BETHESDA created a working recipe for a western role playing game (rpg) back in 2002 with the Elder Scrolls: Morrowind.
Since then they have been making steady improvements with each entry in their two main franchise, The Elder Scrolls and Fallout.
The release of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim in 2011 made such an impact that any subsequent rpg from other developers was instantly being compared to it.
Skyrim was the gold standard, an accolade that Fallout has aimed for.
Fallout 4’s scenery may not be as breathtaking as Skyrim’s nordic mountain ranges but it has been crafted with an equivalent level of care.
To those un-initiated in Fallout, you play as a self-created character stepping out of a nuclear bunker (Vault) 200 years after the world went trigger happy with nukes.
That world was one where nuclear technology had caught on but artistic aesthetic was permanently stuck in a 50s art-deco state.
Now, mutants roam the wasteland, secret military equipment is utilised by morally-grey surviving groups, cities lie abandoned, make-shift settlements offer refuge or death while you are free to do what ever you please.
That is the beauty of Bethesda’s creations, you are not funnelled into doing anything specific, rarely forced into a predetermined role.
The freedom is intoxicating.
Though, this makes the restricted sections all the more glaring
Fallout 4 has focused too much on being an action game rather than a spider-webbing rpg.
The majority of scenarios that you are confronted with break out into open warfare.
The fighting may be fun but the frequent removal of a diplomatic option feels suffocating.
The main narrative also forces you to align with one of four factions, each with their own flaws.
Working for one usually pisses off another, forcing you to break contact with one even if you liked it. This isn’t helped by the ambiguous speech options that rarely say what you thought they would.
Other aspects of the game thankfully remember to incorporate ways of making them feel customised.
Creating and developing your character is once more a very deep and engaging process, a wealth of perks allow you to make them as capable as you want in the areas you need.
You are also given the ability to make and modify equipment in any way you see fit, whether that be making your shotgun fully automatic or giving your power armour a jet pack, there are plenty of options to play around with.
The wasteland is a consistently purposeful playground, it is dense and a real joy to explore.
But, the crown is staying with Skyrim as the top rpg, for a couple of reasons.
To start, Skyrim’s levelling system develops skills as you use them, Fallout relies on a cumbersome mechanic where you must manually choose what stat to increase every level.
The user-interface behind it all is also flawed.
Menus are all delegated to the Pip-Boy, an in-game wrist mounted computer.
The Pip-Boy has a nonsensical layout, tiny text and is always mono-colour so you must squint to see anything.
There are also very few tutorials for complex tasks, building a safe house is a frustrating trial and error for the first couple of hours.
This initial education barrier damages the introduction to Fallout’s new world, but it is well worth getting past.
The Commonwealth wasteland has an unfathomable amount of content and things to do, so when Bethesda’s next rpg arrives in the distant future, people will certainly still be spending time with Fallout 4.
Positives: immense crafting system, fascinating mission narratives, satisfying combat, massive and intricate world
Negatives: cumbersome Pip-Boy, lack of explanations, narrative barriers, it tries too much to be an Activision product.
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4 and PC
Reviewed on PS4