“I got you a game!” Brother says as he throws a plastic bag at me. “Noooo!” I scream as I stare at my overflowing Steam library, filled with unplayed games. “It’s Fallout 4 though! Game of the Year version! Only cost €15!” Brother counters, thrusting the game into my hands. “You like Fallout, right?”
Actually, I don’t really like Fallout. It’s a cool world but it’s too slow and too close to real life. I’ve always been way more of a fantasy person, never been a fan of post-apocalyptic scenarios in radiation-filled landscapes. But Fallout 4 was a gift and I had to play it. After about two days of downloading because fuck my slow-ass internet speeds.
In my pre-game investigation, I decided to get a couple of mods. Literally only some graphic optimization mods and the Unofficial Fallout 4 patch. It made sense, it’s a Bethesda game, things are buggy.
Nope. Not allowed. Having mods installed, even bug patches, disables achievements. That made me extremely annoyed. Actually it was probably a bad way to start the game in general. But really? Fallout 4 is a fucking singleplayer game, why the hell can’t I have some mods and achievements at the same time?
I’m annoyed again.
I’ll go back to the game. Although I have plenty of time because there’s a seriously long video to sit through, basically talking you into the Fallout universe. Once that’s over, you find yourself staring at the mirror, finally at a character creation menu.
And here’s where I find my first problem. This menu is weird and clunky. I spent way too long creating a character, not because I wanted to make someone who looked good, but because I’m just trying to get the menu to change things. I wasn’t that big a fan of the Skyrim character creator either but at least it had clear and obvious sliders for you to change. I ended up making a very generic default sort of guy called Tim, named after Tim the Enchanter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I didn’t bother changing the looks of the wife because I knew she was going to kick the bucket at some point. Even if you haven’t played a Fallout game before, or even any game with a hint of drama in it, you KNOW someone is going to die to spur the protagonist on becoming an adventurer.
Character creation aside, the whole wandering around your house is kinda nice, talking to your partner and stuff. I like that. It’s all about interacting with everything you’re about to lose, what life is life before the bombs drop. Even the Vault Tec guy coming to knock on the door isn’t too much of an issue.
The timing is all a little funny though. The Vault Tec guy comes, signs you up and then suddenly the bombs start dropping and you’ve got to leg it. Considering how fast it all happens, really, we should have been fried.
I mean seriously. If that had actually happened, my player character Tim and his wife would have already been killed. They would have arrived at the lower platform as crispy slices of dead human rather than alive and well but scared.
And of course, it being Fallout, it’s not all good and safe once you get down there. You’re stuck in a cryogenic tube and left, pausing only to see your wife get shot and your baby Shaun kidnapped.
Eventually you escape that vault, because everyone else is dead. Including staff because there was a mutiny in the vault. You escape, then off you go, off on your adventure.
This is kinda where I feel Fallout 4 falls down though. It’s actually similar to how I feel Skyrim falls down, but worse. I feel railroaded onto this one single task of finding my son. Of course there are other quests, of course there’s other things to do, but a child being kidnapped is the most important thing to an exhausted, stressed human being. Even though I COULD go and do a bunch of side quests, I don’t feel that I can, simply because MY SON IS MISSING. The only thing Tim has left is gone, trapped in a stranger’s hands, and the only thing I should do is go and find him.
Basically, roleplaying has gone out of the window and I feel railroaded into this path of finding my kid. In Skyrim at least, you’re an absolute no one, wandering around a landscape you don’t understand, trying to work out if it’s the end of the world or not. Rushing the quest in Skyrim does kinda make sense because the world will otherwise end and that’s a pretty bad thing, but you could also easily decide that it’s not up to you to do these things, you can just leave Helgen and bugger off forever. In Fallout 4, you are a local in your local neighbourhood with everything still there. You can’t BE anyone apart from some military guy (or a female lawyer) looking for his son, not without a lot of effort. Sure you can do whatever you want after leaving Vault 111, but you’re still a generic former military bloke or a lawyer with insane gun skills who was frozen, watched their partner die and is on a mission to rescue their son.
It’s not the voiced protagonist that does this either. Having a character with a voice does give you a specific role, but the male and female characters are at least generic enough that they could be anyone. Sure, no voices means more options for players and potentially more dialogue (especially since the four options always seem to be the same – yes, sarcastic yes or maybe, no and more information/persuasion) but it’s the personal story that railroads you far more than anything else.
The gameplay kinda doesn’t do much for me either. All the different clothing and weapons are cool, but it’s nothing special. It also feels pretty damn odd that I’m not very far into the game and already I’m going to get power armour. That seems insane to me. Otherwise the gameplay is kinda similar to other games, just with more making and upgrading things. I haven’t reached settlement building or anything large yet but I can tell I’m going to be needing a lot of carry weight and will have to steal anything that isn’t nailed down.
I’ve also spent way too long just shooting things and desperately not trying to shoot any poor doggo who wants to tag along with me.
You know what? That’s a real shame. Because the world of Fallout 4 is beautiful. When there’s nothing around, it’s a strangely silent, peaceful and graceful landscape. In fact, I kinda don’t want to even play Fallout 4, I just want to be able to wander around and look at how pretty everything is.
And that’s BEFORE I’ve added any cosmetic mods.
Because mods disable achievements.
That still annoys me.
Anyway, I’ll play more Fallout 4. I kinda have to because I said I would. But I’ll never really feel like it’s my character in my own roleplay of a game. It’s a specific story, that of saving my son, and it’s the one I feel I have to do first. Not because the world is ending or anything like that, but because it feels wholly unnatural to put anything else first.