One of the most anticipated games of the year, and it delivers. Fallout 4 is a immersive post-apocalyptic sandbox nearly every gamer can enjoy.
Exploration & Content
Settlements & Crafting
Bugs... so many... bugs...
Lack of karma system
Limited story choices
Fallout 4 Review Introduction
The Fallout series was born in September of 1997 as an isometric ARPG initially created by Interplay Entertainment. It received Game of the Year awards and is held as one of the most beloved games of the late 90’s. Fallout 2 was released roughly a year later, and while it did well, the game didn’t receive the level of response the original Fallout did. Enter Fallout 3. Many gamers are unaware Black Isle Studios and Interplay began developing Fallout 3 back in 2004, but sold the rights to Bethesda, who spent the next four years making what can only be held as a ‘game changer’ in the industry. Released in October of 2008, FO3 redefined the Fallout experience by moving from the isometric view of its predecessors to the full-world immersive 1st and 3rd person view. With state of the art graphics and redefined gameplay, it won Game of the Year, Best Writing, and even Best Video and Computer game of the Decade. It was a smash hit and set a new standard for future games. FO3 was so successful that Obsidian Entertainment created Fallout New Vegas and released it in October of 2010. It also received numerous awards and continued to solidify the beloved Fallout franchise.
For more than four years after New Vegas, fans awaited the announcement of Fallout 4. On June 15th 2015, Bethesda induced a dose of excitement to gamers worldwide with the official announcement, preparing millions of gamers for the next long-awaited installment of the franchise.
Fallout 4 released on November 10th, 2015. At the time of writing this review, FO4 has a 4.5/5 Metacritic rating, 9/10 on Steam, 9/10 on Gamespot, and 9.5/10 on IGN. It sold 1.87 million digital copies in 3 days, and generated more than $750,000,000 in revenue with a total of 12 million console and PC copies sold to retailers prior to launch. There’s little question the game will probably break the $1 billion revenue mark.
There is no doubt FO4 is a massive hit; perhaps one of the biggest in gaming history (from a sales and review perspective), but how good is the game, really? Players love the world of Fallout, and a large part of the game’s appeal is the exploration of a post-apocalyptic world paired with 50’s music and a violent mad-max style raw immersion that stands unique in the gaming industry.
Featuring an open world, crafting, side quests, settlements, legendary enemies and items, a post-war atmosphere and a redefined perk system, FO4 takes the next step in evolving the franchise; but not all of it has been met with praise. Numerous players are complaining about a lack of complexity, survival difficulty being too easy, limited NPC interactions (coercion, etc.), lack of a karma system, poor graphics, and limited repetitive quests. Some players go as far as to say FO4 is a first-person shooter (FPS) with some RPG elements, but is not a true RPG. Many people are also commenting on how weak the storyline is compared to New Vegas. There is also distaste for how Power Armor was implemented. But how much merit do the positives and negatives discussed by the reviewers and gaming community have? Let’s find out.
I also want to lead in by saying this is more than just a Fallout 4 Review, it can also act as a sort of guide. FO4 is a large-scale expansive game with numerous features and complexities. Those who are reading this review will not only learn about the pros and cons of this game, they can also find tips and content herein that will enhance their gaming experience within the Fallout 4 world.
Fallout 4 is based on post-apocalyptic survival in an irradiated wasteland of city ruins inhabited by survivors, raiders, ghouls, mutants and other nasty creatures. It’s fantastic. The Story of Fallout goes back to the initial release from 1997 and has built over nearly two decades with each additional release. The core focus of the game is playing a vault survivor that ventures into the wasteland after being in cryogenic stasis for roughly 200 years – your core mission? To find your son, who was stolen by… somebody. I won’t focus too much on the storyline other to say that I believe it was well-executed. While the game does lack some of the prior true “role-playing” options (which many players have pointed out), the overall immersion and progression through the base storyline is well-balanced in the way it introduces the factions and “gotcha” moments tied to different steps in the main quest. One complaint from players is you cannot truly be evil in this game and then align with evil-oriented factions or quest lines. This is correct and also emphasizes the fact FO4 has no Karma system, which many players are quite upset about (and I am personally in agreement). Another issue is your decisions really don’t change too much in the game. Unlike its predecessors, FO4 only allows for some rudimentary adjustments tied to core factions. You can’t blow up Diamond City or engage in activities separate from the main story line that have any real influence on anything else. Sure, NPCs will say different things based on where you are in the storyline, but it’s all quite linear. Regardless, I have to give credit; some of the storyline is very well-done, especially the walk down Kellog’s memory lane (an excellently executed unique part of the story). Unlike FO3, the game quickly ejects you from the vault – the goal is to get you out into the wasteland and wandering as soon as possible (which I think is great – we don’t have to hear any more about the Tunnel Snakes ruling!). Once you leave the vault, a large and expansive world awaits, and it does not disappoint.
