In Defense of Fallout 4

Fallout 76 has left a sour taste in most people’s mouths whenever the game franchise Fallout is brought up in conversation. As much as I would like to pretend that long time fans of the serious started to dislike the franchise after Fallout 76, I have to admit that it began earlier than that with the release of Fallout 4.

I just started the game, for possibly the tenth time? And I am having a blast. However, I know that other people have problems with it and I would like to talk about those things and why I feel that Fallout 4 doesn’t deserve nearly as much hate as it receives.

Before I get to far into it I want to preface this with the fact that some of my favorite games have to be Bethesda’s Fallout games. I find it is important to make the distinction, since Fallout as a game has changed. In the past, Fallout had been an asymmetric turn based RPG. Bethesda’s Fallouts, as most people are aware, are first person shooters (or third person if you are a masochist)  with RPG elements. This is where a lot of people’s mixed feelings for the new Fallouts begin.

People loved feeling they could build their waste lander up with their specifically chosen attributes and characteristics. How might my jinxed melee character fair in a world full of brutal mutants and moral grey area? This self creation and minute control is what stuck out in conjunction to the setting/tone of the original games. The games could be serious but also people could just make things silly. The world was defined by their choices and the newer Fallouts are not necessarily like that. Fallout 3 and New Vegas had a decent selection of these choices where the game feels different after just talking to one hired gun at a bar. You talk to a hired gun in Fallout 4 and I guarantee the world will not change at all.

Fallout 4  was released in 2015, from Bethesda Studios. The game sold very well, selling as much as 750 million dollars in the first 24 hours, according to Fortune.com. Critical reception of the game was also positive overall. The average Metacritic score, for the PC version of the game, is an 84 and that is the lowest of the three platforms it launched on.

So, what’s the issue? The numbers might lead you to believe that people were happy with the game, but longtime fans of the series were, and continue to be, upset with Fallout 4. Why though? If someone looked hard enough, they would be able to find someone complaining about literally every aspect of this game, so for my purposes, I want to focus on the average criticisms. I want to explore the reasons fans state for not liking Fallout 4 and then explain why I simply love the game, despite the “faults” people point to. I will use Metacritic as a focus group for these complaints.

Complaints

  • RPG system is dumbed down
    • Dialogue branches small
    • Character development too straightforward
  • Repetitive gameplay
  • Main Quest unfulfilling
  • Graphics are sub-par

These are some of the most popular complaints about Fallout 4. I will talk about each one and how I feel about the legitimacy of the complaint.

The RPG elements were dumbed down. This is the most cited reason that I could find for Fallout 4 being a disappointment and it is a fair complaint. If you are a person who comes to these games for the RPG elements you would be disappointed. The dialogue doesn’t allow the player to navigate situations in creative ways like they had in the past or even choose to be a pacifist. This was probably the biggest critique I had as well after my first play-through. I loved Fallout New Vegas because it allowed for a ton of dialogue options to navigate the game. I am still learning new ways to navigate New Vegas and that is thanks to Obsidian games putting so much time into the dialogue trees. Fallout 4 doesn’t have this unfortunately. Most branches in the dialogue will lead the player to the exact same outcome. The developers effectively gave the illusion of choice. The story elements that do change in Fallout 4 due to player choice are superficial at best like who is the ruling faction at the end of the game.

The character development was also made pretty streamlined in Fallout 4. A character in Fallout 4 can become anything at any time. What I mean is that even if you went all in on speech and survival through the entire game by the end of your playtime your character could have all the traits buffed. It’s really only a matter of what order you wanted your character to become all powerful.

The gameplay has been criticized for being one shooting gallery after another. The player is given a quest, told to enter a building to retrieve something or someone, shoot a bunch of people/monsters, and return home for their reward. This happens almost every single mission given to the player with little nuance in the general side quests.

Going off the gameplay complaint, the main quest has been criticized for being boring, bland, and simply not rewarding for the player. The factions are not great leaders for the Commonwealth and their endings are almost all the same. Even I have to think that Bethesda went “Oh, people really liked blowing up Megaton, let’s do something like that, again.” It’s a shame because this design decision does nothing to convince the player to play through the different endings, other than earning an achievement.

Finally, the graphics were said to look outdated on launch day. I’m going to be honest, I never understood this one but I will do my best to articulate other people’s problems with them. The textures of the game look like something from five years earlier and the human models are up to industry standards for the time. They move like robots and during in-game conversations they give little to no emotion, which can cause the feeling of immersion to fail.

Yet, I Can’t Help But Love It

I really do love this game and I think the reason is that the RPG elements were never a huge selling point for me. They were the fudge drizzle to my ice cream sundae but I am happy without them still. The beginning, while stale after the fourth playthrough, is one that really pulls me into the world of Fallout. I loved seeing what the world looked like before the world ended and get a glimpse at normalcy. It gave a nice initial juxtaposition of the game you would play for the rest of your adventure.

The biggest pull for me into the Fallout franchise, at least since Fallout 3, has always been the exploration of the world. I wander down every alley, look through every cabinet, and scavenge every ruined building amazed at every detail of the game. It’s the experiences that I have while playing the game that keeps me coming back again and again. I have roughly 400 hours in Fallout 4 and I am still finding new things in the Commonwealth.

For instance, I was wandering around in Boston when I turned the corner and saw two deathclaws fighting it out. Seeing as I was only a level 13, I decided to hide away on top of the gas station nearby. Once on top, I found a sniper rifle and decided to join in the fray after all, taking pot shots at the two combatants.

Another time, I was exploring downtown Boston, when the weather became foggy, the music became somber, and I was finding the remains of a family who had been, living their lives when the bombs took them by surprise. Scattered blocks and plates give hints as to what their lives had been seconds before their world ended.

The atmosphere of this game is spectacular. Like Deadspace, Portal 2, and Batman Arkham Asylum, all the elements of the game (sound, visuals, music, gameplay) come together to deliver an experience that transports me to another world.

Fallout 4 did what I wanted it to do when I first bought it in 2015. It transported me to another world and offered me up an opportunity to explore that world to my heart’s content. I scavenged for hours on end and the game gave me dozens of war stories to share with my friends.

It is this sense of freedom that always has me returning to games like Fallout. While, I may not be able to talk the world into peace or take down the enemy faction in the first 3 hours. I still enjoy running from a band of vicious raiders and escaping into a comic store only to realize that I walked into a zombie movie.

I can see why Fallout 4 may have been disappointing if you are an avid RPG player but unless you hate the genre of FPS I don’t think you should hate Fallout 4. It is still a well-crafted game (especially at a time where it seems every game is broken at launch but that’s a different blog post).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s