Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

In the late 20th century, people hoped that the new millennium would usher in an age of promise: hoverboards, flying cars, personal robots, and the like. That future, the one that everyone predicted, never quite came to pass. Not in the way we thought it would, anyway.

Yes, living in 2015 has its perks. We can fit computers into our pockets, and we can communicate with people across the world with ease. But each real-world advancement brings with it a touch of disappointment. Futuristic tech was supposed to be our destiny and salvation. Instead, we got iPhones and Instagram. Is this all there is?

Fallout 4, one of the most hyped games of the year, was expected to help define the new generation of consoles. And yet, Fallout 4 often feels like a game many of us have already played. It is a behemoth of a digital creation, but the bones that give it shape seem suspiciously familiar. Antiquated, even.

All the same, I've spent the last week playing obsessively, as if in a trance. This wasn't the future I was expecting, nor is it the magical, futuristic game I may have imagined when I first played Fallout 12 years ago. But for all the things about Fallout 4 that disappoint me, there's something undeniably captivating about it and the world it allows us to explore. I've already played 60 hours, and I will likely be fixated on Fallout 4 for hundreds of hours to come.

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

In 2007, Bethesda, the publisher/studio best known for creating the Elder Scrolls fantasy RPG series, bought the rights to the Fallout franchise for $US5.7 million. They then took the classic CRPG and modernised it, by which I mean they turned it into a first-person-shooter.

2008's Fallout 3 was a huge transformation for the series, but despite the outward FPS appearance, many of the elements that defined Fallout were still present. Like Fallout games before it, Fallout 3 set players loose in a Mad Max type world full of mutated horrors created by the atomic fallout of a sudden world war. Like the original Fallout games, Fallout 3 presented a bracing blend of hard-boiled brutality and easygoing, arch humour. And like its predecessors, Fallout 3 gave players a huge amount of choice in how to approach the game. You could shoot or talk your way through Fallout 3, if you wanted.

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

The hook of Fallout's alternate timeline is the fact that American culture never evolved past the chipper, distinctly conservative optimism of the Eisenhower era. While American culture may have stagnated, technology did not. In Fallout, cold fusion is real -- and it powers everything from weaponry to cars. The cultural and technological aspects of this alternate timeline present a retrofuturistic world where the atomic family is the center of the universe, and the split atom is the center of all human progress.

Fallout 4 takes place 10 years after the events of Fallout 3. That's not when it starts, however -- in a neat twist, the game actually begins on the day the first bombs dropped on America. The player gets a brief chance to see first-hand what domestic American life was like before everything was destroyed, and that snapshot forms the lens through which your character views the events of the rest of the game.

Immediately after creating your character and meeting your family, you learn that the world is about to end. Thankfully -- and, yes, conveniently -- your family was just given a spot in a survival vault near your home in the Boston suburbs. You rush inside of the vault right as the mushroom clouds start to bloom. Once inside, your character realises that he or she has been tricked. As it turns out, your particular Vault -- Vault 111 -- is an experimental facility where they're cryogenically freezing all residents. With no time to complain or process what is happening, your character is turned into an unconscious ice cube.

The game flash-forwards a century or two, at which point a dark turn of events leaves your spouse dead and your son missing. You are finally set free of your icy prison, 200 years after everything and everyone you know was wiped away. You have goal: Find the people who killed your spouse and recover your kid.

Everything about the intro feels rushed, which is disheartening, considering how curious Fallout fans are about the era before the bombs dropped. It's all just an excuse, of course, a reason to let you loose on a version of Boston that you do not fully recognise or know. And that is the heart of Fallout 4: exploration. Adventure. Seeing new places, meeting new people, and learning how the world is making do with what's left.

Much of my time with this game has been spent pondering the secrets hidden just beyond the horizon. Wherever my gaze fell, I knew there was something new, waiting to be explored and conquered. Every landmark or ruin is an opportunity for discovery. It's one of the most American aspects of an already very American series: Manifest destiny is alive and well in Fallout 4.

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

The first few hours of Fallout 4 are an often a bracing learning experience. Most of the Boston wasteland -- widely referred to simply as "The Commonwealth" -- is hostile and harsh, and at first you'll be short on the supplies and weapons you need to get by.

Fallout 4 is a much harder game that New Vegas and Fallout 3 before it. Some will find this frustrating, especially at the start of the game, though of course, one can always lower the difficulty. I find the constant struggle of Fallout 4 appropriate and enjoyable, because it makes survival more meaningful.

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

As you explore, you'll constantly run into hostile enemies that you must kill or escape. How well you handle combat is at least partially dictated both by what you scrounge from the wasteland, as well as how you choose to specialize your character. Gone is the "skills" system from previous games, and in its stead stands a streamlined system with two major components: SPECIAL and Perks. SPECIAL stands for Strength, Perception, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck, and dictates your character's fundamental makeup. Each Special ability has ten possible points, along with ten corresponding Perks that can be unlocked. You get a set number of points you can put into your SPECIAL build, and the more you put into a category, the more abilities you unlock in its respective SPECIAL tree. This, in turn, affects what your character can do overall.

The more points you put into Charisma, for example, the more options you have to smooth-talk your way through Boston, be it through driving a better bargain while bartering or having the social acumen to command others to do exactly as you say. If a Charisma-focused character skimps out on Strength, that character won't be able to use melee weapons very effectively, nor will they be able to carry much in their inventory.

