As a fan of Fallout 3, naturally I bought Fallout 4. The hype for this game is off the charts and even people who have no interest, are hooked in by the simple and catchy ads. Unfortunately the game itself, like a lot of Bethesda games, lacks fun.
Lacking fun is my simple way of saying, that Fallout 4 is no different from 3. This is an old style RPG, with little in the way of plot or guidance. This makes it irresistible to most gamers. Starting like the other games, you are a vault dweller. Someone who has survived the nuclear holocaust by living in an underground vault. In this instance you were also cryogenically frozen and had your son kidnapped in a moment of clarity amongst your hibernation. this sets you off on your quest to find your son. Like Fallout 3 when you were chasing your father, now you chase your son. After this the rest is up to you.
The map is open from the start and you can see the expanse of the former Boston region of America. Nothing quite gets the feeling of space across like your first few steps in a new Fallout game. Although the graphics here are not up to scratch with games like Halo 5 or even the Gears remake, the added lighting effects are enough to immerse you in the game world. Soon you stumble upon your first quest and things begin to heat up. One thing that makes this game different than the previous iterations, is the introduction of settlements. Without spoiling anything, the game allows you to make settlements at various locations around the map, then kit them out and trade between them. Think of them as a low rent version of your city states in Civilisation.
Here is where I ran into my first problems with the game. The thought of building our own settlements is exactly why I had no hesitation in buying the game. I love the real time strategy genre and base building is a large part of that. Unfortunately in Fallout 4, the mechanic is akin to a clumsy Minecraft rather than Command and Conquer. Ideally when building your base, the camera would zoom out and you would be able to place walls and roof elements until you had the perfect structure. Here though, you continue in first person as you walk around trying to build walls and ceilings. In practice this means you pick the element you want then carry the piece about before placing it manually. While this is part of the appeal of Minecraft, in a game that has so much more to experience, it makes the whole procedure tiresome and clumsy. After spending hours making your original base satisfactory, you are immediately given another settlement to start from scratch. Not fun at all. Maybe if there were some pressing elements of danger at your original base, then you would feel the need to protect it. So far bandits have tried to raid only one of my settlements and they were seen off by my dog as easily as they would have been by complex defence turrets. Perhaps this will change later in the game.
My wife while watching summed up the other problem with Fallout. ‘That game looks boring’. To an extent she is right. The game can be incredibly dull depending on how you play it. The way I play, involves getting a decent solid start, finding a number of cities to fast travel to and getting decent armour and a few weapons. Imagine for a moment someone watching you play as you constantly tinker with your inventory and compare weapons and crafting elements? I though this was cumbersome in the Witcher 3, however here it is an exercise in administration. The only way to make this game traditionally fun, is by charging unprepared into armed conflict. Fallout veterans will tell you that this is a fast track to trading in the game.
Once so far I have ran into a pack of supernatants and died instantly. You need to pick you fights carefully in these games. Combat is greatly improved but still a far cry from a traditional shooter. Your firing from the hip is pathetic, and while you can level up to improve this, the early enemies in the game are all of the small bug variety, meaning that hip firing is the way to deal with them. By the time you would level this up, you won’t be dealing with radroaches anymore. This sort of typifies the game itself. It has the potential to be the only game you ever need, yet hides it behind pointless arbitrary tasks. The game is an incredibly realistic wasteland survival game one moment, then the next makes you waste a few hours looking for potato plants. There is a farm nearby, If only I had noticed.
What the game does well so far is getting across the destruction and human cost of a nuclear war. You are constantly stumbling upon destroyed homes, shops, bars and other buildings. While this was done better in The Last of Us, here the sense of self-discovery makes it more poignant. Walking into a basement, picking a lock and finding the skeleton of the owner surrounded by his empty supplies hits home hard compared to being forced down a linear path , before seeing a giraffe at the end.
So where does this leave the game? It is as all Bethesda games, an open canvas, that allows you to create your own adventure in its’ desolate landscape. However the price for this freedom is a clunky and at times unmanageable inventory and crafting system. This shouldn’t put anyone off however as the game itself does exactly what it should. It places you in the shoes of a character, that has been transported to a time 200 years in the future. What would you do in this situation? Like you do in the game, you would probably wander aimlessly until you were killed by radiation, hunger or a supermutant. Luckily Fallout 4 has a brilliant save anytime feature. Will I complete it? Yes, will I do it anytime soon…