As is customary… ***SPOILER ALERT***SPOILER ALERT*** SPOILER ALERT***
***I wouldn’t recommend reading on if you don’t want to see some major spoilers***
After 130 hours and 65 levels, I finally finished my first play through of Fallout 4. It has been a mixture of highs and lows, having faced the release day bugs way back in November and the relentless issues with dialogue due to non-fixed dialogue backgrounds and NPC’s. Not to mention the absolute frustration of trying (and failing) to build successful settlements that didn’t need my help every ten seconds. The highs, however, were just as frequent; helping the Minutemen secure the Castle and finally seeing some real positivity in the vast wastelands we’ve seen between Fallout 3 and 4 was a great victory; seeing real-time impacts of the (often, morally grey) decisions you’ve made, as well as some delayed reactions that would require loading back hours to undo, giving the game a very “real” sense of integration with its inhabitants. And, of course, the glory of V.A.T.S. shooting someone with the Fat Man. It’s been one hell of a rollercoaster ride and I’m not quite ready to get off.
I remember the 2nd of June 2015 quite clearly. I had just finished playing Naughty Dog’s The last of us and was wondering which game to play next. Keeping along the lines of apocalyptic wastelands, I suggested to my boyfriend: “Why don’t we go and get Fallout 3? You’d love it! I’ll check GAME and Bethesda’s website for prices!” I had fallen in love with Fallout 3 years before, with its funky 1950’s style, music and crazy futuristic weapons. I explained the differences between Fallout and Oblivion and Skyrim such as the karma system, ability to make game changing decisions and, of course, the Fat Man super weapon. It would fit in with our current theme of watching shows/playing games that resonated of the end times.
I browsed GAME’s website, searching for Fallout 3 details, oblivious to the next tab open. I clicked over to Bethesda’s site and the screen went blank, before changing to the iconic “Please Stand By” screen. I’ll admit, I squealed like a little girl and grabbed J’s arm so hard I left nail marks. FINALLY! AFTER ALL THESE YEARS! Fallout 4 was coming. But not after Bethesda had us wait a further painstaking 24 hours for its grand reveal. I had believed their rouse so far – the “Please stop asking us” and “There’s no F4 planned!” press releases. I had no idea that this was coming, and that’s the way they planned it – constantly awaiting news then returning to our daily routines and way of life; much like the inhabitants of the Commonwealth and Capital Wasteland awaiting the bombs falling in the games story.
Watching the trailer for the first time was breath taking. The graphics, the voiced character – THE COLOUR – had me more excited for a game than I had been for a long time (Except my silent waiting for Mass Effect: Andromeda – that’s a whole other obsession). The soft, but poignant piano version of the Fallout theme made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I knew we were in for something big, and something that was a great departure from Bethesda’s usual employment of game design.
Skip forward to November 10th 2015 and I finally got my hands on Fallout 4. I was ready for release day bugs and complaints, but I had to admit that they ruined the start of the game for me; not being able to put beds on the floor and crops in the ground for Sanctuary was a realllll pain, as were the settlers moaning at me about having no beds (because they were ON THE ROOF).
I have to admit, I didn’t need to spend 130 hours playing Fallout 4, but I was desperate to avoid the main quest for as long as I could. After speaking to Codsworth after my escape from vault 111, I met Preston and his small gang of followers in Concord and began the Minutemen questline. Setting up Sanctuary was easy enough, bar a few glitches, and I recruited settlements to my cause one by one until I had about 17 settlements under my belt and had killed a hoard of Feral Ghouls, Super Mutants and various other monsters, including one too many Deathclaws for under level 20.
I am a huge Bethesda RPG fan, and have spent around 160 hours on both Oblivion and Skyrim, doing every side quest, faction quest and gathering special weapons and armour. I believe that side quests really do enhance the gameplay as you fully immerse and understand the game, its history and can weight your decisions appropriately. Fallout 4 was certainly more decision-driven than its Elder Scrolls counterparts whilst still remaining loyal to the themes introduced in Fallout 3.
The dialogue options could have been more fluid, as I often found that it would bug out and disappear if I accidentally moved my character or if another NPC just decided to bugger off mid convo. The settlements enhance your overall understanding of the game and some of the choices you make, i.e. Minutemen Loyalty, the “Feeding the Troops” radiant quests for BOS etc., however they didn’t come without problems. I plan on doing a separate piece on Fallout 4 achievements, particularly the elusive Benevolent Leader achievement which leads to the Platinum trophy for many players (PS4).
Again, I don’t want to give too much of the game away, but after spending almost 60 hours doing side quests before starting the main quest on the hunt for your son, Shaun, I did NOT see the twist coming. For the overwhelming majority of the game, the story had real depth and poignancy, with all sorts of intertwining and conflicting concepts. However, once you near one of the four (rumoured to perhaps be five!) endings, it becomes clear that there are a few gaps in the story – think the Dark Matter scenario in Mass Effect 2 with the Quarians; the dialogue and notes lead us to believe that there will be an exciting addition to the story to do with dying suns and stars, which is cruelly cut short by the departure of the lead writer and not elaborated on further in either ME2 or 3.
I have many questions left over after finishing each ending, perhaps a deliberate act by Bethesda’s writing team. Whilst I do like having my own ideas about why each faction behaves the way it does and wonder what would really happen post-ending, it is frustrating at times as I never really felt it was “complete”. Why did the Institute really want to take people, and what happened to them once their “interrogation” was over? Did they dispose of individuals, or release them back to the Commonwealth? Why do the Brotherhood insist on terrorising settlers, despite the real “enemy” being destroyed? Why do the Railroad not vet the memories they give to synths (I.e. why would you give someone the memories and life of a mass murdering Raider?!).
