Fallout 4 Review: The Endless Wastes

Hi all! Sorry I’ve been gone for so long; what with work and trying to complete Fallout 4, I’ve been busy. But I’m back with a review for this huge game, and though it’s quite a bit late, I’d still like to lay out my thoughts on it. So here they are!

Platform: PC (Steam)
Playtime: 136 hours

This was one of my most anticipated games of 2015. Having played Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, as well as being a big fan of The Elder Scrolls series, I was hyped for this long-awaited game. At first, I was not disappointed.

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The opening was a really cool look at what the world used to be like before the bombs dropped. I like the fact that you are someone who was living in the pre-war world, rather than someone born in a vault like in Fallout 3. I felt like I had a bit more connection to the world and like I actually lost something.

Fallout 4 gives you full reins of the world almost immediately. You are set loose in this gigantic open world to do as you like, without restriction (aside from the fact that if you venture into territory with enemies of much higher levels than you, you will die immediately). Something I didn’t like about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was how enemies’ levels scaled with you. So no matter where you went, your enemies would be on par with you. This was fine at first, as it meant I could go where I wanted without fear of being too under-leveled. But when I started reaching levels that were much higher, it became a slog just visiting random caves I would come across, because they’d have ridiculously high-level dragon priests and the like. That’s why I stopped playing and (gasp) never actually finished the main quest.

Fallout 4 does away with this mechanic and opts to just have areas with higher-level enemies that you’re just not supposed to go to until you’re a higher level yourself. I like this much better–perhaps it’s less “open-world,” but it’s more fun. Generally, the farther south you go, the higher-level enemies are.

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As for combat with these enemies, it is much improved over previous entries in the series. You can now actually fight without VATS, and it’s not terrible! Of course, it’s still better to use VATS when you can. VATS also no longer completely stops time, it just slows it down, making for a bit more tense fights, which I appreciate.

Again, there are several factions that you can ally yourself with, and depending on whom you side with, the ending will change accordingly. Initially I had some difficulty in choosing a side, since there are several factors at play and layers of moral grayness that I won’t get into for the sake of avoiding spoilers, so I tried to avoid relatively neutral for as long as possible. Though, of course, this becomes impossible to do towards the endgame.

While I did like the story more than Fallout 3‘s (who cares about water?) the endless radiant quests really started to turn me off after a while. Every faction has them, and they all play on some variation of “go here and kill X,” which is fine at first, but after doing it dozens of times it really starts to get old. It just felt like a slog, something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do. (I call this the Animal Crossing effect: it’s not actually fun, it feels more like a chore, yet you keep playing it anyway.) It took me a while before I realized that several of these quest lines might actually never end, even after you beat the game, so I just had to at some point say “I’m done with this” and stop playing. This kind of left a bad taste in my mouth about the game, which is unfortunate because the rest of the game is so much better.

This kind of ties into my other big gripe with Fallout 4, and that is the really shallow backstories of the locations you visit. I think Bethesda did a much better job this time around of making every location unique, but the gameplay remains the same: go in, kill raiders/ghouls/super mutants/whatever, pick up loot, and leave. Rarely does any location feel special, which is a shame because there is so much opportunity for depth. There are a few choice areas with very good tension-building moments, but those are few and far between.

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To really enjoy this game to the fullest, you need to learn when to say no to quests. This was very hard for me, being somewhat of a completionist (hence the long time it took for this review), but at some point I just had to say “No, Preston, I don’t care about your damn settlers, I’m sick of saving them from ghouls over and over again!” Seeing the “Quest Failed” indicator come up hurts at first, but you’ll have more fun in the long run.

One thing I really enjoyed about the game, though, is the new crafting system. I don’t even remember how it was in the other Fallout games–I’m not sure I ever even tried crafting–but the game does a great job of actually putting all that junk you find out in the wasteland to good use. Everything you pick up has a material that can be used to enhance your weapons and armor. This is a double-edged sword, though: since everything is useful in some way, I found myself frantically picking up everything I could find, which was very tedious. Eventually I realized that there are only a handful of actually useful materials that nearly everything requires, aluminum and adhesive chief among them. Limiting yourself to only picking up the rare stuff will make it less of a slog.

Another thing you can use these materials for is to craft buildings for your settlements. Settlement-building was something I was really excited for after seeing the trailer for the game, but found that once I actually started playing, I had almost no interest in it. Some people might find it fun–it seems like there is a lot of depth, and people have been able to make some pretty cool stuff–but I chose largely to ignore it.

That strikes at the heart of Fallout 4 for me. There’s a lot of stuff you can do, but you have to figure out what it is that you can safely ignore, because you can’t possibly do everything. And the game doesn’t do a very good job of telling you what you should or shouldn’t do. You may find yourself frustrated after a while, until you realize that you can just skip those things that made you frustrated. It can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

Anyway, I’m done with this game. Time to actually do something productive, I suppose.

 

 

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