First impressions of Fallout 4 from a (more or less) newbie (lengthy rant)

Some discussions about Bethesda open world games in addition to me listening to Skyrim and Oblivion ambience music while working and trying to wander around the neighborhood to deal with the Pandemic lockdown… seem to have successfully given me the itch to try out one of the Bethesda games I had not yet tried out. But I had already played Elder Scrolls 2-5 (somehow never managed to find my way out the first dungeon in Arena…), so my eyes fell to Fallout. I played Fallout 3 as a kid, but my memories are kinda fuzzy. I beat the Main Quest and Broken Steel, but I was somehow very confused about the difference between the Enclave and the Brotherhood of Steel factions and more or less just stumbled aimlessly around. I did get Fallout 1 and 2 when it became free on GOG and started a Fallout 1 playthrough, but got stuck fairly early on as I was savescumming my way through a Raider camp and somehow lost interest. So… I more or less had the choice between buying Fallout 4 and New Vegas in a sale and, because of my previous contact with Bethesdas version instead of the Obsidian game I bought… Fallout 4. I was a bit stumped to realize the game is already six years old, damn I'm getting old.

So… well… yes. Let's start with the positives. It's a very addictive game, the gunplay is smooth, exploring is fun and the settlement building is triggering all my OCDs. I have to find that detective that could maybe help find my son? Ah sorry, I'm busy because these two dudes I stumbled upon in the middle of fucking nowhere don't have water supply and lack proper defenses, so I've got to do that first. Yeah, in typical Bethesda fashion the main quest is in that strange spot of feeling super urgent, but the distractions everywhere keep you occupied. I also actually really love the idea to make power armor very resource intensive to use and make you judge for every quest whether it makes sense to take it with you or not, instead of being just generic high-level gear that doesn't work any differently to any clothing except some arbitrary perk that decides whether you can wear it or not. Or at least I would like to say that if my level 15 character hasn't already collected 5 sets of the stuff, with three of them coming with a working frame. This is the Oblivion effect of random bandits running around in full Daedric or Glass armor all over again.

But the thing that keeps pulling me out of the universe is… ages ago I watched a video from someone about Bethesda's handling of the worldbuilding and I really can't unsee the truth in that argument: Why the fuck does everybody live in trash? This is 200 years after the nukes fell. Fallout 1 and 2 have established that by now not only new cities have been built, but whole nations formed on the West Coast. And yet here at the East Coast people are still wallowing helplessly in rubble, with there only being two major hubs in the entirety of the Boston area, with one in a baseball stadium and the other one being just a single old Boston city block that I haven't found yet despite the map feeling extremely small. That's something that already plagued Fallout 3, but there at least it came with the excuse of the DC area having been nuked to kingdom come in a way few other places were. Also the ruins at least as far as I can remember looked absolutely desolate and mostly picked clean. But in Fallout 4? The place is trashed, but every single building looks untouched and still filled with a ludicrous amount of old world goodies which severely breaks my immersion. Like… these people lived in piles of garbage for the last 200 years and yet never picked any of it up? For real?

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I feel like there is a weird thematic dissonance here that could have been easily resolved by having Fallout 4 take place simultaneously to Fallout 1. The theme of the game is rebuilding society out of the ashes, that's what the whole super optimistic settlement mechanic is about (can't say much about the main quest yet for obvious reasons, other than what I've picked up so far is a super lazy Bladerunner rip-off). So why not have the game take place in a timeframe where it makes the most thematic sense for people to rebuild society amongst the still mostly untouched ruins of Boston? Because it doesn't make sense that people are starting just now. Heck, the game itself acknowledges that by having Preston tell you that the Minutemen used to be a notable power and had lots of settlements under their protection. Except… there are none in the game as far as I can tell! So even if the game gives you the shallow justification that the state of the area is so miserable because shadowy forces like the Institute keep people down, then why am I not finding abandoned newer cities? There is literally nothing in the game indicating Preston's claim that the Boston area had ever seen a massive attempt at renovation that went to hell. Actually this would make the world a lot more interesting to explore: What if the city of Boston had been rebuilt as a major city, but the fracturing of its defenders and the onslaught of hostiles caused people to give up most of the city and huddle together in Diamond city for protection? Then you can explore abandoned ruins, but the stuff there is decidedly not 200 years old, instead you find signs everywhere of people rebuilding and then being forced to flee or get killed. But I guess that's not possible because I notice the writers of the game are a lot more interested in exploring pre-war America through the lens of computer logs than exploring the events following it, explaining why everything is so ridiculously preserved.

