Fallout 4 is a Bethesda game. That statement is not me telling you a fact (although, it is a fact) but more of a statement on the quality and inherent buggy-ness of the product. Let’s start off this way, Fallout 4 is a fantastic game that you can (and will) lose yourself in for hours upon hours, but that doesn’t keep me from wanting more, and wanting a better-working product overall. Bethesda is known for their half-broken games, but in an era where studios seem to be fine with releasing broken products and shipping them, only to be fixed as the months go by, why can’t we have just one AAA title that works great right out of the box?
The basis of Fallout 4’s story is that your character (male or female) is hanging out with his family when the bombs start dropping. You head for your newly purchased vault spot (in Vault 111) and once inside things go wrong quickly. You end up being frozen in cryo sleep for 200 years and wake up to see your son being taken away from your husband/wife. I left out a few key story details there, but this is how you go from living everyday life to becoming a wasteland wanderer. I am enjoying the story in Fallout 4 more than 3 because it has a sense of mystery to it. The Commonwealth is plagued by stories of a mythical group called The Institute, who kidnap people in the middle of the night, never to be seen again. Working your way through the game, and through towns, this Institute story point kept me interested in finding out whatever I could, and seeing how the other factions (such as the Brotherhood of Steel) dealt with the crisis. Overall the story isn’t amazing, but it had just enough intrigue to keep me more interested than the story of Fallout 3. I still like the story in New Vegas more, but that may be because Obsidian, the studio behind New Vegas, has a bit more writing chops than Bethesda.
Generally, people don’t come to Bethesda games for the story, though. So if you’re merely here for the hours upon hours of exploration and side content, you’re still going to have a blast with Fallout 4. I will admit, at times the game feels more like Fallout 3.5, but that never stopped me from enjoying every minute with it. The mechanics of the game are what you remember, only with a bit better control in the live shooting department this time. The game plays more like a regular shooter, though it’s still not as tight as I’d like it to be. I ended up still using VATS a lot, mainly because of how much fun it is. Aside from those changes, most of the changes are in how you play the game. Bethesda cut back a bit on the conversation piece, which is disappointing for those that loved to build characters that could talk their way out of any situation. It has more of a Mass Effect conversation feel now. Also, Bethesda has added some new, cool, content like settlement building. Once you discover and clear a settlement you can clean it up and build structures there, eventually having people settle in your town. You must build items to keep them alive, and protect them. It’s a cool little aside, although I never really saw much benefit to it other than having a place to store all my stuff. It is fun to build yourself an awesome house, though. Also Fallout 4 now features a crafting system. You can break junk down you find and use it to add pieces on to your weapons and armor. You can even craft things for your power armor, which is much more widely used in 4. There is also a crafting system for food items. All of the crafting makes you feel better about accidentally picking up 15 tin pans. It all becomes somewhat useful.
Exploration might be the best thing about Fallout 4, as is typically the case with Bethesda games. Wandering across the Commonwealth and stumbling into quests and locations can lead to some awesome moments, and big finds. You also must be careful, there are now starred boss characters in the world that are much harder to defeat, but give you better loot. If you run into one, you might end up using all of your ammo to kill it, so keep multiple weapons handy! You can even assign 12 total weapons to slots on the d-pad menu. This becomes a necessity as you get into the game. Having a long, mid, and short ranged weapon, along with a rocket launcher, always helps when you get into sticky situations. Using the pip boy to pause and manage your weapons and health during a fight is a big help as well. Keep those Stim packs piled up.
Overall Fallout 4 is a very good, but buggy, game. I praise Bethesda for the amount of content they put into the world, yet am disappointed with them for allowing game-ending bugs and framerate issues (on consoles) to continue to plague their series’. It’s 2015, we have new hardware, let’s release games that work (mostly) from the start. Being able to get stuck in an elevator and having to reload a save is not something that should happen in a multi-million dollar game anymore. That being said, Fallout 4 is a lot of fun. If you are worried about bugs you may want to wait a month or two for some patches, but the game is playable, and mostly fine now. I played on PC, so I ran into far less issues. If you liked Fallout 3 and the hours you could spend exploring, and like the idea of a Boston-themed map with some new crafting and settlement gameplay elements, and wanted better gunplay, Fallout 4 will be right up your alley… or… in your Vault.