At first, you'll have to carefully pick what you want to focus on, and those decisions determine how you'll interact with the world of Fallout 4. Maybe you roll a roguish character, who uses sneaking and lockpicking to rob the wasteland blind. Maybe your character is a genius who uses robotics and hacking. Maybe you're a bruiser who takes down foes with a huge pneumatic fist. The choice is yours.

The system has been streamlined significantly from past games, which gave you numerical stats in a number of different areas as well as a huge number of perks for further customisation. Initially, the streamlining felt front-loaded and restrictive to me, in that it asks players to figure out exactly what abilities they will have in the foreseeable future. The old system was more malleable, in that having your skills detached from your Perks meant that you could add points as you went along.

However, in time, the new system eventually feels less restrictive -- after 60 hours of playtime, I don't really miss the extra layer of depth. It helps that Fallout 4 is generous with XP and there's no level cap, meaning that whatever character you build can max out every single ability available to them. Provided you put in the time, of course.

Your SPECIAL stats might dictate the range of your combat acumen, but it's still up to you to pull the trigger. Fallout 3's signature VATS system makes a return in Fallout 4, with an added wrinkle. By pressing the VATS button, time slows down and a new interface opens up, where you can target specific body parts on an enemy of your choosing. From there, you can plan batches of discrete actions, depending on how many Action Points you have (a number which is determined based on your SPECIAL spread). It's a curious mechanic that acts as a throwback to Fallout's origins as a turn-based game. Unlike Fallout 3, however, time does not completely halt while you're in VATS mode. It's a tweak that changes the flow of a given encounter, and forces players to make decisions more quickly.

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

On the whole, Fallout 4's combat is an improvement over Fallout 3. In Fallout 3, your real-time shooting seemed more directly affected by the stats you picked, with skills determining how likely it was that you'd hit something both inside and outside of VATS. In Fallout 4, when you aim at something and it's in your crosshairs, the bullet will most likely travel exactly where you think it will. It's a small tweak that streamlines yet another RPG aspect of the game, but it's a welcome one.

In Fallout 3, I used VATS as a crutch to compensate for how tedious and unwieldy the real-time shooting could be. In Fallout 4, I spend less time in VATS and more time shooting free-form. VATS is a bonus, a skin-saver for tight spots. While playing, I have to constantly decide whether or not I want to use my action points, and in the middle of a firefight, that's a juicy mini-consideration. Do I use VATS and leave my success up to the cold, hard numbers and probabilities? Or do I trust my aim, tried and true? It's an interesting decision-making process, and keeps combat engaging throughout.

Another thing that helps keep Fallout 4's combat interesting is the inclusion of legendary enemies. These fearsome foes, denoted by stars next to their names, are not only tougher than the normal fare, they can also mutate mid-battle and heal themselves completely. It's a pretty annoying ability, to be honest, as dealing with these creatures often emptied me of my most precious ammo and healing reserves. Killing a legendary enemy rewards you with legendary gear, each of which gives you a unique ability. Right now, for example, I'm wearing two pieces of gear that slow down time when I hit 20% health. It's awesome.

In general, the Fallout approach to gear has been retooled and overhauled to give the player more choice. Weapons and armour can be modified and tweaked to better suit individual playstyles, be they fashion-oriented or focused on raw power. It's a robust customisation system that allows players to modify every aspect of their gear, from the lining of a piece of armour to the stock of a gun. That probably sounds pretty straightforward, as far as customisations go, but that's far from the case. It's actually all kind of a pain to keep track of, as rewarding as it can be to perfectly customise your gear. There are unique modifications to keep track of, too. For example, I've jammed dozens of rusty nails on my legendary rolling pin, which also happens to get more powerful if I use it at night. (Yeah, this game can get pretty silly.)

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

The effect of the crafting system is most deeply felt with the return of Power Armour, the huge robotic exoskeletons that have become a symbol for Fallout as a whole. (To wit: Power Armour has been featured on the cover of every single main Fallout game to date.) In the past, Power Armour was aspirational, a thing you got near the end of the game, once you were strong enough. There was always a build-up to Power Armour. Fallout 4, on the other hand, gives you Power Armour right out of the gate. This might seem overindulgent, but Fallout 4's relationship with Power Armour is different from past games. Not only can you customise every part of your Power Armour, it is now also fuelled by a scarce energy source. As a result, your Power Armour feels like a vintage car. You only pull your Power Armour out on special occasions, when you need help on a particularly tough fight.

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

The entire Fallout 4 crafting system is powered by...junk. Yes, junk. Bethesda games have always been full of interactive objects that you can pick up and look at, most of which serve as window dressing for creating more believable worlds. In past Fallout games, rubbish served mainly as a reminder that this world really has gone to hell. Folding junk into the game so that it's actually useful makes sense on paper: in a world like Fallout, everyone would need to McGuyver scraps together to survive another day. In practice, sorting through so much garbage and constantly managing my inventory to deal with weight proves cumbersome, and it takes away from time I could be using to explore more of what Fallout has to offer. (It's not helped by Fallout 4's generally awful menus and user interface.) Junk management is one aspect of the game I wish Bethesda had spent more time trying to streamline.

Despite my dislike for the inventory and crafting situation in Fallout 4, it's something I learned to tolerate because of how useful the results are. There's a fine, simple pleasure in destroying an enemy and knowing you did it with a weapon you assembled almost from scratch.

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

Fallout's mechanical underpinnings have been strengthened, but the changes I've described thus far feel less innovative and more iterative. Big picture: Fallout 4 looks and plays very similarly to Fallout 3, down to the identical lockpicking and hacking mini-games and the uncanny facial animations.

