This probably comes a little late. Most of you who have been anxiously awaiting Fallout 4 probably picked the game up at launch and have already spent dozens of hours exploring the wasteland. But for those of you on the fence, those who are not quite familiar with a Fallout game — as was my position when first tasked with reviewing Fallout 4 — you have nothing to fear. Well, except from the sheer size of the game.
As I mentioned in my review in progress last week, Fallout 4 is a massive game. And it does little hand-holding for beginners. After heading to safety just seconds before total nuclear annihilation, you awake from Vault 111 some 200 years later. From that point on, it’s up to you to discover the wasteland.
Fallout 4 has a story, and it’s decent, but it’s not really what the game is about. Fallout 4 is about the gameplay, glitches and all. Yes, Fallout 4 has tons of glitches, and while there have been reports of game-breaking bugs, I, fortunately, have not fallen victim to any (and that’s with over 60 hours into the game). But they are there, most resulting in some hilarious animation. Although, there were some instances where the dialogue audio would get out of sync.
As for the story, well, it’s there. It involves your character searching for your kidnapped son, Shaun. But along the way, while exploring the wasteland, you’ll encounter all sorts of interesting figures — other survivors — some human, some synthetic (robots designed to look and act human), and some victim to the effects of nuclear fallout. Most of the people you come across in the Commonwealth will offer you tasks, often sidetracking you from the main mission at hand — finding your son. Most of these tasks either involve fetching a specific item or killing a bunch of bad guys in a certain location. It can get pretty repetitive, but what keeps you involved is the interesting backstories of the people you’re doing these quests for. While the quest may be mundane, how it unfolds will undoubtedly hold your interest and keep you coming back.
In the end, there are three main factions (or four if you include the Minutemen) all fighting for the well-being of the Commonwealth. Although everyone wants to keep the wasteland safe, they don’t all necessarily see eye-to-eye. Their differing ideologies and views on certain things, like synths, raise some interesting questions and force you to make some difficult choices. Much of Fallout 4 revolves around the age-old question of what it means to be human. It’s this question that drives the main story of Fallout 4. And as you progress through the main story, your answer will ultimately determine who you side with in the end. You’ll have to make some difficult decisions, undoubtedly burning bridges along the way. Your choices have consequences, some good, some bad. Completing certain quests for one faction could mean going at war with another.
Joining a faction isn’t just about siding with their ideology. To a certain extent, factions align with specific playstyles. The Brotherhood of Steel, for instance, believe in superior technology and provide you easy access to Power Armor (although you can still obtain these powerful mech suits other ways). This is perfect for those who enjoy straight up action. The Railroad, on the other hand, operate through underground channels across the city, striking swiftly and stealthily. Keep in mind, your style of play doesn’t have to replicate the style of the faction, but it helps.
Speaking of play, Fallout 4’s big gameplay mechanic is, of course, VATs (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System). Inspired by the turn-based mechanics of the original Fallout games, VATs essentially a queuing system that slows down time so you can coordinate your attack, selecting specific targets and exact body parts you want to aim for. In the later levels, VATs prove incredibly useful as certain perks reveal weaknesses in enemies and provide you with advantages in combat.
The big difference with VATs this time around is that utilizing this system doesn’t completely stop time. Rather, it slows it down just enough to allow you to plan your attack, but not completely disrupt combat. It keeps things moving, but at a manageable pace. For those who prefer live, real-time combat, well, that’s an option, but unstable framerate certainly makes things difficult.
As you complete quests and perform tasks, you'll, of course, be rewarded with experience. Fallout 4 boasts an incredible customization system. From the very beginning you're given a good amount of aesthetic customization options for your character. Once in game, it's all about shaping your character's ability to fit your playstyle through the perk system. There are seven core perks — Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. Each are attached to a specific style of play; the more you invest in a specific perk, the further down its list of abilities you can go. Whether you prefer stealth or straight-up melee, there's a perk for everyone. There's even a perk for charisma to charm the pants off your companions.
Crafting is also a pretty big deal in the game, though admittedly I haven’t taken full advantage of it. From base building to actual weapon/armor crafting, a huge part of Fallout 4 is scavenging for supplies so that you can customize your character and settlements. The former is pretty important, as you can create armor that best suits your playstyle. Finding legendary armor and tweaking it so it best suits you can prove quite useful in the later stages of the game. Base building, on the other hand, I’ve yet to find a clear benefit. Yes, you’ll spend hours carefully planning and building your settlement, but it seems mostly for show. On top of that, there are so many settlements to discover, it just seems like overkill. Still, for those of you who want a place to call home, you’ll probably spend hours fiddling with the base building system. And from what I’ve seen, people can created some pretty badass bases.
As I mentioned, Fallout 4 is a massive game. There’s plenty to do — most of it repetitive — but it’s fun anyways. It’s a game about exploration, investigating every nook and cranny of this carefully constructed wasteland. For newcomers, the complexity of the game’s systems can be a bit overwhelming, especially with no real tutorial. But stick with it, it’s well worth the time you’ll put in. What makes Fallout 4 so great aren’t the individual mechanics, but how they all come together in a seamless way that results in just a darn good time. And that best describes Fallout 4 — fun, plain and simple.