When you start FO4, you first customize the Appearance of either (or both) the husband or wife, and then choose which one you want to play. The game does a very good job empowering players to produce rather unique-looking results. Hair style, facial scars, skin quality, eye color, tattoos, and even the ability to sculpt the underlying bone structure of the face allows for a wide variety of character designs. Players have gone as far as making near matching faces for: Walter White, Michael Jackson, Hulk Hogan, Kanye, Putin, and even Beavis and Butthead (as husband and wife). Needless to say, the gaming community is having a lot of fun. A player can change their character’s look after creation through a facial reconstruction surgeon by the name of Doc Crocker, located in Diamond City.
The World is a large sandbox collection of numerous points of interest, many with vast interiors to explore. Downtown buildings, abandoned mines, creepy hospitals, abandoned military outposts, nasty swamps, irradiated craters, schools inhabited by mutants, and subways overrun by ghouls are just a few of the locations the player can explore. Many areas that seem small on the outside can end up being impressive and immersive adventures deep into the heart of a new area. The area that impressed me the most was the extensive mines beneath Dunwich Borers; it truly had me thinking My god, where am I? Is there an end to this? This brings us to Exploration, another key part of the game. Quests will only take you so far; the rest is up to you! There are more than 242 known locations to discover. That’s a lot of exploring to do, especially with the extensive nature of some of the areas (which are quite large). Here’s a quick breakdown of the core categories of places one can venture: Vaults (5), Housing (13), Wrecks (5), Farms (12), Junkyards (8), Truck Stops (6), Quarries (5), Military Bases (15), City (17), Metro (7), Points of Interest (20), Radio Towers (9), Factories (22), Buildings & Ruins (36), Churches and Schools (14), Hospitals (7), Lakes Cabins & Parks (21), Nuclear Sites (5), Marinas (7) and Police Departments (8). There are also a number of hidden locations such as the alien crash site and the crazy cat cabin. Your character receives experience for discovering a new place, and once discovered, can fast travel there any time. Locations will also “respawn” enemies; so if you cleaned a place out before, be warned that new tenants may have moved in since then! Additional details on the locations can be found here.
There are only two main Towns in the game (separate from access to headquarters tied to faction): Diamond City and Goodneighbor. Both towns offer everything a player could need, ranging from services to quests and even barfights. And if you get tired or traveling to either of the towns, don’t worry; you can build your own! (covered below under Settlements)
One of the best enhancements to FO4 is you can now see what’s in a container simply by hovering your cursor over it!
The Weather can quickly change from sunny to raining, and even radiation storms (this is when you want to take cover). During your adventure throughout the world, the nostalgic and unique Music of the game accompanies you through radio stations, complete with a wonky DJ that you get to meet and help; however I do feel FO4 is a bit lacking in this area because while they added more music, they failed to add more alternative content like they did with FO3 (his faithful manservant, Argyle!). While there is the Silver Shroud station and quest line, players pretty much listen to the same 50’s station (Diamond Radio) or the Classical station throughout their adventure — because there’s not really any other listening options. But it’s nice to hear additional musical pieces added once you meet Magnolia in Goodneighbor (sung by Lynda Carter, for those who remember Wonder Woman from the 70’s). But there’s a reason for the limited “oldies” content; there’s really not any left to put in the game. For more information, a detailed history of the music in Fallout 4 can be found here.
Dynamic Events also enhance the experience and are better executed than FO3; firefights, Brotherhood of Steel (BoS) copters, and mini-nukes exploding in the distance all represent real battles that are taking place – battles which you can join. It’s quite entertaining to see a BoS copter attacking a nearby supermutant complex and running into the chaos of battle to help terminate the giant green nasties. I’ve also had casual exploration turn into a complete clusterfuck when I happen upon a group of raiders (with legendary leaders) and suddenly a group of traders walks into the firefight (and joins in, throwing grenades) followed by a few BoS paladins with laser gatling gun in power armor. This can often make identifying friend from foe a problem, and makes it easy to accidentally shoot a trader and have their guards turn on you. Some of the battles are outright crazy – and fun.
