What I Really Want Out Of Fallout 4

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So I’ve been reading the reviews of Fallout 4, watching a few videos (but not enough to spoil the whole game), and checking out the tech teardowns. They all talk about how much there is to explore in the game, how average the graphics look, how the character building system works, and a lot of other qualities you’d expect to hear about a new release. I kind of just glazed over it all because they spend almost no time talking about the real reason I’m anticipating Fallout 4 — it is basically going to be the first immersive simulator game released on this generation of hardware.

I have made several other posts over the last year or so trying to explain what that term means. In the last one I laid out what I think Bethesda’s games are best at, and it’s this which actually has me anticipating Fallout 4. If you don’t want to read those links, in short, Bethesda’s games, for all their bugs and technical ugliness, provide a kind of gameplay sandbox almost no one else does these days.

Some of the Fallout 4 reviews I’ve read talk a bit about how much the game allows players to take “good” or “evil” paths compared to Fallout 3 or Skyrim, but they don’t really go in depth with how much you can mess with the game, which I think is a big reason people play it. One of the earliest parts of Fallout 3’s main quest has you asking for information from a bar owner and you immediately have several options for how to get that info. You can do a job for him to force a former prostitute to pay her debt, get that same money in any other number of ways (including killing or robbing the woman), or just sneak through the owner’s back door and hack his computer. Or you can just wander away and eventually stumble upon the information you need, potentially skipping a huge chunk of the main quest. I want to know that you can do that in Fallout 4.

This is all laid on top of worlds that are supposed to feel alive and functional because characters in them play out daily schedules you can use to your advantage, and virtually every small object you see is bound by the world’s physics. The only modern games that even come close to evoking that school of design are Deus Ex and Dishonored, and also the original Crysis if you want to go back that far. Even those games, which seek to lay out believable environments in which players discover their own solutions to problems, aren’t as interactive as Bethesda’s. Fallout 4 seems to be the first such game to finally benefit from the current console generation leap. In a previous post I speculated it would be Kingdom Come: Deliverance, but that game is taking a while. The other ones to follow next year will be the Deus Ex and Dishonored sequels.

As for what that leap actually means, I’m still not sure. Even the Fallout 4 reviews I’ve read don’t dwell on it much. There doesn’t seem to be a more advanced physics system at play. I don’t know if all the characters have more advanced artificial intelligence which makes their behavior and reactions more nuanced. I don’t know if the world overall is more reactive to the player than it was in Skyrim. I also don’t know if Bethesda has simplified this aspect of Fallout 4 in order to make it less intimidating for players.

From the videos I’ve seen that some of the RPG elements have been streamlined. There has been a small uproar about the disappearance of skill points. The entire flow of the game seems quickened since VATS and looting no longer pause everything. Overall, Fallout 4 seems to be more of an action game and less of an RPG than before. I can see why that has fans concerned, but I can deal with that stuff. You can still have an immersive sim that’s not really an RPG. I just want to know if Bethesda has “streamlined” or deepened the level of interactivity in Fallout 4.

The only clues I’ve found about that in the reviews have been when they talk about the crafting system and the building of settlements. Crafting is probably a way to make more players actually pay attention to all the knickknacks they likely ignored in Bethesda’s previous games. Actually building a town as functional as towns in Betehsda games usually are, with working trade routes, sounds like a pretty hefty endeavor from a tech standpoint. I have a feeling some players (and eventually modders) will find really inventive ways to mess with that system. The ultimate sign of whether Fallout 4 is a real evolution over Skyrim is if I start seeing YouTube videos of people doing seemingly impossible things with the trade routes and custom settlements.

BULLETS:

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