Mood: Not Impressed
Listening to: Various pieces of music
Reading: Fanfiction/ AARs/ Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Watching: Zero Punctuation (the webseries)
Playing: Fallout 4. It'll be FONV soon, maybe ToTW style
Eating: Garlic Bread
Drinking: Diet Pepsi
So, over the past nine days I spent the majority of my waking hours during which I wasn't doing something mandatory (namely work, use the bathroom, eat and drink, and the last two I attempted to do while playing) playing the latest Open World RPG that Bethesda have made, Fallout 4. The next few paragraphs are fairly crude and somewhat graphic, and use language which is decidedly NOT safe for work, so approach cautiously, watching out for freak radscorpion attacks.
I'm not going to lie for one second: it isn't my favourite Fallout game ever. In fact, I dare say that of the numbered installments and New Vegas, this ranks in at #5, aka last place. It's not that it's a bad game, mind you. There are some lovely additions to the game which are gratifying enough to forgive some of its short-comings, I just don't like the stylistic choices that Bethesda's version of the Fallout series has. Namely, the fact that after 200 years everyone in post-apocalyptica still lives in the old cities of yesteryear wanking off until the protagonist comes along to tidy shit up.
Incidentally, my list is as follows:
#1 is Fallout 2, which I think is the best though to be fair I have yet to COMPLETE FO1. Perhaps FO1 has a better story to make up for missing some of the gameplay tweaks.
#2 is jointly held by Fallout (aka FO1) and Fallout New Vegas. FO1 is a meaty little morsel and is a brilliant starting point for the series, complete with the zany stuff which makes it fun today. FONV on the other hand is Fallout 3 as it SHOULD have been had it not died in development hell, so relating it to FO1 and FO2 as opposed to being the stepchild from a previous relationship is a nice feelgood attitude.
#4 is Fallout 3, since it is Fallout set 200 years after the events of the Great War with the gameplay, background and generally everything fucking else being made for a game with a time setting of being far fucking closer to the war. Like maybe, at best 40 - 50 years after the Great War in a fairly heavily bombed area.
#5 is Fallout 4. Which is somehow about half as meaty as the skinny Skyrim, and a third as meaty as Fallout 3.
Case in motherfucking point: everyone in Boston suffers from the RPGNPC syndrome: we're so fucking useless that things were muddling along while we waited for Mr. JC. Protagonist to show up upon his (or her, cannot be a misogynist /sarcasm) cloud of glowy rainbows and sparkles to help out. While this isn't something I've necessarily got a problem with, when someone sleeps in the same bed as they found a skeleton which is now a haphazard pile of bones next to said bed, then I know that the NPCs can give zero fucks.
I do like the world-building element though - upgrading my base and by extension giving me a reason to constantly search for random crap without being an arbitrary objective of my own devising is a nice one. I just hate how it's not even Sims 2 on console level of competent. And this is a game on the PC in 2015.
Rage-inducing screaming follows.
The worst problem though is that it suffers from the typical Bethesda problem ever since Oblivion - "Oh no! We can't lock out gameplay behind a competence barrier in a select skill otherwise we can't have people do everything on a single playthrough - better make everything accessable to any idiot who can point and shoot semi-straight... if need be." Used to be back in the murky depths of Morrowind's time that you needed to actually show some skill at magic to be accepted into the Wizard's Guild, let alone to PROGRESS in it. Oblivion came though, and one of the only two times I beat the magician's guild (one on 360 version; one on PC) I was a burly warrior who was too busy beating people with a cudgel to remember that I actually was allowed to cast spells. And yet I was the Grandmaster of a guild devoted solely to the research of magic. Cue headdesk on three.
So to make everything accessible, or at least as one of the casualties for that to happen, they did away with the best part of Fallout to me, the levelling system. It used to rely on your initial build, which was a vital core part of the game, and fuck you for not knowing that if worst comes to worst going average across the board is the best scenario. If you don't like, tough - live with it or reroll and start over. Pay attention next time. Then it built upon the fact that you gained EXPERIENCE POINTS as opposed to SKILL POINTS so that you could level up your sneaking skill without having to sneak in a corner for 24 hours grinding style. It also forced you to commit to something - if you want to use shotguns that's all fine and good but don't come crying to us when you find a nice shiny melee weapon which outperforms your shotgun, and then you cannot use said melee very well due to not meeting the requisite.
Now, I as Johnny No-name can meander around the wasteland, the smallest one to date mind you - oh god Todd I love your sweaty cock slapping me in the face let me blow you as you describe just how gorgeous the scenery of this fourteen minute walk from north to south of the map truly is -, and I can do anything I want. Want to use a pistol and kill people? Sure! Want to swap awkwardly two-thirds in to use this badass new sledgehammer? Go for it! Want to start stealthing it up? Why not? I'm not penalized like RPGs should do to stop me from being good at any of these things, so I can just blow my load and pick out any and every shiny option I look the look of. On my lvl 34 character, I've got a heap of crafting perks and can hack and pick everything in the game provided I have the patience and enough lockpicks. Which is about 50 with most of those being backups for fiendishly tricky ones. Meanwhile, while I currently have been carefully adding to my damage perks in non-automatic weapons (which are not pistols or big fuck-off heavy guns) if I want I can completely stop using those sorts of weapons and become a pray'n'sprayer and it'll all be dandy, and I won't be penalised for not going by the basis of my build.
Without stat points, it's not really Fallout anymore; it's Borderlands 0.75. And that's not a bad thing to be, but it just doesn't match the IP anymore. Sure, series ought to evolve, but doing away with skills altogether and making your starting core statistics extremely pointless is a tad counter-intuitive, at least when you are trying to claim that you are still making an RPG.
I can still roleplay in it, I can do a lot of the things I could in Fallout 3. I just dislike that particular growth as far as plot and series development goes, since they took one step forward, one to the side, and one backwards, and then waved while starting to shuffle backwards slightly. I want replayability, I want the option to tell someone to fuck off and mean it, without sounding like a pretentious arsehole, and I definitely want to be told "Fuck off, due to certain pre-requisites and the fact that you joined a rival, you aren't allowed into THIS club", since it would then say "Huh! I want to replay this game and see what I wasn't otherwise allowed to play, and I'll see if I can find some more stuff to do." FO4 meanwhile likes throwing legendary gear at you as much as Borderlands loved throwing any and every piece of scrap iron under the sun and claiming it was super-amazing.
Maybe the biggest problem is that Bethesda design games for the general public now, and the dribbling monkeys who spend ridiculous amounts of money on FIFA packs are more seduced by easily accessible drivel which is halfway cogent but definitely bitesize, while their initial fanbases were for hardcore lunatics who scoured regions for hidden secrets and therefore needed meatier game elements. Well, the former is your money maker, so design to make cash and lose all respect for your IPs I guess. Maybe for Christmas, someone might want to get Todd Howard a dictionary and a history of RPGs, and then point out that the Fallout series is a proper RPG, and not a fairly decent FPS with a couple of vestigal RPG elements still attached.
That said, maybe I just read too much into these things, and am far too rabid a fan to really matter. I think this might be the superior argument.
As for my rating, I'd give it a solid 8/10, as a game. As a Fallout game, I have to give it a mediocre 6.5/10. It's Fallout's ideas and thoughts and theories, and it asks the big questions and expects you the player to answer them through gameplay, but its soul has been replaced by a robotic automaton. Which is actually a nice metaphor for the very basis of the Institute in the first place, o-ho! Zing!