Fallout 4: Actual Impressions

I want to go back to playing, so let’s do this stream of consciousness style.

Bugs?

I’ve experienced very few, if any bugs. Or at least, I’m so used to Bethesda’s janky game engine that most things don’t register as bugs anymore. The only “game stopping” bug I’ve encountered has been when my Pip-Boy stopped showing up; it was technically there (I could hear the beeps) but it would not render. Saved my game, exited, and it was there upon my return.

Beyond that, I’ve seen Dogmeat fall off ledges, some enemies get stuck, and the AI act goofy in the thousands of ways you put up with in Skyrim for years.

#JustGameybroThings

#JustGamebryoThings

Considering I was fully bracing for the Fallout: New Vegas-esque “download a fan hack to be able to even play the game,” this is one of the smoothest Fallout releases, ever. The bar is laying on the floor, but still.

Gameplay

It’s Fallout 3/New Vegas.

…in fact, I’m almost concerned. I played those games so much, nearly everything about them is a known quantity. It’s like quitting WoW for a few years and then resubbing for the expansion – things have changed here and there, but you fall into your old habits pretty quickly. Fallout 4 is going to have to do a lot to surprise me in any way. Not that it has to necessarily, but it can’t rely on novelty to get me in the mood.

By the way, I know it’s largely a thematic issue and all, but it would it kill them to not reuse all the posters and even radio songs from Fallout 3? The asset recycling got so bad in New Vegas that the entire game ended up feeling like an expansion to Fallout 3 rather than its own game. Thus far, Fallout 4 is getting a pass from me (voiced main character adds a little… character, to the story), but it’s a tiny bit disappointing just the same.

Crafting

The crafting system in Fallout 4 reminds me of exactly how garbage-tier The Witcher 3’s crafting is. I’ll have to make another post on this topic, as I feel a rant coming on.

In Fallout 4’s case, the crafting system is both robust and perhaps too clever for its own good. As you may have heard, now everything is useful. Which is great! And miserably awful. Here is an example:

There went my afternoon.

There went my afternoon.

Rather than require discrete units of a particular item – such as Wonderglue in Fallouts past – nearly every goddamn thing in the game world can be broken down into crafting components. This is pretty cool, as it was a giant pain in the ass in prior games when you unlocked a weapon blueprint and then spent the next two hours desperately looking for that one specific item in all the junk of the world.

The downsides… are many, unfortunately. First, when everything is useful, you tend to want to grab everything. There was never any reason to hoard telephones and hotplates and all the random bullshit debris in abandoned buildings before, but now there is. Right now, screws in particular seem almost more important than purified water. I love how you can “Tag for Search” specific components though, as it will tag items you are looking at with a magnifying glass icon to remind you that you need to grab that specific thing without having to double-check some crafting spreadsheet.

The second issue is that it appears Bethesda really, really wants everyone to have Charisma 6 for the first rank of the Local Leader perk. Without that perk, all of the Workshops you encounter in the world aren’t connected, e.g. they are not a shared stash. Which doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that you can easily grab 100 lbs of random garbage in any given building. Can you Fast Travel back to your whatever settlement you decide is your main base? Yep. Is it annoying to sit through those load screens just to unload your bags every 15 minutes? Yep.

The last thing that’s annoying feels like something that will get addressed with a fan mod eventually, but it’s still annoying right now. Basically, there’s no prioritization when it comes to breaking down “Junk” for crafting components. In the picture above, you’ll notice how one of the items being broke down is the Giddyup Buttercup Body. I actually already collected various pieces of this item (which is a little wooden horse toy), and I imagine that there may be some kind of trick or achievement to reconstruct it. Or would have been, had I not scavenged it for screws. Same deal with Deathclaw Hands: if you aren’t careful, those will be scrapped for generic leather, of all things. Not sure if there are craftable Deathclaw Gauntlets this time around, but for sure there are Baseball Grenades that require intact baseballs, and the game won’t stop you from breaking those down into leather either.

So the bottom line is that you have to be particularly vigilant when crafting lest you scrap an item you’ll need intact later. Which is a pain in the ass, considering Workshops have a “Transfer All Junk” button that’s too convenient not to use. I have taken to transferring everything over, then manually picking out what I suspect will be useful and placing those in a separate container.

Revamped Perk/Leveling System

I don’t know how I feel about it.