Fallout 3 was an excellent game, but it was released almost a decade ago. Every time I turn off Fallout 4, I'll sit there thinking to myself: "Shouldn't there be more to this, somehow?" Maybe I'm being greedy. Maybe I've been conditioned to think this way by years and years of revolutionary, groundbreaking video games, and by the games industry's laser-focus on exciting new ideas and inventions. But in the wake of games like The Witcher 3, which is leaps and bounds ahead of its last-gen predecessor, it's hard not to look at Fallout 4 with a touch of disappointment. This is it? Really?

All the same, Fallout 4 is very good at keeping me hooked. It accomplishes this by constantly dangling the carrot of better loot while giving players a map that is full to bursting with new things to discover. Fallout 4 has also adopted another one of Skyrim's defining features: the Radiant Quest system, which provides players with a never-ending -- if eventually somewhat shallow -- supply of randomly generated missions that can be repeated indefinitely.

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

Fallout did not become a classic by providing its players with an endless supply of randomly generated monsters to kill and stuff to collect. I like having that stuff as an option, but when I think Fallout, I think about the stories, the characters, and the world itself. I think about the many choices Fallout presents to you, no matter how absurd or game-breaking they might be. That writing and flexibility is what brought the first Fallout to life, and what motivated players to go exploring at all. It's why Fallout 3 could get away with having such wonky combat in the first place. Lots of players didn't care how that part of the game played, not really. It was a means to an end.

A good number of Fallout 3 memories still stick with me. I remember meeting Moira Brown, the happy-go-lucky saleswoman who was confident that writing a survival tips book could really make a difference in the world. I still remember discovering Megaton for the first time, and later, having the choice of whether or not I would blow it up. I still remember finding Oasis, and being awed that so much greenery could grow in the wasteland at all. I still remember deciding whether or not I would let Ghouls take over Tenpenny Tower.

Fallout 4 has so far had a tough time matching those sorts of moments. At least part of the blame for that rests at the feet of the new dialogue system. Instead of seeing what your character is going to say in full, Fallout 4 adopts a Mass Effect-like system. You get a maximum of four dialogue options, all denoted through a few on-screen words that do not always give you a good sense of what will be said next. Fans have provided mods to fix that issue, but even if Bethesda patched this feature in, it couldn't fix the fact that on the whole, Fallout 4's writing is thin. You never have particularly long or nuanced conversations with the other characters. I like to play a Charisma-focused character, and I was disappointed.

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

Fallout 4's conversations often feel rushed, like your character is in a hurry to stop talking and go shoot some more stuff. The fact you can walk away from people in the middle of a conversation tells you everything you need to know about Fallout 4's dialogue. And it certainly doesn't help that so many of the choices given to the the player are false -- whichever options I chose, I often found myself railroaded to the same short-term conclusion.

There are some upsides to the new dialogue system: Conversations can happen around you while you're exploring a town or a settlement, regardless of whether or not you opt into them. You're free to draw yourself closer to the NPCs and hear what they're chatting about, or to ignore them and to be on your way. Often, if you're willing to stop and listen, you can learn about a new location or gain a new quest. It's an elegant way of disseminating information to the player, and in the right circumstances, can make towns feel more alive.

Plus, it's not as if Fallout 4 is completely bereft of good writing:

Situations like that just feel more rare, now. It saddens me to say so, but more often than not, I've found myself mentally checking out of conversations in Fallout 4.

While Fallout 4's "find your son" premise is kind of hokey, many of the main quest missions are quite good. Quests feel experimental, more frequently on par with standouts like Fallout 3's Tranquility Lane. For example, there's a quest in place called the Glowing Sea, and it takes you well off the main map into an hellscape that's so irradiated, nobody dares tread there. Walking through the Glowing Sea in my Power Armour was something else. I loved feeling that desolation, I loved feeling the terror that came with discovering what horrendous monsters might live in a place like this. I'd love to tell you the specifics of other main quests, but I don't want to spoil them for you. Let's just say that Fallout 4 goes to some pretty interesting places.

As you go along, you find out that one of the Boston commonwealth's main conflicts surrounds "Synths," human androids built by a mysterious entity known as The Institute. The Institute is the Commonwealth's boogeyman, a scary collective that can be blamed for anything and everything that goes wrong. Fuelling that paranoia is the fact that advanced synths are essentially indistinguishable from humans. If you've watched Battlestar Galactica or seen Blade Runner, then you already have a sense of where this is all going.

There's paranoia. Philosophical explorations of what it means to be human. People who support androids, and others who are threatened by the existence of androids. Androids who are human enough to make you question your prejudices. It's an interesting -- if clichéd -- premise that works well enough, but thanks to the stripped down dialogue system, I never felt particularly invested in any of the factions or alliances presented to me. While each of the groups vying for control over the Commonwealth are interesting in theory, in the game they often came across as ideological zealots who leave little room for nuance and complexity.

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

Fallout 4 truly shines in its sidequests, and happily, these quests are numerous and varied. By putting the larger narrative aside, the writers at Bethesda embrace the freedom to tell one-off stories that aren't beholden to the larger politics of the Commonwealth. Boy, do I love Fallout 4's sidequests. There's the one where you go into an Irish Tavern in search of a robotic drinking buddy. Or the one where you turn into a comic book superhero, costume and all. There's the one where you explore the art gallery of a psychotic serial killer. And there's a horrific quest during which you explore the remains of the Salem Witchcraft museum. The list goes on and on; Fallout 4 has no shortage of hilarious and intriguing sidequests that, when taken together, tell me much more about this absurd world than the more focused main story could hope to.

