Ah, Fallout. A personal favourite of mine and a franchise that’s been around for quite some time now; with its first entry in the series going as far back as the late 1990s. It’s seen some change over the years, going from an isometric CRPG to more of a first/third person ARPG with the release of Fallout 3, New Vegas and 4.
Fallout 4 was the second game in the franchise to have been developed solely by Bethesda (New Vegas was previously developed by Obsidian Entertainment) and as such was a chance for the studio to prove that they could build on the previous depiction of everyone’s favourite post-apocalyptic setting. Unveiled by Todd Howard during E3 2015 to a horde of eagerly awaiting fans, the reveal stream is something I fondly remember absolutely crushing my teenage sleep schedule for, even after all this time.
The level of excitement was palpable. Pre-war player backstory? Woah. Massively customisable weapons and Power Armour? Woah. Vertibird passenger princess? WOAH. New characters, new story and new locations to visit, all wrapped up in a shiny new engine that promised to blow everything that came before it away with nuclear fire. But did it live up to expectations?
The Good, The Bad And The Wasteland
8 years on and with multiple DLC releases to bulk up its offering, Fallout 4 has seen its fair share of both praise and criticism; some justified, some a little less so (in my opinion, anyway). Veteran fans of the series claimed that there was a lot to be desired from the RPG side of the game with some claiming that these elements felt lacklustre or even lesser when compared to the previous entries to the franchise, while newer fans praised its updated combat and gunplay.
Instead of focusing on the points of contention (to begin with, at least), I’ll start by mentioning some of the features that Fallout 4 presented that I believe make it stand out on its own compared to what came before it. Some of these were entirely new to the franchise and some were improvements on existing systems, but they were all something that I think adds to the overall experience.
Another Settlement Needs Your Help!
One of the biggest draws to Fallout 4 was the fact that for the first time since the series’ creation, the player is given the tools to create their own settlements in the game world. This would prove to be a major selling point for the game, with users sharing their wild and wacky creations from simple player homes to bustling trading hubs full of NPC merchants.
The premise is simple, find a location with a workbench, clear said location of any wasteland critters and voila! You’re now the (hopefully) happy owner of a brand new settlement in the Boston wastes. From there it’s up to you: Want to focus on farming? You can do that! Fancy running a small village for NPCs to live in? Have I got good news
for you! Want to turn a quiet section of the map into a trading plaza with merchant stalls? The possibilities are endless! This is only improved upon by the inclusion of the ‘Workshop’ DLC packs that Bethesda introduced into the game, which were all themed around a different kind of addition. There were three main workshop addons in total, with those being the Contraptions,
Vault-Tec and Wasteland Workshop; with each one introducing new ways to customise player settlements with unique aesthetic items and props.
One thing that was promised early on with Fallout 4’s reveal was the level of customisation offered to the player in the form of an overhauled system for both weapons and armour. In previous entries to the franchise, players were able to have some level of agency with their weapon and how they modded it – with Fallout New Vegas having modifications that the player could switch out for weapons. Fallout 4 changed that by allowing practically every level of the weapon to be personalised in their own, unique ways. Each weapon has modules that can be swapped
out and customised based on your playstyle: If you want a gun that shoots faster, then good news! There’s an upgrade for that! The only downside is that a lot of weapon and armour upgrades are tied directly to perks and player levelling, so you’re going to have to spend a bit of time levelling if you want to maximise your customisation potential.
But perhaps one of the greatest features of the new customisation was something never before seen in a Fallout game: Personalised Power Armour. Maybe one of, if not the most iconic items from the franchise is the near-indestructible suits of mechanized power armour. For the longest time, players were able to own these suits but never add a more… personal touch. Fallout 4 introduced the ability to give your Power Armour its own style. I’m not saying the best part of the game is running around in a suit of hot pink hulking metal armour whacking raiders with a golf club… but it just might be one of the better moments. Now that I’ve covered some of the reasons that I think made Fallout 4 stand out from the rest, it’s only fair that I cover two points that players found issues with when journeying to the Commonwealth on first playthroughs. Keep in mind that these aren’t game-breaking nor are they awfully bad, but they are still points of debate in the wider community.
Does The Voice Fit The Face?
