Fallout 4 [Early Review]
Words by DrJohnGalt
I’ve been taking some notes about what I like, what I don’t like, and how Fallout 4 compares with the two previous franchise entries. Bethesda does a lot of things right this time, but there are still some things missing I wish they’d added to (or left in) this game. This early reaction and review will go down the list of a few of the biggest things I want to comment on; there may be a fuller review once I’ve got a few hundred hours into the game, but this is what you get for now.
There may be mild spoilers, but nothing you won’t learn in the first hour of gameplay (or watching the trailers).
Story: I’ll be honest, with all the side stuff to do I haven’t done much with the main story at all. It’s interesting, but I’m more curious about the who and why than about actually finding… well, you’ll just have to see for yourself. So far the main quest is decent at best, but I’m enjoying the side stories for sure.
Dialogue: At first I was disappointed. The past few games have had some pretty in-depth dialogue trees and you could actually see what skills were needed to get which responses. But this game? Only four options, and usually they are simplistic “yes/no” replies to open-ended questions. But it’s a trade-off; the dialogue is fully voiced, and the answers you choose are only an indication of your general attitude; the actual discussions are a lot deeper than your response options. So I’m getting used to it. Better? Worse? Neither. Just different. Well, yeah, I’ll admit it, the dialogue is a bit of a letdown.
Graphics: Decent. Better than Fallout 3 and New Vegas, but still far below the current-gen potential. Environments are good, some creatures look nice, but the human character models are still stiff and the physics are clunky and
sometimes often just plain silly.
That said, Fallout (for me) has never been about the graphics; it’s about the game world, the experience, and the interactions. I’m willing to let my imagination make up for the shortcomings here.
Combat: The VATS system is similar to the last few games, but now time doesn’t freeze while you’re targeting; the enemies keep moving and attacking so their exposed bits (and your chance-to-hit) is always changing. You’ve got to aim and shoot before you get taken down yourself!
Difficulty Levels: Frankly, they don’t make much sense. Normal is pretty good if you’re playing for the experience. I like a challenge so I bumped it up to hardcore survival and got beaten down repeatedly when I encountered my first group of raiders (and absolutely destroyed when I ran into my first Deathclaw). I had to ratchet it back down to just hard. It’s still fun to play but it’s challenging enough that I really need to be situationally aware. If I’m ever surprised or ambushed I’ll usually be forced to run away or die. The hard setting makes me think tactically about each combat situation (I had to shoot and run when fighting the Deathclaw; tracking it down, firing off a few shots then running into a building so he couldn’t get to me. It took a while, but it worked). Early on I stumbled across the train depot that had (I thought) just a few docile feral ghouls. I picked them off from the front and was doing my usual 360-perimeter check when my dog barked out a warning. I turned and saw a whole pack of these wretched but deadly beasts lumbering toward me! I fired off a few shots and tried to run but once these things have your scent they’re faster than they look! Plus they can leap like fleas. One knocked me down, the rest surrounded me, and I died like an expendable character from the Walking Dead.
Scavenging: In past games most of the junk was just junk (like old coffee cups and broken toys and lunchboxes) but in this game everything has a value. The crafting system (see below) is a lot more in-depth and even seemingly worthless stuff can be broken down into basic components and used to make something new. Scavenging just got fun!
Crafting: Best of any of the games so far. There is weapon crafting and armor crafting (both of which I’ve done extensively). For weapons you can modify everything from grips to frames to barrels to sights. Armor is a bit different; You get pieces for your chest, arms, and legs, but you’re limited to what you can wear along with custom-made gear. Armor can be modded to give you stat boosts or other types of buffs or bonuses.
I haven’t done much with my Power Armor yet, so won’t comment on it.
Settlements: The thing I spent the most time with this weekend was settlement building. You can actually build your own towns, complete with electricity, a water supply, houses, stores, fences, walls, security, farms for food and livestock, and more. You can assign your citizens to jobs (patrols, farmers, etc) and recruit new members. And you can set up trade caravans to go between your different settlements! It’s a pretty deep system, but it’s little things that remind me how much better it could be. The ability to change camera angles in build mode would be nice. A better “snap-in” mechanic would help a lot. And being able to choose the location of your settlement (and not just build in designated areas) would have been great. Maybe we’ll see some updates or DLC sometime…
Skills/Perks: I’ve heard that there’s enough game to unlock all the skills, but I’m certainly not close yet. For now I’m still relatively low and haven’t had a lot to work with. But from looking at the skill tree and some of the unlockable perks, there are a lot of different directions I can take my character depending on how I play and grow.
Companions: My favorite to this point is the starter: Dogmeat. Sure he does get in the way when I’m trying to pick things up, and sometimes he seems to blow the element of surprise, but he’s decent in combat and can be used as a distraction while I flank the enemy. I tried Codsworth but (so far) he’s disappointing. Prestin isn’t too bad, but I didn’t want to take him too far from the settlement.
There are plenty of others, most of whom you can romance (except the dog and robot; what kind of closed-minded 19th century prudes made this game anyway?!?). The good news is companions are immortal. They can be knocked down and taken out of a fight (the humans will use stimpacks if available but the dog can’t. Dammed lack of opposable thumbs! You’d think dogs 200 years in the future would have evolved some; maybe Darwin was wrong after all).
NPCs: Haven’t come across too many. The ones I did are all interesting; some good, some bad, some just want your caps, and some just want to be left alone. I don’t trust them, but those who put their trust in people they meet in the Wasteland don’t live long. My charisma skill is so low I can’t pass even the most basic personality checks so there were a few times I haven’t been able to carry on meaningful conversations, but for the most part the NPCs I’ve met are nothing if not eccentric.
Like in previous games, if they die, they are dead. You won’t get the mission or be able to complete it, so save often. I was helping Sully start a generator (I don’t trust him but wasn’t skilled enough to drag any more information out of him when I needed it) and we got attacked by some Mirelurks. He panicked and started running around and the idiot ran right in front of my shotgun blast and died. DON’T RUN INTO THE LINE OF FIRE, MORONS.
Bugs/Glitches: I’ve read about them but haven’t personally experienced any game-breakers yet. However, I have seen plenty of bugs (and I’m not just talking about Radroaches). For example, my dog was downed by that Deathclaw I told you about earlier and I couldn’t find him for hours. I had to fast-travel to get him to show up again. Another time I had to fight an “invisible” Feral Ghoul. Or there was the time I jumped in the water and was trapped below the surface until I found some ground to stand on. And another common one seems to be getting stuck in first-person without the HUD (especially when I’m leaving the crafting stations).
One of the subscribers to our Pick3d_Last livestream said that his Xbox One game had some stuttering issues and frame-rate drops (and from what I’ve read online this is a problem with Xbox but not so much the Ps4).
But I’ve kind of come to expect the bugs. They are like the little quirks that make a person interesting.
What’s Missing: There are a few things I miss from past games. First, the Wasteland survival mode of New Vegas. I enjoyed the extra challenge of having to watch my hunger, thirst, and sleep needs. I liked the realism of ammo that actually took up carrying space.
And I wish they would have kept the gear the degrades with use. The more people I hack with my machete, the more damage it takes and would logically require repairs. The more times I’m shot in the chest, the weaker my armor would get. I understand the game wants players to use their extra loot to craft instead, but the element of making sure my gear is in top shape added another dimension to the survival idea.
So to sum it, this game is everything I expected. It’s taken three steps forward but one step back. Well, maybe just a half step back. Is it worth getting? Hell yes! I’m going to try for 100% completion. Will I get there? Stay tuned!
What are your first thoughts? Leave me a note in the comments below!