I’ve been playing Fallout 4, and I thought I’d write about it when I’m still all confused but also happy, because the first twenty levels tend to be the sweet spot in Bethesda games.


Entering a Vault. What could go wrong?

We are staying with friends, and I was amazed when the entire game downloaded in about an hour. Gonna have to look at why our Internet connection is so much worse.

People seem to have mixed reactions to the introduction, but I thought it was great. For the first time (Tranquility Lane doesn’t quite count) we get to see and walk around the bright paternalistic prewar world of 2077, which is fun. (I’m not sure why there is so little apparent social and aesthetic change in the 120 years since the 1950s. On the other hand, maybe there’s more than it looks like. E.g., from the postwar world, it doesn’t seem like 2077 was much riven by racism or sexism.)

I have to say that I couldn’t figure out the new facial creation system. It feels like a step backwards: instead of a dozen sliders for the nose, say, you basically get two or three. So I couldn’t get the face I wanted.

Fallout 3 looked great, back in 2008, but F4 looks amazing. Look at the Vault above… all of that inscrutable machinery… it’s like stepping into a Jack Kirby drawing.  Plus it’s a welcome relief to have, like, all the colors. The greenish tint of F3 was effective in conveying a mood, but it really doesn’t show off a world to put a filter over it.

The actual gameplay is familiar yet streamlined.  I was immediately rifling through containers, crouch-walking through ruins sniping at raiders, and picking up quests from interesting people. I felt that Fallout New Vegas was too railroaded, so I like the fact that you can just wander again, losing yourself in the game and not worrying too much about where you are supposed to go next.

So a F3/FNV player will immediately know what they’re doing; and you’ll also appreciate lots of minor improvements: one-click container looting; time slowed but not stopped in VATS; integrated skills/perks; two levels of clothing; no need for repairs.  Plus all the enemies above the radroach feel like they’ve leveled up: even a mole rat attack feels frantic.

I like the voice-acted main character.  I’d prefer three voice options, as in Saints Row, but we can’t have everything. You no longer get a frozen world while you talk to someone; but the participants don’t look at each other, so it’s still a Strange Bethesda Encounter.

A sequel ought to add something new and engaging, and in F4 there are two big novelties:

  • The power armor. You get this very quickly, and to underline how badass it is, they throw a Deathclaw at you.  It has insane damage resistance, so it kind of feels like cheating. But hey, sometimes you just feel like walloping enemies, or just not dying so much.
  • Creating settlements. This is awesome fun– moving things around, scrapping items, and building up the place to attract settlers.  And I know I’ve only scratched the surface: I’ve seen screenshots of people making virtual castles, and working signboards… I can see this being a huge time sink. Plus you now have an excuse to loot pretty much everything; it’s far more satisfying than simply building weird weapons as in F3.

This is where Arkham Knight fell down, I think: the Batmobile was supposed to be way awesome, but it isn’t that fun and doesn’t fit thematically with the rest of the game.

You can modify weapons and armor, and this feels like the only big negative for me. Most of the options are locked… I’m 25 hours in and about all I can do is look at mods I may someday be able to use. You do get diverse weapons from enemies, but it’s not always clear what’s better. I’m still not clear on what piped weapons are…

The game occasionally slows down for me, though on the whole it plays nicely on Ultra.  It does crash unexpectedly at times, though I remember this being far worse on F3.


At least the Apocalypse killed all the Boston drivers

I already regret only being able to take one companion along at a time.  I like Dogmeat, Piper, and Nick. The interactions are fun, and in combat they have a useful ability to draw enemies’ attention so they’re not shooting at me so much.

I lived in Quincy for a few years, so I’m tickled that this area made it into the game, though I haven’t been down that way yet.  Since I know the area more, it does seem awfully compressed… you can walk between areas in about the same time it would take to drive in real life.  It does feel vaguely off that the Commonwealth is more into the Red Sox than the Patriots.  When the GECK comes out I really want to mod in my old house…