Bethesda: I know that you know that I know that you are working on a Fallout game.
Early in development, you are forming the basis of the game, and I just wanted to air out some of the things about Fallout that I love and loathe. So come with me down my fever dream fueled flagellation of Fallout.
Ahh, the setting. Why is it that games similar to or inspired by the Fallout series are plotted in barren wastelands that feel populated, whereas Fallout is set in a ruined metropolis that is surprisingly empty? That’s right; we’re coming in hot on the first criteria. When you create a world, you typically want to fill it with so many things that many of them will remain hidden. The world must feel as varied and wondrous as our world. Even in large stretches of empty land, you can find points of interest in the real world, so crawling through a metropolis should hold years worth of exploration, scavenging, and wanton violence. In Fallout 3 and 4, the game world is largely one type of terrain surrounding a ruined city. That is not to say that there were not interesting areas – there just weren’t many. I also remember the days of Vaults having an absurd amount of floors. A dungeon crawl of epic proportions were thought of when a Vault was discovered in Fallout 1 and 2, and, although the game Brotherhood of Steel was a departure from the RPG format, it forever cemented what a vault should be in my mind. The entire final chapter took place in a vault, and to those who have only played Fallout 3 and 4, it may sound boring. This vault, however, was guarded by massive automated turrets that would make a behemoth think twice and is easily as big as the city of Los. Give us a setting with both numerous and massive points of interest. Vaults, military bases, and faction bases should give us a true chance to dungeon crawl.
It is no secret that I felt that Fallout 4 was a good game but a poor Fallout game. While the story of the main character seeking out his/her son is a compelling (if cliche) one, the story missed out on a huge Fallout staple – showing us how our choices impacted the game. This seems to be due, in large part, to the dumbed down speech options. Our character used to be able to say nearly anything we ourselves would say and was changed to an affirmative answer, a negative answer, an inquisitive response, and either a skill check or end to the dialogue. In Fallout 4, we were given a branching linear story instead of a true branching story with four factions. In the end, we get to hear a monologue about how there is no going back, and if you’re anything like me, you were disappointed by how your character had a stock ending with the only difference being which faction you backed in the story. You never hear about how your deeds impacted the settlements, your companions, or key characters throughout the commonwealth. This may sound like a small complaint, but in Fallout, this is a huge component of its storytelling. Fallout has always been a story about the impact that one person can have on the world and the long reaching results that person’s choice(s) effected. When you take that into account at the end of Fallout 4, the ending feels… hollow; hollow in a way that long time fans may have felt truly let down by.
One of my favorite things in any game is being able to work with and help multiple factions. The game that did this the best was Fallout: New Vegas, and the worst was Brotherhood of steel. Fallout 4 had four factions you could interact with (DLC doesn’t count for or against any of the games in this discussion yet). Essentially, you could pick one and help it achieve supremacy. In Fallout: New Vegas, only one of four factions can establish supremacy. The lesser factions can find their own ending, gaining strength, escaping the Mohave, or even being wiped out. It also helps that, in the New Vegas’ faction system, the faction won’t try to kill me for accidentally picking up a Nuka-Cola after highhandedly winning them the Commonwealth. The lesser factions help give the world a living sense of agency. Give us a wealth of factions that are either joinable or offer us jobs. Even if they are simple collection quests like the Brotherhood Outcasts provided in Fallout 3. Allowing us to arm and supply factions could even be incorporated in game, much like settlements in Fallout 4. Perhaps even give us the ability to create factions? Just a thought Bethesda, just a thought.
Now I may be the guy on the outside here but why can’t we play as either a ghoul or a super mutant? It could unlock some fun game mechanics, perhaps some hostiles turn friendly, a buff to some stats and a debuff to others? In this regard, I think it is long overdue for us to be able to play another race. It could drastically alter the story and gear that could be equipped. We could even have an open ended beginning where we make our character and choose our background before the game even starts. Variety is the spice of life, Bethesda, and can only help our escape into the Fallout game.
The new perk system is unimaginative, as well. Small incremental gains that really don’t change how anyone plays. It simply lineates where they can possibly go, mainly due to lock picking and hacking skills. Gone are the days of having bonuses over certain groups of enemies because they are either tribal or capable of running a nation. Gone is the wild wasteland and truly unique builds since everyone can do everything as if we are cookie cutter heroes.
Otherwise, not much can be said about the player character.
The Fallout franchise has taken an odd one step forward one step back when it comes to Fallout 4 and has lost some key aspects of the Fallout franchise. The ending has changed, our perks have changed to a small percentile increase, our traits have vanished with the wild wasteland. Gone are the days of the Mutant splinter armies that were left behind after the destruction of The Master and now we have toss away explanations for why super mutants exist. Variety becomes dust in the radioactive torrents as human mutants are limited to Super Mutants or Ghouls with no creative ambition to improve. The Calculator and its death robots are gone as the enemies become more and more simplistic.
The Brotherhood in the west has become a sad remnant, even though small governments become countries unto themselves… leaving less and less room for imaginative works to be accomplished. The vast wasteland which is filled with deadly mutated creatures, raiders, and Mohave, and who knows what else becomes a simple stroll for caravans and individuals. Massive vaults and shelters are replaced by small and impossibly compact living quarters.
Let us have Fallout!