Bugs. We need to talk about bugs. I think we’re all willing to cut open world games a little slack when it comes to bugs. And that’s especially true for a Bethesda game. I expected Fallout 4 to have its fair share of bugs, but I didn’t expect it to be the most shoddy Bethesda release I’ve played.
And the fact is, with Fallout 4, Bethesda really needed to step up their game. For comparison, I put over 120 hours into The Witcher 3, yet I only experienced 2-3 crashes. Whereas with Fallout 4, in the 90 hours I’ve played, I’ve actually lost count of the times it’s randomly closed to desktop.
Most of the bugs I’ve encountered have proven more amusing than irritating (some of the animation bugs are so f**king hilarious I nearly shat myself laughing), but there’s been plenty of irritating issues too. The most serious issue is a bug that caused me to crash whenever I ventured near a certain area of the map. Several core quests require you to pass through this specific area, essentially breaking my game.
Fortunately, as I was playing on PC, I was able to use the in-game console to ‘cheat’ my way around the area and complete the effected quests. But a bug this serious and apparently widespread should have been caught before release. (And at the time of writing, it’s still not fixed). My patience and the slack I’m willing to grant Bethesda only goes so far. Fallout 4 pushed it to the limit and beyond.
Even after completing the game, I’ve hit another potentially game breaking issue with my companions, who keep vanishing into thin air whenever I fast travel. Even using the console, I can’t seem to get them to reappear until I dismiss them by recruiting a new companion. But attempting to re-recruit the previous companion seems to cause the new companion to vanish. You couldn’t make this shit up.
You might think I’m bitterly disappointed by Fallout 4, but that’s not really the case. Despite the serious bugs and issues, I still enjoyed the overall experience. It’s a tricky game to recommend, especially in its current state. But it’s a game I see myself sinking a lot more time into, especially as mods begin to roll out which will fix, enhance and refine various aspects of the game.
Although I feel Fallout 4 takes some good steps forward, it also takes several back. If you’ve read my initial impressions post, you’ll know my feelings were somewhat mixed. And those feelings haven’t really changed. But let’s start with all the good stuff, shall we?
Although the bugs are an issue, I couldn’t fault the technical performance, with a solid 60FPS on Ultra settings. This is probably helped by the fact that Fallout 4 isn’t the most demanding title from a graphical standpoint. As I said in my initial impressions, Fallout 4 is best described as ‘visually inconsistent’. Depending on the area, the lighting or the time of day, Fallout 4 can either look fantastic or look like utter ass.
Animation quality is improved over previous Bethesda titles, but it still feels like I had better animation mods for Skyrim. Of course, things like graphics and animations will likely be improved through mods. In fact, I can see mods significantly improving many areas of this game. Unfortunately, I’m not reviewing what mods may do, but rather what we’ve got.
In terms of exploration, Fallout 4 has a decent variety of locations and environments. The urban wasteland areas are great to explore and far superior to comparable areas in Fallout 3 or New Vegas. This feels like a far more interesting and diverse world to explore than those titles. As someone who primarily enjoys these games for the random exploration, I’m pleased that it remains a compelling facet of this series.
Something I feel Fallout 4 also does better than FO3 or NV is companion characters. Although their pathfinding is as wonky as ever, I loved the way your companions interact with the world around you, even stepping in during quest related conversations to voice their opinion. For the first time in a Bethesda game, I actually wanted to traverse the world with a companion at my side. Yes, it meant putting up with their irritating habits – such as getting stuck on scenery, or stepping into my line of fire – but it now felt worth the trouble.
Another area the game surprised me was its main story and quests. I wouldn’t say Fallout 4 hits the mark in the same way New Vegas did, especially not in writing, dialogue or choices, but it’s still pretty good. I actually enjoyed following the various quest lines throughout the game. I felt there was a point when the main story got a bit stupid, but it didn’t detract too much from the overall narrative.
There are three primary factions in the game who you can link up with – the Brotherhood of Steel, the Railroad and the Institute. Having played through every core mission for each faction to see how things go, I’d recommend choosing either the Brotherhood or Railroad and sticking with them if you want the most enjoyable paths. There is another faction in the game – the Minutemen – but they tie more into the settlement management element than the core story, so we’ll get back to them later.
Each of these factions offer multiple variations of repeatable quests. So much in fact, that it’s initially hard to tell which are the ‘core’ missions and which are not. Although I appreciate these types of quests for pushing the player to explore new locations (usually to kill stuff or retrieve an item) they quickly get a little tedious and repetitive. They also seriously drown out the ‘unique’ side missions.
Despite the time I’ve put into the game and the locations I’ve explored (over 200), there feels like a serious shortage of unique side quests. Maybe I’ve just not stumbled across them all yet, or maybe it just feels like a shortage because of the overwhelming number of repeatable quests the game keeps throwing at you – I’m looking at you, Preston Garvey. The ones I have found, however, have been a bit of a mixed bag. Some are decent, fairly elaborate and provide a satisfying pay off. Others…not so much. (EDIT – I checked a list of side quests and discovered I’d only missed a couple, which is pretty disappointing).
