Archive for December, 2015

Fallout 4 – The Verdict – Spoilers Here

I’ve realised the first few words you add to your post get replicated on Facebook and Twitter so I’ve started with this so I don’t accidentally spoil the game for anyone!

 

161 hours. That’s how long I played Fallout 4 for before sitting my character in a camping chair on my in-game porch waiting patiently for some DLC to come along.

I completed the main game after around 90 hours, the rest have been spent systematically visiting every building and object I could find in every square on the map.

So what’s the verdict?

Well, I never found the dog after forgetting where I sent it and still have 11 bobble heads to find so I’ve bloody well missed some places despite my best efforts. Perhaps Bethesda could have put something into the game to let me keep track of where I have and have not been. You’d think with a game designed in the year 2015 that might be possible but it turns out to be just one of a plethora of complaints I have about this game because Fallout 4 is broken. Broken to its core:

The Instructions:

There are no instructions for anything except a page of useless text which you won’t even notice is there until 20 hours in, well I didn’t. Fundamental parts of the game just have no help and are totally unintuitive. Take for instance the building system. The game expects you to think to use the arrow keys to navigate through the menus. When was the last time you pressed an arrow key in a game on PC? Until you work out by sheer fluke that you are to use the arrow keys you are completely stuck and cannot progress through certain parts of the game. The reviews of the game I read said that building things was optional so this shouldn’t matter, well, they lied.

Even something simple, like pressing “enter”, is a problem. Almost every interaction tells you to press the “enter” key. That’s fine but after a very short while I got fed up with either lifting my hand off the mouse to press it or move my left hand off WASD to press it. It turns out that you can press “E” instead which is much more convenient but you have to guess it.

The perk system is absolutely key to your character’s progression, yet is it explained? No. I assumed that I had to fill every level of a perk before I could move to the next perk and there’s no explanation to say otherwise. Yet what actually happens is that every point put into a base perk opens up another perk that can be chosen. Meaning I wasted a good number of my early game perks that I would probably have used for lock picking and terminal hacking to open up more of the map. Perhaps I would not have struggled so hard early on if this critical game mechanic had some instruction with it.

The Pip-Boy:

Perhaps the most important part of the game yet is there any explanation about what half of the things on it mean? No, not that I could work out anyway. What the hell does a line next to an arm mean?

In Fallout 3 it was new and charming but even in that game after about 5 minutes the flickery graphics became tedious. Why have they persisted in having a flickery effect green screen piece of annoying shit for the main interface into the game?

The lay out is dire, constantly having to flick through screens just to find basic information like how much weight you have left that you can carry. You can’t even have a map that follows you around so you spend half your time flicking into the Pip-Boy just to see where the hell you are. There is absolutely no point to the close-up map view either, it’s just a mess. There is plenty of real estate on the screen so surely a basic world map would not have been beyond the capabilities of a company like Bethesda, let’s face it, every other game in existence has it.

There has simply been no effort put into making anything like a decent update to this central mechanism in the game. It’s just lazy and I do not buy the argument that it’s to maintain the feeling of Fallout 3. This is Fallout 4 and the world has much more powerful hardware, even the console fanboys, so there is no reason to stick with archaic crap like this.

The graphics:

Let’s skip the part where I played the first 30+ hours with juddery graphics because you can read about that in my last post. But what about the randomly spawning enemies that just materialise out of nowhere? What about being in a lake watching Synths drop out of the sky and go for a swim when according to the map I should have been on dry land? Around every corner is a new and unique graphical feature, you know the kind of thing: objects floating in the middle of nowhere; objects embedded in other objects; cars randomly falling out of the sky and bouncing around; characters twitching like they are in a Harlem Shake video. It’s all good random fun in the Wasteland. This is 2015 for crying out loud, I just don’t expect this nonsense.

The getting stuck:

I can’t count the number of times I got stuck and had to re-load my last save. I often got stuck in-between objects and when entering terminals even more. For some reason, when I pressed “E”, the graphics just bounced around in front of the terminal and I was stuck. So I ended up saving the game immediately before every terminal because I had no confidence that the game would carry on running.

The inconsistency:

Sometimes you press escape to exit a dialogue, sometimes it’s tab, sometimes it’s enter, meaning I often navigated to the wrong places. It’s just frustrating and unnecessary.

The companions:

I lost the dog, which is good because I hated it anyway. The companions form a part of the gameplay and can be interesting to use, I took {Eady} MacReady because he didn’t mind the odd spot of random murder, but they always get in the way. They have the full environment to walk around so why do they choose to stand in the doorway of the door you are trying to walk through?

