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Fallout 4 (PC) artwork

Fallout 4 (PC) review

"A great experience with the expected Bethesda-bourne flaws."

I’ve actually reviewed this before but it was more of a First Impressions back when I only had 11 hours played. While that’s plenty to get a general feel for the mechanics, the core experience does not fully come into play after several dozen. For context: Steam currently has me recorded for 364 hours now. I think that gives me some credibility, don’t you think?

FO4 had taken the industry by storm, and the internet was buzzing about Bethesda's return to the franchise. Everyone called out of work (or at least quipped about doing so), other gaming companies have referenced it, and reports stated that it broke sales records. I recommend it, especially if you're a fan of the revival of the franchise.

However, there are two different ways to review this game, and the same could be said for most Bethesda games. There’s the vanilla game, and then there’s modded.

We’ll talk about how I felt about the game pre-mods first.

I'm a very chill player. My panties did not become twisted over the power armor rehaul, the early deathclaw attack, the graphics (at the time I was just happy it could even run on my toaster oven). the odd dialog system (which I found a little irritating) and even the perk system doesn't bother me too much. If anything, it's just reminiscent of their work on Skyrim (Which people are still playing several years later).

You may hear tales of how... punishing FO4 is compared to its predecessors.

New Vegas had its own "Hard" areas. Namely that if you went straight north as soon as possible, you'd run right into a quarry of deathclaws. FO4 boasts that the farther south you go, the harder the enemies become. This doesn't seem to translate that well into the game. Starting on Easy difficulty, one of my first quests is to get to the main city: Diamond City. A mere twenty minutes into my game, skipping the settlement tutorial quests (I just wanted to see the world and was not about to waste two hours in one town - I got into that much later), I ran into a gunner gang (who have combat armor and military weapons) and died immediately. Reloading save, I evaded this encampment and ran into a super mutant takeover that's right in front of the bridge to Diamond City. Dying again, I blasted my way through them (knowing what to expect) only to be destroyed by a basic raider armed with the Fat-Man, a nuke-launcher.

There's "beef gates", difficulty levels, and challenging. All of this? Was downright unfair to a gamer's first two hours into the game. I understand the need for a certain learning curve but I was gunned down and torn apart on the upper third of the map. I died dozens of times before coming into my own.

My point is, the game does not necessarily play fair. It forces you into a certain playstyle. They claimed that “South = pain” but really, the safest areas of the map is basically the top left corner where you start. I guess the idea is you just explore, circle back around, deposit your junk in the hometown, rinse and repeat until you can scavenge enough ammunition (which cannot be crafted without mods), armor, and caps to make the more dangerous trek towards Diamond City. To wit; there’s only one nearby ‘vendor’ in the form of a Diner nearby so presumably, if you play the way the game wants you to, you’re basically stuck in one area for a few hours and that puts a stake right in the heart of what’s supposed to be a Bethesda game.

It got better, of course. Over time, across different ‘starting’ characters and saves I got a better idea of where to go to get the highest risk-to-reward yield. I discovered the Brotherhood of Steel outpost, even before they enter the game in a much bigger way, offer you two ‘radiant’ quests (similar to Skyrim’s unlimited questing) which helped a lot with getting chunks of experience, landmarks, and exploration.

Let me run down some other highlights before heading into mod territory.

I love how Bethesda continues the tradition of the game running so many background events regardless if you’re there to witness them or not. Every so often I’ll hear a firefight in the distance or see an explosion and I sometimes never find out the cause. It feels like a real, open world.

I do not like how the game forces you into the hetero-normative nuclear family. I kept trying to justify Nate as a “brother” so the “I love you’s” don’t stand out too much but it’s continually jarring to hear my character talk about her husband when they’re not all that straight.

I like the gunplay, and I don’t care about some of the naysayers. VATs isn’t as important in this game as it was in FO3 or NV which I can appreciate to keep the action going.

I don’t like some of the characters. I think they often fall into the usual “one-trait” trap that goes around in media often. You meet a character and get an establishing character moment and that’s who they are, always. You meet Piper who immediately wears the “intrepid reporter” sign. You meet Nick and he flashes “hard-boiled Noire detective”. Preston is your go-to hero and all around nice guy. And so on, with the occasional exception. Cait gets a fair amount of development as you cure her drug addiction and she gets a bit nicer after that but for everyone else, their loyalty missions are just a pat on the back. “Thanks for being the bestest of buds” is basically what Maccready tells me after I get medicine to save one of his family members.

