Ok, so this review’s coming out a bit late, but that’s only because I haven’t been able to stop fucking playing. Well, that and having to go to sleep and go to work every now and then. But Bethesda did their thing again and has released a game that’s already eaten up a few full days of my life so far. So here’s my late Fallout 4 review. Spoiler alert; I’m having fun.
Fallout 4‘s main quest is pretty good, despite getting off to a shaky start. Trying to force players to care about characters without giving them any reason other than “we told you to” to has always been a bad idea, and Bethesda did seem to fall into that trap this time around. It stops doing this pretty quickly for the most part, but the first thirty minutes or so of the game had a problem where I they were trying to make me sad or concerned over characters that I had no reason yet to care about. The game also makes you start out in a straight relationship, which is a little jarring coming from a series that’s usually so “do whatever you want” about everything, including character sexuality. This could have probably been avoided with slight tweaks to the story and a retool of the character creation screen.
But those are pretty minor complaints for the most part because the story gets over this initial awkwardness pretty quickly. The sidequests are just as interesting as the main one, and quite a few characters from Fallout 3 return, which makes me happy.
Companions are pretty nice, too. The AI seems to have really smartened up since New Vegas and Skyrim. That still didn’t stop an NPC I was tasked to follow from getting stuck on the corner of a car and running in place for several minutes that one time. Or from Codsworth deciding to intercept my grenades at every opportunity. Every companion is written with personality though, which is a big improvement over Skyrim, to be honest. They all have their own stories and most seem to have their own side-quests that explore them. They also comment a lot more on the things happening around them, which helps to make it feel like I’m travelling with an actual character and not just a generic, poorly programmed game AI. This did once result in Nick getting stuck in a door and spouting the same line over and over again for fifteen minutes while I cleared the rest of the building myself, so give and take, I guess.
Speaking of stability… well, it’s Bethesda. That being said, aside from NPC pathing getting stuck on geometry every now and then, a few minor visual glitches and the physics engine still getting… overenthusiastic at times when it comes to the small bits of junk you find lying around on the floor, I’ve yet to actually experience anything game-breaking. I had two CTDs a while ago, on two separate occasions, but they were ‘solved’ by opening the game again and I haven’t been able to reproduce them since. This was all on the PC version, and may be a completely different experience on the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game, for better or worse.
Tl;dr, my experience with FO4 has so far been more stable than that with Skyrim, but probably still not within the range of ‘acceptable bugginess’. CTDs aren’t exactly game-breaking, but they’re still not ok. My experience also isn’t universal and quite a few fellow PC players may be reporting actual game-breaking bugs that I haven’t gotten (yet?).
Gameplay, when it works as intended, is great. It’s pretty much the same deal as in 3 and New Vegas, but slightly more streamlined. Skills have been completely removed and replaced with a perk/level system similar to Skyrim’s. I’m still not sure how I feel about that, because I feel like this change removed the opportunity for a lot of the hilarious skill-exclusive dialogue options that the last two Fallout games had. But it does help solve the age-old problem where inexperienced RPG players would have a very bad time after accidentally building their character poorly.
Relating to dialogue options, I am a tad disappointed in how dialogue was handled this time around. It’s the same problem I had with Mass Effect and Dragon Age 2; picking out the vague moods of what you actually want to say just wasn’t as fun as actually, you know, choosing what to say. It ended up with me accidentally having my character say the opposite of what I wanted them to because the prompt was too vague. As with most RPG series that have made the switch to full voice acting, I feel like FO4 traded off really interesting and diverse dialogue options in exchange for a voiced protagonist.
The game looks… nice? The graphics aren’t groundbreaking or even even on par for a game released in 2015, but the world is well put together and every model and texture feels well designed, if not particularly high-poly/resolution. The interior lighting seems to freak out sometimes when it hits character models in particular. But the character models themselves (and their animations) are a pretty big improvement over Bethesda’s usual fare.
Oh, and there’s weather. Which is really neat.