When you call them over to trade, a set of options are displayed in the centre of the screen. The characters often shuffle about so when you try to pick the option to trade the option disappears just as you select it and you end up shooting them instead. Over and over again it happens and I cannot believe that play testers did not pick this up. Just more and more frustration to deal with.

The main quest story:

In Fallout 3 I made some huge game changing decisions, like whether or not to nuke Megaton but there were more besides. In New Vegas there were far fewer large choices and in this game there are none. NONE. The choices I made seemed pointless and hardly affected my game at all. It’s very disappointing for me because this is the part of Fallout 3 that I loved so much.

The actual story itself is drivel, or should I say the Brotherhood of Steel path was drivel. The ending is almost identical to the DLC for Fallout 3 (at least I think it was Fallout 3) with the big robot. I did not pay for a AAA game that had the same ending as its predecessor. This is absolutely awful.

I could go on but what’s the point? I think what’s most annoying is Bethesda’s absolute lack of respect for my gaming time.

So why did I play for so long I hear you ask?

The world you inhabit and the way it lives and breathes around you is utterly breath-taking. Although the main story is dross, a lot of the side quests are not. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t have characters as crazy as those in New Vegas, nor the depth of decision making as in Fallout 3, but there’s enough in the game to keep you entertained almost indefinitely. It’s littered with those “little moments”. Like, for instance, finding a boy that had been trapped in a fridge for 200 years and wanted returning to his mum and dad. Just think about that – trapped in a fridge for 200 years! How many people walked by and left him in there? The Wasteland is brutal.

You never know what’s around the next corner, on top of the next hill or in the next valley and the uncertainty pulls you along. What you think is irrelevant unwinds into a sprawling story and what you think must me immense turns out to be insignificant.

How about walking into a cemetery and finding an altar with headless chickens all around it and then as you walk through the graveyard you find a dead body with a chicken head next to near a headstone? WTF is that all about?

Fancy helping a bunch of robot pirates get to the sea? Have at it!

Let’s not forget to mention SWAN, holy crap that made me turn tail and run like I’d never played a video game before.

Stories span the entire game so it pays to read and listen to everything. One NPC talked about her friend and how she’d been kidnapped and forced to write ransom notes that demanded food be sent to the captor. The NPC was constantly sending food in the hope to eventually rescue her friend. Then I read later that the captor had killed her friend by accident and the ransom notes were all faked.

The story telling hits you in multiple ways and how much of it you engross yourself in it is the difference between this game being a mess or being genius. I advise everyone to look at the bones of the dead characters that litter the Wasteland and imagine how they got that way. Read the text in the terminals and on the various notes you find. Listen to the distress signals and garbled messages. Interact with all the NPCs. Delve into the smaller parts of the game and you will find the beauty of the experience.

The game is fundamentally broken in unacceptable ways and it, coupled with Skyrim, has severely jarred my faith in Bethesda. It feels more like a Fallout New Vegas update to me rather than a AAA game made for 2015 technology. The main story is weak, obvious and ultimately devastatingly disappointing. The side quests and exploration are by far the best parts of the game and make it worth the asking price and 150 hours playing time.

There is a complete lack of respect for gamers’ time from Bethesda and I am left with a lack of respect for them. I will not be pre-ordering Fallout 5, that’s for sure.

 

 

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Two Days Off Work to Wander the Wastelands

I promise there are no spoilers here. This should have been published a couple of weeks ago but, you know, I’ve been engrossed in Fallout 4 and forgot!

I had a plan:
– Book 10th and 11th November off work
– In October – Inform family that I will be away for a couple of days on the 10th
– Around 5th November – Remind the family that I will be away for a couple of days on the 10th
– Go to bed at 6.00pm on Monday, 10th November
– Get up at 10.30pm on Monday 10th November
– Ensure graphics drivers are up to date
– Sit with hands on keyboard and mouse till 12.01am
– Play Fallout 4 for as many hours as I can in the time I have off work

The plan executed flawlessly and I spent over 35 hours in the Wasteland before I had to pack up my PipBoy and get an early night ready for the real world of work, which started at 5.30am on 12th November.

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster I have to say.

I promised myself I wouldn’t rush into Fallout 4 which I have a tendency to do with all open-world games, so I watched as the camera scrolled around my power armour when the game started. It’s not very interesting if I’m honest.

