Fallout 4: 1ups and Buzzkills

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Like millions of other Bros, Fallout 4 was my most anticipated title of 2015. Fallout 3 and New Vegas were titles I adored, and although the storytelling and core shooting mechanics of both titles did leave something to be desired, they did not detract from the overall experience of exploring the Wastelands and unearthing its secrets. From choosing your allies (all hail, Caesar!) to building an armory even the Brotherhood of Steel would find imposing, the Fallout series has always been about independence, exploration and seeing your character’s impact upon the world around them. Fallout 4 rectifies issues which plagued the series’ previous entries and adds elements which alter the Fallout experience considerably, however it’s by no means a perfect title. Now that I’m closing in on level 50 and I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit immersed in the Commonwealth, I feel as if I can confidently hit y’all with the 1ups and Buzzkills of this wonderfully gargantuan title!

1ups

  • Storytelling

The core narrative of Fallout titles have never been the reason gamers opt to spend hours (or days) immersed in the Wasteland. While that’s easily still the case for the first twenty hours or so players explore the Commonwealth, the central story of Fallout 4 is easy to understand, and every action (or reaction) undertaken by the protagonist serves the purpose of advancing said story. Each of the factions stand in stark contrast to one another and do a fantastic job of allowing the player to see the world of the Commonwealth from their perspective. As I approached the final missions the central narrative I found myself wrestling to make some of the game’s final decisions-that’s a welcome addition to the Fallout series.

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  • Shooting

At its core, Fallout is a first-person shooter-yet why was aiming down the sights so immensely difficult in both Fallout 3 and New Vegas? Using the exceptional VATS system was a necessity in previous titles to take down most enemies, and thankfully Fallout 4 has significantly improved the gunplay. Aiming down the sights of any weapon is now efficient, and while it’s still difficult to do so while strafing (which absolutely makes sense), taking down the more difficult enemies is now a matter of ensuring you’re equipped with your most powerful guns, as opposed to constantly having to check if your AP meter has recharged.

  • Customization

Introducing customization into the sprawling open-world of Fallout is something Wastelanders have been chomping at the bit for, and Fallout 4 does so. You’re able to customize various components of your weapons, armor and power armor to ensure you’ve a load out catered to your personal predilections. While the options are by no means limitless, the numerous options available coupled with the multitude of weapons players will undoubtedly come across in the their travels ensure you can have an armory which you’re both comfortable with and enjoy using. Prefer to use your 80 different ammo types (the lack of ammo is as real as it’s ever been) for multiple pistols? Go ahead. Want nothing but an assortment of rifles? Go nuts. Prefer light armor to heavier combat armor? Get to upgrading it and make sure it protects you during your travels! In the Commonwealth, you’ve options when it comes to your gear-and that’s a wonderful thing.

  • Companions

While being a Lone Wanderer certainly has its advantages (chiefly, the namesake perk), having a buddy to accompany on your travels to back you up, schlep around the junk you pick up and provide occasional humorous banter is an opportunity most players relish. There are a large number of companions available, and although your options are eventually (slightly) limited by who you opt to align yourself with during the core narrative’s final act, each person you encounter on your travels has their own distinct personality. Spending just a couple hours with each of them allows the player to familiarize themselves with each companion’s personality, and each companion has a distinct manner in which they’re able to assist you. Each companion has their own backstory and mannerism and they’ll interact with one another if you swap one out for the other-you’ll eventually settle on a couple you stick with regularly due to personal preferences, but the fact each companion is distinct adds a layer to the narrative previously unseen in the Fallout series.

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  • Voice acting

Perhaps it was due to the less-than-stellar voice acting NPCs in Fallout 3 and New Vegas possess or maybe it was due to a fondness for imagining how my character sounded while I read their responses-regardless, when it was announced the protagonist for Fallout 4 was going to be voiced I was apprehensive to say the least. After the game’s introduction, my fears immediately proved to be baseless. Moments of emotion are conveyed expertly by not only your character and companions, but NPCs you meet as well. Sarcastic jokes are conveyed using the appropriate tone, as are moments of fear. Typically I’m one to put on subtitles and skip spoken dialogue; however I’ve yet to skip any in Fallout 4. The voice acting is superb, and bolsters the exceptional narrative.

Buzzkills

  • Companion location

One of the niftiest touches of the Fallout 4 map is a little helmet which tells you where power armor suits you’ve acquired are currently housed. This is useful for when you inevitably have multiple bases, or simply if you ran out of fusion cores during your travels-a fairly likely occurrence during the early portions of the game. A similar mechanic does not exist when it comes to your (as aforementioned) numerous companions. When swapping buddies you’ve an option to send them to one of your current bases, and you’re best off sending all of them to the same location so you do not misplace them. There is nothing in your map to alert you to their present location. Towards the end of the narrative I acquired a new companion I’ve yet to use, as I do not feel like prowling around an entire area attempting to find them and they were not with me when the option to have them travel with me presented itself. If power armor can be called out on your map, surely a similar patch can be instituted for your comrades in arms.