Along the way, you'll meet follower characters who can join you on your journey, each one with a distinct background and moral compass. These characters are all well written and fleshed out, sometimes to an amazing degree. One follower is an intrepid wasteland reporter, for example, and if you take her with you on your travels, she'll stop people in the street and interview them. Another follower is actually a synth, and if you take him with you and spend too long standing around, he'll take out a screwdriver and begin performing repairs on his own body.

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

For all the improvements to followers in Fallout 4, the dialogue system still left my various relationships feeling ultimately shallow and unsatisfying. In a way, Fallout 4 feels less like it is about people, and more like it is about an actual place: Boston.

Diamond City, a large community built within the wreckage of Fenway Park, is beautiful and surprisingly functional for a video game town. It looks like an actual city, where people live and work. You can tell exactly where the town gets its water, its food supply. There's a place where kids get an education. You know exactly where people go to unwind and have a good time. Shops and houses, though crammed together in a small space, make the most of what they can in a way that might be familiar to residents of New York or Japan.

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

It's all helped along by some stellar art direction. Fallout 4 may not have the graphical fidelity of its contemporaries, and it can look rough -- especially if you pay close attention to the finer details. Even so, some strong art direction (and a nice original score composed by Inon Zur) presents a world that is brimming with atmosphere. It is always a delight to walk through new areas and and take it all in, even if the residents of the Commonwealth can be a little grouchy. This is the east coast, though, so I guess a little grouchiness is to be expected.

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

I've written so many words about Fallout 4, but I have yet to touch on its most obvious addition: the new settlements system. In addition to customising your weapons and armour, you can also customise and manage a network of settlements spread around the Commonwealth. You can build structures, craft defences, recruit new settlers, grow crops, and generally go full Minecraft.

At first, the level of freedom you're given is almost jarring: If you don't like a wall, you can tear it down. If you think your settlement needs an armory, you can build it. If you want to have a palace full of teddy bears, you can make that happen. If you want to start your own store, you can totally do that. All provided, of course, that you have collected the right materials.

A little more than a week after the game came out, I've already seen people create all sorts of ridiculous and amazing things, including a Cat Cafe, a dance hall, and even a torture chamber. I have no doubt that players will go on to create even more wild things as time goes on. Unfortunately, the game barely explains how any of the settlement mechanics work, and the entire system is buried beneath a truly atrocious user interface. The settlement interface is so unwieldy and poorly explained that whatever neat contraptions fans have built have essentially been achieved in spite of it.

Personally, I just don't really have the patience to deal with it all. I don't want to fight the game in order to make something cool, especially not after I've played better-designed and more user-friendly recent games like Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer and Mario Maker. I'm sure some industrious players will feel differently, but when it comes to making my own in-game stuff, I'm just not that interested in what Fallout 4 is selling.

And yet… and this may be a common theme with this game: I've gotten pretty sucked into managing some aspects of my settlements nonetheless. Your settlements are filled with people, and those people get more or less happy depending on how good a job you're doing providing what they need. It feels a bit like playing The Sims, except with Fallout. Or perhaps it's more appropriate to compare settlements to Fallout Shelter, the mobile game released earlier this year where players could build and manage their own vaults.

Many of Fallout Shelter's ideas return for Fallout 4's settlements, in particular the overall goal of managing your resources in order to keep your settlers fed, safe, and happy. The difference, of course, is that you now have more control. Where Fallout Shelter provided a somewhat static setting and focused entirely on your numbers, Fallout 4 settlements give you the freedom to build and tweak as much as you want, in the way that you want. I don't feel the compulsion to keep settlement happiness at 100% in Fallout 4, as I did in Fallout Shelter. 70% feels good enough. I have more important things to worry about, like whether or not a Raider will be able to steal my docked Power Armour, or determining whether any of my settlers have been replaced by Synths. (Because holy shit, that can actually happen.)

Settlements can also be pretty damn useful. Not only do they provide a nice base of operations where you can keep all your junk and do all your crafting, you can also use them to grow many of your own crafting materials and even set up trading routes.

Part of me wishes Bethesda hadn't put so much emphasis into settlements and crafting. As much fun as I've had with some of its various aspects, none of it is really why I play Fallout.

Then again, part of me senses that some more traditional aspects of the Fallout formula are starting to fray from overuse. I've played a lot of Fallout in the last 12 years. I've dealt with countless stories of Super Mutants, Ghouls, and human survivors, with all the twists and turns those stories could have. Perhaps, in order to combat the growing overfamiliarity with Fallout, Bethesda has started giving us the tools to make our own Fallout, instead.

Fallout 4: The Kotaku Review

When I think about the predictions we often make about the future, I realise that they're mostly concerned with technological innovation. The hoverboards, the jetpacks, and all the rest. The thinking being, "surely the world will be better with all that cool stuff, right?"

Perhaps it's fitting that I've thought of Fallout 4 in these terms, too. I've bought into the new generation's promises of a magical tech future, and came in to Fallout 4 with my own set of expectations based in part on other, more polished big-budget games. But Fallout's appeal has always transcended that. The fact that so many people are willing to tolerate Bethesda's so-called "jank," that so many people love games like Fallout and Skyrim in spite of and even sometimes because of that jank, is a testament to these games' deeper appeal.