Quests come in four flavors: storyline, side, dynamic and repeatable. While the storyline and side quests are similar in style to FO3, I think they are well done. When you’re pursuing the Courser to extract the chip from its head, you really feel like you’re going after something very dangerous. Going through the mental hospital is creepy and surprising (with what you find at the end), and the staged events such as the BoS airship arriving, or meeting the Railroad are quite enjoyable and immersive. While Bethesda touts FO4 has repeatable and “endless” quests they are limited and very repetitive (in a bad way). Something that’s both surprising and disappointing is the repeatable quests for the minutemen always seem to be the same locations and nearly identical “types” (e.g. rescue kidnap victim). With all of the settlements the game has you set up (covered below) it doesn’t make sense only a small percentage of them offer quests. Occasionally, dynamic quests can randomly pop up, such as “help defend checkpoint” or “defend settlement”. These are rare and fun distractions, but don’t occur often enough. In my opinion, the main storyline is solid, even though many players complain it’s not as complex as they would like. The side stories also add quite a bit to the game. Even after completing the main quest, I find myself discovering new side quests as I continue to explore the world. FO4 also simplified NPC interaction when it comes to dialogue; there are only 4 options available, and they removed the Medicine, Barter and Science speech options that were available in FO3. Many players are upset this has been removed, but I don’t feel the quests are any less enjoyable due to the simplification of communication. The only impact a player can have during discussions now is based on charisma. On a personal note, one of the most enjoyable quests was playing as the Silver Shroud. I won’t give away any more for those who haven’t done it yet (you can start it in Goodneighbor).
Let’s face it, survival in the wasteland is based on how much you can scavenge; and there is no shortage of Items to find. There are seven categories of items in the game: Weapons, Apparel, Aid, Misc, Junk, Mods and Ammo. Want to put that Jangles the Space Monkey stuffie in your home? Not a problem. Have a chem addiction to Jet? There’s tons of it out there! Need to get more aluminium to craft the next tier of your power armor? Go raid the TV dinner tray manufacturing plant! Just like FO3, Weight plays a critical part with the inventory system and can be increased through strength, perks, and item modifications. When a player becomes over-encumbered, they cannot fast travel and move very, very slowly. Managing weight is a key part in planning and strategy. There’s nothing worse than being 100% burdened and arriving at the end of an instance only to find amazing things you want to take back to your settlement – but can’t carry! This usually results in multiple trips solely for the purpose of hauling items of value. Weapons come in five categories; Projectile weapons: Pistols, Rifles, Shotguns, Heavy Weapons. Energy weapons: Laser, Plasma, Other (Gamma gun, Alien Blaster, etc). Explosives: Thrown (Grenades), Placed (Mines). Melee Weapons: Bladed, Blunt, Fist Weapons. All guns take ammunition, and depending on the difficulty setting, it can be very hard to conserve it, often forcing the player to switch from a rifle to a pistol in the middle of battle because the last round of .308 was spent. Luckily ammunition can be purchased from NPCs and found throughout the wastelands (and is enhanced with the Scrounger perk). Next we have Armor, which comes in six categories: Raider, Leather, Metal, Combat, Synth, and DC Guard. There are six separate armor slots: Chest, Left Arm, Left Leg, Right Arm, Right Leg, and Headwear (which can cover full headware, hats, eyeware, and masks). Each core armor set has 3 variations: Regular, Sturdy and Heavy. Clothing can be worn under armor, but Outfits count as both clothing and body armor. The only items that need to be repaired in FO4 are power armor pieces (covered in more detail below). Legendary items are another new addition to the game. They are weapons and armor that have special modifiers on them. Many are completely useless (like the pool stick that heals when you hit people with it), but others can be devastating (like the legendary Fat Man that fires two rounds at a time). Every legendary enemy will drop a legendary item, and both the item and modifier on the item will be random, so players often hunt legendary targets to try and find that “perfect combination” of base item and modifier. A list of the currently known legendary weapon affixes can be found here.
Tip: Vault Jumpsuits are the only clothing pieces that can be upgraded at the armor workbench, so hold on to them!
