Fallout 4: A Wasteland Void Of Ideas

Much like war, Bethesda never changes.

Fallout 4 has been hyped to a ridiculous degree, mainly due to it being the first game in the series in 5 years, that being Fallout: New Vegas. At the time New Vegas was simultaneously praised for its world and story but also accused of introducing little to the Fallout formula. Personally I much preferred New Vegas to it's predecessor Fallout 3. New Vegas had a much more appealing setting to me, managing to create a bizarre twisted beauty in the wastelands, and also having a tighter main story with a more engaging narrative arc and semi-satirical swipes with the various factions you could join up with along the way. But equally as impressive were the side-quests that you came across, such as the one where you have to do some investigating to find out who sold a man's wife into slavery and allow him to kill them. However if you can't be bothered to do the investigation you can just pick on the first person you see and the man will never know. Or helping a group of ghouls build a rocket to escape the wastes only for them to immediately crash and die. These darkly-comic and twisted flourishes in the stories of the characters of the world made you feel part of of the world and engage with it, even when the mission design and combat was stiff. This is where Fallout 4 seriously missteps. 

 Meet Bazil Plumage: king of the Commonwealth

Meet Bazil Plumage: king of the Commonwealth

The main issue I have with the game is that it feels dated. The combat, never Bethesda's strong point, has barely changed since Fallout 33 and New Vegas were enjoyable in spite of their clunky and inprocise combat, not because of it. Despite the time between this entry  and the last the combat is still awful. The AI is stupid, the enemies are dull and have no variation in fighting style and there is no efficient way of blocking or taking cover to introduce an element of strategy to combat. And given that combat is what you will doing 70% of the time, that is a big issue. Most missions involve you walking into a tower or a non-discript building and killing everything until it's dead by blindly shooting or wafting a big axe around. Because the missions are dull you find yourself zoning out and not engaging with the world. You are simply slogging through the motions. Bethesda are very good creating big worlds but they are terrible at writing interesting characters and stories which make you care about anything that is actually happen in the world. This means the issues regarding the combat and incredibly uninspired mission design are even more noticeable. In most RPGs, especially JRPGs, there will come the moment where you not enjoying the particular section you are on but power-through to advance the story. The whole of Fallout 4 feels like a rut you just need to get through. 

The signs are not good from the off, with the beginning of the game being a completely transparent attempt make the player feel emotional which falls flat. So your wife gets killed and your son is kidnapped? Why should I care about my wife? I mean, the game tells me she is my wife but I don't actually have any emotional connection with her. She has no personality. Maybe this is just me being heartless but just because the game tells me I should care about a character, that does not instantaneously make me care about them. Now I'm not saying there should have been 3 hour prologue with an interactive montage of the relationship or anything like that, far from it. My question is why they felt the need to include it at all? It smacks of a lazy and ineffective attempt to make the player care about the plot and the world.

 "Hi, my name is Mr Boring Knight Guy and I live in a blimp."

"Hi, my name is Mr Boring Knight Guy and I live in a blimp."

But let's talk about what is new. There are three main mechanics that the game introduces to try and spice things up. The first is the most effective, the new way your character interacts in conversation, with them now actually being a voiced character in way which is standard in most modern RPGs. This is a good move and I would expect it to remain in all future games by the company. However, what is an issue is the player's dialogue options. Much like the rest of the game's characters, the dialogue is dull and lifeless. When I pick the 'be an arsehole' dialogue option I'm pretty much always disappointed by what my character says, never laughing at any of his put-downs. There is certainly no 'Commander Shepard pushing a guy out of building' moment here. The other two new additions are the companion and crafting mechanics. Again, these feel like lazy ways of pretending to change the core experience of the game. The crafting component is nice little mini-game if your into that thing, I have however hate making things, I much prefer destroying them. The companion mechanic does nothing to alter the core combat and if anything just acts as excuse to throw more tedious enemies at you. And don't get me started on the new power armour in the game which are basically walking turret sequences.

Bethesda seem to have run out of ideas completely, both artistically and mechanically. Even in their last RPG, the hugely successful Skyrim, there was character and awe in the world-design. It felt alive even if the combat was similarly poor and the main story generic. There was character in the factions, notably the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves guild. What does Fallout 4 have? The Brotherhood Of Steel? Railroad? Boring as hell. The fact the they called the bad guys in the game the 'Institute' shows they can't even come up with a name which isn't generic. There is clearly talent in Bethesda, and there are probably a handful of clever and witty side-quests that I haven't stumbled upon, but the overall package of the game feels like a uninspired waste of potential.

I'm not a fan basically.