I do not like the settlement building. I usually just turn on godmode and slam something together to make it look passable. Usually with walls so raiders can stop killing my companions. It usually kills 2-4 hours on every save file I do so hurrah for padding.

This brings us to the second half of this review. Mods.

It’s hardly a secret that Bethesda launches fairly buggy games, however they tend to get a pass from the public because there’s rarely anything game-breaking and the experience tends to outweigh the irritations. There is a camp of people that get outraged that Bethesda games have to rely on the modding community to essentially ‘fix’ the game for them. I can understand the logic but I don’t agree with it. I think mods are great, it puts content in the game that the main studio doesn’t necessarily have the time for. Their resources get put into DLC (none but one of which I liked much, I’ll get to that soon enough) and other games, they ARE a business. Meanwhile modders keep the game alive and is probably the only reason Skyrim still gets played to this day.

Mods can completely alter the experience and I cannot begin to list them (currently 110 mods are active on mine). I will highlight a few, along with some sweeping categories.

First, Bethesda game seems to have an endgame issue. Ultimately most characters end up looking the same. The best armor is usually the combat armor with some outfit that is modded with Ballistic Weave. Everyone usually runs around in X-01 power armor. So after a hundred hours or more of wearing the same stuff, the “Armor” category on mods pages are usually high on my priority.

My ultimate favorite mod is probably True Storms which completely changes how I traverse the world. The rain storms are harsher, and you can barely see through dust storms and fog. It usually forces me to find a landmark to hide inside to wait the storm out, or puts me in a panic when enemies run me down and I just can’t quite see them coming without spamming the VATS hotkey.

I also have Modern Firearms which turns the entire wasteland into a much more dangerous place. The mod makers maintain the logic that bullets should hurt, and two bullets should stop the hurt all together. This makes the game much harder and early game encounters are use-cover-and-die. I know this is contrast to my earlier complaints in the vanilla game, but it’s balanced by armor mods which frankly, don’t quite know how to balance. In vanilla the highest AR you can get is probably the low-mid 200′s and with DLC, I think in the 300 range. With mods I can get above 700 which turns most damage into a joke. However with Modern Firearms and their high damage, there are still the occasional close calls without me getting shredded like I did in the base game.

The ultimate experience comes in rad storms, where you can fully customize ghoul swarms and how large they are and how often they spawn. When a rad storm approaches the game effectively turns into Resident Evil.

It’s one of my favorite aspects of the mod and regardless of how well equipped you may be, there’s always a chance at a Legendary Glowing One popping up and resurrecting several ghouls you had just killed.

Mods always bring new life into the game and I do not judge Bethesda for that.

I will however, judge them on their shitty DLC program. Before I go on to destroy them I will say that I had gotten the 30$ season pass before they hiked it up to 50$ because they claimed the DLC’s value went up during development. Going to go ahead and call bullshit on that, but at least I didn’t spend that extra 20$ that some people did.

I will also say that hey, it’s content. More stuff to do. If that’s what you want then these DLC’s are probably fine.

So let’s talk Workshop:
364 hours. Perhaps played about 200 of those after Nuka World was released, STILL haven't utilized this mod. By the time I'm level 30 (for Nuka World) I'm swimming in 6,000 bullets for my 5.56 rifles, probably 3,000 10mm's for my pistols and 1000 for my shotgun which I'm still not getting through yet. My raider's sword does 1058 damage. My main characters play on Very Hard, one of them will explore Survival soon.

I still probably don't need this mod.

To clarify, I have 'used' this mod. I said I haven't 'utilized' it. A subtle difference.
It's still useless. I made an ammo factory that would help supply my minigun because it does of course eat through ammo. I run off to spend my bullets and play the game and I come back and there's... 20 bullets waiting for me. That's right, this stuff doesn't even work if you're not nearby!

Let’s talk Vault 88:
Were you expecting a pre-built Vault for you to act as a personal playground of experimentation and lunacy? I was! We don’t get that at all.

Instead we arrive to a Vault that's maybe... 20% built. If that. You meet the Overseer and she tasks you with 'revitalizing' the place by clearing three wings and interviewing the first three dwellers, two of which you barely experiment on at all as most of the butt-monkey status goes to a weak willed "Clem".
The quests involved four various 'experiments' but you literally make a dirt clearing and put all four right beside each other. That's it. DLC over. ...Okay?