  • Base building

Early on the concept of building and customizing your bases is introduced, although it is admittedly not explained particularly well. That being said, once you’ve acquired an appropriate number of resources (more on this later) and spent a solid ten minutes with the mechanic, the concept becomes fairly intuitive. This also provides a neat “endgame” type content previous iterations of the Fallout series lacked. That being said, the actual community/base building itself is limited to the range of motion and vision you possess while controlling your character in first person. This means getting an overview of your area is neigh impossible save for from memory, and erecting buildings from scratch is much more frustrating than it should be. The introduction of an overhead view free from the limitations of your character’s perspective (similar to the Sims) would make this content infinitely more engaging, provided you’ve the appropriate number of resources. Which brings me to my next point….

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  • Resources between bases

I will readily admit, I do not play any of the Fallout games on the notoriously difficult “Survival” mode. While I enjoy the strategic limitations placed upon the player in the form of weight, HP and radiation, I want certain things to be easy (see: number 2 on this list). The addition of gear customization and base building mechanics means previously trivial items such as coffee cups and fans are now to be hoarded by players for materials. Once items are broken down into their resources, they stay at your workshop to be used however you see fit-seems logical so far, right? Well, eventually you can have upwards of 15 bases (I forget the exact number I have) and the materials you store at a particular workshop are not accessible at every single one of your bases-only where you chose to store that particular item. This means the first bases you’re given in the game (which I use to keep all my companions and consequently where I store all my materials) can eventually be overflowing with every type of resource available in the game…but as soon as you acquire a new settlement and break down everything there, odds are you’re going to be short on more than a few resources. I understand the logic behind this and sense of realism this entails…but can’t all your bases just share materials from your imaginary stockpile? I do want to customize each base-but this simple caveat is preventing me from doing so.

  • Lack of armor customization options

The introduction of customization options has absolutely changed the world of Fallout. Being able to customize weapons and power armor means you no longer have to cross your fingers in hopes an enemy drops the specific type of weapon you’re after (although with Legendary weapons/armor this still occurs). More than likely if you come across a half-decent gun or piece of power armor, you’ll be able to bolster its stats to meet your Wastelander’s needs. For non-power armor, the customization options are not nearly as plentiful. Save from some faction armor, most pieces cannot be modified. I was using the same helmet for a majority of my playthrough, which I finally changed when I ran into the game’s final faction: and I have yet to find a superior helmet. Most non-power armor pieces cannot be modified, which is puzzling considering nearly every weapon I’ve encountered can be. Here’s hoping future DLC introduces a wealth of new gear and customization options, such as the implementation of aesthetic changes (Side note: who wouldn’t want to dye their gear?!).

  • Over encumbered

I know earlier in the post I said I enjoyed balancing the numerous restraints put forth on me by the Wasteland and referenced weight distribution: bear with me. Since the introduction of various customization options, all of the previously frivolous items serve a purpose, meaning if you’re looking to bolster the damage of that pistol you’ve been carting around for hours you’re going to need to secure an inordinate number of desk fans and alarm clocks. I’d imagine the number of companions was raised substantially (and each of them given a range of emotions and distinct personalities, to boot) specifically so each player wouldn’t mind having another pair of hands to cart around coffee cups and turpentine, but perhaps that’s just the pragmatist in me. This is an issue those familiar with Fallout are all too aware of, and the frequency of seeing that dreaded warning has increased substantially in the latest iteration.

A majority of players have complained substantially about the number of graphics-related issues they’ve encountered during their journeys across the Commonwealth-while I have encountered frame-rate slowdown a couple times and have had some serious conversations made hilarious by people speaking to me with the back turned, by and large the graphics-related hiccups I’ve ran into are few and far between. Juxtaposing the launch of Fallout 4 with the buggy mess New Vegas was during its first few weeks means Fallout 4 is darn near perfect, however saying a game isn’t as bug-riddled as the last release is by no means intended to be construed as praise. What it does mean from this Bro, is my experience with Fallout 4 has been pleasantly smooth on the graphics front-but by no means has it been ideal.

Fallout 4 is a title I’ve spent an insane amount of time with, and considering the scope of the Commonwealth I’ve no intention of slowing down any time soon. While for this Bro it is undoubtedly my personal Game of the Year, it is by no means perfect. That being said, I realize most of my Buzzkills are centered around interface issues, a lack of options and what I’d deem “housekeeping” related concerns-you’ll notice none are concerned with the actual gameplay itself. That’s a beautiful thing, and if you’ve never checked out the Fallout series now’s the time to do so. Until next time, Bros!

*Disclaimer: All pictures stolen from twitter.com/fallout

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