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Unfortunately, the ending I got was extremely vague, to put it mildly, and while I could play the game again to see how it all plays out from another angle, I don’t feel the need to. A lot of this has to do with the limited dialogue throughout; your character can’t be very interesting, your choices are limited and conversations are boring as a result. Combat is improved from the previous Fallout game – but that isn’t saying a lot given how woeful it was. It is still far from comfortable; moving enemies are hard to hit and the recoil feels terribly engineered; for example, each time the player takes a shot, the rifle will recoil and then return to the exact same position the player took the shot from, making long distance kills with a rifle absurdly easy if the enemy isn’t moving. Yes, the weapons feel like they have some weight for once but other than that, combat is still pretty rudimentary. The gunshots sound flat, ‘pops’ rather than ‘bangs’, and this added to the poorly realised recoil results in a sense that the weapon being used has no power. The VATS system is back in play, and does come in handy on occasion, but isn’t a game-changer.
This problem with combat hurts the game, as it has become less RPG and more of a shooter. I boosted my character’s charisma but was only able to talk my way out of one stand-off due to the aforementioned poor dialogue choices. Every other option enabled by my extra charisma was merely to ask for more information about a subject, or to ask for more caps for a job. That was it. None of the diplomacy that was possible in Fallout: New Vegas. Doing side-missions becomes a bore rather quickly too as almost every one involves clearing out an area to collect various items. Rinse and repeat. These side quests aren’t even interesting story-wise, so it doesn’t take long for them to take on a grind-like quality, where each one is more or less the same and the only reason you are doing it is for XP.
A welcome addition to the Fallout universe is armour and weapon modification, but this means you need to carry a ton of junk the player inevitably finds amongst the wasteland. Some components are rare, so finding them can mean a lot as modifying a weapon in the right way can massively increase the damage it does, the amount of bullets it holds, whether it has a scope on it… Almost everything can be tinkered with but only if you have the items required. The same principle applies to armour; it can be altered to add more protection, it can be modified so it is ‘pocketed’, allowing the player to carry more weight, and then of course we have the power armour suits, which can also be altered in similar ways. But this all comes at a cost as you have to haul a lot of junk just to scavenge the springs from a cooking appliance.
How well you can modify your weapon depends on the perks you have selected as you level up, but the system is infuriatingly complex without needing to be. Why do designers so often fix what is not broken? The world does provide some memorable characters that you’ll want as your travel buddy, though they become repetitive within ten minutes. Honestly Bethseda, you couldn’t spend more than ten minutes voicing a buddy character?? Despite this annoyance, they are all unique to be around and offer different characteristics as a battle-buddy. You can also trade with them, so not only can you have them haul half the loot around until you sell it all for yourself, you can also give them a weapon that they will have an infinite amount of ammo for. The entire game feels like a trade-off in this way, there are many good features that are deeply flawed. Here, we get unique buddies, but they all have only 15-20 lines each, and aren’t with you for half the battles as they manage to get stuck so often that whenever you ride an elevator the game spawns your buddy into the elevator with you, as if the engine is aware of its own limitations and has programmed around it, assuming your buddy will be lost.
Apart from a few mutated creatures, there is nothing new to be found among the enemies. Super-mutants and raiders reign supreme, and it doesn’t take long to get bored with them. Especially when they spam grenades with teleportation like accuracy, rarely giving you a chance to run from damage. The story offers up a few new enemies, but they aren’t found throughout the game world, only in certain areas that are a part of the main story. They take cover and their AI isn’t too bad, but it is hardly exciting to nail five straight head shots only to have the human enemy still standing. This game could learn a lot from Bioshock: Infinite.
Finally we have the base building elements, which feels a lot like Bethseda trying to appeal to more gamers. It certainly plays no major part in the game. During the main story this feature is needed only once. It certainly feels added on after finishing the rest of the game. But if you want to, you can build houses with a thousand defense turrets, you can go nuts if you want to. There is no real reason to do it, at all, but it is there. You’ll get notifications if a settlement is being attacked, but you aren’t affected at all if you ignore it. It all feels very last-minute. Ultimately, Fallout 4 tries to be a shooter and an RPG, but fails on both accounts. The dialogue and lack of diplomacy is the biggest of many flaws. It still makes for a fun if frustrating game, exploring the world, crafting personalised weapons and armour. Make no mistake, I invested many hours into this one. Unfortunately though, after ten hours or so I was playing on auto-pilot, the side-quests so one-natured I got bored with them. This is a shooter with poorly executed RPG elements; and a bad shooter at that. And having finished the game, I feel no desire to revisit it, which is not a good sign at all.
Visit Jordan at his review website: The Epileptic Moondancer