Bethesda’s Fallout series is one of the most successful open-world, post-apocalyptic, 50’s-themed RPGs. This is mostly because nobody thought a combination of a nuclear winter and the 50’s would be the formula for one of the best-selling games of all time. However, Fallout 4 has changed the format in many ways, and in these same ways has left much unchanged. The best example: there is a dog.
The dog’s name is Dogmeat, and after an hour’s worth of plot and cutscenes you are finally introduced to your partner, who is quite a good boy. That being said, where is the pet option? This furry young man has saved me time and time again, and yet I cannot thank him properly through patting, petting or rubbing his belly. There is only a fetch, trick and talk option, and you can probably guess how interesting those conversations are. This is a very good boy, you must let me love him.
I have many other minor complaints, so let’s cover the second most important part: not-dog. Fallout‘s story revolves around how the nuclear apocalypse happened, leaving the now destroyed world in a 50’s culture with a depressing, blood-thirsty overlying theme. You wander the wasteland of what used to be America, gaining skills and equipment on the way in order to survive. This edition of “mankind blew it quite literally” is in Boston, where familiar groups and factions meet the synths, synthetic copies of humans replacing crappy people, and the Minutemen, a bunch of idiots who can’t do anything without you.
The Institute, a group that captured your son, makes aforementioned synths, forcing you into a plot about terrible people being replaced by slightly less terrible people, yet never really getting your moral opinion on the issue, barely involving you in an otherwise interesting conundrum. The Minutemen make sure your instinct to hoard literally every item around you is boosted to the most extreme degree, allowing you to make bases of operations in a Minecraft mode that uses scrap to make crap. While this gives you many places to store your stuff, the whole point of the game is to be a wanderer, helping or murdering those in need. A tower defense game is a strange addition, aiding only your need to become a hoarder, the one thing that does not need to be aided.
Speaking of major theme changes with no purpose, “war never changes” the game echoes, yet the voice of this series has drastically changed by giving the main character a voice. Conversations now give you a time limit and 4 options to respond, rather than a complete-feeling list. The 4 responses make certain conversations seem forced, yet others constrained. Responses aren’t even fully or accurately explained; the “sarcastic” option is rarely ever witty or sarcastic, it should be called the “snarky” option, or better yet, actually tell me what my character is about to say. Persuasion is no longer displayed through percentages, it is now color-coded, so you have no idea what kind of risk you’re taking with each choice. Combat or even somebody walking by can interrupt conversations, and the main character’s lines prevent you from feeling fully immersed in the experience.
Combat is relatively the same, except there is no level-cap. You can get any skill in the game, and as a result the enemies level up with you in order to make sure you never get too powerful. This allows you to gain character skills based on a momentary need, which is honestly an incredibly helpful and more fun level-up system to play with. Your allies, on the other hand, are judgmental of you, some snooty to the millionth degree, making traveling with allies a chore. On the other hand, the opportunity to travel with Louis Lane, Buzz Lightyear, Go Go Gadget, a milk-obsessed Incredible Hulk, and the lord of all good dogs is something that shouldn’t be missed.
I suppose I wanted more of the same, something as good as the masterpiece Fallout New Vegas, and yet it’s not a bad game. Although the karma system has been discarded and managing your allies at 10 different destinations is a chore, the Fallout series is still the Bethesda’s franchise and keeps the integrity of the combat and atmosphere. So many aspects of Fallout have changed over the years, but, as the game will preach to you, war never changes. If you have a PS4, you’d be crazy to pass on this game.