Now that the ‘Thundersnow’ has disappeared and we are hopefully over the worst of the winter, gamers are starting to rise from their slumber. For many this was their chance to re-visit Skyrim in the recently released Definitive Edition. Memories came flooding back as the hours ticked by, and once again we were all reminded why Skyrim was one of the greatest games of the last generation and will continue to be praised for many a year to come.
This got me thinking though, Fallout 4 recently finished releasing its DLC with the excellent Nuka-World add-on, and so what is next for that game? Are we expecting a re-release of Fallout 4 too when every man and his dog owns a 4K TV, or should it be left now, and work moved on to whatever Bethesda have planned next?
Let’s start with the obvious. Both games are deserving of all the accolades they received. Bethesda just has this formula for open-world action RPGs that sees them consistently deliver on every Elder Scrolls and Fallout game that they have published. If you are a fan of one, you will likely be a fan of the other. For Fallout though, this gameplay formula was not always the case because it was not always in the hands of Bethesda, something the die-hard fans of the first two Fallout games are still angry about.
Make no bones about it though, the switch from isometric turn-based battling to first person VATS gun-play would rightly anger some people. But it was a shift that brought a whole load of new players into the post-apocalyptic world, and it was a move that Bethesda have never really looked back from. Which may be one of Fallout’s biggest problems.
Fallout 3 arrived in October 2008, selling better than the previous main entries combined and winning multiple Game of the Year awards. Bethesda had perfected their formula. And it was a formula they replicated in Fallout: New Vegas (handing over development to Obsidian) before applying it to the Elder Scrolls series in Skyrim, arguably peaking with it. As diverse as they are, boil them down to basics and they are very similar in gameplay tropes. Questing, levelling, factions, perks, first-person etc. Not to mention bugs. So when Fallout 4 arrived in November 2015, it felt like a very safe entry into the series. It’s yet another incredible Bethesda open-world game now outselling all three main entries in the series combined, but it is hard to argue the game had the same impact. It played very similar to what came before, which will ultimately be detrimental to its legacy in years to come.
Compare this now to Oblivion and Skyrim and this starts to make more sense. Again, there is no denying Oblivion is an exceptional game, but Skyrim seemed to take on board the criticisms against Oblivion and improve upon them – the biggest change being the levelling system. Oblivion limited you very early on into choosing which spec of character you were playing as, but Skyrim never let you choose, allowing you to level up every single aspect at any point depending on the situation. It instantly became more accessible to new players, giving them absolute freedom to explore the world as they liked, kill how they wanted to and act and behave how much their imagination would allow. A true RPG.
When comparing Fallout 4 to Skyrim, the timings of their respective releases needs to be considered. Skyrim launched on 11th November 2011, Fallout 4 on 10th November 2015. Both were worldwide launches it has to be noted – something that pleases all players outside of the US. 2011 was also the year that Game of Thrones appeared on the TV, throwing high fantasy once again into the mainstream, following on from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. George R. R. Martin’s work proved though that high fantasy doesn’t have to rely on hobbits and magic to be high fantasy, you could fill it with lots of sex and violence and it still works. Of course, it is a lot darker and political than more traditional fantasy stories may be, but after the first series it left viewers clamoring for more. There will have been those that went and bought the books (and are left still waiting!) but for those that do not read, where else could they get their high fantasy thrill? It just so happened that five months after the end of the first season aired there was a sprawling open-world RPG releasing on consoles. With dragons from the start.
Game of Thrones may be the most well-known example of the fantasy genre in modern times. Skyrim, coincidentally was able to piggyback off the success of it and as mentioned before, brought a whole host of new players into a genre they may normally have kept well away from. Compare this to Fallout 4 though, and while there are hundreds of takes on the post-apocalyptic world, Fallout 4 is already one of the most iconic examples of such a setting, so that piggybacking ability was not there. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it has a player base already established to allow a bigger budget, but it does have a negative effect on the legacy it leaves once again because the franchise was already built up to near legendary status.
Aside from the gameplay and timing issues, there are technical reasons to consider as well. The first and foremost being that in developing Fallout 4, the team at Bethesda ported Skyrim over to the Xbox One in order to get a better feel for the hardware architecture. At the time of this info being revealed, just after the original announcement trailer, we were told outright not to expect Skyrim on the latest generation of consoles. In the end though, gamers got their wish and it was released on latest gen consoles. If Bethesda wait until the next console cycle before releasing their next Fallout/Elder Scrolls game they may well look to Fallout 4 and port that over to test out the hardware. Honestly though, these new consoles are a fair few years off yet and I do not think that Fallout 4 will be the last release on Xbox One, PC and PS4 from Todd Howard and the gang.
Another major reason for bringing Skyrim to the Xbox One and PS4 was to introduce console gamers to that which PC gamers have had for many years: Mods. Without getting into a debate about which is the better console, the complete mod experience on console is on the Xbox One. Bethesda had this vision for mods that worked seamlessly on all platforms. This plan was first rolled out on Fallout 4 before Skyrim came with it ready to go on release. The point is, to then remaster Fallout 4 for a next gen would only really improve the graphics now. It was a huge step for Skyrim to get mods on consoles but, as a result of Fallout 4 having them as well, you could argue that the version available already is the most complete version we as gamers will likely see.
And I think that final comment above pretty much sums up Fallout 4’s chances of getting any sort of remaster on future consoles. It’s a great game, but when compared to Skyrim and its legacy, initial release, gameplay, and number of dragons, you can start to see why Skyrim got the re-release and why Fallout 4 may be forever consigned to the history books, where future gamers will only be able to seek it out in its current version.
Fallout 3 and New Vegas on the other hand, well, you could make a lot of the same arguments for and against, but I think these would fare a lot better when arguing if they deserve the remaster treatment.