Next we have Power Armor. FO4 changed the mechanics quite a bit by requiring fusion cores to operate them (which drain during use, especially if you sprint!) and allowing each suit to be fitted with custom arms, legs, chest and helmet. While many players complain about Power Armor being bulky and draining cores too easily, I think it’s very well balanced and an excellent enhancement to the game. I think Bethesda did a good job introducing the player to Power Armor very early in the game. When you get in Power Armor, you are truly in a badass suit of armor and can do things you otherwise could not. There are also some character builds that are specifically designed for Power Armor, allowing for slower core drains and taking advantage of crafting custom components (Mark V components are very expensive to make). The standard models of armor are T-45, T-51, T-60 and X-01. You can also find custom paint jobs you can apply to each piece; want a hotrod-looking set of Power Armor? We’ve got that! Ultimately, Power Armor is a choice. Some players avoid it entirely while others prefer to play the entire game (when possible) through their armor suit. Upgrading and repairing Power Armor can be costly in materials, requiring lots of scavenging, planning and management; but you can make very cool modifications such as adding a rocket booster or extra carrying capacity. And we can’t forget about the awesome glowing eyes (blue, green, red, etc.) and combination of paint that can make your character look truly terrifying.
Companions are a very important part of FO4. There are a total of 13 that can be “discovered” and Dogmeat is the first a new player encounters. A companion will fight with you, trade with you, and you can even carry and equip their gear (which defines how they look and what they fight with). Each one offers different dialogue and occasional side quests, and when your companion becomes “beloved” they offer a unique perk that benefits your character. Each companion has a different personality; some like violence while others love it when you steal. A companion cannot “die” but they can be knocked down during combat. You can either wait thhe 10-120 seconds (depending on difficulty) for them to get back up, or immediately revive them with a stimpack. A companion can also be used as a mule in case your character becomes encumbered. You can even order your human companions to use power armor, and while it won’t drain the fusion core, the armor can still be damaged in combat (and require repairs). One annoying part about companions is their AI; more often than not, they will run right in front of you and end up taking bullets in the back as they completely ignore your line of sight during an engagement. They also often fail to attack nearby enemies, and instead clog up a corridor or hallway as if lost. This can be very frustrating, especially on Survival difficulty. Another issue is tracking companions you have reassigned to a Settlement. Many players have run into problems finding Dogmeat (for example) after sending him back to Sanctuary. Granted you can build a dog house; even doing that doesn’t guarantee he’ll use it, and since there’s currently no feature in the game to track the location companions, you often have to wander around to find them. On a positive note, one really cool thing I saw was my companion gun down a legendary enemy, take that enemy’s legendary weapon, and then use it against the remaining targets; and it was an incendiary minigun! It was fantastic. A detailed guide to the companions can be found here.
Tip: Don’t have supply lines yet? Build one or more scavenging stations and assign settlers to them and the settlement will slowly obtain building materials over time!
Settlements are probably the most ambitious new feature added to the Fallout franchise. This system lets the player establish independent towns, build structures, furniture, storage, defenses, resources, electrical systems, and recruit settlers. The sandbox creative aspect of Settlements is quite good for an initial release, and you can guarantee that future content and mods will take this feature to the next level. When you take control of a settlement, you can begin to scrap all of the junk within the defined radius of the settlement to gain raw materials used for crafting everything from walls to beds and even power generators. Each settlement has: People, Food, Water, Power, Defense, Beds, Happiness and Size. People represents the number of settlers that have decided to live in your settlement, and they can be called by building a radio beacon. Food and water and resources can be built, ranging from corn to large hydro processors. Power is only necessary for objects that require it (such as laser defenses or lights); if a settlement’s power (or any other category) is in the green, you’re good. If it’s in the red, you have too little. Defenses include guard posts, turrets and mines. Each settlement requires one bed per settler; if you don’t have enough, Beds will show in the red. Happiness ranges from 0% – 100% and averages 80% with everything in the green. In order to achieve 100% happiness, each settler must have a job, a bed, extra food and water, and extra defenses. A character’s perks and charisma also impact the success of settlements, and Clinics quickly improve happiness. Settlers also like it when their leader is around, so visit often. Many players also strive to obtain the Benevolent Leader achievement (100% happiness at a Settlement that’s 3/4 full of size). A guide to achieving 100% happiness can be found here. The size is defined by the complexity of the rendered objects in a settlement; it’s the control mechanism to ensure somebody doesn’t build something so complex the graphics engine can’t render it at a reasonable frame rate. Players can also build trading stores and establish supply lines between settlements to share crafting components. Settlements can also come under attack; this happens more often when the food and water combination is higher than the defensive rating. When a settlement is attacked, you will be notified as if you received a dynamic quest – but it’s very easy to miss this notification and then you either didn’t realize it was under attack or you forget (they need to add a new notification system as the current one is very poor). Defending a settlement can be quite dangerous yet fun at the same time (depending on location and the creatures attacking). You can also equip weapons on your settlers. Give a few of them a Fat Man or Gauss Rifle and they’ll make short work of any interlopers! Sadly, attacks on settlements are far too rare; they should happen much more often and would make the game more fun while providing a real sense of defending your land. Players can also build stores at settlements that sell weapons, armor, etc. The higher the happiness and longer the stores are around, the higher chance legendary items will appear for purchase. It’s important to note the Settlement feature is probably one of the most promising for future content and enhancements; making Settlements, trading, defending and providing rewards for achieving certain milestones would greatly enhance this system far beyond what it is today. I look forward to seeing what Bethesda and the modding community come up with in the near future! Carl’s complete guide to Settlements can be found here.
