**Fallout 4 Spoilers Ahead**
Expectations are a funny thing. They can turn even the most perfect game into something disappointing. When you think you’re getting one thing and then you get another, there’s going to be some questions there. That’s kind of the mindset I had after playing Fallout 4 for a few hours. By the end of my time with Fallout 4, nearing thirty hours or so, I realized that Fallout 4 was a really good open world shooter, and a terrible role-playing game.
The last time we got a Fallout game from Bethesda was in 2008. In the time since though games have changed a lot. It’s natural to think that Fallout 4 wouldn’t just be Fallout 3 with a shiny new coat of paint on it. But instead of an evolution of the systems and the gameplay, we got some add-ons and bunch of systems simply stripped out from the game.
Fallout 4’s story begins just before the bombs fall. It’s interesting to get a look at what pre-war life looked like, but in the end it doesn’t do much in terms of influencing the rest of the game. The best part of the opening is the character designer, which is easily the most welcome addition to Fallout 4. No longer do you have the most basic of character tile sets. Now there’s a highly customizable creation tool that lets you make whoever you want – male or female. It’s something I hope that other games will steal because its easily the best part of the whole game.
The main characters are also fully voiced. It’s nice that has been upgraded for the modern days. Unfortunately Bethesda decided to change the dialogue system to something similar to Mass Effect’s. It’s not a wheel so much as it is just four choices where one is almost always “sarcasm” and the others are a random assortment of emotions. Not only does it make it tough to know exactly what your character will say, but it’s impossible to actually be “evil” in the game. You can do horrible things occasionally, but there’s a lack diversity in terms of morality.
Like all Bethesda stories, the main quest is lackluster. I won’t go into details on it but let’s just say it’s somewhat similar to Fallout 3 for the first half of the game. There then becomes a point where you can choose between one of four factions and doing so will net you a different ending. The issue is that with the way the quests unfold, you’re driven down one path without ever knowing that the others are available. The game does very little to communicate this to you. I had to look at a guide to find out myself.
The inability to communicate is a theme that runs throughout the core of Fallout 4. The game does very little in the way of teaching you how to play the game. After the tutorial teaches you the absolute basics, you’re turned out into the world and left to your own devices. The issue is that the game doesn’t tell you how to use important things like VATS, or how to use the settlement system whatsoever.
The settlement system, which is ultimately pointless and has very little impact on the rest of the game, is full of complexities and little intricacies that the game almost goes out of its way to avoid telling you. It’s sad because it can actually be kind of fun to build your own base, even if it means nothing in the end.
Moving along, one of the improvements Bethesda made to the Fallout series are the companions. They’re no longer lifeless entities that are designed to hold stuff for you and shoot things. They have personalities and opinions, and are actual characters. You even have the option of romancing them, which typically results in a very sweet exchange of words, and then an extra perk. It isn’t much, but it’s a step in the right direction (for those wondering, I chose Piper. Because she’s the best).
Much of Fallout 4’s world is lifeless and that isn’t because of nuclear fallout. It’s a world that doesn’t feel very lived in. More to the point, many of the quests are super boring. The writing is simple and they all end up in a shoot out. The number of side quests that can be resolved without violence can be counted on one hand. It’s sad because Betheda games are supposed to be about letting you play the game you way you want to. But this game feels like they built a shooter, so they needed people to shoot things as much as possible.
That isn’t to say the shooting is awful. It’s actually miles better than both Fallout 3 and New Vegas. But that’s about the only thing. The skills system has been completing stripped out and now the perk system has been reworked to include some of that stuff. In the end it waters down the ways people can customize their character. And even though the game offers to ability to spec for different types of playthroughs, the game itself really only wants you to take things that make it easier to kill stuff and harder for you to die.
Fallout 4 also comes with the “expected” set of glitches that Bethesda games usually do. The game crashes, doors don’t open, quests don’t end, and so on and so forth. For me the biggest issue was when I couldn’t actually get the ending I wanted because the next Minutemen quest I needed refused to trigger. So I had to take another route just to see what the end game was like.
In the end I felt like I had kind of wasted my money. I came into Fallout 4 expecting a game full of interesting RPG systems that would help me build the character I wanted and experience the world of the game in a unique way. Instead I got a game that felt like Borderlands set in the apocalypse and the shooting wasn’t as good. Considering how excited I was after waiting seven years for a sequel to Fallout 4, getting something like this was crushing.
Fallout 4 has some redeeming qualities to it. It looks great, the companions are improved, and the character creator is the best in existence (sans maybe Black Desert?). But those don’t outweigh the fact that the game isn’t really a role playing game anymore. It’s a shooter set in an open world with RPG like elements. Ultimately, that’s a bit of a bummer.