The story began – I have to admit it wasn’t the story I was expecting but there again I had no idea what to expect. I think I was expecting it to have a similar “flow” to Fallout 3, but it’s completely different and strangely compelling. Video game plots and stories are not something that usually interest me (save the princess again blah blah blah, just give me the virtual guns to shoot and point me in the right direction please!) so it was a surprise to me that I was mildly interested.

The first thing that struck me when I got into the game proper was the god-awful juddering of the graphics. The game automatically selects the graphics settings and mine were set to medium. I’m used to playing most games on high settings so I was a bit disgruntled about it, but to get all this judder as well just pissed me off. I decided not to get into the usual two days of doing the developers’ beta testing for them that I often have to do and just sucked it up. After a short while my eyes got used to it and my brain filtered it out.

I plodded on and got absorbed into the virtual world that Bethesda had created for me. Meeting characters and accepting quests, remembering lessons from Fallout 3 – don’t wander too far at the beginning of the game and don’t try to steal everything. I got slowly but surely engrossed. The world is exactly what you’d expect, a desolate land filled with desperate people and maniac animals. Plenty of secret little areas to stumble across and a million shades of brown.

It’s great to walk around Boston and see some of the places that were important when the American colony’s treacherous rebellion was started against the British by a bunch of criminals desperate to increase their power base and profits.

I have to say though that the level of decision-making has not been as satisfying, so far, as it was in Fallout 3. I am expecting some major story arcs like blowing up Megaton or something but it hasn’t happened yet. Fingers crossed.

At about 20 hours in I started to get really frustrated. It seemed like every quest had a stupidly hard boss that I couldn’t beat. I did not have the money to buy the firepower needed to kill them, nor the perks to persuade them, so the game just got stuck for me. Sitting with 3 or 4 unfinished missions that I got no XP for after trying them for hours was no fun.

It came to the point where I had only one quest that I thought I might have a reasonable chance at beating. This quest was given to me after the others so in theory should have been a harder quest. It was exactly the opposite. I barely fired a shot, got through the whole quest and completed it. At the end I was given a weapon with some decent firepower and a load of loot to sell for decent money rather than the trinkets the game had offered up to that point.

I immediately went and completed the outstanding partially completed quests that I was able to. Unfortunately, even after completing everything in one of the quests,  it would not complete. I spent another hour trying to work out what was wrong and eventually I realised I was waiting for a bunch of NPCs to walk the entire length of the map that I had explored thus far. Very frustrating! And I was hoping that this wasn’t a sign of things to come. I went and completed some other quests and eventually the status notices told me that the NPCs had arrived, I met with them and the quest completed.

Now it probably sounds like I think the game is awful, but it truly isn’t. I think it’s because the world is so engrossing. Since that pivotal quest the game has completely opened up. The money, whilst still being sparse, is enough to give a decent chance.

It was getting towards the end of my time in the Wastelands so I decided to give the crafting a go. I have absolutely no interest in crafting or creating things in any game except Minecraft and that is only because I can play the game with my daughter. I felt it only fair to give it a go though.

You know when you give yourself a palm slap on the forehead? I gave myself a palm slap on the forehead. I realised that the key to having enough money is through scrapping things, crafting something else and then selling it. As soon as I started doing that the in-game currency started to flow.

I slowly but surely worked out the crafting and also the settlement creation. There is almost no help at all for anything, including the crafting system, which is a tad unfair. I think Bethesda could have really helped by giving some worked examples of how to build things. Granted, there are some help files but  they only cover very basic stuff. I spent probably 30 minutes trying to hook a power plant up to a light that I had crafted, that’s 30 minutes of wasted holiday time.

One of the most important screens is the perks screen and I think I have screwed my choices up on that too. I thought I had to fill in all the stars at the top most perk before I could choose any of those below it, but looking at other peoples’ builds I think I might have assumed wrong. Again – no help on this basic game mechanism.

At the end of my 35 hour stint I pressed shift & tab to go into the Steam overlay and message a mate of mine to say good-night and noticed an article in the “guides” section which mentioned upping the frame rate. I clicked on it and it described my juddering problem. It suggested that the game be set to borderless window in the graphics settings, rather than full screen. I did that and the game became as smooth as a silky silk worm making silk things for my grandma.

I really enjoyed my 2 days in the Wastelands but even with that amount of time  I have barely scratched the surface. Fallout 3 took me over 100 hours so I expect many more visits to the Wasteland from here on out and I’ll check-in with you once I’ve completed it.

Avaguddun,

Lee

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