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A magnificent achievement

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    Fallout 4

    Rating: 5.0 – Flawless

    A magnificent achievement

    I have been a fan of the Fallout games for years. I was extremely excited when Bethesda purchased the rights to the IP and produced Fallout 3. Fallout: New Vegas, although disappointing at first with its many bugs and failures of story, ultimately turned out to be a worthy addition to the franchise once it got all the DLCs and they managed to kill the worst of the bugs. Fallout 4 is a tremendous addition to the series. I see people complaining that it is not as deep or as nuanced as New Vegas, yet I believe that this is an unfair comparison. New Vegas is a mature product with seven or eight (I forget how many) DLC additions, several of which vastly increased the options for scavenging, customizing weapons, and reloading (these being the areas that Fallout 4 is most often castigated for).

    As a day one release, I believe that Fallout 4 is stronger than either Fallout 3 or New Vegas, and it has more room for improvement. The settlement mechanic, while not to everyone’s taste, adds a completely new dimension to your role as a survivor in the post-apocalyptic Wasteland. It is tremendously addictive, and provides several interesting benefits to your character. It is clearly in a 1.0 state, and needs a bit of work and polish to really achieve its full potential, but given that an entire DLC was devoted to making homes in Skyrim, I can’t help but feel that we are going to get a release focusing on settlements for Fallout 4.

    I have spent literally hundreds of hours wandering around the Wasteland and have hardly scratched the surface of things to do. The strength of all of Bethesda’s games is that they allow you to play the game the way you want, without forcing you into any mold or build. This is especially true in this game. Do you want to be a power armor wearing, minigun toting heavy weapons specialist? Go for it. Do you want to use your combat knife to stab people in the throat from stealth? Feel free. Both builds are entirely possible. In fact, given the lack of a level cap, it is simple enough to have a power armor wearing, minigun toting heavy weapons specialist who uses his/her combat knife to stab people in the throat from stealth. The sky is literally the limit in this game.

    They have also added several extremely "cool" mechanics that just add more fun possibilities to the game. I will just mention two of them. First, under the right circumstances, you can set up artillery at certain places on the map, which will allow you call in arty strikes on targets you specify. Second, if you are not a fan of the fast travel mechanic, feeling that it cheapens the game and breaks the immersion, now you can call for vertibirds that will come and pick you up and take you where ever you want to go, and you get to see the entire ride from the gunner’s position, shooting at whatever takes your fancy with an unlimited ammo minigun. Neither one of these alters the basic game mechanics in any real meaningful way, but they make the game even more immersive and fun.

    There are many many games that take years to finish and then, when you actually go and play them, you wonder, "What did they spend all their development time on?" That question never occurs to you as you play Fallout 4. Instead, you are continually amazed at the many small touches and the seeming infinite bits of polish that they have put into the game.

    In the past, Bethesda’s games have been more than a little buggy. I am happy to report that Fallout 4, while still having its share problems, is far and away the most stable Fallout/Elder Scrolls game I have ever played. When I first started playing Fallout: New Vegas, it crashed on average about once every 15 minutes, locking up the console, requiring a hard reboot. In many hundreds of hours of gameplay with Fallout 4, the game has locked up maybe half a dozen times, at most. Bethesda has clearly gone through and found the most common of the problems with their previous games and swatted those bugs hard. In another place, I fell through the floor of the world, causing my character to drop through the map. I dropped for some time, then I was suddenly put back at the beginning of the level without a need for a restart or a resort to a saved game. It was a nice bit of recovery programming on the part of Bethesda.

    In all, this is the best game I have played all year, and probably one of the best games I have ever played.

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