Weapon and armour variety and modification is also something of a mixed bag. Weapon variety is good. Armour variety is not. Weapon modification is great. Armour modification is a bit pants. When I heard that Fallout 4 was finally introducing a modular amour system I was quite pleased, as it seemed it was taking inspiration from some excellent mods for Fallout 3 and Skyrim. But Bethesda have only half-cooked it, with an extremely limited selection of outfits you can customise, with an extremely limited variety of armour pieces.
And then we have the settlement management aspect. I both f**king loved and hated this system. Early in the game you’ll rescue some folks and begin to unlock missions which will secure various settlements across the map. This is the Minutemen stuff I was talking about. Although I didn’t mind doing one quest per new settlement, there comes a point where you’re given repeatable quests to help existing settlements, sometimes the same settlement twice in a row.
It gets really f**king irritating, especially when that Preston twat can give you quests even if you’re not speaking directly to him. There were times when I was using a workstation and he just strolled up and dropped a new quest in my log. Seriously, Preston, f**k off. I hope there will be a mod that turns this shit off. It also makes being the ‘General’ of the Minutemen seem completely ridiculous. Can’t I send someone else to deal with this tedious bullshit? Like Preston, maybe? Why don’t you go and do it for once you useless…yeah, as you can probably tell I really hated the settlement quest system.
Which is annoying, because I actually liked the settlement management a lot. Being able to build all kinds of structures, place furniture, establish farms, stores and defences…I’m addicted to it, I must admit. It’s a shame my ‘main’ settlements never get attacked due to their high defence rating. That’s kind of boring, but mods will likely fix that too. The UI is a bit of a fiddly mess, and assigning settlers to various roles is a total nightmare, especially when they just decide to ignore you. But despite those issues, I just can’t get enough of it.
Returning to more ‘core’ aspects of Fallout 4, let’s talk about the new dialogue system. It’s shit. There’s not much else to say. It’s so vague that you never know exactly what your character will say. Yes, there’s already a mod to fix that, but I’m not reviewing the mods, remember? I don’t see why Bethesda couldn’t have included the same option.
But even if you know what the full dialogue will be, it’s so limited compared to say, New Vegas. Which I suppose is the result of using a voiced protagonist. I don’t hate it, but I can’t deny it severely reduces the dialogue system. There’s less options, less variety and less complexity in terms of speech checks.
Whereas you might expect dialogue skill tests based around your charisma, intelligence or strength stats for example, or even based around specific skills in guns, medicine or explosives, all you get in Fallout 4 is a shit colour coded ‘success’ chance to persuade or intimidate. And it doesn’t even tell you what the percentage chance is. Compared to New Vegas, and even Fallout 3, it’s a load of old wank. As I said in my initial impressions, I don’t like the term ‘dumb down’, but it feels entirely appropriate here.
This also feeds into the skills system, which is now based entirely around Perks in your S.P.E.C.I.A.L tree. I didn’t hate this either, but it’s still a reduction on what the previous games in this series offered. It’s simply not as good. And this reduction of dialogue and skills makes Fallout 4 feel less like an open world RPG and more like an open world FPS.
I think that’s going to prove a divisive matter for many players. For many, it may just be a step too far. Personally, I’m torn on the matter, because despite my issues with the dialogue and skills system, I really didn’t hate them. I can live with them, even though I wish they were handled more like the previous games. It’s such a shame because Fallout 4 has some pretty engaging quests and characters, but it then severely reduces the way in which you can interact with these elements.
Many quests also simply revolve around shooting things. It’s rare I came across a situation I could resolve without a massive fire fight. And if you’re expecting multiple endings based on choices or which faction you choose to side with, you will be disappointed. Because unlike New Vegas, which handled that aspect pretty well, Fallout 4 just doesn’t bother.
Fallout 4 is a tricky game to recommend, but even more so to score. For every moment I was absorbed by the action, I was pissed off at experiencing another crash. For every time I was surprised and pleased by my companion becoming involved in my quest, I was irritated when they bugged out and got stuck on the scenery. I loved the settlement management, but I hated the repetitive settlement quests.
The dialogue and skills system feels like a reduction to what the series previously offered. And though I enjoyed exploring the world, I didn’t discover enough unique quests or encounters to satisfy me. I liked the main story and faction quests, but they lack complexity compared to New Vegas in the way they all tie together. They’re also disappointing in the sense that when you do eventually choose a faction, they all devolve into a simplistic ‘you must now murder everyone else’ situation, even when that doesn’t make much sense.
So where does that leave Fallout 4? Well, despite all my issues with it, I can’t deny I enjoyed Fallout 4. I know I’m going to keep playing it, keep building my settlements, and when patches and mods begin to arrive in full force, I’ll undoubtedly sink a lot more time into the game than I already have. But could I recommend it in its current state? No. Not yet. I might be willing to forgive its flaws and issues, but that doesn’t mean I think they’re acceptable. One thing is certain – Bethesda needs to step up its game.