Some of the results are funny, the dialog is cute, and I loved reading the various "R&D notes" on the terminals you hook up to the experiments. But that was it. The DLC just ends. At best, I got a couple levels out of killing all the ghouls and Radscorpions. Also the ~200 or so units of Nuclear material helped, but I just hauled it over to a different settlement for my own use, not the Vault's.

If there's an option for actual vault building, I haven't found it. It might be buried under my three or so mods that collectively add... probably 1,000 new units in their own right in my settlement building. Otherwise you just plop four things next to each other and ask Clem to participate, and you're done.

...Very weak DLC. Nab it on sale or skip it entirely. Not missing much.

This brings us to Nuka-World:
As of this writing, Steam reviews have this one at a 60% rating, giving this a solid "Mixed". I haven't even read any of the reviews but I think that’s generous. It's certainly content. Stuff to do. If you like that, go for it. Perhaps get it on sale if the Season Pass didn't give it to you.

Spoilers may be involved, though there's not a lot story-wise to spoil. Raiders are backstabbers, who knew?!

This DLC puts you in an all-raider expanded city. You kill an Overboss and suddenly you're leading a supergang of three groups with various personalities, uniforms, and 'quirks'. The first phase of the game is to control five zones with various hazards. For example, the Funhouse area constantly sprays you with radiation. The Galactic Zone has robots and a huge scavenger hunt, which annoys me and I despise by the way. All the console trickery in the world wouldn't let me skip this on my second playthrough.
Each of the five zones are irritating in their own way, mostly through navigation. Every zone is designed like a maze in some fashion.

Anyway. You do all that, your gang wants to expand to the Commonwealth. You're tasked to claim an outpost, effectively a settlement. Then you have to do some wheel and dealing to make that one outpost happy which involves forcing nearby settlements to cough up some supplies.

As much as people meme Preston and the Minutemen, at least he offers the one 'good' ending of the game. Doing the above instantly locks out all dialog with Preston and if he doesn't attack you directly, he abandons you and locks/fails and quests you have with the Minutemen.

The tradeoff is that the gang leaders have their own refreshable quests, but I hope you like loading screens! It's Fast travel galore as a single quest will have you: 1) Travel back to Commonwealth 2) Travel to quest point, do the thing 3) Travel back to Nuka World then 4) Travel to the gang and then 5) Walk into their base to turn in. All that for a measily 100xp.

After three settlement takeovers you do the grand finale - One of the gangs is not pleased with how you passed out territory. (3 gangs, 8 claimable objectives. One will betray you no matter what, so I just tend to go 4/4). Wipe them out, DLC done. Except not!
You then have the options to take over five more settlements and beyond, all of which increases the amount of caps they eventually throw at you. The problem with this, is that the DLC is level-gated for 30 and above. By level 30, you should probably have a few thousand caps to your name to begin with. However if you have money troubles (as some of my saves do, albeit rarely) it might feel good to go pick up that occassional 500+.
There's also the crates you can go loot at each of the five zones which involves, you guessed it, fast travel and the loading screens that come with it. That's five or so loading screens just to collect payments from your gangs.

The main problem with this DLC is it caters to a very specific archetype. It's basically the 'evil' playthrough. If you want, you have the option of wiping out all the raider bosses and getting a quest for that. In that sense you could 'finish' this DLC in under thirty minutes. You get a ton of xp, some neat outfits, some guns to sell. Good game!

At least Minutemen quests only give me two loading screens.

The real treat in the DLC comes in the form of the final one; Far Harbor.
Fucking finally, something good.

The name of the game in Far Harbor is atmosphere, something it pulls off very well. It’s modeled after a potential kidnapping story, and choosing to bring Nick Valentine along gives him some much needed development, even though he was clearly recorded with a completely different microphone which can be distracting sometimes. (Beth’s gonna Beth, y’know?)

What follows is a ramshackle coastal town that gives you plenty to do from killing a Mirelurk queen to fulfill some old timey town ritual to exploring one of their pieces of folk lore (which leads to an incredibly hilarious conclusion). One old woman gives you a rundown on the history of the town and gives you a quest for each part of the story, but hers have the weakest explanation to them as it mostly boils down to “Go to this place and kill everything there”.

