…Or. The game Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer should have been!
That will make sense in a bit, because it was at one point my only real issue with Fallout 4, but that has long since been sorted out on my side.
This is a late review, so let me get this part out of the way first. Despite some bugs, as expected from a Bethesda open-world RPG and some poor loading times. This is one of my most beloved games in the past few years and has joined Fallout 3, Tetris, Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Silent Hill 2, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 and the likes as one of my greatest of all-time.
Some may not agree, but I don’t care, they are entitled to their opinion and covering the issues with the game is fine, but they really didn’t give me any reason to want to stop, or ruin my enjoyment. So despite the known problems, this is still a 10/10 game in my book.
There is also little point in me going over all the checkpoints for what is new, what has been updated, because chances are you have already read those. This is about what Fallout 4 means to me and my adventures.
Fallout 3 had one of those moments that will live with me to the day I die. When my great-grandkids ask me about videogames in my day and why were they so popular. The moment you step out of Vault-101 will be right at the top of the list of moments I recall.
The build to that moment was perfectly timed. It had you become almost institutionalized within the vault, before setting up the sequence to release you into the Wasteland. It was a perfect moment and it is something that in my honest opinion can only work the once.
So the opening to Fallout 4 was very well handled, the starting of the game as the bombs hit, was, for me, a stroke of genius. It gave us a glimpse of what the world used to be like and setup another moment, that whilst not immediately poignant as what happened in Fallout 3, still stopped me in my tracks.
The time difference between entering the vault for your safety and the moment you leave again is very short, maybe 15-20 minutes (longer if you explore). But this is clearly a design choice, because remember that cozy suburb you left as the bombs were dropping? Well that is still fresh in your memory. So when you return to that exact location, the differences 200 years makes hits home immediately.
I was concerned early on though, as once you return home, the game becomes a bit linear, shepherding you through a series of quests at quite a pace. However, it is clear why this is happening, because going off and doing your own thing this early would stop you understanding a major new feature in the game and also leave you completely under prepared for the Wasteland.
To be fair, it is just a case of me itching to explore and those early mission don’t really take up all that much time. Soon enough though the shackles are removed and away you go.
This is the main reason I love Fallout. You start of in one direction as part of a quest, whether that be mainline or side, then something pops up on your compass, so you decide to follow that, so you at least have it saved to the map.
Yet on the way there, something else pops up, so of course I decide I need to check that out. Then it happens again and again and again. Next thing you know several hours have passed and you have forgotten what you were meant to be be doing in the first place.
It is that sense of discovery that really sets Fallout apart from other open world games. Yes there are things to find in GTA, Assassin’s Creed, InFamous and the likes, but they all feel like they are sign-posted for you to find. In Fallout it is different, the world isn’t as ‘alive’ as many others, but because you are constantly discovering new areas, both larger and tiny, it feels a hell of a lot more active.
Now that isn’t a slight on those other games, but you just need to compare this to pretty much any Ubisoft title, where you are required to find some kind of tower, that will then expose everything else there is to find in that area. Fallout doesn’t do this, it lets you happen upon things, with only quest vital landmarks being given to you at the right time.
Because you need to discover everything on your own, it does make the side quests a lot more appealing. Again in other open-world games, the optional stuff can feel like a chore and if I am being honest, I often cannot be bothered with them.
Yet here in Fallout 4 (as it was in Fallout 3 and other Fallout titles) I get a sense of joy when I happen upon a new quest, because I know more discovery is on the way. I don’t know what it is yet, but I know it is coming.
It is the scale of what you find that really impresses me the most. From huge landmarks, that have various levels to them, which can take hours to work through, to the tiniest little shack that may contain something useful Every time you find one, you feel a little more joyful.
The single biggest new thing about Fallout 4, was the one thing that also concerned me the most. The base building stuff. Yet the more I play around with this, the more I fall in love with it. Again there is a lot of discovery here too. I only recently found I can add lights to power lines and light up my settlement at night.
I mean, this settlement in the middle of a wasteland, ruined because of nuclear war, looks beautiful now. I’d happily trade my current situation to set up home there!!!
The base building itself was as I said, something I wasn’t looking forward to. The idea of micro-managing a community, whilst all I wanted to do was wander just didn’t sound all that appealing. But once I got into it, it became bloody addictive.
I joked at the start that, this is the game Happy Home Designer should have beem and whilst it was an odd the cuff joke, it isn’t far removed from the truth. Namely because there is a lot more substance here in a single part of a much larger game, than there is in a game dedicated to doing such a thing.
I am taking great pleasure in removing all the scrap from around a settlement, scraping it and then using it to build up more and more to make parts of the wasteland a living breathing community. Creating new buildings, defenses, food and water resources and so much more.
It can be quite something going back to a place that you have built, knowing what it was previously and feeling a sense of pride at what you have created. I have spent hours upon hours building up Sanctuary, along with (now) some other settlements.
I was worried about the need to do this early on, but now I am deep into the game, I look forward to the next opportunity to add more to my settlements. Which brings me onto something else that is minor, but has really changed the way I loot.
In Fallout 3 for example, there was a crap ton of crap to loot, but much of it seemed pointless on the whole and keeping track of what you wanted or needed wasn’t always easy. Now though you can tag items from your base and when you happen across them on your travels, they will be marked with a spyglass icon, letting you know it is something important.
I find myself now just going on journeys and looting for scrap, just so I can return to a settlement to either use it right away to build, or store for later. It is all these little things that has added something great to an already amazing experience.
I looked at my time played stat and it is at just over 76 hours, yet I still have much of the mainline story to finish and a hell of a lot of side quests. I imagine I have spent at least half my time looting and building. Something I never imagined I would be doing at the start.
There is so much to discover in Fallout 4, that this would become a tiresome read to go through them all, the various companions you get for example, all have their pros and cons and to me at least feel like they are more than just along for the ride. So much so, my main companion from Fallout 3, spends his time back at my home base in Sanctuary.
I am talking about Dogmeat, who comes along for the ride very early and whilst he does help with attacking and defending enemies, I find it quite nice to come home and find him there ready to greet me.
Fallout 4 is my game of the year for 2015 and I know for a fact I won’t be finished this side of the New Year. I don’t want it to be, I love being in the world, I love discovering new things and all in all I just love this game.