Weighing in on Fallout 4

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I didn't mention Fallout 4 in my wrap-up of E3 because I wanted to save it for its own piece. Bethesda let loose a ton of info and a significant amount of gameplay. It's a lot to sift through. I think Bethesda did the right thing by waiting until they had something substantial to show. By the end of E3, Fallout 4 had more meat on its bones than any other two games combined. It was nice, for once, to have something more than a teaser or a brief demo to go by. Thanks, Bethesda.

Todd Howard opened the presentation by calling E3 "the best week of entertainment." While I don't quite agree with his sentiment I can agree with his followup to it; Fallout is and has been marvelous entertainment. I've been a fan of Fallout since Vault 13's waterchip went bad. Like many others, I thought the series had died out after Fallout: Tactics (a game that I still like, despite what so many others say).

When Fallout 3 came out, I was beside myself with excitement. Unfortunately, the experience fell flat for me. I didn't feel very engaged by it and the engine lacked the detail I was used to in the previous games.Similarly, I didn't get into New Vegas as it still felt as though it was missing something.

Attention to detail is very important. Let me be clear, while the graphics in Fallout, Fallout 2 and Tactics weren't near the level of even Fallout 3, there was something about landscape in those early games that felt alive. Fallout 3 seemed unusually empty for the wasteland I remembered. I know tons of art assets and concept work went into the game, more than some would expect for even an open world game, but Fallout 3 seemed unable to realize it all to its fullest. From what we've been shown, Fallout 4 aims to change that.

The game takes place in Boston area and will start before the war, however briefly. It's our first real solid look at the world before the war. Before now, all we've had were flashbacks, simulations and the pre-war leaflets and posters scattered throughout the world. After this intro, some events transpire and the character emerges 200 years after the Great War. Many fans have called this a prequel, but if my timeline is correct, it actually places Fallout 4 parallel to the events of Fallout 3.

The first changes in the game engine are apparent in the character creation. The creator is sculpt based, with no sliders. Players will point the cursor at the feature they wish to change and pull or filll it as need be. As fluid as this system seems, it makes it difficult to duplicate facial features for future characters or for use online. Dragon Age Inquisition's community has made great use of sliders in helping less skilled players create a character based on themselves or a favorite celebrity. While I applaud a more fluid system, transparency is still important to many players.

Bethesda went to great lengths to craft a deep experience, creating a dynamic PipBoy with loadable cartridges (including games resembling classics like Dinkey Kong and Missile Command). They went so far as to also build a companion app using the same code as the Pipboy in the game. It compiles the same data available on screen during the game, but may have additional functionality outside of Fallout 4. Even Todd Howard admitted that second screen experiences are "stupid gimmicks" but said "as far as stupid gimmicks go, it's the best fucking one I've ever seen." The app will be released for Android and iOS upon release of the game.

The new building and crafting system is absolutely huge. Your character can scrap tons of game objects and use the raw materials to build not only structures but entire settlements. As settlements expand and attract residents and traders, players will need to grow food, provide electricity and build defenses for the area. Eventually it is even possible to and run caravans the settlements. The possibilities are wide open with tons of customization options and intricate systems that allow you to lay traps and perimeter defenses, even automate some parts of the settlement.

Crafting carries over to other items. Using basic materials found in every random piece of junk found in the wasteland, players can create hundreds of items and modifications. With 50 base weapons and over 700 modifications for them Fallout 4's weapon system resembles a craftable Borderlands. Apart from weapons, players can also modify and craft armor (including power armor).

If you haven't seen it yet, the combat trailer is hilarious, some really interesting looking weapons in it. Pay close attention to what I think is the Junk jet. Are we seeing the new gravity gun?