Find Hope In ‘Fallout 4’s’ Nuke-Ravaged Landscape

The 4K patch for the Playstation Pro is evident in these screenshots. Graphically, “Fallout 4” is surprisingly decent. The scenic backdrops and vast open-world is something to behold. Screenshots from Playstation 4 Pro

As a gamer that happens to be a father of four, I’m naturally drawn to stories that deal with parents and children. I enjoyed the father-daughter dynamic in “The Last of Us” and I’m looking forward to the father-son storyline in “God of War 4.” Not knowing how a story is going to unfold and finding yourself caring about the characters involved is one of those intangible moments in video games that often go unnoticed by anyone who isn’t a “gamer.”

My latest pleasant surprise came from a title I was not expecting to deliver, “Fallout 4: Game of the Year edition.”

And you don’t have to wait long for the emotional hook. In the first 30 minutes of gameplay you will learn your character is enjoying the recent birth of his son along with his wife and just received residency (should the family need it) inside a nearby fallout shelter. To say the timing was fortuidous would be an understatement.

The air raid alarm sounds in your small suburb of Boston and the community is hurried to the nearby shelter underground. You grab your wife and newborn boy and race to the entrance and as you turn to enter you see it off in the distance — the flash of light anyone living in a time of nuclear weapons fears the most — a bomb dropped on nearby Boston and the devastation it brings speeding toward you. You manage to enter the shelter and unknowingly are put on ice in a cryogenic chamber. Nearly two centuries pass and you’re awoken by a disturbance in the shelter, just in time to see your wife shot in the head by a group of men who carry away your newborn child — and, given your condition, you’re helpless to stop them.

So begins hour one of hundreds available in “Fallout 4.”

Gameplay

I sort of knew what I was getting into being “Fallout 4” is a product of Bethesda, a studio known for vast open-world role-playing games similar to the Skyrim series. What I didn’t expect was just how similar many of the mechanics would be, and in a good way.

You can play “Fallout” in third- or first-person but I highly recommend playing in the first person; third can feel janky at times and the over-the-shoulder camera has a pretty bad blind spot over your characters left shoulder.

I found myself constantly comparing this game to “Skyrim,” a game originally created for the Playstation 3 and remastered for Playstation 4 and one I spent a good 15-20 hours playing. The first time I was asked to pick a lock in “Fallout” I laughed because the exact same mechanic was used in “Skyrim.” Playing a new game but having some familiarity with the mechanics makes it that much easier to assimilate one’s self with. Also working in its favor is the fact “Fallout” was developed and made specifically for the Playstation 4, so the big-idea mechanics Bethesda is known for are much sophisticated and developed. Playing on the Playstation 4 Pro doesn’t hurt either, given the game runs at 1440p and has increased graphic fidelity in many categories.

The best example of playing a game built for the latest gen system can be found in the game’s word-building mechanic. As you traverse the nuke-ravaged remains of the Greater Boston area you’ll come across settlements that need not only your protection but also your interior design skills. You can create homes, bars, armories, just about anything you want, and you can arm the properties with turrets, gun-toting settlers and animals, just to name a few. What “Skyrim” lacked in game mechanics ‘Fallout” provides in spades. I spent some play sessions just building a settlement. There are times, however, the typography of the land itself will make doing exactly what you want damn near impossible, but with some ingenuity and patience you can create the settlement you envision.

The 4K patch for the Playstation Pro is evident in these screenshots. Graphically, “Fallout 4” is surprisingly decent. The scenic backdrops and vast open-world is something to behold. Screenshots from Playstation 4 Pro

The game definitely scratches the itch in a number of categories. The world-building element plays to the Sim genre as you’ll have to maintain your settlements to keep the inhabitants happy; the astronomical amount of items to be collected and lack of space on your character plays well to the OCD-types (or doesn’t play well depending on how you look at it); and the first-person combat is pretty satisfying, for a Bethesda game.

Going Nuclear

I’ve poured probably the most hours into “Fallout 4” than I have any Playstation 4 game prior. My affinity for the game does not, however, makeup for some of its shortfalls.

The game’s menu system comes in the form of an armband your character wears and for some reason it’s a very retro style computer screen appearance (technology enough to protect from a nuclear war but not enough for a clean looking monitor, apparently). I had to play with a few different font colors so that I could see my inventory lists a little more clearly, that was a little annoying.

Having to see my inventory list wouldn’t be such a problem except for the fact that inventory management can feel like 75 percent of the game. I found myself constantly battling to find space for items I was collecting as I traveled. I really like how every item has a purpose, but I also found myself searching for items more than actually just playing the game. I think you spend half of the game looking down to make sure you’re not missing anything. As you progress through the game you can raise certain skill levels so you can carry more items and carry items after you’ve reached your limit – but it’s not enough.

I told myself I wasn’t going to leave stuff behind in one of the areas, it happened to be a vault area during one of the main story missions. I slugged along with 827 items in my inventory ? that’s 532 more than my character was allowed to carry. It took me a good 10 minutes to walk back to one of my settlements so I could unload all of that gear. That’s pretty ridiculous.

Once you unload your gear there is at least a convenient category named “junk” that lets you know it’s strictly for items to break down to craft and build. However, you’re constantly weighing which pieces of weapons and armor you should sell for currency or break down for rare building materials. Many hours are spent just sorting inventory and making these inconsequential decisions.

A New World

When the only fault, although a lengthy one, deals with a poor inventory management system I’d consider the game a major success in my book. There’s too much not to like in “Fallout.”

Fortunately or unfortunately, the game has set a new standard for how I’ll think about large, open-world RPG games in the future. Each time I sat down and played the game, I never felt like I was doing something I didn’t want to do. You can spend time building your bases, completing side quests and main story missions, sorting inventory (haha) or just exploring the vast open world. And in an almost Pavlov’s Dog sort of way, hearing the simple jingle everytime I found a new area, successfully picked a lock or leveled up quenched my addictive tendancies.

Tips

¯ Take the time to read up on some online guides, especially when it comes to settlement building. I wasted a lot of time incorrectly wiring my settlement lighting. Having a complex system is great, not having an in-game tutorial? Not so much.

¯ If you’re too lazy to look online, my main tip for powering your settlement is use as few conductor poles as you need and instead string together the smaller conduits. This is less gaudy and accomplishes the same purpose and uses even fewer crafting materials.

¯ The skill tree can be daunting. Do not try and make an average character, but instead load up on strength and intelligence and then sprinkle the rest around. I recommend skilling up the ability to upgrade weapons and lockpicking early on. Passing on the high-level locks early on can be annoying and odds are you’ll never make it back to unlock them if you don’t early on.

¯ If you’re going for the Platinum PSN trophy, be sure you read up on the guide so that you do not reach the point of no return on your quest logs. There are factions you join throughout the game, but if you progress too far you’ll be unable to return to complete the needed quests.

There are a number of factions you can join and perform missions for. One lands you on a giant blimp. Screenshots from Playstation 4 Pro

Slowing time down using V.A.T.S. gives you different perspectives during battle.

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