Tip: You can build Magazine Racks and a Bobble-head Display to show off your findings at your Settlement!
After Settlements, Crafting is the next big enhancement to FO4. Note crafting weapons and armor only modifies an existing item (one cannot create weapons and armor). Nearly every weapon and armor piece (including Power Armor) can be augmented with multiple modifiers. Players can also craft chems and food. Want to enhance the range, damage and reduce the recoil of your favorite rifle? Not a problem! As long as you have the proper materials. Want to make your chestpiece provide better protection while allowing you to carry more? Not a problem! You can even modify (craft) legendary items. Crafting is performed at the associated workbench. This is where scavenging comes into play. The rule of thumb is pick up nearly everything you can as you venture through the wasteland: ceramic coffee cups, plastic forks, fans, duct tape; all of it gets converted into raw components (such as aluminum, screws, circuits, etc) that are used not only in crafting weapons and armor, but also in building settlement items. You can also salvage items in your inventory (such as weapons and armor) by dropping them on the floor and then scrapping them through the settlement interface. Unfortunately, crafting ammunition is currently not an option in the base game, but the mod community has already built one here. One final very cool feature is the ability to name any item you craft. Growing attached to that shotgun? You can rename it to “Blastie”!
Tip: You can italicize or underline your crafted item names by adding the proper HTML tags (<i> and <u> with closing </i> and </u)) and ensure a named item appears at the top of your inventory by adding a – or * at the beginning of the name.
While there are a total of 15 Factions in the game, the player can only really participate in four of them: the Minutemen, Railroad, Brotherhood of Steel and the Institute. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t really inform you when you make a key decision (via quest) to support a particular faction (which removes your ability to pursue any other). This can be quite a problem as some of the quests have a “point of no return” and the player is not informed their decision has such an impact. But, after the first playthrough, the player has much better visibility on what decisions to make for future playthroughs if they want to pursue a different faction ending for the main storyline.
Tip: You can tag certain crafting materials so a magnifying glass will appear next to any items you find in the world that will break down into those components (such as circuits or adhesive).
There really aren’t that many different base types of Enemies in FO4; we have Humanoids (Ghouls, Humans and Super Mutants), Robots (Synths), Animals (Mole Rats, Yao Guai, etc.), Deathclaws, and Arthropods (Mirelurks, Bloatflies, etc.). Despite the limited base number of creatures in the wasteland, the different variations in human armor, weapons and category status of nearly all creatures (e.g. Bloated Irradiated Feral Ghoul) results in hundreds of variations on these base creatures, with each variation differing in strength, defense and sometimes attack type/weapon. Legendary creatures are also a new feature added to FO4, making the target deadlier; but the good news is each legendary creature will drop a legendary item. The bad news is Bethesda didn’t really introduce us to anything “new” with FO4 as far as enemies go other than the Synths. I wish they would have created new creatures and lore, the way FO3 did.
Tip: A star defines a legendary enemy, and a skull means the enemy is much higher level than you are; beware!
There are many NPCs throughout the game. Some run stores and others offer quests. It’s pretty much the same as it was in FO3. I do like the general chat they engage in (it’s often entertaining listening to them talk) and the different combinations of attire are quite entertaining.
