Fallout isn’t a game I thought I would actually like. When I was buying the PS4, there weren’t many games I could think of that I was really interested in, so I picked up Fallout 4 thinking it would be a decent time-waster, but nothing too spectacular. I was extraordinarily surprised when I got completely sucked into the world, and coming home from work became synonymous with playing Fallout.
I’ve never been a fan of open-world “sandboxes,” largely because I feel there’s a lack of direction given to a player. I also feel that there is such a thing as having too much content, which is something I felt when playing Bethesda’s previous game, Skyrim. Not only that, but I’m not exactly a fan of third- or first-person shooters, as I often have trouble with aiming guns in games. I’m much more comfortable in more hack-and-slashy experiences.
Fallout 4 addressed both of these usual grievances of mine, without falling out of their trappings completely. There is a lot to do in Fallout 4, but nothing takes up a whole series of quests except the main story and each of the four factions. All the side quests can be accomplished one at a time, in a single sitting, so it’s easy to just turn the game on, take a quest to clear out a building or find an item, and finish it before dinnertime. There’s always something to do, and it can always be done without ruining your social life (unless you let it).
Meanwhile, the V.A.T.S. system takes a lot of the frustration I have with shooters out of the game. Using ability points, you can slow time and auto-aim at specific parts of an enemy, allowing an easier battle. You will have to shoot regularly most of the time, but the system is still a great boon, as you can make a fight much easier to deal with very quickly, and often before it even begins.
Combat as a whole is very solid. There’s always adequate cover for the heavy battles, and smaller battles are usually handled out in the open to allow for quick dispatching of enemies. It does occasionally throw you a curveball you might not be able to handle without a few loads of a save, though. One particularly nasty enemy even shows up as a boss in one of the first story quests, long before you expect to have to fight something of its caliber. These happen seldom enough that I just consider it the game preparing me for what will come ahead, though.
My favorite part of the game is definitely the companion system, though. Throughout the game, you meet with people who will ask to travel with you, and each have likes and dislikes. As you rise higher in their sights, you learn more about who they are, and with many of them, you eventually gain the ability to romance them. At the highest level of affection, you unlock a special perk, unique to that character, which gives you increased experience on skill checks, more damage on a headshot, or one of many others depending on who’s with you.
The absolute best part, though, is that while your companion is travelling with you, they cannot die, ever. Enemies will critically wound them, but at that point start ignoring them, and your friend can no longer be damaged. You can heal them to instantly get them back in the fight, or wait for them to recover naturally, but you never need to worry about them dying. This is such a massive improvement on the companions system from Skyrim that I have no idea why Bethesda didn’t have it to begin with. No longer do you need to worry constantly, or cover them in a fight. It’s so much weight off the mind, and I love it so dearly (and not just because all my companions would die if not for this mechanic).
The main story is decently engaging, though it can occasionally throw something at you that you might not be able to handle. One story boss fight, in particular, starts you in the middle of a small office room, surrounded by enemies, a foot away from the boss himself. Expect a lot of loads on that one. A few quests later, and the game expects you to wade through a nuclear storm for 10-30 minutes, surrounded by the hardest enemies it thinks you could possibly handle. Take baby steps, though, and you’ll make it.
One thing I was wary of going into Fallout 4, based on Skyrim, is the idea that this game might have a silent protagonist. Other than the Dragon Quest series, I’m not really a fan of silent protagonists. The silent protagonist is supposed to allow you to slip into a character’s shoes, but for me, it usually just makes them completely un-relatable. That’s why I’m very glad that your character does have a voice in this game. You still choose how you want to react, but the character definitely has certain mannerisms in the way they speak which give them a sense of identity.
There’s a great crafting system for weapons and armor, which allows even basic items you find early on to be useable for quite a while, with the proper upgrades. The only drawback is that it requires you to carry a lot of junk with you so you can have the components required for upgrades, and it can weigh down your character quite a bit. Also, you don’t know what components an item has until you look at it in your inventory, meaning you could end up carrying a lot of junk which you’ll never use.
Altogether, this game is one of the best experiences I’ve had playing a game in a very long while, and there isn’t much that ruins that experience. Fallout 4 is a very well put-together game that definitely deserves a spot on your shelf if you have the time to put into it. It isn’t perfect, but it gets close enough for me.