The American dream is alive and well in Fallout 4. In this game, you really can pull yourself up by your bootstraps and thrive. In this way, Fallout 4 continues Bethesda's vision of an oddly hopeful post-apocalypse. Rebuilding is possible. First, we'll purify the waters. Then, we'll reconstruct the towns. Then, we'll make a really cool rocket launcher. This may not be the future we were promised -- and some of us might get replaced by robots during this adventure -- but we'll still find a way to return America to its former glory. Just you wait and see.


Comments

    I've got about 75 hours logged, probably half building settlements, barely touched the main quest line... Loving this game. So can we start talking GOTY yet?

    My picks are Fallout 4, Witcher 3 and MGSV, in that order, with honourable mention to Rocket league.

      I didn't think I would get so into the whole settlement thing, but after 45+ hours in I've realised my entire build is based around settlements and customisation (Local Leader, Cap Collector, Gun Nut, Science, Armorer and Scrapper)
      So yes, "Fallout 4: The Wasteland Sims Edition" definitely gets my vote.

      I’ve got the Witcher over Fallout as of right now… but it’s close and that could change since I’m loving Fallout more everytime I play it and I’m only about 30 hours in.

      I’d imagine that in the end I’ll vote for the Witcher. That game constantly surpasses my expectation of what a game can be, where Fallout is BRILLIANT it seems more like a logical next step from Fallout 3/ NV, even if it too knows how to surprise .

      I won’t have time to play MSG this year, which just about says it all! GAMERS ARE THE WINNER OF THE YEAR!*

      *Unless you only own a WiiU. Sorry I couldn’t help it.

      I started yesterday, put in 8 hours, 4 hours of which was building a single, 2 story house for myself. Far out, I'm never gonna get anything done.

    Every review I read mentions how hard this game is and that it's harder then fallout 3 and fallout NV. Are you pandering to the idea of lower skilled players? I don't consider myself great at games... I don't even know what that's meant to mean but this game is a breeze. I'm not saying I don't die but between saving often and using the environment against attackers I haven't had to turn away from any confrontation and the amount of ammo I've collected is bonkers. literally every corpse I loot gives me .50cal ammo plus whatever they were using for some reason. I picked up a 50cal sniper and found I have over 500 ammo for it. I'm playing on survival and with a sneak attack I can kill super mutants with 1 shot half the time. I have spent so much .38 ammo it isn't funny and I still have over 1000. The only ammo type I'm struggling for is for my laser rifle and that's because I used so much, I had close to 400 at one point but now only have around 80.

      I've been playing on Normal and until I picked up the first level of the Scrounger perk I was looking to be in serious danger of running out of ammo. Some of that may be a matter of the weapons used - I haven't even found a .50 weapon yet and except for the shotguns and rocket launcher, most weapons do between 15 and 45 damage. Killing a super mutant in one burst is very, very difficult, surprise or not.

      So even a raider usually takes a few shots to kill; a super mutant takes at least half a dozen head shots.

      There was one encounter when I came up against a Mr Gutsy and until I pinged him with a rocket launcher as a surprise shot I died from this one robot at least half a dozen times. At which point a legendary Gunner Captain waxed me with a cryo grenade.

      Having played all of the Fallout games it's hard to think of any other single encounter which was more difficult. And that is, to repeat, on Normal difficulty.

      Maybe there's a bug in the difficulty levels as there was with Dark Reign... although it seems unlikely.

        There are a few perks that you can invest in to specialise in certain weapon types. Straight away I took the Gunslinger perk and have been using nothing but the 10mm and .44 pistols for the entire game (save for a few grenades here and there). No encounter has been even moderately difficult past the first few hours of gameplay. I can kill a super mutant in two or three shots with the 10mm in normal combat.

        I would say you need more perception and to upgrade your guns, but your build is probably just super different to mine.

          I think I set Perception to be my highest single stat when I built my character, around 8 I think. Highest stats were Perception (8?) and Intelligence (7-8) with Agility set a bit high (6ish) and S/E/C/L set to somewhere in the 2-4 range.

          Hmm, my Luck was set very low (2?) which may explain my ammo situation. Getting one level of Scrounger really made an absurd difference there.

          Low luck may also explain why I'm not getting any really great weapons... assuming I'm right in thinking that it's weaponry where my trouble lie.

          It wouldn't explain why so many of the Legendary weapons I'm getting are melee based.

          BTW I don't find killing the low level super mutants all that hard at the moment, as long as I DON'T do it in VATS. In fact there are a LOT of enemies where VATS seems to be a bad idea, since manual attacks seem to have a knockback attempt which suppresses counterattacks. In general VATS in Fallout 4 seems to be significantly under-powered compared to the earlier games; in particular it's a lot easier to snipe distant targets without it. I can easily snipe an an enemy with a 5-10% hit chance where attacking them in VATS would just waste time and ammo. Spending all those points in Perception seems to have been a poor choice.

          Also BTW Pro Tip: there's a legendary boss named Swan (level 50!) who you may run up against. He's HUGE. I killed him fairly easily with a shotgun by ducking into the entrance of a nearby train station where he could not reach me and wearing him down - at level 15.

            Actually your character is a virtual copy of my own... But i've been upgrading the shit out of my guns and constantly scrounging junk. My shotgun is a beast with a long barrel and ridiculous damage, and my hunting rifle works great in VATS.

            Have you got the gun nut perk?

