I hear that war never changes, but I’ve been thinking about it and I don’t know if I agree. You could be broad enough to make this sound true but by that logic “nothing” changes. All we need to do is be broad enough about what we consider important to the description of a topic and we’ll eventually find something that doesn’t change. “Music always involves people, therefor music never changes.” Fallout 4 is superficially very similar to Fallout 3. In both games you’ll play a human character, in both games you’ll scour the wasteland, and in both games you’ll hide grenades in people’s pants. You did that didn’t you? I hope you did, it would be sad if you didn’t. Those pants are just asking for an explosion.
This game was actually higher on my list but as I thought about it I started moving it lower. I quite like Fallout 4. I keep finding myself coming back to it, wanting to play it more. Sometimes I can’t even explain why I like it so much but other times it becomes pretty obvious. We can start with the secondary game of Bethesda games. I know a lot of people hate that Bethesda provides the userbase with a fairly blank slate and then gives them the tools to create something pretty slick. For me though this has always been one of the reasons that I like Bethesda games. Often a game developer will give the user minimal (or no) tools and just presume they know best. What you are left with is a game that is “almost” good but its just missing some quality of life tweaks or additions that would make it pretty sweet. For the most part Bethesda has provided me with games I find already fun and then I get to go exploring to make them real good.
Refreshing the Nexus is a deeply satisfying event for me. Taking modules from other users and trying to mesh them together to create an experience custom tailored to me is great. And I can do all this without the bullshit that is microtransactions and DLC. Far too often people defend that whale shit by saying “It allows you to get the game experience you want, rather than charging everyone for everything.” Yeah, well, Bethesda gives me that same freedom but doesn’t nickel and dime my ass.
“But Rico, what about the attempt to charge for mods on Steam?” I…well alright. I can’t argue with that. That was genuinely stupid. They were going to ruin the thing that I like about their games but I can understand why they’d be so shortsighted. The almighty dollar is a bigger motivator of human action than the fear of any god. Luckily they rescinded on it after a lot of customer backlash but even had they done it, as far as I’m aware, they weren’t going to block the Nexus from still providing mods for free (with an option to donate).
I’ve got a lot of mods on my version of Fallout 4 now. Tweaking all sorts of things that make the game more satisfying for me. A lot of these things I’d never expect any game company to think about. As I’m playing through Xenoblade I think to myself “If only I could mod out this problem or that.” I really like it but that expectation of greatness from a developer becomes more and more unrealistic the larger the title becomes. It’s one thing to get the tightly designed Super Mario World to feel like a nearly flawless experience. It’s another entirely to try and make an open world game feel flawless and tight. Almost by necessity it won’t feel like either of those things.
As for bugs? I’ve experienced basically none. I had one minor problem with exiting a menu too quickly a single time. Otherwise nothing has ever gone wrong for me. Does that mean the game works for everyone? Apparently not, if you read the Destructoid forums it sounds like it is crashing for some people and its kidnapping and selling the children of others. It’s interesting to me that this title would be so divisive. I don’t really see all that many people in the “It’s ok.” world. Its either “Pretty good!” or “It touched me and now I’m taking it to court.”
My feelings more directly for the game vary depending on what we are talking about. The weapons are all great to me. I like all of them, I like modding them, I like using them, and I like the variety therein. The outfits (with the mod that allows you to wear armor on armor, yo dawg) are all fun and help me to feel like I’m some kind of fashion oblivious post wastelander. The power armor really delights me, getting in and out of it is something I do more than I need to. I’ve had a few funny experiences where people tried to trick me into an ambush and I just stand there, bullets whizzing by me, wondering just what is going through their heads. I’m standing here with Danse, both of us in fully upgraded power armor, both of us holding super sledges. If I were these bandits I’d be faking like I was lost.
“Oh uh. Yeah, sorry. We were looking for the shopping mall.” Awkwardly sweating while I back away slowly.
The story for the game is incredibly predictable. I can say, without exaggeration, that down to the letter I knew what the story was within the first 10 minutes of the game (first 5?). It’s an atrociously predictable story that has absolutely no stakes. I find this sad because there was an opportunity that was desperately missed. How amazing would it have been to make your character and your spouse, then take turns going through the wasteland busting ass? “Honey, I’ll be back in a bit. Got a little murder in me to get out.”
But no, I’m sent out to find my son. A kid I’ve got no background with, a featureless mass of flesh that means literally nothing to me. I’d sooner bang Strong than care about this kid.
Luckily it isn’t all for naught. Everything that isn’t main story related is great. I like the entire cast of side characters. Danse in particular grew on me faster than an extra limb. Strong is fun, Piper is cool, and so on. Not a one of them overstayed their welcome for me and that’s a positive for me.
Once you get far enough into the game the Brotherhood of Steel starts literally raining from the sky at times. Few things are cooler than a half dozen fully armored (and armed) Brothers dropping from the sky and laying an ass blasting smackdown on Super Mutants, or Raiders, or Mirelurks. It’s just, so good, those are some of my favorite moments. The randomness of Fallout is really where it shines for me. Wondering just what I’ll see around the next corner. Who I’ll meet. What story I’ll uncover from beneath the dirt.
But then we’ve got those puzzling questions. Other than the awful main story. Why does nobody know how to work a saw? Cavemen could build better shelters than the people of the post apocalypse. I’ve got access to wood, and tools, and everything I make looks like shit. I don’t mean to brag, but even in my lacking manliness, I could out build everyone in the commonwealth. No part of me believes that humans of the future would be willing to live in a home with a tattered roof. Especially when the very rains themselves can slowly kill you.
Further, just how many bombs were dropped exactly? Why are we 200 years after they dropped and everything is still a shitty yellow color? Life bounces back extremely fast. I can, in no way, believe that everything would look like someone vomited on it. Plants would have built up a tolerance to the radiation, smaller animals would likely have survived just fine, what few larger ones that survived would be doing alright by now. There would be areas of high radiation but the majority of the Earth would be blanketed by life. A couple centuries is a long freaking time.
I think they do it because they want the game to feel hopeless. Perhaps Bethesda thinks that lush greenery consuming a city just wouldn’t incite the same kind of fear that a barren desert would. I heartily disagree. I feel like fearing a lion attack around every corner, especially a two headed fire-breathing lion, would be terrifying.
I’ve sunk 71 hours into Fallout 4. The majority of those were not spent idling around. And I think I’ve enjoyed about 68 to 69 [heh] of them. I know other folks don’t like this game but seeing as this is a list of games >I< like rather than a list of games >the cool kids< like, it makes the list. If I had to choose what kind of game this is (and I suppose I do) I would not say it is a great game. Not yet, once the modding tools are released I think I'll be able to confidently say that. Because Bethesda games are not just the game itself to me, they are the entire creative experience. They create communities and forge friendships between talented people. They are Minecraft, pre-minecraft. Perhaps not QUITE that much control, but I think of them as wonderful toolkits whose demo mode (the base game) is well worth the face price alone. For now I give it a solid GOOD. Once the tools are out you can mentally transition that to a Great. Only just though, this isn't the next Casablanca of video games. But I'll be coming back to it over and over across the next year I'm certain.