Actually, that’s a lie. Right now, I don’t like it. Back in the day, Skill Points were really like the old WoW talents in that there is really no “choice” in the matter (after you chose your direction) and the tiny incremental improvements didn’t feel that impactful either. That said, their absence leaves a void. For example, Sneak (Rank 1) makes you 25% harder to detect. Uh… 25% more than what? What’s the baseline? Another example are the gun perks, which gives a given weapon type (rifle, pistol, etc) +20% extra damage. There are level requirements to most Perks, so you can’t just get +80% damage with rifles right off the bat, but the difference between that first rank and not having one is immense.

I mean… okay… 20% immense, but still.

Amusingly, the way the game is set up, you can get at least a stat or two up to 10 right off the bat, granting you access to the “top tier” Perks straight away. Further ranks are gated by levels, but it’s an interesting approach. Want to be a level 2 character with Grim Reaper’s Sprint? Go for it.

The tricky part is that after character creation, the only way to access deeper Perks is to spend your Perk point from leveling up to raise the SPECIAL stat it corresponds to. Want to just start playing the game like a normal person? Fuck you, newbie, now you gotta spend the next four levels getting nothing of value. This is the situation I’m in with the whole Local Leader perk – in order to get one rank in Local Leader, I’ll need to dump three points into Charisma to unlock it (I only had Charisma set to 3 at the beginning). At the moment, I’m thinking that I don’t actually need that perk that bad, but it still sucks knowing that I could have “fixed” things at the beginning had I not, you know, started playing the game.

Skip “optimizing the fun out of the game” one time, and this is what happens. Lesson learned.

More?

Yes. Despite the negatives above, I have a burning desire to get back to playing. And I shall do so.

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Posted on November 12, 2015, in Impressions and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I think the new perk system is excellent. The Local Leader issue seems more like a balancing oversight than anything else. Weird to lock a feature behind a character choice like that. I might could understand if the entire Charisma line were dedicated to Settlements.

    I really like earning something every level and all the stats seem useful, so it is nice to be able to add to them directly. I wouldn’t be upset if the next Elder Scrolls game dropped skills too.

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    • I dunno. What I miss here is being able to put Skill Points into Rifles or whatever and see the VATS hit chance slowly increase with each level. I’ve had the same miserable ~45% chance to get a headshot from 20 ft away with all my weapons since level 1, as it seems entirely governed strictly by Perception ranks. I could put more points in straight Perception, of course, but then I miss out on huge things like an additional +20% damage and the like. Plus, it’s not like I’m looking for anything deeper in Perception to choose Perk-wise, so it only feels half as good a benefit.

      Blarg.

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  2. My thoughts so far. Note that I haven’t played a ton yet (doing side areas on the way to Diamond City, level 9 currently). and I haven’t really followed development at all. I honestly wasn’t planning on buying it, but received it as a surprise gift so welp!

    – I find it very odd that I’m prioritizing picking up scrap over guns. I haven’t hit any vendors yet, so that might change, but I have no idea how many caps I have and I have no reason to save for anything. (Maybe you want to save guns to arm settlers in your settlements? No idea.) Had no idea about the potentially useful items you mention getting scrapped, that’s something I’ll have to look out for.

    – Speaking of settlements, so far all I’ve done is the initial quest in Sanctuary. So far, settlements seem like a good idea poorly implemented. There needs to be more incentives (or links to future incentives); I was stunned when the first quest ended and there was no follow-up quest with additional handholding (assigning settlers to defenses, using power, actually fighting off an attack, etc.) Hopefully I just haven’t gotten to it yet.

    – I think gaining a stat point OR perk every level is fine, but the presentation is terrible. I’m not sure what would be better, but I think something like Diablo II’s talent trees with different tabs for each stat and the associated perks. My friend thought that perks were automatically unlocked with SPECIAL points, so he leveled PER from 3 to like 8 trying to get advanced lockpicking. (Actually, that’s probably a better design; leveling the SPECIAL stat gets you the base-level perk, then you can choose to invest additional points in perks vice stats, Would have to rebalance things significantly though.) Definitely agree that more info about what does what affects what would be helpful.

    – I think my favorite feature so far is being able to do the PIPboy on my smartphone.

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  3. I’ve been trying on survival mode and it basically adds difficulty by giving enemies way too much health. The first deathclaw fight in Concord becomes a laughable game of find the exploit. I think I’ll wait for modders to fix that one.

    I have the same problem with the crafting system. I really don’t want to be bothered with picking up all the random junk I find, and it feels weird, to say the least, to run around in workshop mode and salvage cars and shelves and everything else. Not the most immersive thing I’ve ever encountered.

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