Fallout 4 is a wonderful game. It’s incredibly enjoyable, occasionally breathtaking, and unfortunately, often infuriating. To start with, I’m not a Fallout veteran. I knew the stories and setting, for the most part, but I went in never having actually played a Fallout game. This, it turns out, is difficult to do.
Bethesda traditionally doesn’t do a good job teaching players its systems, but I assumed that since I’d clocked hundreds of hours in Skyrim, I would be okay. (It definitely helped. I can’t imagine Fallout as a first Bethesda game.) While a lot of systems are familiar, like the massive inventory and clunky melee, there are some Fallout-specific mechanics that I really wish the game had given me a tutorial for-for example, VATS (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System).
It took me six hours to realize that VATS existed. Fallout fans will probably roll their eyes at this, and several people have already alerted me to the fact that I missed a single popup that maybe described the system at some point earlier in the game. But here’s the thing-VATS only shows up if you pull the left trigger in combat, which meant I never came across it while trying out the controls. I happened to miss the popup, and…that was that. It made the game immeasurably difficult because I was missing out on an essential combat mechanic. Some sort of tutorial quest would have alleviated my suffering a lot earlier on.
Six hours of agony aside, and initial disappointment over graphics out of the way, I truly enjoyed Fallout 4. The soundtrack is phenomenal. I like my companions, and quests didn’t fall into the ‘rinse and repeat’ format that Skyrim’s did. I never felt like I was doing anything purposeless. Even quests that seemed like throwaway side quests ended up being meaningful in the grand scheme of things.
The game does a good job of utilizing Boston’s different districts and themes (as far as I could tell, never having been there). You get to solve film noir mysteries with Nick Valentine, and usher cyborgs to safety via the “railroad.” Hancock wears a tricorn hat and a lovely red coat and preaches freedom to his town of misfits. Your main group are the Minutemen, a militia that defends the people from raiders and baddies. There’s a quest where you follow the Freedom Trail, and I genuinely feel like I learned something about the city, despite having panic attacks every time I got swarmed by ghouls. One of my favorite quest lines so far has been the Silver Shroud, where you don the costume of an old-timey Detective Comics superhero and try to do good in the world. It’s cheesy, but it’s still quite heartfelt.
Crafting is a bit of a monolith in this game, but as someone who likes that stuff, I found it enjoyable. Suffice it to say, you need to pick up anything and everything, and the inventory system is a bit burdensome, but once you get the hang of sorting your stuff, it’s a lot of fun. Building up your towns feels a bit like the Sims in post-apocalypse mode.
The main story sees your character-mine was Mindy, based off Mindy Kaling, of course-tracking down their missing child. I was disappointed that a) the opening cinematic was from the male protagonist’s point of view, and b) that I couldn’t have been a lesbian character. Your protagonist can romance who they like, but the intro makes it clear that they cannot be gay (or if they are, they are severely closeted). I also would have liked a more equal split in companions-so far I have seven companions, and only one is a woman.
It was refreshing to be able to play a female hero, though, as always.
I can’t in good faith recommend Fallout 4 to people who aren’t either fans of the series or willing to put up with a lot of learning blocks. It’s also not an easy game overall, so prepare yourself for a lot of dying, even on easy mode. Save often. I’ve also run into a lot of issues with subtitles not appearing or getting stuck, as well as some weapon reloading problems, and a couple of times I’ve gotten stuck in walls. It is however a great game for folks who love crafting, exploration, and strategy combat, and the stories are well worth playing.
Reviews Around the Web
The Washington Post, Hayley Tsukayama - Positive
It’s incredibly easy to lose hours to this game, because you want to persuade one more person to do something, fetch one more item or run down just one more alley. But in this one, I’m finding more than enough to keep me busy—and not just the normal touches such as the little jokes embedded in hackable computer files or some seriously amazing radio plays.
Cheat Code Central, Becky Cunningham - 3.4/5
My hype to see how Bethesda would interpret all these innovations and incorporate them into the Fallout setting turned to disappointment when I stumbled through a game that features the same poorly-implemented combat and all the same old Gamebryo engine annoyances and glitches we’ve been dealing with for years.
US Gamer, Kat Bailey - 4.5/5
You can always find more polished games, but none that offer quite the same sense of immersion as Fallout. As always, it remains brilliant, maddening, and wholly memorable, and I expect to be playing it for many more hours to come.