The winter season of 2015 brought us some interesting games. One or two have been described as the best in their series so far, like Call of Duty: Black Ops III. Some have been additions to the already great games, like Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void, and some were fantastic classics taken over by a very effective company and system, like Star Wars: Battlefront. Many of these titles helped to bring attention to older franchises, making them accessible to the emerging generations of gamers. One such title that did this very successfully, as everyone is well aware, was Fallout 4.
Bethesda seemed intent on keeping the game under wraps for the majority of the year, and we hadn’t heard much about it before that. A respectable move that some had come to expect out of them, given how they handled early marketing for each Elder Scrolls game and Fallout 3 before this. Three years after the release of Fallout: New Vegas in 2010, Zenimax allegedly created a website, thesurvivor2299.com, which contained coded messages and a timer, which was assumed to be counting down to the release of an announcement trailer. Bethesda soon spoke out ruling that the website was a hoax.
Then, just one month later in December 2013, development of Fallout 4 was confirmed by Kotaku who claimed to have obtained voice casting documents which leaked the setting as Boston and mentioned a mission located within the Institute.
And Finally the real timer released. On June 2, 2015, a countdown timer launched that ended during the next day, at 2:00PM UTC. Fallout4.com was made available a little before schedule, giving adamant players a sneak peek at the box art and a few other images. It was taken down rather quickly and then re-released along with the fantastic release trailer when the timer reached its designated time. The information given confirmed many of the rumors floating around before like the setting, which turned out to be Boston and the neighboring areas, indeed.
As for the game itself, it was great. The story was compelling, the gameplay was nice and fluid (save for a bug or several), and the added construction component didn’t have much missing. Each one of these aspects were picked apart by several people each, writers or not, so I’m not going to do that. Many people have also compared it to Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. I’m going to do that a little. But only to demonstrate a point that I think is being focused too intently on these days in video game development.
Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas really captured my attention with their stories. I was so attached to the search for my father, this knight-in-shining-armor type who risked his own life to save what ever life could be left on this wasteland of a planet. I also felt the anonymity of Fallout: New Vegas in a way that I hadn’t since the original Fallout games. All I had to my name was the lead of a special little poker chip and a note. What I did and who I was from there was really up to me, and my choices changed the world around me. People in the desert were even telling me to stay away from New Vegas and have a better life with the Radscorpions, rather than the snakes in that hellhole. Compelling argument, but of course, I snuck in and got to work manipulating the families inside to do my own bidding. And find out what the chip was for, obviously. But I certainly didn’t have to.
What I’m getting at is this: Fallout 4 is not a successor to Fallout 3, for me. It’s an entirely different game. It has a lot of good content that feels fantastic to move through, but Bethesda decided to replace the and branching choices in Fallout 3 and New Vegas with a base-building mechanic…
I’m not blaming Bethesda. I don’t know who to blame honestly. But it’s been a disappointing pattern that I first noticed with World of Warcraft. Not to say much about it, but my interest waned severely when they decided to change the mechanics after Wrath of the Lich King. They also did away with the already simplified skill tree. I’m just an advocate of choice, I suppose. If everyone is using the same build, because it performs the best, give us more choices and more varied mechanics so that we have more to consider. Less didn’t make the story better, and it only made people like me lose interest. We’ll come back for something like Legion, where the narrative seems to be king, but the overwhelming changes, yet again, make it feel like a different game to me. And that’s not a good thing.
This seems to be symptomatic of a generation who wants a certain amount of instant gratification. One that I am a part of. The generation that would comment on great games like Inquisitor with, “What?! I have to read?!” suppressing written gold to fully unknown indie status.
Luckily, some developers are starting to ignore this loud minority. With recent games like Torment: Tides of Numenera, not only do you have a compelling and very player driven story, but you also have deep combat mechanics that benefit from or are hindered by your choices as a character in the story. I used to feel this way with the Fallout series. With Fallout 4, I did not. I was another man walking around the wasteland, helping and hurting people with no particular agenda, because I wasn’t allowed to do or say much to change much. How exciting.
I’m not saying don’t play Fallout 4. If you want an Action RPG with building mechanics that will remind you more of ARK than anything else. If you want a compelling story that you don’t seem to have much to do with at all, go ahead. Here’s to hoping that the future of Fallout, and The Elder Scrolls for that matter, goes back to the complication and moral dilemma that their original games offered.