It’s important to discuss the upcoming DLC (downloadable content) for FO4. Bethesda is selling a Season Pass for $30 that gives access to all DLC, but its name is a bit confusing as a Season Pass generally lasts one year whereas the FO4 Season Pass covers all future DLC. As with Skyrim and Fallout 3, FO4 will probably follow in the footsteps of new content every six to nine months, adding new quests, weapons, enemies and more; and with the Settlement feature, I’m sure we’ll also see additional structures and hopefully enhanced defense events. Bethesda has built so many solid “core” systems with FO4, you can almost guarantee future enhancements will build upon them. The first official DLC is due “early” 2016.
Mods are already starting to pop up left and right, addressing issues and enhancements requested by players without having to wait for Bethesda to patch or launch DLC. Some of the top mods while writing this are: Full Dialogue Interface, Enhanced Blood Textures, Darker Nights, Settlement Supplies Extended, Craftable Ammo and Improved Map with Visible Roads. You can visit the top FO4 mod site here.
As with its predecessors, a FO4 character’s Abilities are defined by their S.P.E.C.I.A.L. values and selected Perks. While veteran players will be familiar with the stats system, the Perks system has been redesigned and is now a ten-level vertically scrolling map of 70 different options and a total of 229 ranks. Each character level provides one point to spend and there is No Level Cap to the game, so a player can technically play the game to the point of gaining every perk and stat available. Many of the perks are familiar, such as Rifleman and Toughness, but there are also new perks specific to things like crafting and companions. Enemies also scale with the player, so if somebody wants to level their character to 200, they will encounter enemies around that level in the more dangerous regions. I like how the game keeps the core stats and perks fairly simple, yet allows for specialized building. While one can play the game and unlock everything, the specific choices a character build follows as it grows directly influences the overall play style as one ventures through the storyline and world.
All Damage Types fall into one of five categories: Physical, Electrical, Radiation, Bleed and Poison. The most common are Physical and Electrical (lasers, plasma guns, etc.). Radiation is fairly rare (and a favorite of the Children of Atom), yet quite devastating if the target doesn’t have radiation resistance or power armor. Bleed and Poison are “enhancers” to the other damage types (e.g. a rifle can shoot physical damage bullets that cause bleeding). Legendary gear with enhanced resistances can be found to counter specific damage types.
Tip: You can sell a near-empty fusion core to a vendor and buy it back to receive it fully charged!
Buffs play a substantial role in the game as well. Jet, Psycho and Buffout are just a few. They can enhance your damage, resistances, and even S.P.E.C.I.A.L. values. But be wary; use will almost always result in addiction – and if you don’t feed your addiction, you’ll go into withdrawal. This can leave your character weak and vulnerable unless you can find some Addictol, which will instantly cure all addictions.
Regeneration is critical in FO4 and generally administered in the form of Stims; but there are other regenerative consumables such as meats, drinks and blood packs. While hit points regenerate quickly by default, on Survival difficulty, hits will regenerate very slowly when using something like a Stimpak. Radiation is another concern as well; if you become too irradiated, you will die. The only way to remove radiation is to take Rad-away. While it’s generally not too difficult to find and buy, the combination of radiation damage paired with combat can be devastating. Some regions of the world are so irradiated (such as the Glowing Sea) that a Hazmat suit or Power Armor is required to survive for any duration of time. If you’re low on stims, you can always sleep for 8 hours in an unclaimed bed, which will regenerate your hitpoints in full (minus any radiation). Leveling up also regenerates your character to full health (minus any radiation).
Travel is executed on foot and through Fast Travel to locations that have already been discovered. When the player fast travels, it does take time, so going from Sanctuary to Diamond City at 3pm will cause you to arrive at Diamond City in the evening. The further the travel distance, the more time it will take.
Tip: resting in bed to full health will award the Well Rested bonus, which provides more experience for a short period of time. It’s always a good idea to be well-rested before you start building your settlement; that way you get extra experience!
When Death claims you (and it will, many, many times), the only way to continue is to load a previous game; so saving often is critically important. This is why Fallout has the F5 quicksave feature, so you can quickly return to a savepoint if that lucky supermutant self-destructs a nuke in your face.
