Fallout 4 a Mix of Good and Bad

Robert Davis , Editor

The year 2077, the year the world unfurled. The Great War between the United States and China wages on, until ending with complete nuclear destruction. The company Vault Tec created many vaults for such an event. Many fled to these vaults. You are one of the many that fled to these vaults, where you are cryogenically frozen and await until the all clear to leave the vault.

But the vault is breached, and everyone in the vault is murdered, including your spouse. Your young son was stolen, and as the sole survivor of Vault 111, you are thrust into a post-apocalyptic Boston, where you must track down the kidnappers of your son….

This is the premise of Fallout 4, an open world RPG game by Bethesda Studios. Released Nov. 10, 2015, the game was a massive success, according to forbes.com grossing about $750 million on launch day. This comes as no surprise, as the last Fallout installment by Bethesda Studios (Fallout 3) was loved by many. I was no exception. The biggest question being asked: Does this game live up to the quality of its predecessors? Yes and no. There are many changes, both good and bad. There are also some things that remained the same, for good or worse. I will start with the good.

One thing that you can always expect from a Bethesda game such as Fallout and The Elder Scrolls is great exploration. The story is only a fraction of the game. It may be called the main story, but it does not have to be the main focus. Bethesda has handcrafted the world of post-apocalyptic Boston very well, portraying a once great city brought to ruin by warfare. There are partially destroyed buildings strewn about, as well as untouched buildings.

You can enter many of these buildings and get a glimpse of what the world was like before the war, often finding computers with logs telling small quips about the people that lived there. You can also find small items lying around in these buildings that give indications as to what type a person they were before they died from the blast.

An example of this: If you were searching the room of a pre-war resident and found a case with a small gun and stacks of $100 dollar bills, you might assume they had a criminal past. There are many experiences such as this, ranging from reading about the rivalry of a professor and the dean at a university, or the logs of an entire family attempting to live by themselves in post-nuclear Boston.

One of the best parts of this is that players get to interpret all of this themselves. It is not linear, and they are not told everything about a place. To get the most out of this game, players need to take their time and revel in the environment, as this is one of the strongest parts of the game.  

One example is the feral ghoul enemy, similar to a zombie but instead of being infected by a disease, they are humans severely affected by radiation. They run at you with reckless abandon, flailing around. It is quite unnerving — in a good way!”

Another good part of the game is the changes to the combat, by far the best combat of any of the 3D Fallout games. In the older Fallouts, the guns did not really have very good sound, nor did they really feel like guns. There are many things that go into this “feel,” such as sound, impact and recoil. All of these are handled better in Fallout 4 than any of its predecessors.

Aside from the way the guns handle, the AI enemies have much more fluid animations, and many of the wastelands creatures have become terrifying. One example is the feral ghoul enemy, similar to a zombie but instead of being infected by a disease, they are humans severely affected by radiation. They run at you with reckless abandon, flailing around. It is quite unnerving — in a good way!

It makes the creatures of the wasteland truly feel like they are dangerous. Despite this combat improvement, though, some of the RPG elements feel like they have been lost or dumbed down.

The entire leveling system has been overhauled, which is for the worse. There was an old system called “tag skills” for players to choose from. Players tag them to be specialized skills, gaining a bonus starting out. These skills dictated effectiveness in certain aspects, such as with certain guns, the ability to create medical items, and the ability to pick locks. There are many more skills, allowing players to create different types of characters.

Combined with this are S.P.E.C.I.A.L stats, which dictate characters’ natural stats, such as raw intelligence and strength. These affect which perks are open to a player, along with the limited number of points to put into these stats.

The new leveling system in Fallout 4 merges the tag skills with the S.P.E.C.I.A.L stats. S.P.E.C.I.A.L stats still determine which perks are open, but they can always be leveled, which effectively makes it possible for one character to be able to get every perk. This gets rid of the need for specialization, which takes depth away from the game. This is not the only change that removes depth.

In the new dialogue system, characters are now voiced. The older games display what a character would say. From there, a player would choose what was said. In Fallout 4 players are given a few options, with often a one- or two-word description of what the character will say, instead of displaying exactly what they will say.

This can lead to misunderstanding the tone of what a character says and can end up causing a character to attack. With the old dialogue system, players were able to give a character their own voice, sort of like reading a book. This allowed one to come up with a personality for the character, instead of being given one.

This dialogue system creates a lack of decisions related to the type of person you want your character to be. In the older games, for example,  a player could make the character evil. In Fallout 4 it just feels like a character can be snarky at worst, not truly evil.

The game engine that Bethesda has been using since the release of The Elder Scrolls Morrowind in 2002 also needs work. It has been heavily modified for each game, and they keep modifying it further. But the engine is outdated and it shows. There are many glitches involving physics in the games, such as someone walking into a car and sending it flying into a character.

Not only does it contain bugs, but it also can suffer from performance problems, causing the game to crash or not run well, very common on some systems, according to reports. I played this game on a medium-end PC, and it ran well for me. Naturally, though, I could not play it on the highest settings and get my preferred performance, 60 frames per second.

An engine can only be modified so much before it needs to switch to something more modern. Bethesda should try using a new engine.

Last among the core items is the writing, which is neither bad nor amazing. There are some sections of the game where the writing feels like it could use improvement, such as the development of characters. There are also moments in the game where the writing is done very well.

The main story of finding a son is not exactly a unique concept, but there is a point that will blow your mind! I will not spoil it, but for me, it was extremely unexpected. There are multiple factions in the game to choose from, all having different goals and often clashing. Players are not allowed to simply join all of them.

What I like about the factions is that there is no objectively evil faction; they all have positives and negatives in their goals. It is up to the player to decide what is right or wrong.