Fallout 4 is the latest post-apocalyptic action RPG from Bethesda. It’s basically more of the same, with better graphics, a new setting, and a few new features. And it’s a little bit buggy at launch, but not unplayably so. Which is all fine, I do love the Fallout games, so more of the same is actually good.
In this, you play a member of an ideal family in a quaint Boston suburb when the bombs fall. You rush off to a nearby Vault, which turns out to be running a non-consensual cryogenic experiment. You wake up from deep freeze briefly to see someone pop open your spouse’s freezer, kill him/her, and steal your baby. You wake up again later to find the other frozen folks dead, and you’re forced to wander out into what is known as “the Commonwealth,” the Boston area wastes.
Following the Vault Dweller, Chosen One, Lone Wanderer, and Courier, this one is called the Sole Survivor. I made a lady, largely with the understanding that the actress who voiced Jack from Mass Effect was doing her voice, and it’s pretty great (also the guy who voiced Garrus does the voice for a lot of random unnamed NPCs, so that’s weird/cool). I’m finding myself picking more of the wiseass dialog options just because it seems more appropriate for the voice.
It is a little bit odd, to be a Fallout veteran but playing someone who should be totally floored by everything. Previous protagonists knew the world was destroyed, and though the particulars of the wasteland may have been a surprise, they at least had some idea what to expect. Here, you’re living your white picket fence life one day, and the next there are ghouls, super mutants, and whatever the hell else. You’re not nearly as freaked out by it as you should be.
I can’t really judge the story at this point, because I’m totally distracted with sidequests that I’ve barely progressed the story at all. I’ve only just gotten to Diamond City, but I’ve built up quite a few settlements and connected trade networks and all that.
- The Pip Boy app is neat but useless. It’s easier to go to the pip boy in-game than go to my phone, so I do that. But the instant interactivity between game and app is nifty. Switch weapons on our phone, and your player in game switches weapons. Use a stimpack and your health goes up. But after about 5 minutes, the thrill is gone and I never used it again.
- They really stripped down the dialog options to a much more Bioware approach. You get some options with a 2 or 3 word description, and sometimes when your character speaks, it’s not exactly what you intended. But this way does make more sense if your character is going to have a voice actor.
- You can only have one companion at a time, which is probably the worst thing about this game so far. One of the better things Bioware games have started to do is banter between NPC companions. It adds to the characters, and peppers story and comedy into the parts of the game that are just exploring and whatnot. But sticking to just one companion at a time makes that impossible. He just says random shit to you. Including complaining when you pick up junk, which is nuts, because junk is really valuable.
- Also similar to Bioware games, instead of one general karma figure, your decisions affect your companions’ opinions of you (except, I think, for Dogmeat, who is appropriately loyal). Oddly, the first human companion I picked up is too much of a goody-goody for me, so I went back to the dog. He kept disapproving at me trying to finagle a few extra caps out of someone for doing a task.
- Reloading the laser musket by turning the crank is hilarious.
- Some keys can’t be configured. I prefer ESDF to WASD, but E is the key to loot items out of things, which can’t be changed. So it’s automatically selected (or oddly sometimes you end up picking up a corpse) when walking forward into something lootable in my preferred key config. So I have to use WASD, I’m constantly putting my fingers on the wrong keys, and exiting my power armor when I don’t mean to.
- Speaking of, the idea of the power armor as more like a vehicle is kinda cool. It feels like getting into the Iron Man suit every time.
- You get a whole different interface in power armor vs outside of it. Which would be kinda cool if the outside interface wasn’t overly minimalist, and the inside interface wasn’t ugly. But it’s also important, because the power armor uses a special fuel now, which you can sometimes struggle to find. Which I guess is good, because I’m nigh invulnerable inside it, so it’s only fair to force me to sometimes do without. All my deaths but one so far are via nuke or deathclaw (the other was due to negligence, I feel so invulnerable I walked into a difficult fight at 1/3 health and didn’t realize it).
- They did a pretty good job with Fenway, though they left out the bullpens. In the alternate history, they retired Cronin, Doerr, and Pesky, but not Ted Williams? The history diverges in ’45, so maybe they decided he died in the war before he had a HoF career? And then from ’45 on the numbers diverge, so no Yaz or Jim Rice or Pedro or Jackie Robinson. A broadcast in 2077 indicated they were still without a title in 2077, though in the series. But since the bombs fell on 10/23, the series never finished. I feel like someone high up at Bethesda is a Yankees fan.
- The radio is about 1/3 recycled from Fallout 3, 1/3 other old songs (more rock and roll than the Jazz type stuff from Fo3), and 1/3 original songs. The DJ is kinda weird, but amusing.
- The crafting system is pretty nuts. They basically made it worthwhile to pick up all those bent tin cans and pencils and stuff. You end up building not just weapons and armor, but entire towns. The only problem is that this is really the only non-intuitive part of the game. I had to read a guide to follow parts of it.
- The lip sync is pretty weak. If the character models weren’t as good, it wouldn’t be a problem, I don’t think. But the characters have improved dramatically and the lip-movements haven’t improved at all. It just makes it a bit of an uncanny valley thing.
- Super serious statements in Boston accents are hilarious.
- There are two guys with Russian accents, which is confusing as hell. That one guy had a Scottish, I think, accent in Fallout 3, which was already weird. But Russian is just confusing, because you get that accent by being a native Russian speaker and learning Russian later, right? How does that happen?
- It is pretty buggy. I’ve had a couple NPCs fall halfway into the floor. I had to close the game and start it up again because my weapons disappeared from the UI. The ammo count on the HUD sometimes just randomly says zero even when I have hundreds of rounds. Scripted dialogue segments talk over each other sometimes. Spots where you’re supposed to follow someone, they get stuck for 15-20 seconds. Your companion ends up on a different floor of a building from you and you don’t see him for like 30 minutes. Fortunately on the PC you can still bring up the console and turn clipping off when you get physically stuck, though I imagine that’s frustrating as hell for console people.