The Future of the Commonwealth: Fallout 4 Review

Having played an unhealthy amount of Fallout 4 since its release, I've finally set some time aside to review the game and cover what it did well...
By Lulu · Nov 23, 2015 · Updated Nov 23, 2015
  1. Lulu
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    Nearly two weeks have gone by since the release of Fallout 4, and now that my head is finally clear of the inescapable hype and excitement for the game, it's time to collect the many thoughts I've had over the many hours spent traversing the Commonwealth. Be forewarned, I've experienced most of the game and I have completed the main quests, so there will be spoilers.

    I have put an unhealthy amount of time into the predecessors of Fallout 4. Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas left a substantial impression on me and the series instantly became my all-time favorite. When Fallout 4 was first teased, my mind began racing as I thought of what Bethesda Softworks was going to hit its fans with next. After the critical success of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and the confirmation that the next game in the Fallout series would utilize their newly constructed Creation Engine, the anticipation for Fallout 4 steadily grew. Although there were rumors that it would be taking place in Boston, where I grew up, I didn't expect it to be true and I certainly didn't believe it when Bethesda stated that it was the truth.

    My next doubts arose when Bethesda's own Todd Howard showcased the game during its presentation at E3. The demo displayed a totally revamped dialogue system, interactive Power Armor and a game that just didn't look like a Fallout game. I was utterly convinced that they couldn't possibly release a next-gen Fallout game that felt reminiscent of the rest of the series.

    Those doubts were completely shattered when I stepped into the game. I was immediately thrown into a compelling cinematic that tells the story of the Fallout world. "War never changes," speaks the game's protagonist, as he delivers the series' iconic line. The lore of Fallout is explained, detailing the moment in time that differs from our own history. When World War II came to an end with the atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world realized that nuclear power had more applications than just as weapons. The world entered a time of enlightenment with the realization that it could be used for energy. Although they prospered, this new world became greedy in its attempts to control resources, and in time it grew complacent. Economies hinged on certain resources, and without them countries were doomed to fall. Left with no other option, the world entered its former blind state, turning towards war and conflict yet again.


    Credit for the video goes to YouTube user TrueCutScenes.

    After this cinematic, I was introduced to my character and their spouse, whom I could customize to my choosing, as well as my infant son, Shaun. Outside of my house, I saw the world of Fallout like never before: the world before the Great War. However, as any Fallout fan would know, that time in history wouldn't last much longer. Shortly after interacting with Shaun and my spouse, an announcement appeared on the television with reports of nuclear attacks within the U.S. Struck with panic, the entire country delved into what bunkers it could, while our protagonist had no choice but to flee to the local Vault: the only hope for survival.

    Vault 111, like any other Vault, was not what I expected. The creators of the Vault, Vault-Tec, had a twofold plan in place when they established the Vaults. Ensuring the survival of the Vault residents was only one task given to the Overseer of each Vault, while the other purpose was more sinister. In Vault 111's case, the idea was to gauge what would happen to unaware test subjects if they were in cryogenic stasis for a prolonged amount of time. Shortly after entering a "Decontamination Pod", my character was frozen for an undisclosed amount of time before waking up to someone opening the pod across from my own, containing my spouse and my infant son. A woman in a suit and a rugged, armed man began to take my child out of my husband's hands, and due to his refusal to give Shaun up, he was shot dead and left in the pod as they reactivated the cryogenic stasis.

    My character wakes up a second time from her stasis and I immediately tried to open the pod containing my spouse. Knowing there was no way to bring them back, my character takes the ring from her husband's body and vows to find Shaun and whoever did this to their family.

    After escaping Vault 111, I was given the freedom signature to the Fallout series. I had all of the choices in the world of where I wanted to go first and who I wanted to find first. I was able to choose exactly what person I wanted to play as with the different dialogue options. A mercenary shaped by the loss of my family was there for me, but I had wanted to be someone who could make the Commonwealth a better place. Not long after I began my adventures in the Commonwealth, I heard a distress signal that led me to the Cambridge Police Station where a squadron from the Brotherhood of Steel was being overrun by Feral Ghouls. As I had done in Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, I sided with the Brotherhood of Steel, which introduced me to a chain of quests that I had only dreamed of in previous games.

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    Before getting any further into the story, I'd like to mention the most unbelievable thing about this game. Despite all of my skepticism going into it, worrying about how it wouldn't 'feel like Fallout,' all of my disbelief was completely shattered when I actually began playing it. The combat, though it was brand new and built from the ground-up, managed to make me feel like I was still in a Fallout game. It wasn't always fast-paced, but it was open and I had any number of ways to approach the enemies I fought. Whether I wanted to lay traps for Feral Ghouls, or just gun down any Raiders and Super Mutants I saw, I had all of those options. In every case, I just knew that I was playing Fallout. To me, it is an amazing feat that this is an entirely new game with a new engine, yet it retained everything that made me love the series in its previous installments. VATS was never something I used in earlier games, but I found myself using it during tricky encounters in this game when agile enemies could outmaneuver my ability to aim. All of the different types of weaponry got a significant upgrade with the many different types of mods available and I even found myself consistently using energy weapons, which is something I've never done in other Fallout games. Even using melee weapons, which was dull and tedious in Fallout 4's predecessors, proved to be entertaining and useful in a lot of situations.