One of, perhaps if not the single biggest change that Fallout 4 brought to the table was the introduction of a voiced player character. Initially, this seemed like an interesting route to take, allowing players to see their dialogue options acted out by a voice actor instead of just picking some text and getting a response from an NPC. However in practice it became something of an area of discourse for long-time veterans of the series. See, because Fallout is a role-playing game, most players like to craft a character that they can envision themselves as which often means that dialogue options will be read in-character. The introduction of a voiced protagonist made it a little more difficult for players to imagine their character as anything other than what the voice actor brings to the table.
Another issue was the fact that a lot of times when choosing certain dialogue options, what is said rarely matches what is written on the dialogue radial. It also lead to players feeling rather restricted in what they were able to say to other characters, as most interaction boiled down to:
- Top: Question
- Right: Sarcasm
- Left: Yes
- Bottom: No
Quite a lot of NPC interaction revolved around this level of structure which, after a fair few hours of the game, does end up feeling very samey. It feels like quite a step back especially when compared to its predecessors which had more than four options of dialogue to choose as well as large, comprehensive dialogue trees. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some stand-out moments of character interaction between the base game and the respective DLCs that were released but they do still lack the depth that the earlier games offer.
Similar to the RPG elements of the dialogue system, the other area that Fallout 4 suffers in (in my opinion) is the changing of the skill system. In previous titles, Fallout offered the ability for the player to invest in skill points as well as an individual perk every level (1 in FO3, 2 in FNV) which meant there was a level of individuality to each character that a player created throughout their run. In Fallout 4 the system changed, merging both the skill and perk system together in one chart which the player is able to earn a point for with every subsequent level-up.
This is something of a downgrade when compared to previous games, as it turns what was a cool moment when you’re able to select a cool perk into something of a grindfestas certain skills and perks have different level requirements as well as their own levels that you have to pour multiple points into if you want the full benefit of the ability. The removal of skill checks made this system all the more confusing, as it would have worked perfectly alongside certain skills.
Lastly, after multiple years of post-launch support, Fallout 4 saw the addition of 3 new story addons and 3 new workshop packs. These two types of addon differed slightly, with the story addons adding new quests for the player to complete, new companions and in two cases a new area for the Sole Survivor to visit. The workshop addons added new customisation options for player settlements, following a set aesthetic adhering to the expansion theme.
Far Harbor is, for me, by far and large the best story addon released for Fallout 4. It introduces a new area, a new story and new characters. The plot, which I won’t go into too much detail (seriously, play it for yourself, you won’t regret it!) is set into motion by the player responding to a call for help by some worried parents whose daughter they believe has been kidnapped and whisked away to an unknown location. It’s up to the player to take on the case and discover the mystery surrounding Far Harbor.
Nuka World was the final DLC to be released, the second story expansion to add a new location for the player to visit. Again, I won’t spoil the plot as I really do think you should experience these DLCs firsthand, but the setup is: The player journeys to Nuka World after listening to a radio message (Level 30 Dependent) where they soon discover that they’ll have to either work alongside or destroy 3 vastly different gangs of Raiders that have taken up residence in the park.
This was the very first story expansion to be released for Fallout 4. Introducing a returning character to the franchise as well as giving the player the ability to craft and customise their own robotic companions, this DLC is a little on the shorter side in terms of quest length but it still offers some fun moments as well as cool rewards the player is able to carry with them through the rest of the game.
Workshops [Contraptions, Wasteland, Vault]
The workshop DLCs do what they say on the tin: they add in brand new settlement customisation options that the player is able to utilise. From adding in ways to cage wasteland critters and pit them against unlucky opponents, automating a conveyer system to store items or produce ammunition; these DLCs bolstered an already pretty solid construction system. Oh, and I should probably mention, one of them lets you build your own Vault. Pretty cool, right?
So, there you have it. Fallout 4 in 2023: A game that I believe still holds up in quality to this day, helped along by a sizeable offering of base game content along with some fantastic story addons that satiate the players need for more once they ‘beat’ the main story of the game. With Bethesda’s newest release, Starfield, looming over the galactic horizon I don’t think there’s any better time to check out Fallout 4 to reacquaint yourself with the kind of RPG that you can expect from the studio. Whether you’re a returning fan of the franchise or brand new to the post-apocalyptic landscape, you’re sure to find enjoyment during your time in the Commonwealth.