Fallout 4 - Gameplay & Experience
There is a lot to see in Fallout 4, so much that it will take us several play-throughs to witness it all. Yet its expansive scope is tempered by a very palpable dearth of gameplay variety—tacking on just a few new mechanics and features from Fallout 3 and New Vegas. You explore, find new locations, level up to add points to skills, and loot everything and everyone in sight until you’re too stuffed to walk beyond a snail’s pace. You then find a nice secure storage are, which can be just about anything from a dead dog’s carcass to file cabinets, trunks, workbenches and more. Then you set out to rinse and repeat while fighting scores of Raiders, Ghouls and mutated wildlife.
But I digress… After finally registering your family and securing a place for them and yourself in Vault 111 for cryostasis, you guessed it--nuclear fallout rains down. A war over resources has erupted drenching the planet in radiation. But you’re safe snoring away in cryo-sleep until your cryopod pops open. Your spouse is dead and your baby has been kidnapped. Finding the child is what drives you as you leave Vault 111 for the wide open world. Oh, and I forgot to mention, while napping in stasis, 200 years have passed. Fret not; you don’t look a day over 125.
Leaving the sterile confines of the Vault is both exhilarating and intimidating, much like leaving the Vault for the wasteland in Fallout 3. Unfortunately once the mystique wears off the gameplay complexity is not quite there. Like most RPGs the game is filled with main and side quests. The game features a branching dialogue system with an impressive 111,000 lines of dialogue. However, the branches always lead to the same conclusion no matter if you take a snarky or aggressive dialogue choice. You can say "no" to quests with no penalty. Because, you can always come back and find the quest holder unrealistically hanging out in the exact same spot waiting to offer it to you again.
Of the quests themselves, we have yet to see a single one that doesn’t involve killing everything you see. There seems to be an unusual emphasis on combat for an RPG. Sure you may need to retrieve a Power Core or turn on power to something or another, but in the interim you will have to kill all enemies in sight before you can proceed. No slipping in and then slipping out stealth style. It’s just murder-death-kill everything, which really detracts from the immersion—more so because the guns, albeit more rewarding and polished to play, are actually some of the least interesting bits of the game. So while you can pick pockets for loot. It’s much easier to just simply shoot first and loot at leisure.
Though,I imagine some will get a kick out of customizing the games 50 guns using the 700+ modifications available. To do so you will need to acquire the necessary parts and then find one of the required workbenches to make those modifications. Workbenches are thankfully more plentiful throughout the world than in the previous installment. Plus you now have separate style workbenches for your Power Armor, which functions much more like a vehicle that you can disembark from than another piece of equippable clothing. Power armor can also be modified now, with the pieces being more modular. You can even equip a jetpack to the thing, which is pretty neat.
Your main window or interface to it all is your wrist-bound Pip-Boy. It holds your map, stats, item inventory, quest info and more. The new Pip-Boy looks amazing. But it governs everything you do and it’s clunky as heck. The device does have its novelty. It’s one part giant smartwatch and one part storage closet, back pack, armory and mobile lost-and-found device, all rolled into one. Simple and regularly needed functions like activating a Stimpak or RadAway for healing and such, require far more clicks than I feel necessary—especially when I have several Deathclaws breathing down my neck. This was the case on both keyboard/mouse setups and on a controller. Just for ease of navigating the cursor swiftly across the screen, we suggest opting to play with keyboard and mouse.
Fallout 4 does introduce a new base building and deconstruction mechanic. You can build settlements which will garner the attention of wanders and such. New inhabitants to your settlement will need to be fed by creating makeshift gardens and building wells and water spouts. Your various settlements can be powered with electricity for added functionality. You can also fortify these settlements against attacks from random locals and wildlife with various traps and gun turrets. It’s a neat dynamic and mildly reminds me of the base building in Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain. Yet we are not fond of the interface and were pleased to see the feature is not mandatory for completing the main portions of the game.