              Level 1 I think, but I haven't used it much. I'll see what I can do with it. The only time I've really tried much with it, I didn't have a lot of spare parts on me. Since then I've been dropping a lot of weapons into my Workshop, so I probably have a lot to play with now.

              I've also spent a lot of perk points on Charisma, mainly so I can link my workshops.

                I recommend you tag the stuff you need at the crafting table. You'll see a magnifying glass next to the junk you need out in the field. Makes it way easier to hoard the right stuff. Then get the scrounger perk so you can chuck your guns and apparel on the ground and break them down in settlement building mode. You get way more components.

        Yeah scrounger was my first perk and I leveled to 2 as soon as I could.

        I've put about 14 hours in so far. If I run stupidly into a firefight I definitely get smacked down, but I have 150 rounds for my modded double barrel, over 100 for my modded .45 pistol, 1400 for my .38 modded pipe sniper rifle, 2000 5mm rounds, over 100 .308... I have no idea what I have in laser rounds, but it's a lot.
        I'm playing on hard mode. I don't have any gun or scrounger perks. I don't have any combat perks. I never fight with a companion. I don't use melee. I haven't bought any ammo ever. There's less ammo than in previous Fallout games, but there's really no shortage if you use the right tool for the job.

      Im using sneak and sniper as well and its pretty easy but try a different build, im pretty sure the difficulty would skyrocket with most builds.

        yeah that's possible. I'm level 15 with a .50 sniper that has a damage rating just over 100 plus I have the better crits perk. doing a perception/luck build so I think my sneak attacks do around 350 damage at a guess. I just played in my lunch break for 45 and came up against a legendary mr gutsy who was incredibly hard to kill but I managed after around 5 tries. Will do a melee build next. My friend did say it gets more difficult around level 15 and I have noticed raiders take a few more shots now but we'll see if this makes it any more difficult tonight. Also sorry if my previous post sounded arrogant, did not intend.

      Yeah I decided it was too easy and to set it to hard and when I checked it was already on hard. I had forgotten that I did that when starting the game...

      Yeah I found the game to be easier than the others, but I guess after hundreds of hours in Fallout 3, New Vegas and even the elder scrolls games I kinda know all the tricks by now. For me hard mode feels on par with normal from the old games, and it is still far from difficult with the ridiculous amount of stimpacks and drugs lying around.

    Good write up.
    Refreshingly frank about its flaws when so many reviews seem to ignore or gloss over them.
    Giving a game a 9.5 "cos I like it, woo!, hype!", while a valid opinion, is not a helpful review.
    "cough"polygon"cough"

      Agreed, all the hype has made it hard to appreciate this game for what it is. I was expecting it to blow me away the way Skyrim did but so far it seems only slightly better than New Vegas.

      yeah but some of things here are just personal without attempting to be swayed by the fact there are choices in game that negate what he says. IE Junk. yes there is a lot of junk and quite frankly you dont need it if you arent building but if you are and do want to keep and collect there are MANY options to deal with it. Far more than others games of theirs before. Use a buffjet, wear pocketed armour, eat the grilled steak thing that gives you +25 carrying, or choose perks to up, up your strength blah blah.

    Loving the game so far, but the handling of junk gets extremely tedious extremely quickly. I should not be throwing away high-grade weapons in favour of an office fan in order to meet my weight limit. Buffout can help there, but it's a very short-term fix.

    Building settlements is another of those things which may look good on paper and I'm sure excites those who like to get creative in their RPGs, but feels much too much like makework to be any fun for me. At least let me delegate. Surely not everybody else in the Wasteland is an idiot.

    I can't help but feel a lot of the criticism leveled at the speech system is from people looking through rose tinted glasses at fallout 3 and remembering something that wasn't there. Yes some conversations were long and rewarding, but some of the conversations in fallout 4 are as well if you pay attention. Many conversations in 3 though were short and brief and had less than 4 options to choose between. I just feel like it's become a bandwagon criticism of the game that a lot of people have jumped on

    As for the game not being much of a leap from 3, does it have to be? It's improved upon the shooting, the graphics are great, the multiple storylines have me hooked all over the place and I'm loving exploring. You said that The Witcher 3 was a great improvement over 2, that wasn't hard when the combat in 2 was horrendous. As far as I'm concerned, the improvements in The Witcher 3 over The Witcher 2 are exactly the same improvements that Fallout 4 has made over Fallout 3 so why the negativity about that?

    I love this about the crafting system though Personally, I just don’t really have the patience to deal with it all. 'I couldn't be bothered with it so it's shit.' As with any game (or any hobby in general), the more you invest in something, the more you get out of it. I found building up a settlement a little bit daunting to begin with due to the lack of explanation, but as I used it a little bit more I've gotten my head around it and have found it to be quite rewarding. The more you plan it out though like any settlement building, the better your results will be. But then it's not for everyone as Todd Howard stated and you can play the game without even touching the settlements if you wish

    Last edited 19/11/15 1:49 pm

      Fallout 3 was diluted from the Fallout 1/2 experience, but 4 does that even another notch. It is the death of a thousand cuts. Fallout 3 was okay for me because it did enough of the previous stuff. I am seeing this a lot less in 4 so far.

        Oh also

        As with any game (or any hobby in general), the more you invest in something, the more you get out of it. I found building up a settlement a little bit daunting to begin with due to the lack of explanation, but as I used it a little bit more I've gotten my head around it and have found it to be quite rewarding.

        This is the thing. I like this part of the game. I have spent a lot of time on it. But I am concerned the budget went into these obvious shiny new things and less into the depth of the RPG elements, which are less easily marketed.

