McMillan’s Codex 15 by C.T. McMillan

Fallout 4

It has been three weeks since the release of Fallout 4 and in that time I had no desire to stop playing, like Aldous Huxley hooked up to an I.V. of LSD. It is a fantastic game.

A great game.

If you’re not playing it, you need to.

Despite everything exciting about Fallout 4, the game has one disconcerting flaw. (More on that soon.)

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Fallout 4 takes place about a decade after the events of Fallout 3. As per series tradition, you begin by emerging from the safety of Vault 111 to the post-apocalyptic world of Boston, Massachusetts, known to the in-game world as The Commonwealth. There you must brave the Wasteland’s many dangers in search of your infant son while great powers vie for control.

Gameplay is the usual affair with the standard first-person-shooter and series-specific elements. Mechanically it feels more like a shooter than ever. Each shot has a real kick to it, like the gun is actually in your hands, and every bullet has an impact that lets you know you are doing damage. Sprinting and one-button grenade throws are two other additions that improve the series into the realm of modern shooters. It is simple like Wolfenstein: New Order, but new for Fallout.

VATS makes a return, but rather than stop time to pick your shots, the game goes into slow motion. It is still useful for those not adept at shooting in real time, yet it can be frustrating in small spaces. As you pick your targets, the enemy or enemies will sometimes move in front of a pillar or wall right before you execute an attack, and every hit will miss.

Also, the ability to shoot enemy weapons has been omitted for no discernable reason, which would have made the Super Mutant Suiciders less of an annoyance as they charge you with armed nukes.

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The real problem with Fallout 4 is its streamlined character progression system. After eliminating character Skills entirely, the SPECIAL (your conventional attributes) and Perks (minor gameplay that in previous Fallout games enhanced your Skills) have been combined to where each attribute has a Perk with varying grades of effect. The value of the SPECIAL determines what perks are available. That would not be a problem if each Perk grade were not locked behind a level cap.

The base Perks are available at level one, but if you want to upgrade Bloody Mess to its highest grade, you must reach a required level that is often too high to achieve in an appropriate amount of time. The fact that most of the Perks you actually want are also locked behind the level of each SPECIAL further exacerbates this point because you do not find out until after you start that you chose the wrong levels for you attributes that keep the most useful Perks out of reach.  This change inherently thwarts the entire basis of role-playing.

In the previous games and in most RPGs, you were given a number of points you could apply to whatever Skills you wanted. It was an open system that let you make your own character and now it is all gone. You can thank the pressure to innovate for that.

Where the game falters in progression, the true appeal of any Bethesda game–the world–is glorious. Going in a completely different direction, the Commonwealth is an overgrown expanse where civilization is in a state of decay, and what remains of nature is taking it back. It is a colorful world, a stark contrast to the greys and browns of the previous games. The pallet includes shades of green against the whites of old buildings, the bright reds of Super Mutant blood bags, the azure of the sky, and the blues of polished interiors. It looks more like Fury Road than a Fallout game, and it could not be more beautiful.

While the map is not as big as previous games, the Commonwealth is dense with content. The world is filled to the brim with places to explore and a wide diversity of locations. A city stands in Fenway Park with its own government, market place, and newspaper. Bunker Hill is a trading outpost, while a cult who worships radiation runs a settlement in the heart of a crater. On top of that, players have the ability to build their own towns with the addition of a crafting system. Resources spread about the Commonwealth can be gathered and applied to make a variety of structures that can be configured in whatever way the player desires. Towns can also be populated with other characters that will tend crops and run shops.

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Considering I could not stop playing, Fallout 4 is worth your consideration. Once I finish editing this, I will go right back to it, and most likely keep playing until the late hours of night.

But the obvious issues with progression that is unlike any role-playing system out there. It pointlessly hinders your ability to develop the character you want. The diversity of the world and the sheer enjoyment of playing, however, is enough to keep your interest. I can only hope Obsidian Entertainment makes up for this flaw in the inevitable follow up.

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CT McMillan 1

C.T. McMillan (Episode 169) is a film critic and devout gamer.  He has a Bachelors for Creative Writing in Entertainment from Full Sail University.

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