I can remember the first Fallout game I played was New Vegas, way way back in middle school when all I had to worry about was Mrs. Parker's science tests and how I was going to get out of gym class that day. I'd never played anything like it before, it really changed the way I looked at video games. I began to see them more as a means of telling a story, of creating a unique world and complex entertainment experience full of grays instead of the black and white of Halo 3 or the comedic simplicity of Lego Star Wars (a childhood favorite of mine). And then, after finally claiming the city of New Vegas for the New California Republic (please forgive me it was my first play through) I found out that the next one was years away. It wouldn't be until I started college that the next Fallout would grace the world. I feel like now it's been out long enough for some honest discussion on the topic.
I wish I could say it evoked the same response that the last did. I don't know, maybe I'm just a bitter old man. Maybe I am a cynic, unable to see the good in life anymore. It certainly didn't help when the ending was spoiled online by a bunch of trollers.
Remember when you had giant territory-controlling factions with little third party enclaves sprinkled between, and walking into a camp in the wrong armor was enough to get you killed? No? What about when it felt like every city and town was a fully fleshed out entity, a little enclave of civilization that had some stake in the outcome of your machinations? You had entire tribes of people at your mercy, begging for your aid. Because I remember those days.
Alright, what about this. Do you remember when you had a character that was given the basic minimum, a gender, name and a little bit of info to spice things up, to make him/her more unique and than you're tossed to the wolves? For example, you're a courier who is shot in the head who embarks on a quest to find the shooter, only to become embroiled in the politics of an entire region. Or your entire life gets turned upside down and you are forced from the comfort of the only home you ever knew leads to an epic quest to find your father and answers.
Instead, we now have a wife. And a kid. It has been established for you that you were in fact a soldier in one of the wars leading up to 2077. Somewhere along the line after you got a wife/husband and had a wonderful baby boy, you purchased a robot butler to help around the house in the perfect nuclear family. And then a Chinese nuclear warhead is detonated in the nearby vicinity, thus jumpstarting the game. What if I don't want kids or a wife? What if I don't want to be some war veteran or mother? what if I want to be an angst ridden gay dude who wants to jumpstart the second atomic holocaust?
The entire plot centers around revenge, on justice and recovering what was lost and never once does it feel like you're focused on actually fixing the Commonwealth. Even when you've met with all of the major players, heard their pitches and their promises, it still revolves around your son and his machinations to get rid of the other players, if you side with him. If not, you can kill him and destroy everything he's built. And even at the end of it, there's a chance that you've basically gone back to square one depending on decisions and have a synthetic son. Shaun 2.0 as it were, and that makes it a bit more awkward if you've just shot your golden baby boy in the face with a shotgun.
You've just decided the fate of an entire region of the world, you've played God on a massive scale with the lives of hundreds and yet you don't see it. Instead you get a short few sentences on a black and white slideshow with practically the same lines with a few modifications for one of 4 endings. How life changes, and you cant stop it etcetera etcetera. Then they say it. War...War never changes. And you've got your post campaign play, free of consequences to run around like you did before you found your son.
If you're going to do a more linear RPG, do a more linear RPG. Nothing wrong with it. But if you're going to do a Fallout game, do a Fallout game and don't pretend or aspire to be something else. People bought the hype instead of the game, a bold claim sure but one that I think is defendable given the sheer number of trailer reaction films on Youtube with people oohing and awing at the fact there was another German Shepard named Dogmeat. Instead of actually doing something new, something innovative, you just ride that sweet, sweet wave of nostalgia and bring back Liberty Prime. Content to make little changes here and there, like adding fusion cores for power armor. Maybe you could even take some time out of pillaging to build up a settlement and make sure everyone's happy. But you won't.
That's not even to mention the atrocity that is the dialogue wheel, four meaningful choices where three secretly mean yes, and the fourth is no. What happened to the dialogue box? The over simplification of what is arguably one of the most important mechanics in the game is quite honestly unforgivable in my eyes, and what might be one of the biggest reasons I haven't touched it since I first beat it.
It evolved as a shooter, but devolved as an RPG. A common complaint perhaps even cliché, but when you're talking about one of the most well known franchises in the world, it must be brought up. In the end it felt like Fallout 4 was trying to do everything, to compete with everything and grab as big a piece of the pie as possible. The crafting element, the settlement building, the new shooter element, the voice acting, the more linear plot, and in the end it just started to come apart from me. Were I a more tinfoil hat kind of man I'd say Uncle Howard tried a bit too hard to compete with The Witcher 3. On that note I leave you now with the immortal words of Rose of Sharon Cassidy.