    Fallout 4 was also able to maintain a healthy balance between wanting to explore the world and wanting to do quests. I wasn't forced to do either one, which is what I expect from Fallout. Every location in the game had something unique to offer and I was frequently rewarded for my efforts with collectibles and oftentimes, a rare weapon or piece of armor. Although I was disappointed by the lack of "unique weapons" that I exclusively used in Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, the enhanced modding and crafting system in the game did fill that gap.

    Although I could choose whether or not to do the quests, the plot felt like it was well thought-out and I wanted to see it through sooner rather than later. Plot twists are not something that I thought would be present in Fallout 4, but I got my fair share of them through my interactions with Kellogg and, later on, Shaun. After reuniting with my long-lost son, I decided to put my familial attachments behind for what I felt was the betterment of the Commonwealth. Although Elder Maxson was an unusually ruthless leader of a Brotherhood of Steel chapter, I have always thought that their goals in the post-apocalyptic America were the most realistic and beneficial. Having decided to ally myself with them, I was surprised to actually see that your character is a genuine part of the Brotherhood of Steel. Unlike any other Fallout game, I was actually able to join the Brotherhood of Steel and advance through the ranks. When I was a lowly Initiate, no one paid me the time of day, as respect from the higher-ups in the Brotherhood was not warranted for me. After accomplishing some major feats within the Brotherhood of Steel, I was promoted to Knight and after I had gone above and beyond to advance the Brotherhood's goals, I was made a Paladin. After finishing the main quest, successful in the Brotherhood's task to destroy the Institute, I finally saw the iron-willed Maxson tone it down a bit, just before granting me the title of Sentinel.

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    With all loose ends tied and no more feeling like I had an obligation to do the main quests, I began to fully explore the Commonwealth. The variety of challenges in the many different locations in the game kept me on my toes, but I was also having an absurd amount of fun. There was so much put into every minor location in the game, and the crazy part about them was that a lot of people will never see those places. There is so much optional content in the game that it becomes hard to imagine that very many will get to see everything the game has to offer without a couple hundred hours' expenditure.

    That said, Fallout 4 is not without its flaws. Although the play testers were surely instrumental in making the game solid and largely bug-free, it can't compare to the millions of people who have been playing the game since its release. The game has its fair share of bugs, especially with settlements, but overall it's a more solid release than any other game Bethesda has released. Playing on the PC, however, I do have access to some commands to alleviate some of the bugs I've seen in some settlements. I have sunken over 80 hours into the game and I've yet to experience any game-breaking bugs or any major issues at all, really.

    The soundtrack is a major improvement from its predecessors as well. Although the songs I hear on the radio are mostly recycled from Fallout 3, there are a lot of additions that make it feel familiar yet refreshingly new. Aside from the radio songs, the game's actual soundtrack that I hear whilst exploring and doing various tasks around the Commonwealth is fitting, and adds even more enjoyment to the game.

    Visually, the game is stunning; even on my medium graphical settings with lighting turned to their lowest possible levels. Although Fallout 4 was met with some criticism regarding its graphics both before and after its release, it more than achieves a level of "next-gen graphics" that gamers generally expect to see in recently made games. The lip-syncing animations with character dialogue could use some work, but that is my only criticism towards how the game looks. Every location looks and feels different to explore, and having been in Boston many times, I was actually able to figure out where I was and where to go based on how the streets and locations on the map were structured. It is apparent that even though the game had to be scaled down in size from the real-life Boston, it was recreated as well as it could have been. The enemies in the game got a serious face-lift from previous installments as well, with Ghouls obviously looking the most different. Feral Ghouls look and act as terrifying as they should, and their more sane counterparts look like how I always imagined they should. Super Mutants look more vicious and fighting them is no longer a joke like it was in other Fallout games. Every visual aspect of the franchise got a significant upgrade in Fallout 4 and aesthetically, the game is great overall.

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    I would have wholeheartedly recommended this game and the entire Fallout series to anyone if they had asked me whether or not they should try the game out. Having experienced a good amount of Fallout 4, I can safely say that you will find a lot of enjoyment in it if it is your type of game. I can also safely say that this would be my top pick for Game of the Year.

    Aside from my claims that this game is a success, many others have stated that Fallout 4 is a major success, having broken several records and topped the charts. For me, only one question remains.

    If you've seen the ending of the game, you know that you literally reshape the Commonwealth and truly decide its fate. Whether you sided with the Institute, the Brotherhood of Steel, the Railroad, or the Minutemen, the Commonwealth changed when you made that final decision. Future expansions were confirmed long ago with the selling of the Season Pass, but what will we see from those expansions? Bethesda might have a Broken Steel-type of DLC planned that will explore the aftermath of the choices we made. We saw several characters from Fallout 3 make a return in Fallout 4. Perhaps we will see even more characters make a comeback for future expansions.

    How did you feel about Fallout 4, if you played through it? What kind of expansions do you think Bethesda has in the works for their fans in the future? Let me know in the comments below.

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