It must be hard working at Bethesda, except of course in the QA department!
Imagine being charged with following up New Vegas, on a new generation of hardware, knowing that you’d have to smash it out of the park to even be considered worthwhile. I can’t begin to imagine the stress that must have piled up on the shoulders of Todd Howard, the game director for Fallout 4, when he was handed the job of making the game. Would he fumble it? Would it be as broken and buggy as New Vegas was at launch? Well, let’s take a trip down Fallout Memory Lane and see, shall we?
The story of a Fallout game has to grab you straight away, and here, luckily, the narrative did just that. Set 10 years after the events of Fallout 3, Fallout 4 covers all the bases: there’s intrigue, betrayal, shock, and even a robotic film noir detective. However, the story of the game starts 210 years in the past, in a Vault that was built to survive the Great War – a war between China and America over natural resources that ended in nuclear destruction. As the game opens, our character (from here on out always referred to as “The Sole Survivor”) manages to wangle their way into a Vault, Vault 111 to be precise. Here, we are placed into cryo stasis, along with our spouse (their gender depended on the character we created) and our son. We are awakened briefly to see our spouse being murdered and our son kidnapped, and then we are frozen again, until the life support system has a malfunction, and we are awakened; ejected into an uncaring world. All we know is that our spouse was killed, our son taken, and the need for revenge is very strong and drives the rest of the game.
In a departure from the previous Fallout games the Sole Survivor is fully voiced this time around, and has either a male or female voice, depending on the gender we created at the start. The character creator was quite a powerful one as well, able to create some hideous monstrosities.
When we return to the scene of what used to be our home, in Sanctuary Hills, we are introduced to the first of up to 13 possible companions that can be recruited. This is Dogmeat, the best companion in the game and one of the greatest dogs to ever appear in video games (and I’ll brook no argument on this point), as he looked just like the German Shepherd that my parents had when I was growing up. There are many other people and “things” to find and make friends with, ranging from Piper – a reporter on a newspaper in Diamond City – all the way up to Nick Valentine, a synthetic detective that seems to have missed his era (I swear he should be in a 1940’s detective thriller) via the obligatory Super Mutant friend, and even a Courser, called X6-88, from the super secretive Institute. Obviously, having another gun (or set of teeth) by your side is always helpful, and Bethesda even worked a smidge of morality into the buddy system, as certain actions can make your companion like or dislike you more; some actions can even turn them hostile if you aren’t careful. If you can build a strong enough relationship with a companion, they begin to idolise you, and this unlocks extra perks for the player, even making some companions available for romance!
Another departure was the ability to build settlements, from stuff that you find out on the road. Taking Sanctuary Hills as an example, I was soon fortifying the place with a fence, and as I went on I continued by building turrets and defences to keep the place safe while I was wandering. It’s not enough just to build the place however, as to get people to settle in you need to grow food and process water; if you do, more and more people will stop by, including merchants, which can be handy. I vividly remember finding various suits of Power Armour and bringing them back to a hanger I created, managing to have various suits hung up ready to go. Being able to mix and match components certainly made for some interesting looking suits, I can tell you. Pro tip: don’t leave a power cell in a suit, as one time a raider broke in, and before I could kill him he jumped in the only suit I had left powered up and proceeded to stomp me roundly. In my own house! Even when I eventually killed him, he remained stuck in the suit and so I couldn’t use it again. Yet another bang up job by Bethesda’s testing team…
So, as the story progresses, as is traditional with Fallout games, we have to choose who we are going to align ourselves with. The factions in Fallout 4 are the Brotherhood of Steel, who want to destroy all synthetics, the Institute, which creates the synths, the Minutemen, who aim to protect the Commonwealth from raiders and any other threats, and finally the Railroad, a secret group who are dedicated to rescuing synths from the Institute. As you can imagine, it’s impossible to keep everyone happy, and so eventually you will have to make a choice and take a side. Obviously, there is a good deal of replayability built into the game, as you can make different decisions and have a completely different outcome. In fact, I think I’ll try and play it again when I get a gap in my review schedule. Sometime in 2025 will probably fit.
So, with so much game to go at, you’d imagine that Bethesda would sit back and relax after the launch of Fallout 4, right? Not a bit of it! They have released a grand total of six DLC packs for the game, with two of them being full on expansions – Far Harbour, which sees us travelling to a town that is called Far Harbor, and Nuka-World, which gives us a whole amusement park filled with various raiders to explore and either cleanse or side with the baddies! The other four packs added new stuff too, with Automatron enabling us to build our own robot friends, and Wasteland Workshop gave us many more options for building our settlements, such as neon signs and the ability to put creatures (or people) that we capture in cages. The last two – Vault-Tec Workshop and Contraptions Workshop – follow the same broad path as Wasteland Workshop, giving more options for decorations, but Vault-Tec Workshop did add a tiny bit of narrative as well.
So, as you can see, Fallout 4 is a massive game with lots to do and see. Who can forget the first time they saw a glowing Deathclaw or spent time exploring all the regions of the map? But these are my memories – how about you guys out there? I realise as I write this that Xbox Series X|S has just launched and our whole readerbase is probably engrossed with the new toy, but which side did you choose in the endgame? Let us know in the comments.
If you haven’t played it, hit up the Xbox Store and nail a download.