My First Wastelands
As a teenager, I spent hundreds of hours lost in the Capital Wasteland and the New Vegas strip. These days, I am a lot older and I have started to notice something about how game design has degraded between Fallout3, New Vegas and 4. I’m going to go off on a sanitized rant about how Bethesda destroys any hope of an immersive roleplaying game in Fallout4.
Dialogue, and the Inability to Empathize
As the graphics and visuals improve, the storytelling gets worse. This is blatantly obvious to anyone who played a previous title versus Fallout4. Bethesda was famous for fantastic storytelling and dialogue. Why they took a Bioware-esque approach in Fallout4 is downright insulting to players.
Fallout4 treats players like idiots who cannot string a coherent sentence together and is a regression from the Dialogue of Fallout3 and Fallout New Vegas. Players are smart, can read and consider the impact of their dialogue choice – like players in any other RPG.
Where in previous titles, players could project their emotions and even thoughts on to the empty vessel of a player character, creating an internal narrative that has a meaningful impact for them. The voiced protagonist of Fallout4 told players what to think and feel about everything. It disconnects them and prevents them from empathizing with their character. Obscuring what a player can say cheapens the entire RPG experience. It feels like we’re playing an FPS with grand dreams of being an RPG.
Where is my Character Customization?
Seven stats in Fallout4, versus the subtle nuances and complexities of dozens of choices in the previous titles of the franchise. Previously, you had to think and make choices about what to be good, average and just plain bad in. Fallout4, you give your character a static nudge. Skills checks mattered in New Vegas for everything from bartering to Explosives. In Fallout4, max your Charisma, you can pass nearly every check with ease. The lack of customization takes away players ability to roleplay a character.
Weapon Customization at the Mouse Click
In Fallout New Vegas, getting a weapon accessory could change the way you play. If you prepared to change your build or had invested in the right skills, getting a weapon silencer was a game changer. Remember that character customization previously alluded to? Without the ability to customize your character’s skills, comes the inability to actually create a class or build that is one of the central tenants of creating an immersive roleplaying game.
Fallout4 throws a smorgasbord of options at the player, available at the click of a button. The weapons all feel the same and handle the same, with nothing that feels unique. This trivializes the gunplay which is a larger part of Fallout4. I found it strange since both games are made in the Creation Engine, Then I realized that it was the skill points and character customization to build a playstyle that added a high level of replay value that is missing in FallItzout4.
Pavlov’s Dog Quest Design
I have to admit that completing quests in Fallout4 did feel good, as did the various quest rewards. But that was fleeting satisfaction at best. There was nothing memorable about any of them. Just the vaguest of recollections. Even the Main quest line, the main events of the game are fuzzy now.
In contrast, I can still remember the amazing side quests of New Vegas like Vault 19, or the way you could destroy a child’s happiness. I remember wondering whether I had enough herbicide to kill Harold in Oasis (Fallout3). Fallout4 was a lot of killing and explosions, and not much else. Even the set piece finales were forgettable.
Fallout3 and New Vegas side quests actually had a semi-permanent, if not permanent impact upon the state of the game world. There was permanence, and consequences for the things that you did, and the choices that you made. None of this is present in Fallout4. The quest design is so linear, nothing encourages exploration or gives players a reason to divert from the linear path in the diagram above.
Choking on a Backstory
Fallout4 makes players choose which backstory is going to be rammed down their throat: – “You are a family oriented individual. Your spouse has been murdered. Your son kidnapped. Go find your son.” You’ve “known” your “spouse” for about 10 minutes at this point, making their death absolutely meaningless. This ties in with my points earlier about a very dialogue system in Fallout4: – Players are told what to feel instead of being allowed to feel, destroying the “immersive” part of the roleplaying game.
Bethesda could have learned a great deal from Oblivion’s Fallout New Vegas, but learned nothing. Fallout4 had the potential to be far greater than it turned out to be. Too many well designed, fun and rewarding gameplay mechanics and systems were dumbed down or removed entirely. Fallout4 became an FPS with RPG-esque mechanics tacked on to it. I’m going to replay Fallout New Vegas again.