Remember what I said about the True Storms mod? Well, with or without it the fog is very thick here and that’s actually part of the whole story. One quest has you repairing these machines that actually mitigate the fog, and you can build some of your own in settlements you take over.

I’m not going to spoil any of the story because it’s one of those “You have to experience it for yourself” situations. I get the feeling that they hiked up the Season Pass price as they were developing Far Harbor because someone, somewhere thought “Whoa this is really good”, and it is!

So at almost three thousand words, I’m not really sure how to conclude this review. Do I recommend it? Overall, yes. I’m still playing it, even though it may not have the same longevity as Skyrim but with nearly 400 hours on it I do believe I got my money’s worth. The DLC’s are lackluster and all but Far Harbor do little but add a variety of flavor. There is plenty to do in the base game and I can spend most of my playtime just hitting landmarks, clearing, and scavenging. I started a new save for my Youtube channel and there’s actually been very little questing at all throughout my first 25 hours. If open-endedness is your bag, then this game has a lot to offer.


Zydrate's avatar
Community review by Zydrate (March 24, 2017)

Zydrate is most active on Steam and Tumblr.

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If you enjoyed this Fallout 4 review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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Nightfire posted March 25, 2017:

HG Guidelines for length: Between 800 and 1,200 words, depending on the game.

This review's length: 3,059 words.

Jeez, Zy. >.<

I will get around to reading this and give some detailed feedback, but there's a lot to chew through. I do not envy Overdrive who will have to judge this for ROTW.
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overdrive posted March 25, 2017:

Ah, it's no big deal. Back in the olden days of GameFAQs, when we did RotD, I'd have up to 60+ reviews to do during my days sometimes. And one of the writers routinely did 2000+ word reviews. I'm used to it. I'm more concerned about how the third picture looks sort of like this recurring nightmare of mine...
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honestgamer posted March 25, 2017:

I slightly updated the guidelines just now. That was probably long overdue. I hadn't touched them for around 6 years, I don't think.

My own reviews tend to weigh in at between 1200 and 1500 words, which seems to be the common range you'll find on most game sites. If a writer needs more words, that's fine. Said writer just needs to be aware that the further north of 1500 their word count goes, the less likely it is that anyone will finish reading it (or, sadly, even start).

A minority of readers genuinely appreciate massive reviews, so it's really just a matter of choosing your audience and finding ways to reward those readers who stick with the longer pieces.
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Fiddlesticks posted March 25, 2017:

I'm not the most prolific review writer on this site, but I guess my stance on the topic of review length is you should take as much time as you need to convey your points. Fallout 4 is a pretty massive game, so it seems reasonable to me that there is a lot of ground to cover, and Zydrate's writing style is pretty conversational, so I didnt feel that it was cumbersome to get through. In fact, I'd go so far to say that reading this review reminded me of conversations I used to have with a co-worker when we were both simultaneously playing the game, talking about what we liked and didn't and foreshadowing what we'd both be going up against in our respective quests as we progressed in the game differently.
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Zydrate posted March 25, 2017:

@overdrive; That's my raider character in Raider Toxic armor. She's my asshole of the bunch who regularly murders traders and settlers out in the world and eventually takes over with the Nuka World DLC.

@honestgamer and Nightfire; EmP told me that the 1200ish words was a guideline and plenty of people regularly exceed that.

But yea, I was already at 1500 before I even got around to the DLC's so I knew it was gonna be a big one.

@Fiddlesticks; I'm glad you like my review tone, it's noted by many others to flow well and be fairly casual. I'm perfectly fine with this.

Most of you spoke on the size rather than the review itself :P
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Nightfire posted March 26, 2017:

It's a good review. I do like the casual tone. There aren't a lot of technical problems this time around, though you do keep unnecessarily capitalizing things in parentheses. There are also some issues with hard returns, and I did find one spelling error ("spreay"). Otherwise, it is a pretty clean piece.

While I do wish I could speed-read like Overdrive, the length actually didn't bother me too much once I got into it because it was so easy to read. However, it is chock full of references to things that I have no idea about, so its audience appears to be people who have already played the game (I have played it, but only for a few hours). This isn't a bad thing, it's just a thing. Clearly people are enjoying your style, and overall this lengthy retrospective format seems to work for you.
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Zydrate posted March 26, 2017:

Yea you poked me about that parenthesis thing before and I completely forgot about that being a thing. I wonder if I was literally taught that differently in school. Who knows?

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