I’m not as huge a fan of the Fallout series as some of my other friends, but I do like the post apocalyptic setting, in general, and it gives a lot of room to tell some compelling neo-westerns, which I’m always a fan of. I’ve never been able to finish Fallout 3 but I loved Fallout: New Vegas and it seems that most fans will either feel that way or the inverse, from what I’ve gathered.
Fallout 4, on the other hand, feels like an entirely new game. The SPECIAL and perks system have been pretty drastically changed and the skills system is completely gone. It’s a little intimidating at first (as change tends to be) but pretty simple once you get used to it.
You’re given fewer SPECIAL points to start off, by which I mean that all your SPECIALs start at 1 instead of 5, meaning a SPECIAL stat with a 10 is a bigger deal. My go-to character that I’ve been rolling up since my first fallout game, Mr. Fister, was S10, P1, E10, C1 I4, L10. In Fallout 4, he translated to about S8, P1, E8, C1, I1, A1, L8.
The game as a whole feels a lot tougher than previous titles. Cosmetically, the creatures have all mostly been reskinned or redesigned so as to be identifiable, but meaner looking. Many of them also feature new abilities or animations that are frightening, and VATS no longer freezes the game while you select targets – it just slows things down dramatically, meaning you can still be attacked while targeting. Additionally, Stimpacks and other medicines aren’t instantaneous – they need a second or so to work their magic.
Personally, it feels as if it’s much harder to find things that are useful while exploring the commonwealth – this isn’t a complaint, though. I like the feeling of desperately looking for ammunition and valuable junk, turning over an entire bombed-out city once it’s been cleared of raiders. It seems to have hit the sweet spot of making scavenging worth while not allowing you to find everything you need at any given time.
On the flip side, there are some things that have made the game a lot easier. The removal of skills means that everything is based entirely off of your SPECIAL and you don’t have to worry about splitting up points for things like Barter or Speech – both are under the Charisma umbrella. Your weapons no longer need to be maintained, saving the player a few caps or some carrying capacity while out exploring. The new customization system for piecemeal armor and weapons is a great way to adapt your character toward what you need to be able to do, especially if you’re like me and want to pick up everything – add pockets to all your armor and you’ll net yourself some more capacity. If you find yourself scrambling through buildings and fighting around corners, a shortened up and low recoil modded assault rifle and maximized damage shotgun are king.
As far as areas for improvement, I have felt more of the side quests and small details more engaging than the main story. The addition of a voiced main character and several cinematic moments within speech dialogues and scripted events adds to the feel of the game, but I continually find myself asking “why should I care?” as I move through the main story quest. I understand the relationships to the character macguffin used to move things along, but I feel like there might not have been enough time spent with them to make them a proper impetus to get the player to care about the outcome of the story. The bulk of the time I’ve spent in the game has been rebuilding the Red Rocket Gas Station and Sanctuary Hills – days have passed with me constructing buildings and defenses, days that could have been spent in the real world, if I truly and absolutely cared, searching. But when you look at the game as a whole, considering that the game is, truly, a slice of an entire world and that both you and the character are experiencing a whole new and foreign world, does it really matter? That’s a question that will vary for each player, and while I love to see a video game that prioritizes an engaging story over graphics and mechanics (because the former can make a mediocre game great, and never the other way around), Fallout 4 is really fine as is. Who knows, maybe things are about to pick up, and I’ll be surprised?
Fallout 4 is an excellent Post-Apocalypse sandbox and I look forward to seeing what the modding community and DLC holds for its future. I’ll be playing it for a while to come.