Fallout 4 Review: Post-Apocalypse Wow

8.5
  • Playstation 4
  • Windows
  • Xbox One
  • RPG
2015-11-10
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Welcome to the Wasteland. Bethesda

Fallout 4 is impossible to review. Seriously. I put 60+ hours into the game over the course of nine days and still had to rush things to see one of multiple endings. Of course, the game doesn’t end when the main story does. I’m not sure it will ever end, given Bethesda’s reputation for meaty DLC and the addition of player mods. I am starting to believe I could play Fallout 4 for the rest of my life. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

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63 hours and 15 minutes of my life well spent. Photo: iDigitalTimes

After 63 hours and 15 minutes in the game I am in no way close to experiencing everything. There are a lot of things I didn’t get to do. I didn’t get to use the Pip Boy app . I never followed the Brotherhood of Steel storyline, one of the three most important factions in the game. I never found all the companions, nor did I unlock the major quests for most of the ones I did find. The new settlements system is great, but I have undiscovered settlements and incomplete settlements and settlements that are successful but not aesthetically perfect. Each story decision I made means a decision was left unmade, and the butterfly effect from those unmade decisions means a lot of game is still out there. I didn’t max my level. I didn’t get all the perks. I have a long list of side quests left to finish.

So what did I do?

I found a crazy cult inside an old ironworks that worships a forge. I met an android detective so superbly voice acted that I became bewitched in his company. (Seriously, Nick Valentine is delightful). I created a complex revenge plot in my own mind to project onto my character’s motivations and was rewarded with a main story arc that satisfied my bloodthirsty urges. I felt pride when my first settlement reached a 90% happiness rating. I decapitated a man with a gun that shoots railroad spikes and watched it get pinned to the wall in slow motion. I leapt from fright more than once. I smiled the whole time.

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Not pictured - imminent nuclear holocaust. Photo: Bethesda

The Bad

In spite of how much I enjoyed it, I have to admit that Fallout 4 isn’t perfect. So before I continue to talk about all that’s right with the game, let’s get what’s wrong out of the way. First, Fallout 4 operates from the assumption that you’re familiar with Bethesda games. There isn’t much in the way of tutorials, although a thorough in-game help menu is available. So if you’ve never played a Bethesda game before it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

If you have played a Bethesda game before, then you know what is going to be wrong. Bugs. Not a lot of bugs, fortunately, but enough to keep me from giving Fallout 4 a perfect score. There were several bugs encountered among the iDigitalTimes staff from graphics glitches to terrible checkpoints to straight-up freezing/crashing. It is easy to quicksave, though, and I recommend you do it often.

The biggest issues can be found in the new settlements system . In order to build settlements players need resources, from basics like wood and steel to advanced components like fiber optics and circuitry. Unfortunately, managing settlements fails to match the fun of supplying them. The initial layouts are fun, so long as they remain simple. Trying to access more complex features, like electricity, require frequent trips to the in-game help manual. Design falls short as well. Want to line up a straight section of wall or build a foundation on an uneven surface? Prepare to spend far too much time repositioning items until they finally fit.

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Patience is a virtue in settlement building. Photo: Fallout 4 Wiki

Equally frustrating is the management of the settlers themselves. A woeful AI leaves many standing around in strange locations or directly in harm's way, as was the case with a settlement I found that had a radioactive pond. Settlers constantly wandered into it and collapsed. So I built a fence around the whole thing. I’d come back and the settlers would somehow spawn inside the fenced off area, now unable to get out, wandering like lemmings into radioactive waste.

Assigning tasks to settlers is what keeps settlements alive as they are the ones picking the crops you plant or standing watch on the towers you build. But instead of simple UI controls that list available jobs and available settlers, Fallout 4 requires players to highlight a settler in real time, then run across a settlement to highlight the job that needs to be assigned. Every settler is named “Settler” and distinguishing between the half dozen or so settlers spread across a dozen or so settlements is basically impossible.