          I can't say I agree completely with your comment of I am concerned the budget went into these obvious shiny new things and less into the depth of the RPG elements.

          I disagree simply because of the Settlement system. While yes it is great and new, doesn't feel like it's had much time spent on it *at all*. It's tacky, the snapping system isn't what I'd call a "Bethesda level" of quality - let alone the interface for the Settlement system. Unless you're saying that more time went into the upgrade of the engine (overall) & graphics, in which case I do agree in that segment.

          I can see why they 'dulled' out the RPG aspect of the game from a business/market clientele standpoint, but speaking as an RPG fan again I am disappointed. I don't think Fallout 4 Is a game that's been in the works since the end of Skyrim, otherwise I'd be sure we'd have a much more solid level of quality. I'm more inclined to believe it's been in the works for 2 years.

            Agree. It looks like something that got added on in the last year or something. I would suspect it will get a big update early on.

        The constant fellating of a pair of ancient games with brutally inaccessible interfaces and (in the case of 2) terrible writing spiked with Monty Python references has to stop.

        They were great for their time. I played 1 to the end at least 3 times. I played 2 to the end once. The world and the fiction are fantastic, but Fallout and Fallout 2 were a goddamn mess. The menus were awful, even for their day. Companions were added as an afterthought and it really shows. There were redundant and useless mechanics all over the place. The difficulty curve looked more like an ECG readout. Fallout 2 was slapped together in under a year using recycled junk from the first game and is still unbelievably buggy to this day. Fallout 2's writing was atrocious compared to the first.

        Things change and the old stuff wasn't all that good.

          The constant fellating of a pair of ancient games with brutally inaccessible interface

          Haha, Fallout 4 seems to be honouring its heritage there. The interface has a LOT of issues.

          They were great for their time. I played 1 to the end at least 3 times. I played 2 to the end once.
          ...
          Things change and the old stuff wasn't all that good.

          I've played them both plus Wasteland a bunch of times each. I remember the many flaws. I also remember the amazing things they did which transcended the at times poor execution.

          Fallout 4 is good. I am playing the shit out of it. But it changes a lot of things. I haven't even gone into the drift from the aesthetic, which is key to the identity of previous Fallout games. War is changing.

          Last edited 21/11/15 1:25 pm

            Yeah, fair enough. It has problems. So did 3 and so did NV. But all three are good games. My biggest issue with 4 right now is the bizarre keyboard interface.

            Sorry for the strong reaction. Every time someone says a good word about Bethesda FO games, someone at NMA vomits blood and then tells the internet. I'm just really sick of NMA. That's a toxic circlejerk if ever there was one.

        And this is a problem why? All good things must change or die to avoid stagnation. And games in particular age horribly.

          And this is a problem why?

          I am not really trying to start a fight with the Fallout 4 fan club here. When I first played 3 I loved 1+2 and it annoyed me and it didn't click and I stopped. I returned and realised it was amazing and played the hell out of it and the expansions, vegas. Now when I go to 4 I have the context of those games and I love 4 for being like them. But I can also observe the ways that it has drifted from its original versions and question if every choice was the right one.

          i.e. I love the base building but would I rather see that budget go on world building and RPG stuff? Yes, I think so.

      "I can't help but feel a lot of the criticism leveled at the speech system is from people looking through rose tinted glasses at fallout 3 and remembering something that wasn't there. Yes some conversations were long and rewarding, but some of the conversations in fallout 4 are as well if you pay attention. Many conversations in 3 though were short and brief and had less than 4 options to choose between. I just feel like it's become a bandwagon criticism of the game that a lot of people have jumped on"

      I understand where you are coming from, but the issue with the dialogue system in Fallout 4, when comparing it to 3 isn't necessarily the number of choices, but rather how repetitive and similar the conversations are. I'd say that in at least 80% of conversations your choices are essentially "Agree, Disagree, What is x?, Sarcastic", where as at least in 3, you're choices were somewhat unique and different, and having the full line of what you were going to say, can kind of blur the lines between choices

      Last edited 19/11/15 3:29 pm

      While I do wish there was some indication as to which speech options ended conversations, and which were questions to keep them going, I am a fan of the voice acted character.

      Screaming obscenities after shooting up with psycho, or telling people to stop talking when you skip dialogue is gold.

      Yea I agree, not sure if maybe my tastes have changed, but I find myself listening to and engaging in conversations much more than I ever did in F3. That's in terms of overall dialogue; I would like the whole choose from 4 options to be less ambiguous (I don't mind only have 4 options, just that the word or two to describe what your going to say and what you actually say sometimes ends up being nothing like I expected).

      Nailed it

      As soon as I read "the dialogue system is shit"
      I just noped right out of reading more of this dribble.

    I don't think this game deserves the level of criticism its receiving, especially the whole "its pretty much fallout 3 not much has changed" what do people expect from bethesda? Do they want uncharted/assasins creed climbing or something? This game exceeded my high expectations. The only reason people ramble about the witcher being better is because it was made by the little guy, no one harped on about that games flaws like they are fallout. The jumping in the witcher was the most immersion breaking animation ever, the combat was far from perfect and the quests did get repetitive. The main story was a chore. No one talks about that. Same with msg5, the last 15 or so missions are repeats and you have to do them to get the actual ending. I loved those 2 games but they weren't as heavily criticized as poor fallout. Fallout or Bloodborne for goty.

