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I finally played Fallout 4. And it was fine.

Content of the article: "I finally played Fallout 4. And it was fine."

So a little back story so you know where I'm coming from. Fallout New Vegas was my introduction to the Fallout series and is one of my favorite games ever. I loved the roleplaying, the world, and the writing. After playing it, I picked up Fallout 3 and was super disappointed. I kind of put down Bethesda Fallout at that point and never picked it up again

But during the pandemic I saw Fallout 4 and figured why not. I just finished it. And now I'm going to share my rambling thoughts that nobody asked for. Spoilers ahead, if anyone cares about that.

First off: the ending sucks? A lot? You pick one of the 4 factions. Do the quests… And then the game just ends? There's a huge explosion and then everyone's like "whoa that was intense." And you get dropped back in the world. There's no sense of climax or closure at all. This especially felt like a betrayal given the slideshow endings FO is known for, where you learn how your choices shaped the lives of everyone you met.

Other than this massive, gaping flaw, the main plot is reasonably good? It's nothing special really. And as the game goes on the stakes feel… Less and less high? Like yes you beat whatever faction you don't like. But the institute's major goal seems to be "have enough electricity?" They also manufacture sentient slaves and have been manipulating the surface world for a century. But the thing they're working towards with all that evil is just… Really petty.

But there are a couple things I liked about it. In particular, I didn't mind the voiced protagonist. The voice actor was pretty good and the protagonist's personality did come through i think. And the protagonist's search for their son worked as an emotional thread tying the story together.

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And the villains, the brotherhood of steel and the institute were really well done. The institute was arrogant and built on slave labor. But they had this combination of self righteousness and midwest friendliness that feels way too real. Kind of like southern hospitality in the age of plantations.

Similarly, the brotherhood is portrayed as super super racist and fascist. But with enough "we're helping people" and "this is a family" mixed in that you can see the appeal. Even if a lot of what they say makes you grimace. And in the brutal world they inhabit, they seem to fit as a kind of ambiguous figure.

I'm not sure if all this was intentional critiques of shitty ideologies or not. Bethesda easily could have been sincere. I don't have a lot of faith in them as writers. But it's easy to read it as an analysis of why these ideologies are both bad and appealing.

Also the companions were mostly very good, interesting characters. Nick Valentine and John Hancock were the best ones. But lots of them, like MacCready and Dance were surprisingly good, despite not initially appearing to be particularly endearing.

Other than the awful, semi random radiant quests, the fallout 4 side quests were also a lot better than Fallout 3. There were some genuinely memorable ones.

The Far Harbor DLC was great. It had a good plot and more Nick Valentine.

The Nuka World DLC would have been fine if it weren't so insanely buggy. It had some moments as far as environmental story telling goes. But didn't have much depth. And oh my God it was so buggy. I can't believe they released it.

The rest of the DLC was basically digital hats and contained very little of value.

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Now for some discussions about the mechanics.

I liked the power armor being more a tank and less a set of clothing. That made it feel unique and special.

The gunplay and exploration were fine, if nothing special. It's basically VATs and that's fine.

As has been much discussed, the dialogue system was insulting, especially compared to New Vegas. You basically only had 4 choices: yes, no, yes sarcastically, ask a question. It honestly would have been better without any dialogue choices at all. That would have at least been honest.

And as has been much discussed, the leveling system is terrible. Moving all character grown into perks had some really awful effects. Leveling up was unfun because you had to pass up the cool perks for perks that made your numbers go up. And it created this weird difficulty curve where early levels were insanely difficult because you didn't have the stats or perks to make your build work. And then at some point, you hit critical mass and the game gets ridiculously easy and nothing matters anymore. Still the system was livable, which is the nicest thing I can say about it.

It was nice that radiant quests were available but they were pretty uniformly tedious and boring. A way to grind companion affection and xp and nothing else.

The settlement building system was cool, an enjoyable way to waste time, and fit into the world remarkably well. It fit with the theme of optimism about the future. And I liked that.

One thing I hated about Fallout 3 was that a lot of the exploration felt empty. I'd go to a burnt out office building, and the game would promise there might be something cool inside, and it would just be super mutants and ammo. FO4 had this problem to a degree, but a lot less.

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One thing that I think helped is that Bethesda stuck the time wasting filler into the settlement building system and radiant quests. So they didn't feel the need to pad the rest of the game/world with empty pointless BS. I felt like my time was respected more in FO4 than in FO3.

Overall, I'd still say the game is better than Fallout 3 and worse than New Vegas. But it did have a fair number of things going for it. It was worth what I payed for it anyway.


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