You also receive no notifications on what resources settlers contribute. For example, you can build scavenging stations that “generate resources.” Ok, sounds great. But they never tell you what gets generated. Or when. Or how much. The materials end up in the stockpile, sure, but with so many items in the inventory you won’t notice any incremental gains.

The Good

Fortunately, we can expect the settlements system to improve over time. Because mods. Even if Bethesda doesn’t patch the thing into a well-oiled machine we can be reasonably confident some intrepid modder will create the tools we need. Seriously someone make a UI for assigning jobs for the love of god we don’t need naked Piper just yet.

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Piper, seen here with a shred of dignity and innocence intact before the internet has its way with her. Photo: Bethesda

Those quibbles aside settlement management is still pretty fun, but pales in comparison to the real fun of Fallout 4. Wanderlust. Bethesda once again does what they do best and delivers a world full of cool stories to tell and crazy characters to find. FOMO looms large as you wander the wastes and you will compulsively canvass every cranny of industrial and military waste looking for loot or action or intrigue.  

How you do this is largely up to you, and there is a robust perks system to support you. With 100 perks available, many of which have multiple levels, you can tailor your wasteland wanderer to be anything you like. Multiple playthroughs are a must for Fallout 4, the narrative decisions you make force you to leave some story behind, and the perks system gives you options ranging from a stealth sniper to a melee bruiser to a charismatic charmer and more. I found myself saving two or three perks at a time to make decisions less agonizing. It’s like a fancy buffet. Everything looks good.

Absent this time around is a karma system that scores your reputation. How much your deeds influence others perception of you is difficult to gauge, but faction related politics still apply. Eventually, you have to betray a powerful group (or two).

The volume of in-game weapons and mods offers a dizzying amount of choices, but agonizing over stat points is moot as the VATS system remains the true tool for wasteland combat. It remains as satisfying as ever to liquefy skulls in a slow-mo montage of gooey, graphic gore. Legendary weapons, designated with a star, add a bit more excitement to enemy drops. Expect the big boss fights (and some more minor ones, too) to come with new toys for your arsenal. Getting to rename modded weapons helps keep things organized.

Crafting in Fallout 4 is deep but organized. With plenty of items to build in Settlement mode, alongside dozens of weapon and armor mods as well as chems and cooking, it’s easy to tinker for hours. I hated my late game inventory in Skyrim. I felt like I had all this money and all this stuff and nothing to do with it. Settlements and crafting solve that problem. After finishing the main story it’s clear Fallout 4 is designed to keep going and the crafting helps consume those excess resources.

The Bottom Line

Fallout 4 is a must-buy for Bethesda fans, and a worthy investment for anyone looking to get a long shelf life out of a game. A few bugs and a few wasted hours on settlement management keep it from getting a perfect score, but don’t let that deter you from experiencing one of this year’s best games.

In a year of great open world experiences, Fallout 4 stands out as among the best. It's a patch or two away from near perfection, and there’s no telling how much content is coming from modders or from DLC.

It doesn’t have the same point A-to-B distance as other notable open world games but it is chock full of secrets. You’ll see some abandoned cabin in the distance, wander into it looking for INSERT DESPERATELY NEEDED CRAFTING RESOURCE HERE and notice a trap door. That leads to a lab. That’s full of [spoilers].

Suddenly every ramshackle structure you encounter (and there are hundreds of them) holds the potential for an unscripted two-hour diversion. You never want to stop exploring. And based on everything I didn’t do in 63 hours of game time, it looks like you may never have to.

Editor's note: This review was based on the Xbox One version of Fallout 4. 

 

REVIEW SUMMARY
Fallout 4
8.5
Post-Apocalypse Wow
Fallout 4 is a must-buy for Bethesda fans, and a worthy investment for anyone looking to get a long shelf life out of a game. A few bugs and a few wasted hours on settlement management keep it from getting a perfect score, but don’t let that deter you from experiencing one of this year’s best games.
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