What strikes me the most about the Commonwealth wasteland is how little it innovates on what is available in Washington and Vegas.
Instead it wallows in the most basic levels of what kept me in the Wastelands for 200+ hours.
Stepping out of Vault 111 feels like slipping on old shoes; you know exactly what to expect. True to this, Fallout 4 does not attempt to improve on the foundation set before it in Fallout 3 and New Vegas.
It adds more components to the experience but doesn’t change what was already there.
The Pip-Boy is still just as awkward to use as it ever was, the useful perks return in their hundreds (now with a larger degree of choice, leading to moments of internal crisis), guns are still slightly too difficult to aim and every 30 seconds you will stop to compare a piece of armour with an ever so slightly better piece of armour you found in a bin.
This is 3D-Fallout through and through.
But I can’t decide whether that is a good thing or not.
I say that, yet I am currently burrowed in the sofa and buried in biscuit crumbs after spending my Saturday looking for 12 pieces of fibreglass.
So Bethesda must be doing something right.
I’m still addicted, just as I was with Skyrim.
The problem I have is that Bethesda haven’t improved anything because they arrogantly
believe know that they don’t have to.
Skyrim made leaps and bounds over Oblivion, every aspect had been meticulously refined and perfected.
The same can not be said for Fallout 4, it has only been tweaked and added to.
V.A.T.S now only slows time, that irritating weapon degradation has been abolished and facial animations have made a respectable attempt to climb out of the uncanny valley.
Admirable as these alterations are, they don’t hold a candle to shouting a dragon out of the sky before decimating it with dual wielded swords.
An outstanding innovation that Bethesda left back with Skyrim was the levelling system and perk tree.
In Fallout 4, you level up and then must either choose a perk or increase one of your main attributes (SPECIAL).
This is slow and counter intuitive compared to Skyrim’s mechanics that levelled up individual skills as you used them. So Fallout’s new levelling system is a step forward for the franchise but a step backwards for Bethesda.
Fallout also now lacks a level cap, so ultimately it doesn’t really matter what you choose to level up. You can spend a week making an expert thief, but within a couple of hours they’re probably going to be equally as skilled with a rifle as any other player.
Finding and creating good loot has always been a joy, and the ultimate end goal of most quests, in Bethesda RPGs. Fallout 4 has identified this and targeted it as the focus, you find yourself less worried about what character choices your making along the way and more about what you’re getting at the end.
This is a victory for addictive gameplay, but a loss for character development.
And here I reach the tragic conclusion.
You are no longer who you want to be. You are now a mindless loot grinder, the dialogue and narrative choices funnel you into aligning with one of five factions, all with flaws.
Attempting to forge your own path usually ends with you pissing off someone you wanted to be friends with.
While aligning with someone means playing a role you never wanted to.
I lost any care for the main story and found myself investing the majority of my time finding a location, killing everything there, looting, rinsing and repeating.
A soulless exercise and the true essence of Fallout at it’s most flavourless and addictive extent.
If only it didn’t work.