Fallout 4 is the latest and in my opinion the best episode of the franchise since Bethesda took it from the cold dead hands of Activision. However this game excels at flattering my natural impulse to pick up and hold everything that's lying around, and this is what I sheepishly did for nearly 180 hours.
(this article was first posted on my personal blog)
I bought Fallout 4 and its Season Pass 3 months ago, and through my 180 hours of game time, I've had the occasion to see it almost through and through. This represents only one play-through with a single character, and I know I missed a lot of things, including all the quests given in the Institute, whose leader I killed prematurely. I regret nothing.
Graphics are pretty nice, especially since a monstrous official high-definition texture pack is now available for free. The post-apocalyptic landscapes still are desolated, the glory and the colors of the world still are faded as expected, and forests still are deliciously creepy. The level design is however a notch down, the choice of Boston and its surroundings (called the "Commonwealth") to stage the action bring many named locations close to each other, which remove the enjoyment of exploration. Don't even try to enter all the buildings you'll pass, the vast majority just are locations for quests you haven't been given yet, or even random locations of some recurring quests that are even more frustrating.
The scenario felt way better than Fallout 3 or New Vegas, whose main quest was clearly lack-lusting. In Fallout 4 the parental trope is back, but it's not the only one nor it's unfolding expected. This game offered me interesting moral dilemma (especially in the Far Harbor DLC that I recommend), unique characters not always nice, a villain who thinks he's working for the greater good, and a satisfying ending. The sheer number of side quests (some of them automatically generated) will quench your thirst for a radioactive escape.
The gameplay has been entirely reworked, with a complete departure from character management inherited from the original Fallout franchise. While the S.P.E.C.I.A.L attributes are still there, they have way less impact on the game than before. Skills have been completely replaced by perks and each level up allows to raise an attribute or unlock or improve a perk whose availability depends on the level of the related attribute. There isn't a character level cap anymore, which allows for late-game demi-god status, efficient with any weapon and near-immortal. Too bad.
The speech system has also been improved to integrate seamlessly with character movement. The dialogue option count has been fixed to 4, which sometimes gives weird choices, and only a good Charisma allows to try for the rare extra speech options instead of skill and traits threshold in the previous games. There's even a funny gimmick that quickly turns annoying: Speeding up your interlocutor's sentences will trigger exasperation groans from your character, without any consequences on the person you just interrupted with a snarky comment. Still, dialogs are well written, even constrained by the 4 replies system.
Concerning combat, critical hits have been reserved for the VATS semi-paused targeting system and can be manually triggered once the meter has been filled by successful shots in VATS mode. This absurd system convinced me not to use the VATS mode at all during my game, and I never missed it. Power armor appear in the early game, but the requirement of rare batteries will limit their use until midgame. Again a big difference with all the preceding Fallout games in which power armors simply were late game armors.
The base weapon list is small, but an intricate crafting and modding system allows to improve their performances as well as their favorite usage. The pipe gun can be upgraded to a pipe rifle or a pipe machine pistol depending on the chosen barrel, receiver and grip. A word of advice if you want to start an armorer career in Fallout 4: grab all the adhesive you can. And that's where the hoarding hell starts.
Hoarders saison 12 épisode 156
Unlike Fallout 3 and New Vegas whose rudimentary crafting system required specific items to build fun but dispensable objects, this time all the props are reducible to base materials used to improve weapons, armors and especially build settlements. This huge new features allows you to manage small communities' needs like water, food, shelter and defense by crafting buildings, crops and barricades. And while some base materials like steel and wood can be found lying around in the initial ruins of the settlements, others will have to be salvaged during your exploration of the game's buildings.
And while it's perfectly possible to completely ignore settlement building and weapons/armor crafting, I personally fell right into the hoarding trap, to the point where I was happier finding a Wonderglue bottle, a Wakemaster alarm clock or a microscope than discovering yet another Boston named location that I cared little about. It's possible to tag certain materials for search, which highlight the name of the junk items containing them. One of the perks goes even further, by physically highlighting containers (even locked!) harboring at least one item reducible to a material tagged for search. OCD triggered.
The other never-ending hoarding aspect is about legendary items. Some enemies groups have a legendary individual who's stronger and once defeated drops a legendary item. This can be a weapon or an armor part that feature a special perk. The problem is that both the item type and the perk are completely random, which heavily influences how valuable this kind of loot is for the player. Impossible to scrap, they will uselessly encumber your containers if like me you can't resolve to drop them.
In the end, I feel like I missed the general point of Fallout 4. I built very little, just the bare minimum to ensure settlements health numbers stay in the green, but I didn't feel like it changed anything in the world when I did it. Out of the 6 DLC, 3 (Vault-Tec, Contraptions and Wasteland Workshop) add a lot of new items to build that I never touched because I'm not interested in playing house in general, and especially not in Fallout games. There is a sore lack of feedback compared to the invested time and effort in building settlements that pissed me off. The settlers hanging around the settlements can't do anything on their own, whether it is building defenses or decide to work the crops to avoid starving. They won't equip better available armor pieces, either in the settlement inventory or through the buildable shops. Those are also supposed to bring profits that I never saw, but I never had to use caps anyway.
And even well fortified, at regular intervals a random settlement will be reported as being sieged, requiring your presence to trigger the actual attack and defeat it. The penalty if you don't show up in time is only building damage, which quickly leads to ignore those distress messages when you don't need the XP anymore, as nothing justify the loading time for the two fast travels to needlessly defend a useless settlement filled with pointless NPCs. The only appeal I found in settlements is the supply route system which makes your settlers roam the world, which bring some action whenever they encouter a raider camp or a feral ghoul nest. However remember that stray bullets can make the settler hostile to you.
This review may seem negative, but it doesn't reflect on the quality of the game, nor my personal enjoyment of it. Even when ignoring the building feature, Fallout 4 is an excellent game, the best since Bethesda took ownership of the franchise, and this despite a risky complete overhaul of the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system! What actually aggravated me was to see myself eagerly look after typewriters, hot plates and collect flip lighters while the game doesn't need this to be interesting in itself. It then must be a true masterpiece for anyone who is interested in building for its own sake.