FO4 is all about the Combat, and it doesn’t disappoint. The wasteland is a dangerous place and life or death battles are a daily (sometimes hourly) event. The game supports both 1st person and 3rd person mode, and also supports the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (aka V.A.T.S.); a “combat pause” targeting and execution system that allows a character to focus on specific body parts to strike. In FO3, V.A.T.S. would pause the combat entirely. In FO4 it merely slows it down, allowing for more strategic use of the system as the target moves. Fighting the toughest enemies in the game often requires strategic focus on legs (for deathclaws) and arms (for the kamikaze supermutants), and V.A.T.S. is the best way to ensure the right limbs are struck. One can also execute guaranteed critical shots from V.A.T.S. once the bar has filled. FO4 also added the “shoot from cover” feature which allows the player to hide behind a barrier and right-click (holding down) to lean outwards and shoot with minimal exposure. This is an important addition, especially with the higher difficulty settings. Stealth is also a very important factor in this game, allowing one to sneak up and not only pick pocket their targets, but assassinate them with sneak and critical damage. Players can also pursue melee builds that can be devastating; bringing that smashing monster hammer down on the head of a petty raider can be very fulfilling (especially when the head explodes like a bloody watermelon). To summarize, combat in FO4 is fun, exciting and gory with just a touch of strategy; just what players want.
Tip: you can Quicksave in the middle of a conversation just in case you want to try different responses or attempt persuasion multiple times!
While a player can roam the wasteland and survive without ever exchanging items with a NPC, Bartering is a key part of the game and often the only way to replenish your ammunition. NPC traders can also carry excellent upgrades to weapons and armor, including legendary items. They can also sell shipments of core settlement building materials (such as Concrete and Steel), but it’s quite costly.
The Rewards provided to the player throughout their adventure include scavenging (includes opening boxes and safes), looting bodies, receiving quest rewards, and finding special items (such as magazines and bobble heads). It’s also important to note nearly every location has an end-of-instance lootable “treasure box” (which can be easy to overlook). While many of the rewards are static (magazines, bobble heads and specific weapons, etc), when a region is regenerated (e.g. a place you cleared out before but now have a quest to rescue a kidnap victim) the contents of that area are also regenerated – but not the core/static items/layout (e.g. a safe or a desk).
Tip: entering VATS mode will select nearby mines and hibernating ghouls!
There are six Difficulty settings: Very Easy, Easy, Normal (default), Hard, Very Hard and Survival. With Very Easy, the player does 2x damage and takes only .5x damage. With Normal it’s 1x and 1x. With Survival, the player is estimated to only do .25x damage and takes 2.5x the damage. The harder the game, the more legendary enemies will appear. Experience gain is the same regardless of difficulty setting, however the regeneration rate of health by using Stimpacks, etc. is greatly reduced in Survival mode, which is very difficult and not for the faint of heart. I’ve played the game on both Normal and Survival difficulties. I prefer Survival, but recommend first playing the game on Normal to familiarize yourself with the content and world.
The Learning Curve for FO4 can be tough for some depending on their familiarity with prior Fallout games. Settlement building and material management for crafting is unintuitive at first, and some of the early-game combat situations can be overwhelming and frustrating. New players often find themselves learning their first tough lessons in death once they go after the raiders in the Corvenga Assembly Plant, a very dangerous place due to the numerous levels and walkways (which can be shot through), and multiple attackers. But FO4 is a huge game; for those who are frustrated — be patient. You’ll be a wasteland expert in no time!
Tip: in a dark area? Press and hold TAB to activate the light either in your Pip-Boy or your Power Armor!
End game is achieved once the main storyline is complete. Depending on how a character was played and the difficulty level, the storyline can be completed anywhere between level 30 and 60. Once the storyline is complete, that doesn’t mean the game is over. There are numerous side quests and dozens upon dozens of places the character probably hasn’t discovered yet (more than 242 in total). This includes tracking down and collecting all of the magazines and bobble heads, and gathering additional fusion cores for power armor. Many players also hunt legendary creatures to try and find some of the best gear in the game. Some players also focus on building huge Settlements just for the fun factor, often trying to achieve 100% happiness; but this takes a lot of materials, which means the player must constantly clear out repopulated areas and loot as much as they can to use for building. While there are repeatable quests (similar to Radiant Quests from Skyrim), they become repetitive and monotonous rather quickly. It’s unfortunate Bethesda didn’t evolve the Radiant Quest system with FO4 to make it more dynamic and enticing. I’m hoping future DLC/mods for the game address this deficiency.
