new features. Makes no sense, right? Jumping into this Fallout is like meeting up with an old friend. You know exactly what you’re doing. You’re returning to a world that’s intimately familiar so you know what to expect. You’re familiar with the characters, concepts, and the overall lore of the game world.
At the same time, before you have a chance to get bored with the world and think to yourself “This again?” Bethesda presents a number of new mechanics that instantly gives the game more life than it has ever known. Like I mentioned before, just the base building Workshop alone gives this game so much to do. And it’s even more amazing when you consider that the game already was not hurting on variety. Fallout 4 has proven that once again, Bethesda is the master of the open world action RPG. Add to that the fact that you can do mods on the consoles, and Fallout 4 should be in people’s disc drives for a long, long time.
Fallout 4 releases on November 10, 2015 for PS4, Xbox One and PC and can be picked-up with extras (depending on which version you buy) from authorized retailers like amazon.com.