Our very own Dave started something with me and Bethesda games a long time ago – he told me that I absolutely, must play The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. He had form for this so naturally, I had to give it a go. Over 300 hundred hours later, I moved on to Morrowind, Fallout 3, and Skyrim – spending hundreds of hours more on them too. What I’m trying to say is that I bloody adore the games that Bethesda make.
Bethesda have always made flawed games yet I believe that Fallout 4 is the first time that those flaws are seriously being brought in to question. Bethesda have never been able to tell a story well, their games aren’t known for cutting-edge graphics and glitches are absolutely the order of the day (which doesn’t excuse them).
And even though all of those things are true and have been for most of their games, I’m still finding myself disappointed with Fallout 4. We were truly spoiled by CD Projekt Red this year. The Witcher 3 oozed class, top-level graphics along with fantastic voice-acting, incredible storytelling, and fantastic writing – all in a rich open world. Dragon Age: Inquisition attempted similar and I thought it was fantastic until The Witcher 3 dropped and changed my outlook in a matter of weeks – it took those Bioware staples and infinitely improved upon them.
Perhaps unrealistically, that’s what I expected from Fallout 4. I was buoyed to hear that they were introducing a non-silent protagonist – I expected to grow attached to ‘Ben’ (my imaginatively named character) in much the same way that I did with my FemShep (not called Ben, just to clarify). In truth, the writing and the voice acting is a let-down in that respect. The lack of quality in these areas is also present in poor character models, bad lip-syncing, and cheesy writing. Fallout 4 could have blown even The Witcher 3 out of the water if they took some time to address these issues. Unfortunately, they didn’t and what we have here is a Fallout game heavily inspired by the (amazing) modding community but with no real improvement over Fallout 3. What we have here is Fallout 3.75.
The old issues are still present – one of my biggest bug bears is that the companion system is still almost as awful as ever. Those guys are easily lost, they love to block doorways (and stubbornly don’t move a smegging inch when you need to see what goodies lie beyond), and they love to run right across you as you release the ‘throw Molotov’ button.
Glitches are common-place. Floating hands, floating fences, floating Super Mutants, invisible guns, people stuck in between walls, broken Pipers. I could go on.
But, you know what? Despite it all, Fallout 4 is still the most absorbing game I’ve played this year. I simply can’t put it down.
Where Bethesda have improved can be seen in the world that they’ve built. Their games are always expansive areas with much to see and do but they’ve really taken it up a level. For anyone familiar with the last two Fallout games, Boston will feel familiar in many ways. But it will also feel far denser. The world is rich, you simply can’t walk to your target destination without taking a multitude of detours. I spent three and a half hours heading towards a mission marker because I couldn’t not go in that building, and that other one. And just when you think you’re there, you’ll see something else that you just have to explore.
The vertical exploration is also a joy – you’ll come across six story buildings with access to rooftops (a favourite haunt of Super Mutants everywhere). You’ll even get a little lost in some of those expansive buildings. You’ll come across another thing that Bethesda do so well – small touches of brilliance. Every day stories existing in terminals and notes spread throughout the wasteland. Scenes that you’ll stumble upon and wonder what the hell happened – many times leaving you with little clues – others with no clue at all.
Looting is as good as ever with gun and armor mods, power armor and materials needed for building settlements – you have more reason to loot than ever before.
These are precisely the reasons that made us fall in love with Bethesda games in the first place and this is why most of you will love and forgive Fallout 4 for not living up to the hype.
Ultimately, everything that Bethesda do well is here. We all expected more and I truly do believe that Bethesda have a huge amount of room for improvement but Fallout 4 is a terrific way to spend 100 hours of your life. If they can sort out the reasons for disappointment in their next game – well, I’m not sure I’d ever be able to play anything else.