The only real Replayability factor of the game revolves around restarting and choosing a different faction to support for the main storyline (e.g. Railroad vs. Brotherhood of Steel). Players can also raise the difficulty and choose a different S.P.E.C.I.A.L. / Perk path to take, which changes the overall experience during early and mid-game. Unfortunately, at this time, there is no real faction building or support, or specifically designed end-game features which entice the player to take their character beyond (for example) level 100 other than the options mentioned above in end game.
Technical & Support
While there are a lot of differing opinions regarding the visuals of FO4, I believe the Graphics look great and are well-tailored to support the post-apocalyptic world. When I’m playing the game, I don’t think to myself “wow this game needs better graphics”; I’m immersed and thoroughly enjoying the environment, and many of the regions are beautifully rendered and designed. But there’s good news for those who want better visuals; mods are already in the works that greatly enhance the look and feel of the world. Here’s just one example showing the differences between vanilla and enhanced textures. I never encountered frame rate or rendering issues with my system (Win10 x64 4.2GHz 16GB 970GTX).
Load Times can be long, even on my system running the game from a Samsung 850 EVO SSD (Sequential read up to 540MB/s). I wouldn’t want a system that takes 2-4x as long to load, and feel for those who are playing the game from a non-SSD.
The Sound FX are standard given the world, but one complaint I have is the voices of enemies around you is not well-represented on 5.1 surround; quite often the game’s directional sound will not muffle or adjust the direction or volume of a sound’s origin in a useful fashion, making the “you’ve been noticed” voices fairly useless. On the plus side, the distant sounds of combat are great, properly muffled, and come from the right direction.
The Interface has been greatly simplified in order to support both the console and PC; this is both good and bad. It keeps the interaction with the game uniform, but also limits what a PC can do vs. a Console. Unfortunately, there are lacking components, such as no item searching, and players accidentally killing themselves with the ALT key when they intended to “bash” with their weapon but instead end up throwing a grenade in their own face. Due to the cross-platform nature of FO4, the core design makes logical sense, but it irritates PC players to be stuck with an interface system that was really designed for consoles (the lowest common denominator for input). I’ve also encountered numerous bugs with the interface; I’ve had my weapon, and even the text of the Pip-Boy disappear completely (requiring a restart of the game). I’ve also had issues where clicking on input fields (during character creation) simply doesn’t work. Such rudimentary problems should never have made it past QA.
There is a basic Tutorial that displays in the upper left corner of the screen as a new character begins their adventure, informing the player of features ranging from using Power Armor to building Settlements. It works, but is very basic, and if a player misses a message, they won’t see it again. It would have been nice if Bethesda designed some sort of intelligent tutorial system that detected player behavior (to a basic extent) and provided something like “Looks like you haven’t crouched yet! Press the Left-CTRL to crouch, which hides you!”.
Unfortunately, FO4 has a lot of Bugs at release. Game freezes, numerous AI mishaps, bugged quests, settlers not assigning to stores, and elements of the UI “disappearing” (which requires a restart of the game) are just a few I’ve encountered. I even had the game get stuck in Gauss Rifle “fire” view and refuse to bring up any UI element; even after a complete restart! The save had to be deleted and I had to revert to a prior save. Not good! Another issue was not being informed a quest decision would render my pursuits of other factions unavailable; this resulted in quests I could not complete, but provided no explanation (which very well could have been a bug).
Being one of the hottest releases of 2014, the Bethesda and Steam Support Forums are quite active. The FO4 subreddit is also a key site for discussing anything and everything FO4.
Fallout 4 is a massive and expansive sandbox-style post apocalyptic combination ARPG and FPS that delivers what I believe most players wanted for the next installment of the Fallout franchise. It offers dynamic combat, settlement building, extensive exploration, and both tough and entertaining dialogue (and decisions). Crafting enhances the ability to customize weapons and armor, and the higher difficulties are quite a challenge (playing on Survival requires strategic planning and use of items you never would have considered using in Normal difficulty or lower). While it does have numerous bugs and lacks the karma system from FO3 and side-factions from New Vegas, it definitely sets the next-step standard for the franchise and paves the way for future DLC and mods. This is a game that everyone can enjoy on both PC and Console. Even with the bugs, Bethesda has created an excellent game. I can’t wait to see how FO4 evolves and expands over the next few months and years.