Fallout 4 Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Bethesda Softworks
Developer:Bethesda Softworks
Release Date:2015-11-10
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • First-Person,Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

Introduction

Fallout 4 is Bethesda Softworks' latest open-world RPG.  It takes place in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (now just called the Commonwealth) ten years after the events in Fallout 3, which means it's 210 years after the United States and China started a war that turned the world into a nuclear wasteland.

Once again you play a vault dweller -- but only sort of.  When the game opens up, the war hasn't started yet, and you're living in your nice, white-picket-fence house with your spouse and your baby son Shaun.  After a brief introduction, the bombs start falling, but luckily for you, you've been signed up for a vault, and it's located almost right next door to your house, so you and your family are able to make it inside.

However, as was the case for many -- if not all -- of Vault-Tec's vaults, your Vault 111 served a secret purpose: to see how people would react to being cryogenically frozen.  So no sooner do you make it inside than you're tricked into entering a pod, and you're put to sleep.  Worse, instead of enjoying sweet dreams, twice you're woken up to a nightmare: once when you witness your spouse being murdered and your son kidnapped, and then again later when your pod opens up, and you discover that everybody else in the vault -- sleeper and staff alike -- is dead.  So without knowing what's going on or what the world might be like, you exit the vault and go looking for your son.

Characters

Your character in the game can be male or female, with your spouse being the opposite gender (sorry, gay couples).  You start out staring at a mirror, which gives you a chance to mold your appearance to just how you want.  And because your character actually talks in the game, the camera now focuses on you during your part in conversations, giving you more of a chance to admire your handiwork -- unless you like to wear helmets and glasses, and then not so much.  For some reason, unlike most other RPGs, Bethesda didn't include an option for turning headgear invisible, and apparently it's not something easy for modders to add.

Your character is defined by seven SPECIAL attributes -- strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, agility, and luck -- and also by a collection of perks.  Each time you gain a level, you're given a point, and you can spend these points on attributes or perks.  You're also given some points at the start of the game to spend on attributes only.

The attributes do about what you'd expect.  Strength increases your melee damage, endurance gives you more health, charisma makes you more convincing in dialogue, luck improves your chances of finding items, and so on.  Meanwhile, perks do things like increase your damage with certain kinds of weapons, improve your resistances, or make VATS (the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, which slows down time and allows you to target various enemy body parts) work better.

By my count, there are over 250 places where you can spend points, which sounds like a lot, especially considering that while there isn't a level cap, you probably won't reach level 60 unless you really like grinding experience against respawning enemies.  But in practice, some perks are much better than others, and if you're like me and you don't really use melee weapons or VATS, then your building options are much more limited.  I played through the game all the way once and then about halfway through with a second character, and I found that my builds for the two were almost exactly the same.

Interface

As with Bethesda's other games, you can play Fallout 4 using either a first- or third-person perspective.  The first-person perspective still works the best, but the playability gap between the two isn't as wide as it once was.  I mostly used the third-person perspective when exploring and talking to people, and then switched to the first-person perspective when combat started up.  (If you try to shoot something using the third-person perspective, then you'll frequently hit foreground objects or walls without realizing it, and so it's not a recommended option.)

I played Fallout 4 on the PC, and the controls there are roughly the same as you see from other first- and third-person perspective games.  You use the WASD keys to drive your character, the mouse to steer, the LMB to attack, the RMB to aim (with a ranged weapon) or block (with a melee weapon), the spacebar to jump, and the E key to interact.  Bethesda inexplicably didn't bother to create a manual for the game, but luckily the controls are obvious enough that you should be able to jump right in and start playing -- and only later have to puzzle out things like how to holster your weapon or turn on your Pip-Boy light.