Fallout 4: Bomb Craters and Massholes

I’ve been playing Fallout 4 for a week now. Jenny Biscuits crawled out of Vault 111 in search of her kidnapped child and last night made it to Diamond City. If you haven’t played the game, let me assure you, that isn’t very far. She’s had a lot of distractions along the way.

My current impression of the game is that it’s got a lot of new and fun things but the new things aren’t fun and the fun things aren’t new. That sounds harsh, but please bear with me.

I’m a Fallout fanboy, so “More of the Same” wasn’t going to be much of a criticism for me, since I loved the Same and would happily play More of it. Taking Fallout 3 exactly as-is and giving me a whole new area with different inhabitants, stories, quests, landmarks, and secrets is not anything I’m going to complain about, and Fallout 4 delivers. Unlike some people I’m too far west to go see how my house fared in the apocalypse, but I’m enjoying roaming around the Boston area. I’m glad the map has a little more color to it, and the little hints of the big story I’ve gotten so far are interesting. Everything I want in a Fallout game is here, and I’m into it. Plus there’s more!

It’s the “more” that’s kind of bugging me.

There are two major additions to the game. The first is settlement building. You can actually edit places to remove bombed out houses and debris and erect new crappy looking structures instead. You can also add defenses, food production, shops, and all kinds of other stuff to help turn the settlement into a thriving community. This is something I’m not super interested in doing even outside of a Fallout game, much less within one. And even if I were, the interface for doing it is just not very good. Last night I built Jenny Biscuits a house and just making this thing:

took a long time, and it’s garbage. I mean, yeah, it’s a ramshackle hovel in a ruined wasteland, but also its corners don’t match up and I can’t place a rug because I guess I had to do that first and it’s just a mess. I wanted to put an item in it that I don’t currently have the materials to build and instead of showing me an outline of the item so I could at least save some space for it, it just does nothing.

The settlement thing also does some real theme-breaking. One of the first, easiest things you can build for your settlement are pumps providing clean, fresh water, making the entire main plot of Fallout 3 even more dumb than it was before. And it doesn’t take long to ask why these settlers can’t throw lumber in a pile and call it a house and need you to do it.

Fortunately, apart from an early and easy-to-complete mission, you can ignore the settlement building if you want to. The game doesn’t seem to rely on it. The same can’t be said about the other new major element, weapon and armor mods.

In Fallout 4, there are hundreds of new weapons because there are weapons that each have dozens of different modifications to them. You can take a 10mm pistol, say, and trick it out however you want. On the surface, that seems like not a bad idea, but in play it’s not so great.

My first problem with it is that it requires me to spend far more time diddling around with different weapons than I ever want to. even in Borderlands, which boasts its absurd amount of guns, I can easily compare two guns and ditch one easily. In Fallout 4, every new gun has to be analyzed and deciphered to see if it in any way can be used to improve my overall firepower, and the system for doing so is not easy.

For example, suppose you find a pipe rifle with a modified stock. You already have a pipe rifle with a site you like, and you want to add this stock to it. Instead of just removing the stock from the new gun and pitching the rest, you have to “construct” a standard stock on it, which will then put the modified one into your inventory to use.

Armor works similarly. It’s divided into different parts and you assemble it however you want. So if you want your left arm to be really heavily armored but your right leg to be free as a bird, you can do so, but nobody wants that. And once again, if you pick up a piece of lightweight armor and you want your current piece to also be lightweight, you have to make the new one not-lightweight and then attach the lightweight to your old one, assuming you have the materials needed.

It’s a ridiculously convoluted system and for me it’s not worth it. I really don’t care about the possible incremental changes in fire rate or energy absorption. I just want a gun and some armor and to get out and shoot things. I don’t want to play with my inventory when I could instead be actually out and about in this world.

So yeah, the two big innovations in the game are a bust for me. Maybe on a future replay or later in this one they’ll win me over but for now I’m trying to avoid them as much as possible.

But back to things I do like:

* You can’t kill Dogmeat AND you can have him wear bandannas and things, which is fantastic. Also, he (or she, as xe seems to have no gender characteristics of any kind) can carry tons of items in some kind of pocket dimension.

* Travis, the DJ of Diamond City Radio, is a great answer to Three Dog, though he needs to give “Anything Goes” a rest.

* I’ve already come to the aid of one same-sex, biracial couple.

* There are still these calling to me:

but now there’s the third big new innovation: pens.

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