    Played the game for about 25 hours and haven't even made it to Diamond City. Way too distracted in my never ending quest for desk fans and duct tape. 10/10

      And Hot Plates! Can't forget the Hot Plates!

        I have passed so many hot plates until I realised
        "That shit probably has copper in it"
        Now I am the hotplate Baron!

    The game is definitely much easier than Previous fallouts. It is harder to start out since getting any good weapons take time and to get a decently modded gun takes time too since you have not enough junk. 5-10 hours in your should be steamrolling everything you see.

    I ramp my difficulty to Hard and I still can't die from Suicider Super Mutant. He stood in front of me and exploded but it does less than 20 damage. No freaking idea why since I was trying to get Touchdown achievement. Maybe because of my high radiation resist?

    Last edited 19/11/15 2:56 pm

      Just crank it up to survival, everything still feels like it dies quickly however it feels like you die quickly as well so if you are playing a ranged character it shouldn't feel much different. The main thing is if someone gets up in your grill you almost instantly die.

      The up side is more legendaries!

        I'll try it tonight and see how it goes. I'm at the point my 10mm pistol kills everything with a sneak shot lol. Sneak damage x5.3 with ranged weapon....

      grab realistic damage mod and increased legendary spawns and you can play it on normal or hard without damage sponge enemies.

        Will try tonight. Even legendaries are one shot for me at the moment with only boosting sneak damages perks like ninja and sandman. I have not used any perk for more specific weapon damage.

          haha nice.
          You could try it on legendary with those mods then :P
          always fun to experiment with mods and diff perks ;D

            @piratepete

            I fucked up. Using the configurator to boost performance auto set the game to very easy which was why I steamrolled everything.

            Actually still steamrolling a little. :P

            Last edited 19/11/15 10:31 pm

      That doesn't sound right. Even in the highest end power armour, a mini nuke going off at point blank range has always killed me. Maybe it's a play style difference but I'm finding the game harder than previous ones so far. I finished FNV on hard+hardcore for comparison.

    no mention that you're forced to play a goody two shoes father seatching for his son and that the story is far too intrusive to make choice viable and the lack of moral compass is disappointing?

      But I do want to find my son. I've yet to reach Diamond City after 48 hours so I can't judge the main story yet :P

        for the sake of the story fair enough but as an 'open world do what you want game' in the same vein as FO3/FNV it feels far more forced onto the player than ever :/

      You know I cared so little about the family story line that I didn't even check the spouses cryo chamber the first time around, if you open it you can get another wedding ring worth 250 caps!

        lmfao!
        I missed it completely too and just as I was about to leave the vault it occured to me to go check on her :P

    I really love Fallout 4, much as i loved Skyrim and Fallout 3 before. The formula is immensely satisfying, and though the interactions with NPC's may be a little lacking, the "world" interaction is fantastic. I have lost hours just wandering, micromanaging, exploring...

    It's not the graphics that drive me on, or the dense lore, but the gaming systems themselves, and Bethesda's impeccably designed world. VATS. Movement. Shooting. Dungeons. Crafting. Base management. It all fits together wonderfully. Top notch stuff.

    The inevitable comparison to Witcher 3 is fair enough. They both do many things very well, and are deserving of our money and attention. For me, neither is better or worse. Equal tie for GOTY.

    Great write up, pretty much agree with everything here. For the first few hours I was a little underwhelmed, but addiction set in pretty quickly after that. I could see PC players who have been playing f3 using mods etc. for years being a little unimpressed, but I only beat f3 and new Vegas once each and it was years ago so I'm happy to jump back on for the long haul. I could only rate the game an 8 to other people, but for me it's a 10. I'd say many ppl feel the same?

    I don't worry about sorting junk, there is no need to, the game does it for you. Just collect it all, or set the sort function to a particular item that has the junk you need (copper, lots of copper).

      Agree. I'm not finding it that big a deal now that I'm a bit further into the game. Set up a base and travel back occasionally to dump all junk in the workshop (or any workshop if you have supply lines set up).

      Yea I don't get the whole 'micro managing loot an so much junk'.
      You can dump it into settlement storage with a single button press...

        ... and then auto salvage it when you're crafting. You don't even have to break it down item by item.

          Yea all the people who say you have to drop things on the ground and junk them from building mode, pretty sure that's been disproven yet time and time again I still see people disseminating this false advice.

    I've never played an installment of Elder Scrolls or Fallout I didn't love... and Fallout 4 is no exception.

    Reading the reviews on Steam really surprised me (yes I know, it shouldn't have). Some of the vitriol was a bit ridiculous. If one of the creative people involved in the, no doubt, exhaustive process of making Fallout 4, I'd be wondering why I bothered (while at the same time taking solace in the millions rolling in).

    There's nothing worse than a RPG tosser having a rant about the 'right way' to make/play/conceptualize a RPG... And the RPG community is perhaps more populated with tossers (that can assure you they know the only 'right way' to roleplay) than any group I've ever encountered. Though, I've played RPGs in tabletop and electronic format for 26 years and do understand the temptation to get too invested in it.

    But it's just a game.... and Fallout 4 happens to be a damn good one.

    This game could've been better. I've got so many things in my head that could've made this more enjoyable, which is why i'm going to wait a year to let the mods come in...

      As Lionel Hutz would put it : " he'll be back"

        yeah, Lionel...Hutz... that guy... *googles Lionel Hutz*.
        Totally knew it was him.

    Only on Kotaku could the removal of an RPG feature from an RPG be, sorry "streamlining" of a feature, be considered "welcome" change.

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