So let’s forego the usual pretext and jump right into it. Fallout 4 is great.
It’s not perfect, there are still the usual bevy of Bethesda bugs (ooh, that was nice) and the pacing/long-game has weird stretches, but the impressive majority of the game is of high quality.
The game uses the same engine as before, the same interface for lockpicking we’ve had since Oblivion, the same computer hacking password guessing mini game as well. VATS is back, PIPBoy is near identical to before, body parts, physics, enemy types (more or less), quest volumes, hidden nooks, books and bobbleheads abound. There’s a lot of “the same”, but when that stuff was working before, why throw it out the door (looking at you Blizzard and Ubi).
Instead, the various systems are augmented. VATS isn’t a freeze-time attack anymore, things just move in slow-mo. Weapon diversity is through the roof, with the additional of weapon/armor modifications. Enemy AI is better, where they attack from multiple sides, use cover more often and hide if they can’t reach you. It still goes full Gump from time to time but overall it feels like you’re climbing a mountain. A dumb super mutant still hits like a freight train (or a mini-nuke train since they carry those too). Creating a settlement seems pretty neat but even after a fair chunk of time, I’m not quite sure of the purpose – or how to get the various settlements to work together, even with the appropriate perks.
And perks are a bit of a weird one for me. RPGs are about numbers, but the only real numbers you have control over are your items. I honestly have no idea what a character with 3 perception looks like compared to one with 9. I do know that they can unlock more perks, but the base stat certainly has some effect. Perks themselves are neat-o, and it’s a novel approach to show everything under the covers from level 1. It’s a massive wall of perk options and you get to plan your way through it. Gone are the days of hitting level 18 and realizing to get a perk you needed to start specializing at level 10. But that’s the general feel of the game, saturate the player with information, let them make informed choices. So while it was certainly jarring to see, it’s very welcome. It’s a game that’s less about the now and more about the way forward.
The less obvious stuff is also quite improved. Controls seem a lot tighter, and firing from the hip actually works now. The music is still well above the norm and very mood appropriate. Character animations have moved out of the uncanny valley, voice overs are delivered by humans rather than robots and the art style has moved out of the “grey, grey everywhere!” phase we’d been stuck in. Death is everywhere this time, with a notably higher difficulty level than before. Companions are actually useful. Quests are multi-tiered, usually letting you move around and explore on the way to the next goal.
And I think that’s really the theme here, continuous movement forward. The BoS motto ad victoriam is the heart of the game, ever moving forward towards the next goal, the next victory. I am far from complete in the game but what I’ve seen so far is very impressive. I’d be surprised if by the tail end of this I don’t end up with over 100 hours.