Fallout 4 Isn’t As Good As I Hoped (But It’s Still Good!)

Immediately following this picture, Dogmeat ran three miles away and caught fire.
Immediately following this picture, Dogmeat ran three miles away and caught fire.

*sigh* I had a feeling.

Don’t get me wrong, Fallout 4 is still a fantastic game, and I can easily see myself dumping hundreds of hours into it in the future. But, I am strongly considering dropping it for the moment, and waiting for a few months before I pick it back up.

One reason isn’t really the game’s fault. My gaming PC is pretty old (geez, probably 7 years old by now). Fallout 4 does run, even on medium settings, which is frankly astounding, but there are some awkward lighting bugs, and the framerate really does chug in combat, so this game is definitely serving as the impetus for my inevitable upgrade.

Other reasons, however, aren’t the fault of my hardware. For starters, the AI in the game is just…oh boy. Never change, Bethesda, because I have had a good number of encounters permanently blemished in my mind even in just the first four hours due to some crap AI. Dogmeat really likes to block doorways, and just sort of frantically run off. Even more disappointing was that epic showdown in Concord where you’re in Power Armor and you’re fighting the Deathclaw. The Deathclaw got stuck in the ground for me, allowing me to just stand there and pump lead into him until he died, without a care in the world.

Speaking of that encounter, did you know that happens, like, an hour and a half in? It’s one of the first things that happens to you after you leave the Vault. And man, that scene sucks. For starters, as many people have said, getting Power Armor in a Fallout game is supposed to be this epic reward, the visible sign of your apotheosis from wasteland scum to post-apocalyptic warlord. One of the things I liked in New Vegas is that you can never find Power Armor in a playthrough pretty easily, and if you do find it, you’re already so attached to your current clothes that you kinda don’t want it.

Meanwhile, in Fallout 4, you get Power Armor immediately, and you have to get it. It feels like cheating. In Fallout 3, a similar thing occurred at Galaxy News Radio, with you being forced to pick up a Fat Man. The Fat Man, however, was wildly impractical except in specific scenarios (like the GNR fight), while Fallout 4‘s Power Armor is basically a solution for every combat scenario.

As it turns out, nuclear explosions aren't good solutions for anything closer than about 100 feet
As it turns out, nuclear explosions aren’t good solutions for anything closer than about 100 feet

Furthermore, the way you find out about the Power Armor is through the Minutemen, a group of wasteland Boy Scouts who you help get through a gunfight in an old museum, and they trust you immediately following that. After spending so much time to get New Vegas‘s Brotherhood of Steel to trust me, and how much time I spent climbing the ranks of the NCR, to have these guys instantly go “Yeah, I dunno, you’re a Minuteman now. Want Power Armor now?” is so unsatisfying. It doesn’t help that I was dressed like the guys that were just shooting at them.

So, they send you on the easiest fetch quest in the world, to go grab a power core in the same building, head to the roof of the same building, and go to the Vertiberd crash where a suit of perfect condition Power Armor is very neatly standing there, waiting for you, even positioned in the same direction you need to travel. It doesn’t feel like an organic part of the world, it feels like finding a weapon in an old school shooter like Doom, where there was just a gun on a pedestal, because fuck worldbuilding. It all feels so video-gamey, in a game series I value for its immersive quality.

I'm still kinda mad this moment was taken from me
I’m still kinda mad this moment was taken from me

And then, after all this, all of a sudden the game just throws you right into the settlement-building mechanics, as you help the Minutemen set up a nice, homey encampment. The problem is A) I still don’t nearly care enough about these guys to want to give them nice homes, and B) this is my neighborhood, assholes. As far as my cryogenically-frozen ass is concerned, all of my friends and family were living here, like 3 hours ago. And now you want me to stick my neck out collecting a massive amount of resources so that we can bulldoze my neighborhood to build some crappy hovel town. That’s messed up.

I’m not extremely far into the game (maybe about 6 hours), and despite all of this I definitely can tell I’m going to like Fallout 4. The gunplay is the best in the whole series, and is frankly pretty fun in general, not just in comparison. The crafting system is extremely interesting, and I think I’ve already spent an hour just chasing down raw materials to turn my crappy pipe pistol into a hand cannon. For every character that I find mediocre, like the Minutemen, I seem to find someone else who is fantastic, like the ever-chipper Codsworth, or Travis, the charmingly uncharismatic radio host of Diamond City Radio.

In general, then, my opinion of the game is good, and even though Bethesda main quests are always a little lacking, I find the hamfisted way that the game shoves key characters and new mechanics on you to utterly break my immersion. I want to explore, to work my way up to being able to use Power Armor and to control settlements, but instead the game just wants to dump all of this on my lap. Combine this with moments where I feel like the story just breaks (Why is my character so cool with seeing a Deathclaw for the first time? Why is he so unphased by the destruction of him family? When the hell did he pick up carpentry?), and Fallout 4 feels like it tried so hard to be a mechanical sandbox, it’s not letting me enjoy a narrative sandbox, where I can play a character in a world.

//I am aware that I am not even remotely close to having seen a majority slice of the game, but seeing as these moments represent my first impression of the game, and made up most of the marketing campaign, I still found it valid to comment upon. I’ll probably post again on my thoughts on the full game, and if my fears here are unfounded or not.

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