Seven years have passed since the release of Fallout 3. Bethesda was successful in bringing the futuristic post-apocalyptic game to the modern age. With both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas delivering justice to the Fallout source material, would Bethesda's new offering to the universe be a welcome addition to the family or should you go back to previous iterations of the wasteland?
The story starts just before the apocalypse. After a brief intro, you are tasked to create your character. Bethesda has not shied away from their character creation options; you can choose the style of your hair, the color of your eyes and sculpt your character how you see fit. Once you are done, you are acquainted with your family and robot butler named Codsworth. Once the bombs fall, you are quickly relocated to Vault 111 to survive the apocalypse. You get a quick gander of what it is like to live inside the Vault before you are frozen in a cryogenic chamber. While in the Vault, you get a glimpse of your spouse being murdered and your son being taken away. When you are fully thawed, you are charged with the task of identifying the people behind the murder of your spouse and the kidnapping of your son.
Once you are out of Vault 111, you are free to experience the freedom Bethesda has given you. You can pursue the main quest or traverse the wasteland to discover enemies, side quests, loot and other oddities.
The cool blue sky and use of color is a refreshing change from the grey wasteland of Fallout 3 and brown Mojave Desert of Fallout: New Vegas. It brings an atmosphere of hope and recovery in the wasteland of Fallout 4 instead of dread and desolation found in previous entries in the Fallout franchise. You can travel through the streets of post-apocalyptic Boston. Buildings are destroyed, rusted cars clutter the streets, and ruined historic monuments serve as reminders of a bygone era.
Despite the change of color, Fallout 4's aesthetics differs from one area to the next. Diamond City is a bustling metropolis while its outskirts are inhabited with raiders, rabid dogs and molerats. Hulking super mutants patrol the world, waiting for their next prey. In spite of the dangers in the wasteland, settlers are eking a meager living in the harsh, irradiated lands of Boston. To those who are courageous enough to explore the wastes are bound to encounter legendary enemies: random creatures that are more resilient and powerful than their kin and appear more frequently at higher difficulties. If you are able to defeat one these creatures, you will be rewarded with a unique piece of gear, making it worth the resources to kill them.
The narratives you participate in are more compelling for the story rather than the rewards. You may find a child trapped in a refrigerator for more than 200 years trying to get out and asking help to find his parents. Sometimes, these narratives are not even quests. Unscripted events bring unexpected twists to your adventures. You may find a caravan having a three-way battle with Raiders and Synths or a Deathclaw battling Mirelurks.
Aside from the appeal of side quests, the central arc is excellent as well. The fate of the wasteland is on your shoulders. It will all depend on how you build you character and how you handle all the decisions that will be given to you. It will decide the fate of important characters and entire factions of people. Each faction has their idea of how the world should evolve.
How you interact with characters have changed from previous Fallout games. Your character now has a voice. Both male and female performances are good; giving the appropriate amount of emotion or humor when needed. Karma is no longer available but your companions still judge you on how you interact with the world. The dialogue system has been built from the ground up. Instead of a box with several choices, you are now limited to four options at a time. Once an option has been chosen, only rarely are you able to go back to get additional information about the story. It seems that Bethesda has streamlined the dialogue system to speed up the experience but ultimately comes across as limiting the options available.
The perk system has also been revamped. Old perks like lock picking and terminal hacking are still essential to open avenues that would not have been possible. New perks such as armor and weapon modding is incredibly enticing but I found myself staring at the perk chart for far too long agonizing which path to take with my character. You need not worry though, experience points are plentiful and there is no level cap so you can take whichever path you would like to choose.
Gunplay has also been improved. Shooting in the past Fallout games has felt clumsy. Each weapon in Fallout 4 has their own distinct weight and kick to them. With the ability to mod your weapon and armor, you can fine-tune every weapon to your liking. The shooting in both first-person and third person perspectives are both enjoyable and it is up to you to choose which perspective you prefer when engaging in firefights.
As I have mentioned, every weapon in the game can be tweaked with modifications. You can affix a scope to your submachine gun or alter the firing rate of your pistol. To build these modifications, you would need to find the proper materials out in the wastes. These materials are found on everyday objects such as toys, coffee mugs and cleaning materials. Pretty much everything that you can loot can be turned into resources to mod your weapon or armor.
Resources are also used to build your settlement. It is not a crucial part of the game but you can easily get hooked making your own town. You are given the option to freely create buildings. You are able to furnish and decorate them to your heart's desire as long as you have the resources to build them. Unfortunately, the settlement tools are frustratingly clunky to use. The game does not hold your hand on how it all works, especially with the finer details. Some objects refuse to snap together or move in ways you do not expect. Patience is needed in order to build impressive creations. You can also establish trading outposts and supply lines between your settlements. Be warned, if your settlements become large enough, it will attract raiders. So it is your responsibility to defend or built defenses around your settlements to deter would be attackers.
Technical issues in Fallout 4 are frequent and ranges from mundane to game-breaking. Many characters look like dolls and lacks detail compared to the world. Companions usually get in your way in enclosed firefights. Characters often move like puppets and lip synching is like a bad dub. Some mouth movement does not resemble the word being said by the character. Textures, when closely inspected, are a blurry mess. I played Fallout 4 on the PC with an i7 4790K, 16GB of RAM and GTX 970 SLI and I was still getting frame drops especially in cities and outdoor firefights. I had to edit some ini files to configure Fallout 4 to my liking.
Fallout 4 shares the same DNA with games such as Fallout 3, Skyrim and Oblivion; games that contain substantial freedom and technical issues. Their worlds are sprawling and filled with many captivating characters, locations, items, and hidden stories waiting to be uncovered. Yet Fallout 4 is stuffed by graphical problems and confused AI. Most people that have played previous open-world games from Bethesda will have an idea of what to expect. In spite of that, I was still consumed by Fallout 4. The fine details spread across the world and plethora of options on how you would play in Fallout 4 is what makes it so entertaining and keeps it from being stale.Â