There is also another gripe that I have: I was… shocked, to say the least, that all other Vault residents who were frozen alongside me were killed for little reason. Resettling your old hometown as the first thing in the game brings a nice touch of heartache, but it seemed strange to do that with a bunch of random strangers that you were supposed to feel attached to all of a sudden. It kinda rail-roaded you into siding with the Minutemen early on and spend a considerable amount of time building settlements for them if you aren't an ass that likes to leave them starving. Given how desperately I ran around the Vault interacting with every cryo capsule and all the diagnosis terminals desperately hoping to find any survivors made me think that I felt like my character should have been more attached to his neighbors. In fact it's a little jarring to be roped into helping Preston without even giving me room to actually voice my background or confusion about the world (the PC didn't even seem fazed when offered some caps as a reward… like that should be a really odd reward, wouldn't it?). My alternate take on this would have been that you wake up alongside all the other frozen people and only your wife is dead and your child taken. Make the first settlement that you found in your old suburb populated by the vault dwellers, the very people who lived there before, as they adjust to this hostile new world and have to adapt and choose allies in the different factions of the wasteland. That would have been super cool and immersive and you wouldn't feel so railroaded as your fellow vault dwellers are basically just an extension of you since you are all essentially sitting in the same boat. You are not just some guy sticking with whatever faction you encounter first, but you are a faction in its own right and you'll make damn sure that your mark on the wasteland is yours. This would actually also somewhat soften the urgency of this whole "find the missing family member" nonsense that they already pulled in Fallout 3 and Oblivion. Shaun's disappearance is your personal tragedy, but you are not on your own and have a responsibility ensuring the survival of your friends and neighbors, so there are more immediate concerns that need to be dealt with before you are allowed to head out for a wild goose chase you have no clues for.

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Another missed opportunity I noticed is how… ludicrously little use is made out of roleplaying aspects. I made the mistake of creating a charisma and intelligence heavy character to see whether I could talk myself out of most situations. Instead I should have made a strength-heavy character to carry more loot. -.- For real, 90% of times when you get a speech check option in dialogue it's just to extort more money from quest givers. And even when they bothered to actually give you an extended quest (Diamond City Blues) that allows you several creative ways to resolve the situation… it just… breaks. Like… I think I solved the quest in the best possible way by having the sleazy mobster bar owner leave the town without killing him and yet everyone involved in the quest treats me as if I just murdered him and yet my quest giver angrily tells me I ruined his life whenever I pass him in the streets. I… think a few flags got set wrong there… Probably during the mobster shootout outside the city that my character got oddly roped in into with no connection to the initial quest whatsoever. I killed one character without talking to him (the wiki notes I should have, even though it wouldn't make sense for the ambush idea) and another one I spared got randomly shot as she was backing off. On a related note: Why make so little out of the background of your character? The opening sequence mentioned that the male player character is a war veteran and the female player character is a lawyer. So it makes perfect sense that the game feels a lot more shooty than the previous installments (for the male character anyway), in fact I'd argue the fact that the character can now use power armor without acquiring special training makes perfect sense in that regard . Long story short: Why not incorporate that into different starting conditions. Give the male character starting perks related to weapon and armor use, while female characters get speech and leadership perks that allow her to build a higher-tier settlement right away. The justification for that is already there!

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One last grumble: Why do my hand crafted settlements also look like piles of garbage hastily nailed together? Even the horribly expensive concrete buildings look more like bombed out pre-war shacks than stuff you just built from scratch. If I spend most of my time so far trying to give everyone I meet some shelter, I want it to look like an actual town where people can live instead of just survive wallowing in garbage… And I found a neat place called "Starlight Drive-In" where I intended to do just that. Being a drive-in cinema it is mostly just an extremely large flat parking lot with a pond in the middle you can extract water from. I feel like I should get a mod that allows you to build actual solid buildings and make a proper city out of it.

Okay… that was a whole lot of text. XD It looks like I'm just venting my frustrations, but I want to like the game because the mechanics are fun and strangely addictive, it's just … the world just feels so shallow and unbelievable. Like that quote from that video I watched said: "Bethesda seems more interested in creating rubble-themed shooting galleries" than fleshing out the world. And that's just sad…

Source: reddit.com

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