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

The interface screens all run through your Pip-Boy, which is the mini-computer attached to your wrist.  This system is very immersive for the setting, which is nice, but it causes everything to look like it's being displayed on a TRS-80, which isn't.  And so you still get a clunky menu system without scrollbars or tooltips or context-sensitive menus.  But at least this time around the maps are more helpful (and actually look like your surroundings rather than chicken scratches), and you can jump right to the tab where you want to go, such as pressing the I key for your inventory or the M key for the map screen.

As much as I don't like interfaces infected by console-itis, the only place in the game where it's a significant problem is during conversations.  That's because you're only allowed to have four dialogue options, one each for the four main gamepad buttons.  This severely limits what you can say to people (you frequently get a "sarcastic" response, but that's it), and it causes issues with some quests where the quest NPC doesn't have room to talk about the quest you're trying to work on.

More of a problem is that Bethesda added a lot of things to the game (like cover and settlements, which I'll get to later), but instead of creating an interface for everything, they tried adding the new stuff on top of their existing interface, and they ended up overloading hotkeys haphazardly.  And so instead of just having one key -- like, say, escape -- close windows, there are three keys used at different times (escape, tab, and enter).  And while the R key normally reloads your weapon, if you're pointing at a corpse, then it opens the loot dialogue instead.  Worse, if you're pointing at a corpse (which happens a lot during combat), then all non-corpse hotkeys get ignored.  So you might think you've switched weapons or injected a stimpak, but you really haven't.  And god forbid you accidentally hit the F key, since it locks you into the favorites interface and prevents you from doing anything else.  This is all stuff that you can get used to as you play the game, but it's still pretty much a mess.

Gameplay

Fallout 4 is definitely a Bethesda game.  You're given a large world to explore with lots of creatures to kill and quests to complete.  This is the format they've used in the past, and it's what they're employing again here.  I used to call Bethesda games "big and boring," but they've gotten better about improving their signal to noise ratio, and so while you still discover lots of buildings filled with anonymous bad guys, you also sometimes stumble across a bandit racetrack, or a mall run by Mr. Handy robots, or a town hiding a mysterious treasure, which make your explorations more rewarding.

First and foremost, Fallout 4 is about combat.  Many of the enemies you encounter are old hat at this point -- raiders, feral ghouls, mirelurks, mole rats, mongrel dogs, and super mutants make up the majority of the encounters -- but there have also been a few tweaks since Fallout 3 and New Vegas.  Super mutants have a suicide bomber who tries to blow you up with a mini nuke, ghouls play possum and then jump up when you're not expecting it, mole rats and mirelurks burrow up from the earth and ambush you, and more.  There are also some new types of human enemies (including gunners and fire-enthusiastic forged), plus synthetic humans, to keep things interesting.

But the most noteworthy type of new enemy is the "legendary" enemy.  These enemies are much more powerful versions of regular enemies, and especially early in the game, they can tear you apart.  So you have to be careful.  Even if you're fighting a regular group of raiders or something, they might have a legendary compatriot in their ranks, and so you can't just take a battle for granted.  You have to stay on your toes.  And you also have to save often.

Better yet, legendary enemies always drop a piece of legendary equipment, which is a regular item with an extra bonus.  So you might find a weapon that shoots two bullets at once or deals fire damage along with its regular damage, or you might find armor that adds to your luck or increases your resistances when you're standing still.  Early in the game you'll probably have to run away from legendary creatures (or load your game after they kill you), but later they become great hunting targets so you can use them to improve your gear.

Another new thing in combat is that humanoid enemies will use cover.  This isn't any sort of sophisticated system like in the Mass Effect games, but enemies will at least try to hide behind walls and only expose their head and weapon when they shoot at you.  You can do this as well if you feel so inclined, but mostly I didn't bother.  Nothing locks you into place or shows you where cover is available.  You just sort of have to walk into a corner, and then when you aim, you look around it.  So it's awkward and mostly only useful to enemies, but at least Bethesda is trying something new.

After defeating enemies, you of course get to loot their corpses.  Equipment seems to appear in tiers.  You start out by finding ballistic weapons and leather armor, then you move up to laser weapons and metal armor, and finally you reach plasma weapons and combat armor.  You can also acquire impressive suits of power armor, but new in Fallout 4 this kind of armor can get damaged, requiring repair, and it also needs fusion cores to run, which means you can't wear it all the time.  There are also a few unique items in the game (many of them sold by shopkeepers), plus all of the legendary items, plus a multitude of bobbleheads, comics and manuals, which give you permanent bonuses.

Along with regular items that you can use immediately, there are also items that you can break down into their component parts, such as springs, gears, copper, ceramic, and cloth.  You're then allowed to combine these components together to create items.  You can't craft weapons or armor or ammo, but you can build mods for your weapons and armor (like scopes to improve accuracy or lead-lining to improve radiation resistance), plus food, chems, and bombs.  You start out knowing almost all of the recipes in the game (although you won't be able to use them until you've learned the right perks), but there are a few recipes you can only find during your explorations.