With Fallout 4 having been out nearly a year now, I’ve been thinking about Fallout as a franchise. Actually, I think about Fallout quite a lot, it’s a series I’m particularly fond of (3&4 notwithstanding). And one thing I’ve always loved is the freedom, the ability to play the games your way.
Whether that be diplomatically via speech and charisma, or brutally through extreme violence, or a mixture of the two, say a bartering trader who focuses almost wholly on buying and selling but isn’t above tactical killing of high-value targets.
Point is, these games allow for real roleplaying. You pick a role you want to play, you specialise in a few stats to support that role, and away you go. Then along came Fallout 3 and ruined everything. Maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic, but it does annoy me how much of the actual roleplaying Bethesda threw out when they bought the franchise and transitioned it to 3D.
To be fair, there are still a good number of times and places where you have several options for how to complete quests and such, but mostly they boil down to a quick skill check (does player have Science of 50? Yes? Open this additional speech option for them to pick) with limited roleplaying possibilities.
If you want to play a speech build? Nope, because the game forces you into fighting at every turn. A barter build? Why bother when the economy of the world is non-existent? A psycho build that kills everything? Again, nope, because Bethesda loves to spam the essentials tag.
And here we get to my beef. It is remarkably unfair that Fallout 3’s world is such that I really want to kill absolutely everything and everyone because it’s so utterly nonsensical and populated by people who really need killing, but I can’t because most of the people are immortal (with caveats, see below).
On the other hand, in New Vegas I can kill absolutely everything and everyone but I feel no desire to do so because it’s such a well thought out world that feels believable and real. Unless I’m currently playing a psychotic character or something anyway. Because that’s actually possible in New Vegas.
Now, it’s certainly true that the essential tag is removed from a good few characters when you complete their quests, fair enough (though it should be noted, not all). But if I’m wanting to roleplay a crazed psycho who kills everything and everyone the moment he/she sees it, the essential tag gets in the way of playing that role.
Especially so as it means having to do a quest or two for someone before being able to shoot them and have them stay down, which flies in the face of the selected role I want to play.
And then we have Fallout 4. I’m a bit on the fence here… on the one hand they’ve gone really insane with essential tags by making people literally invincible, you can’t even put them down temporarily in some cases. But on the other hand they’ve thought out the world a hell of a lot better than they did with 3, it feels more real and alive (by Beth’s low standards), so I don’t feel quite so inclined to kill everything. I guess that’s something.
We’ll just gloss over the total lack of roleplaying options in 4; you can’t even create a specific build now because perks are level-locked, disallowing any sort of early game specialist builds. But hey, mods will fix it, right? Yeah… probably not this time, unfortunately, this sort of systemic brokenness ain’t easily fixed by mods.
At the end of the day Bethesda don’t care about those of us who actually like to pick a defined role and play it (you know, the definition of an RPG). They’re largely just interested in appealing to the widest possible audience in order to make a shitzillion dollars. And by all accounts it seems to be working. I just wish they weren’t doing it with one of my favourite franchises.
Though hey, at least I always have New Vegas to go back to, it’s my favourite game for damn good reason and I can at least be glad that Obsidian had the opportunity to create such a stunningly well-crafted experience, something that wouldn’t have happened if not for Bethesda. Small victories, silver linings, and all that, right?
And it does at least give me plenty more content to work with for Reconstructing Fallout 4 when I get around to it…