I’m about fifteen hours into the behemoth that is Fallout 4 (look for my full review to come out later in the week). As the popular saying would suggest, some things never change. Some things, however, do change. I’ve been pondering those changes throughout my play through, and found that many of the most obvious changes are closer to simple iterations on systems that Bethesda has implemented in other games. There is an eerie Skyrim aura when I enter the new and improved crafting system, or pour over the simplified S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skill tree.
This is not to suggest that these aspects of the game are boring or broken, only to say that as an RPG aficionado, I am already very familiar with them (many were even present to an extent in New Vegas.) What has hit me the most, of all of what Fallout 4 has to offer thus far, is its environment and how it changes how I approach a Fallout game.
For those not in the know, this game takes place in Boston and the surrounding communities, or as it becomes known in the game, The Commonwealth. What is great about the new setting is that it has given Bethesda the opportunity to show off what a post-apocalyptic city might truly feel like. Now, Fallout 3 took place in a metropolitan area as well. However, the limitations of the time prevented it from truly feeling like a city. The reality was that D.C. was a series of enlarged hallways with a bunch of garbage blocking every nook and cranny you attempted to explore. New Vegas completely ditched such illusions and put the players in the middle of a desert. Therefore, my preferred character build has always been that of the “glass cannon” sniper, who sneaks around and kills at a distance.
In the Commonwealth, the streets are thin and the enemy close. I find my play style more difficult with plenty of cover for my enemies, and with countless alleys for reinforcements to hide in. That’s right – alleys. When you see a nook or cranny in Fallout 4, there is a 90% chance that it can be accessed. Debris and makeshift fortifications litter the city, making my life simultaneously easier and more difficult. Enemies in previous games traveled in small packs and were fairly dispersed. I was playing last night, and while sneaking around a squad of five Super Mutants I opened a gate to find seven Raiders. As if I didn’t have enough on my plate, the game threw in a legendary enemy as if to laugh at my plight.
The internet has been clamoring about the map being somewhat smaller than past games. While I cannot speak authoritatively, I can say that I do believe that is true. However, it feels vastly bigger because of its design. It also, to the credit of the developers, feels far more dangerous. Furthermore, each city block seems to house at least one location that can be fully explored. Even unnamed locations and buildings tend to be accessible and, more often than not, home to a group of Raiders or Super Mutants.
Needless to say, I make sure to carry a combat shotgun alongside my rifle for “close encounters.”