Fallout 4: What we know, what we want
We’ve known for a long time, suspected at least, that Fallout 4 was coming. It seemed like an inevitability really, given the success of Bethesda’s first attempt at the series. It was always a matter of time. Fallout is back, it’s on the East Coast once more, and it takes place in the city of Boston, Massachusetts.
Since it was revealed at Bethesda’s inaugural E3 showcase there have been scant details on Fallout 4. We have the release date, 11/10/2015, a mere two months away, a look at character creation, a peak into the game’s robust crafting modes, an introduction to the new Pip-Boy (both physical and virtual), an expected season pass for DLC and we know Bethesda will be adding mod support next year. Knowing what we do about Fallout 4, and given we still have a couple months to wait, fellow Fallout aficionado, Pete Worth and I decided to sit down for a little bit of armchair analysis.
Fallout 4 is real and it’s almost here. But what exactly do we want out of it?
Sean: Before we get into some of the meat of what Bethesda has shown I still have to say how struck I am with the overall mood of Fallout 4‘s footage to this point. We see both pre and post-nuclear war Massachusetts rendered with an astonishing amount of bright, lively colors that frankly did not exist in the Capital Wasteland of Fallout 3. Teamed with the emphasis on Dogmeat, Bethesda’s early message seems to be far less bleak than its previous outing.
Pete: Agreed – at this point post-apocalyptic Massachusetts appears much more vibrant than post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C. Fallout 3 caught a fair amount of flak for its supposed over use of greys and browns so that’s obviously been taken on board by Bethesda and has been obviously compounded by Skyrim and the upgraded engine. From the E3 footage it’s clear that the wasteland of Fallout 4 will feature a multitude of differing environments to get stuck in and I wonder if weather effects will be used to transition in real-time between bordering areas.
I’m completely surprised by the inclusion of the territory builder; it’s as if Bethesda has channelled the spirit of Minecraft into the game…
Sean: Yes, the revamped crafting system, which allows players to build their own wasteland settlements (and then protect them), was certainly a wholly unexpected distraction – although now having played Fallout Shelter, I can see what they’re going for. Contextually, I get what Bethesda is doing, but I may be in the contingent of players Todd Howard referenced when he called that aspect of the game totally optional. It’s a perfect venue for crafting, it’s just not what draws me to Fallout or a Bethesda game. For crafting to interest me it has to be more than read recipe, hunt for object(s), select desired object, craft. It’s just more menu diving in a game already full of it. Plus, the idea of your single vault dweller erecting elaborate shanty towns on their own is somewhat breaking the fiction for me.
Pete: It certainly raises a few questions. I’ll be interested to see if it’s as user friendly as indicated in the footage and also what spaces you can actually build in. Also, the restrictions/scope of this function will be key to its usage – can you build an outpost in a bleak sector of the wasteland to rest and refuel, or is the mechanic only applicable to pre-existing settlements? If your settlement is destroyed and you were storing gear, is it lost forever or can you salvage parts from the flaming ruins? Is the design limited to a basic timber abode or can you add in Googie style features and details? If you can, I may lose entire days on this thing.
Sean: I’m glad one of us is (potentially) excited about the crafting. Another major focus of the presentation was on combat, which seemed to be as varied and insane as Fallout’s world lends itself to. We had vault dwellers in Vertibirds, jump jetting power armor, teddy bear launchers and dozens of other twists on staple wasteland weaponry. It appeared that in addition to V.A.T.S. that Obsidian’s addition of iron sights will return. When I played Fallout 3 the first time I tended to use V.A.T.S. all of the time, but I hardly ever use it anymore in 3 or New Vegas, unless I’m totally overwhelmed or want to trigger specific special attacks. What do you think Bethesda needs to do to improve on the awkward first-person shooting?
Pete: I think I read the Fallout 3 engine was never intended to handle proper FPS combat so it’s inspiring to see the amount of focus Bethesda has put on this aspect of Fallout 4 and I’m sure the engine upgrade will allow this. The weapons rarely felt as if they kicked and impact to enemies was minimal. I’m not expecting anything on the level of Destiny but if it’s a serious step up from 3 I’ll be happy. My usage of V.A.T.S sounds similar to yours but I’m a bit gutted they’ve still omitted groin and eye shots. Why can’t I target a Raider’s nads?
Sean: It’s funny you should mention nuts, as it brings up an aspect of Fallout 3 that was arguably lacking: dark humor. Bethesda’s first foray into Interplay’s former universe played it mostly safe and straight laced, in my opinion. It tackled many of the hallmark issues of Fallout, including racism, slavery, war, but it didn’t do so with the same twisted smirk as its elder siblings. New Vegas on the other hand, Obsidian’s nutty followup, seemed to swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. I hope Bethesda can find that delicate balance of grim humor, because more so than any one distinctive feature, that is really what defines Fallout.
Pete: I’d agree that it defines Fallout but would personally have to say Fallout 3 was the ‘nutty’ one for me and its attempts at humour didn’t really fit with what had come before – not to mention absolute weirdness like Mothership Zeta. New Vegas felt like the darker game and DLC such as Old World Blues really nailed the series’ distinct personality. But back to Fallout 4 – what are your thoughts on the PipBoy app?
Sean: My thoughts on the PipBoy app were, at least initially, amounted to “ZOMG WANT”, etc. A week to stew over it and I’d already forgotten it’s a thing. If I was getting the PipBoy Edition, which I begrudgingly want (but is long sold out, fortunately!), it might be something I’d be more excited about. Todd Howard even called the app a gimmick, so I’ll likely download it, use it three times and then forget about it completely – which describes pretty much all non-essential phone apps for me as a mobile user.
Now that we’ve tackled most of the topics Bethesda themselves mentioned way back at E3, what is it you want to see out of Fallout 4? What does it need to do differently or better compared to 3 and New Vegas?
Pete: I won’t be shelling out anything ludicrous for the hunk of plastic but the app could be handy if, like the Destiny companion, it allows you to revise your inventory whilst you’re out of the game. I’m quite looking forward to the arena style combat hinted at in the trailer as this has been a staple of the series from the boxing in Fallout 2‘s New Reno to The Pitt from the Fallout 3 DLC. One of the main things Fallout 4 needs to improve on in my opinion is the overall narrative and associated quests and how they’re related to the new map.
Sean: Interesting, as someone who doesn’t like Bethesda’s Fallout combat, I can’t say I share your hope for more arena combat. Where I need to see improvement from Bethesda is in AI. I’m interested to see if we’ll have additional control over followers, as is possibly hinted at with the limited ability to give Dogmeat commands in the trailer. One of the most aggravating aspects of 3 and New Vegas were watching and waiting for followers to take bizarre paths to keep up with you, which inevitably lead to them dying, getting lost or worse yet, stuck in geometry. Above that though, I really want to see more varied enemy AI. I’d love to see some of the wasteland’s animals actually hunt, see raiders act and fight like the junkies they are, or see legit tactics from trained outfits like the Brotherhood or Enclave. Combat can be a lot more than Fallout 3‘s limp gunplay and I think at this point it has to be more diverse and tactical than circle strafing, running backwards and occasionally triggering V.A.T.S.
Pete: In truth, as a longtime fan of the series, I’m really happy with what I’ve seen from Bethesda on Fallout 4 and at my most optimistic always hoped the extended period of silence would result in a shorter wait for actual release. I will always prefer to learn about a videogame through actually playing it as I believe knowing too much beforehand takes the sheen off, especially in an open-world exploration scenario.