AND ONE TO RUIN THEM ALL - FALLOUT 4

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And one to ruin them all - Fallout 4

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Today something completely different - a nostalgia piece about a game from 2015 (ancient history for some) that was not in any way a bad game, but incorporated one bad idea that ruined all the good ideas. Yes, you guessed it from the title, it is a Fallout 4 "and one to ruin them all" story.


And one to ruin them all - Fallout 4

Fallout 4 was the third instalment of this popular game series. I know it has 4 in the title, but I was referring to Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas as the parts of the series since they were made in a completely different style, compared to Fallout and Fallout 2. Since the titles moved from isometric view to full 3D, they were the instant hit. Fallout 3, in which you travel through post-apocalyptic Washington DC full of mutants, abominations, radiation and not nice people.

Fallout New Vegas moved the plot to, spoiler alert, New Vegas, but also introduced some new elements to the gameplay, like weapon modifications and simple crafting. But both games had one huge advantage over their competition - you could choose your own path through the wasteland. You wanna be squeaky clean? You can, but the bad guys will hate you. You wanna be a baddie? You can, but the good guys will hate you. You wanna a balance between the two? You can, but no one will like you. You wanna build your own farm and breed zombies? Get a life.

Fallout 4 was one of the most anticipated games because after experiences from both games mentioned above, it looked like the wet dream of every geek - bigger, open world, more complex structure, more missions, new location. And up to a point, it was a bigger and better game, set in Boston, where they could use the Lovecraftian motifs, new opponents, new features... You woke up from stasis to see your son being kidnapped, so of course you need to set out and save him. But all of it went downhill fast because there was just one detail missing in this game - freedom of choices.

Yes, you can roam the wasteland, you can deal with enemies, gather resources, but in a way you were limited. This time Bethesda, publisher of the games, made one crucial change that almost destroyed Fallout 4 - they decided to make this one more "console players friendly". So the extensive dialogue options were reduced to just four, some of which made very little sense, or they were unlike what you intended to say. For example, you could answer in a positive way, negative or sarcastically, AKA the New York City kind of dialogue.

This did not went well with the players, who were used to more nuanced dialogue options that would actually express what they wanted to say. And that led to another problem - there were no options to actually be a baddie in Fallout 4. The creators instead built 3 factions that have different values and different goals, so you can join one of them (or sometimes be forced to). And that was about it, you can go with one of them and crush the other two. It seems like a tiny inconvenience, but in reality there was no way to play Fallout 4 they way you wanted to, you just had to join some faction at some point.

Those were dubious choices made by the creators that angered most of the players, but they were not the single idea that ruined the whole game. No, that title goes to a feature that on the surface seemed like a great idea, something that the game actually needed, but in fact was the one bad idea that ruined the whole experience. That title belongs to the bit known as base building (short pause for angry comments here). Yes, some modders made changes to Fallout New Vegas, which allowed users to build their own bases in the reality of the game. The creators liked that idea so much that they introduced this feature into Fallout 4. Or rather heavy-handedly forced this into the game.

Ok, so what was so terrible about base building that this was the one idea to ruin them all? Nothing actually was wrong with it. Yes, it was clunky, yes, it was a bit weird, it was pretty much pointless, but the real problem was that it ruined the experience. Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas were all about wandering between safe havens around settlements, while in Fallout 4 it was more about building your own safe haven. You could build fences, traps, guarding towers to keep you safe inside, water pumps to provide water, plant vegetables to provide food, invite survivors to join you and take care of the settlement. And then you can move on to another place and start another settlement, keeping in mind that they could use help defending themselves.

Sorry, I meant to say you are being forced to defend them and be constantly ready to drop everything and travel to another part of the map, only to find that the defences you built were enough to stop the intruders. And again. And again. And again. And then a Minuteman was forcing you to defend them even more. And again. And again. What seemed like a nice little addition to the main gameplay, turned quickly into a painful chore. You were constantly harassed to help settlements under attack, which was ruining the whole game. You are in the middle of a walkabout in an area that you are currently discovering, but then you get the message that a settlement on the other side of the map is in trouble, so you have to go there, otherwise the settlement will be damaged and people killed.

But there was another layer to that bad idea - pushing aside the annoying chore that was defending the network of settlements, once you established your base, built all the defences, got settlers to help out with food and collecting resources... it was easy to forget what was the main plot you were taking part in. I mean both previous games were all about wandering, while Fallout 4 was more about settling down, but once you settle down and have all the resources available to you, there is no need to wander anymore. You have a source of water, food, you have people gathering resources, a network of suppliers that will deliver what you need to any of the settlements, safe places to sleep and live... What was I looking for? Oh, yeah, my beloved son. Oh, well, one more settlement and I will get round to it.

There was another problem with the concept, which suggests it was a hasty decision made during the production process - you do not have freedom to create your settlements, they are in pre-set locations with limited area that you can actually change or adjust. It is obvious that every game has its technical limitations, and you just could not build guard towers any place in the world or place a bed wherever you want, but that was a slightly different problem. Several of the settlements were located close to places that would be a much better place from a survival point of view. In most cases, it was "there is a group of buildings or a military base nearby, but let us settle in a small shack in the middle of open ground, where we can be attacked from any direction" kind of logic. Instead of using pre-existing places that are surrounded by fences, have thick walls or almost untouched huge buildings that could be easy to defend and accommodate many settlers, you are being forced to build a settlement in a gas station, small shack or tiny remnants of a building in the middle of the swamp.

And that, boys and girls, was the tale of one idea to ruin them all, which turned the potentially perfect game into a really flawed product. As I said at the beginning, Fallout 4 was a good game, with plenty of interesting options, places to discover, things to do, and the base building itself was not a bad idea, but it clashed with the basics of the Fallout 4, which led to lots of disappointments among players. It was like adding a sawing minigame to a racing game - it might be a good minigame, it has some logical link (you have to mend the seats of your car), but it does not improve the main gameplay. It is a "just because they could, they did not stop to think if they should" kind of addition to the game.



30-04-2024


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