Power Armour plays a huge role in this game and you can find various versions of it all over the map. At present, I have around 11 sets of Power Armour, and around 4 different types. You can modify them to have different makes and models, paint colours which come with their own perks, extra carry-weight capabilities and best of all a JET PACK. Sadly, you can’t just fly forever around the Commonwealth as it uses Action Points much like sprinting. Not having to train to use the Power Armour is a huge advantage as you encounter your first set pretty much less than an hour into the game, should you follow Codsworth’s instructions.
After Fallout 3’s rather decisive and definite ending, it is refreshing to see an ambiguous, player-altered ending; though it does feel like ME3 all over again. Realistically, you choose one 3 endings – the Minutemen ending does not generate an achievement and isn’t really worthwhile – and you have a pretty sad and vague cut scene where the Sole Survivor mourns their life, family and the general population of Boston and beyond. There are many references regarding the Capital Wasteland and a familiar face or two from Fallout 3. The Brotherhood of Steel continuously make comments about the Capital Wasteland and one of your companions is recruited from F3’s very own Rivet City. In one of the Vaults in the Commonwealth you’ll also find references to a specific Vault-Tec resident from Fallout 3 from one of their creepier Vault experiments!
In reality, however, these negatives pale overall compared to the many positives of the game. F4 retains the popular V.A.T.S. system, allowing you to inflict devastatingly accurate blows to your foes who (hopefully) explode in a gut-filled mess all over the various unique locations of the Commonwealth. The removal of the level cap was a welcome find as I remember the unbearable frustration of capping at level 20 in Fallout 3 – I’m currently cruising at a cool level 74, exploding every enemy in sight. The Commonwealth is considerably more detailed, with interchangeable weather and radiation storms blowing in from the aptly named Glowing Sea. The enemies are also more detailed in appearance, with variations in facial design and clothing even amongst the super mutants. The reappearance of various “levels” or “difficulty” of enemies, such as “Alpha”, “Glowing” and the new “Legendary” titles, most of which carry special or rare weapons, was also a bonus as it made the almost never-ending attacks by random creatures feel a bit more worthwhile
The enemies themselves range in difficulty, with the standard skull appearing next to enemies the game deems especially difficult, or that you might not be able to beat at a low level – a handy warning or enticing challenge to some. The feral ghouls are totally different in F4, in my opinion, as are the regular ghouls. Ghouls in this game seem far more amicable than some of the NPC’s in F3 but they still face the same discrimination from some characters, such as the expulsion a group of ghouls face from Diamond City at Mayor McDonough’s behest. The feral ghouls, however, are much faster than their F3 counterparts and they always seem to travel in groups of five or more – or they did in my game at least. The have a tendency to run at you, claw wildly, then catapult into the ground as they trip over their ghoully feet. Whilst they aren’t too difficult to beat, it’s the age old concept of a being overwhelmed by many, lower-level enemies. Believe me, when a swarm of Bloodbugs gathers around, spitting your OWN BLOOD at you, your health can decline pretty rapidly. The ferals also branch into various levels, such as “Bloated” and “Gangrenous” among others. They can be found in their usual hideouts, such as the lower-level trains and near settlements/ ex-settlements.
Another enjoyable aspect of the enemy dynamic is that they will fight each other. What do you get when a Super Mutant, a Raider and a Gunner walk into a bar? You get to keep all your ammo, that’s what! I have watched many a crazed fight with Mutties firing Mini Nukes and Missiles into Raider camps, with a few Mirelurks and Feral Ghouls joining in for shits and giggles. Why intervene when I can just loot everyone once it’s over? Easy livin’.
The NPC’s in-game comments are usually pretty snappy and funny, commenting on your choices and character as you go, in a far better context than that of Skyrim. Whilst not as good as Oblivions NPC acknowledgements, it does go as far as having the anxiety-ridden host of Diamond City radio comment on your comings and goings. I find the Diamond City Guards and general guys, dolls and ghouls of Goodneighbour to give the best chat, ranging from your decisions to comments about your hair and choice of weapon. The “Silver Shroud” side quests, which has you dress up as the name sake, is a great example of this as the inhabitants of Goodneighbour slate your Comic book worshipping attire and obviously bizarre mind-set. Probably Bethesda taking a dig at its own players, really, as we adorn ourselves in Vault 111 merch.
Ultimately, Fallout 4 was, for me, a huge success. There are problems here and there with the gameplay, a few holes in the story and of course Bethesda’s lack of climbing options, forcing me to jump like a lunatic the whole time, not to mention their hilarious bugs as I melt into the sides of mountains. The story is pretty solid, the character’s – companions and beyond – induce different emotions and give your story and protagonist a real sense of achievement, purpose and belonging as they try to bring a pre-war ideology of community to the Commonwealth.
Whether you are an avid Bethesda fan, a Fallout newbie or are new to the world of RPG’s or games, I would definitely recommend giving it a go. I felt genuine happiness, anger and sadness throughout the game, which isn’t a common feature in Bethesda giants such as TES or Fallout. On a scale of 1 to Bioware, it was quite an emotionally manipulative game. I’d give Fallout 4 a 9/10 for the moment, as I have totally exhausted myself with it and feel there could be some improvements. I do plan on purchasing the DLC and keeping updated with patches etc., so that score may change.
In regards to my own Game of the Year, Fallout 4 was the runner up. Whilst I did genuinely love the game, my GOTY goes to CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which will be the feature of my next review. I hope you enjoyed my review and I hope I kept it vague enough so as not to ruin your Fallout experience! Feel free to leave a comment about your own Fallout experiences and what you’d like to see next!
P.S. Here’s a few more screenshots from my play through with some spoilers and familiar faces!