When E4 announced it’s lineup for 2016, it was Fallout 4 that undeniably stole the show. Its Pipboy pre-orders sold out in hours, with waves of them having to be announced just to keep up with demand It was a triumphant return to for Bethesda, who faced a seven-year gap between this and their last outing in the Fallout franchise.
Set in Boston, you play as the Sole Survivor – a Pre-War new parent to infant Shaun. Your idyllic life in the suburbs is rudely interrupted by the Great War, where atomic bombs are dropped across America by China. After rushing to the Vault, you and your family are put into cryo-stasis, until you awake to a grisly scene: a stranger wrenches Shaun from your spouse’s grip and shoots them, before freezing you once more. After this, you awaken and stumble out into the post-apocalyptic Commonwealth, ready to seek revenge and find your son.
The new and improved engine serves its purpose: the game is visually gorgeous, alternating between ruined city skylines and open swathes of desolated suburbs, now given over to reclamation by nature. The companions are memorable and interesting, though some more than others—Deacon quickly became a fan favourite for his sarcasm and humour. The creatures faced are detailed to the point of being shudderingly horrendous in some cases, such as the varied ghouls that crawl out of tiny spaces around you and swarm, or the Deathclaws who now tower over your character.
But overall, I was disappointed with the game. In comparison to its predecessors, the Sole Survivor’s pre-determined storyline conveys a heightened sense of restraint – this is who you are, this is what you must do, etc. The voice-acting was also flawed, or rather the dialogue options were. The game features few (if there are any, I haven’t found them) dialogues that are reminiscent of the humour of the older games. In quest dialogues, you have four options. Nice Yes, Sarcastic Yes, Mean Yes, and Question time. Featuring only a base line for what you might say, the options chosen could then be horribly wrong – choosing a sarcastic option might well lead to some dry humour, or it might lead to telling a bereaved father that their dead daughter got what was coming to her.
For a game and a genre that prides itself on freedom, the game doesn’t allow its player to make any real choices. As well as that, dialogue can be disrupted – a nice chat about your developing relationship with your companion can be interrupted by a Deathclaw tearing their head open, which is only hilarious the first few times. My own plot dialogues were often ruined by the companion walking away from me in order to go sit down, shouting at me over their shoulder as their voice faded. Whether this was a glitch or Bethesda telling me not to have important conversations in settlements I have no idea. The quests feel flat and linear, often just the same quest dressed up by different NPCS – go here, fetch this, kill this group of x things. It feels like the developers cared more about the settlement system than the actual storyline.
I picked up the game again once the DLC were announced, hoping to reignite the love I’d felt for the previous games in the franchise – and was again sadly disappointed. While the Mechanist DLC was interesting, the Wasteland workshop was more of the settlement building which I had no interest in. With the release of Far Harbour next week, I’m hoping it’ll change my opinions.
Overall, I did enjoy Fallout 4 but its replay value felt lacking compared to the other games in the series. Although it’s an undeniable visual improvement over them, it feels less like a Fallout game, and more like The Sims: Apocalypse Edition, with the addition that all of your sims constantly complain about everything.