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How Fallout 4 turned a Bethesda sceptic around

Fallout 4.jpg

I’ve long hated Bethesda’s RPGs. I found them ugly, boring, badly-written; their lack of polish seemed insulting, adding a layer that seemed to say they didn’t care. Their combat was consistently awful and clunky, whether it was swinging swords or firing badly rendered weapons. Gravity and physics seemed to have wandered drunkenly into the game, occasionally existing, sometimes not.

I could somewhat understand the love and fascination the games had: go almost anywhere on the map, act in a variety of ways and become a broad range of characters, all while using a unique character of your own creation. Yet, they never sat well with me. I just couldn’t look beyond their awful potato people they called characters.

Then Fallout 4 happened.

I’ve been playing nearly non-stop since it’s release, every day exhilarated by what I’ve discovered. Many of my issues, particularly the combat, have been largely resolved; the graphics aren’t beautiful, but they’re no longer insulting; physics exist and the third-person camera actually feels like a third-person game instead of a bad platformer; the stories are actually well-written and characters are memorable and genuinely lovely at times. Dialogue has been shaped by Bioware’s four-point system, though it’s not nearly as refined - nonetheless, having a voice-protagonist has drawn me more than I realised.

Fallout screenshot.jpg

So what has happened? For me, I don’t view this game as an RPG basically at all. It’s closer to Far Cry 4 than it is to, say, Dragon Age: Inquisition. And, indeed, when you start adding scopes and sights to your guns, the game truly comes into its own as a first-person shooter but with rather deep RPG elements.

For me, this is why Fallout 4 feels like Far Cry 4 - though I’m making no objective argument it is the case. Only why, for me personally, it is the case. (Please note: “Fallout 4” looks a lot like “Far Cry 4”! I’ll be using “FC4” to refer to Far Cry 4 from now on to reduce confusion.)

Why Fallout 4 feels like a Far Cry in a Wasteland

Consider Fallout 4’s Perk system. The game is terrible at explaining, so I’ll do my best if you’re not aware.

See image for Fallout 4 Perk System.

With the Perk/SPECIAL system, the game engages in RPG elements, letting you put points into various attributes assigned to Strength, Perception, etc. Every point you use in each attribute is a new level within that attribute (five points into Strength means you are Level 5 Strength).

And every level offers a new Perk (skills, basically) for you to open: you open skills and new levels of attributes with the same currency, Experience Points, earned by levelling up. So, when you reach a new Level, you get an Experience Point. You can use that Point to either open a skill or a new attribute level, but not both. Many of us initially thought the skills open automatically, as you level up specific attributes, but they merely become available at certain levels; they need an additional point to be activated.

The skills, “Perks”, are bonuses or special actions - whether it means you gain 20% more damage resistance or a chance encounter in combat with a Mysterious Stranger who deals massive damage to enemies. “Perks” matter, since everything from the ability to craft armour to lockpicking can only be done once you open certain ones (which means reaching new levels in your attributes). This system isn’t far removed from FC4’s Skill Tree.

See image for Far Cry 4 Skill tree.

Notice you have skills that you open by levelling up: from damage resistance to new actions you can take. The only major difference is that these skills are not assigned or locked behind specific attribute levels. I saw very little difference while playing Fallout 4: both games use skill trees as a means to do better in the game world. Not all skills are about combat or damage; some skills let you craft new items and use new skills.

Initially, Fallout 4 is very clunky with its shooting - but, I realised I was struggling with aiming. The game lets you aim down sights, but there are no “sights” on early guns - you need to add scopes and iron sights (or find them). But, as soon as I started adding sights to guns, the whole game opened up to become a proper first-person shooter. And there it was: Far Cry in a post-apocalyptic Wasteland.

Fallout 4’s map isn’t that large, but is very detailed and packed with wonderful activities, stories and environments to experience. But, the game let’s you know when you’ve cleared an area - much like FC4 does when you take back a part of the map. Fallout 4, however, offers dialogue and moral choices. FC4 also lets you make choices, but they were quite binary and naturally the world didn’t respond nearly as deeply as it does to your, even minor, actions in Fallout 4. (For example: A Fallout 4 quest that led me to paint a city’s wall was being remarked on by NPCs days later. It was wonderful feeling like I was having an impact, even in decorating.)

Fallout 4 image.jpg

Some lovely Mass Effect Charm

Yet, instead of FC4, Fallout 4 takes its cue from Mass Effect for its other side: the dialogue options, the character engagement, friendship and romance, the playing out of consequences.

Thus, what makes me love Fallout 4 is that it’s lovely mix of FC4 and the latter Mass Effect games. I mean, Fallout 4 even has cover-based shooting (though you’d never know since the game doesn’t tell you). It has its own voice: though I feel these other games’ systems clearly in place or as inspiration.

Yet, uniquely Fallout 

Yet, unique to Fallout 4 is how the world shapes itself in ways I’ve not experienced before. I mean we haven’t even touched the Base Building System within the game, that can soak up hours of your day!

Fallout 4 screen.jpg

So, to me, the reason I’m loving Fallout 4 is that it plays a lot like games I adore - in many, many ways. I don’t view it as an RPG, but as an action game with deep customisation, RPG elements and dialogue options, in a world that shapes itself to my decisions. In summary: Fallout 4 is Far Cry meets Mass Effect (with Minecraft thrown in) and I’m loving every second of it.

Though it does have a mess of problems.

Tauriq: Twitter / MWEB GameZone: Twitter | Facebook

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