The crazy thing about the news and hype swirling around Fallout 4 is that even though Bethesda had pulled the curtain back on a very detailed trailer less than two weeks ago, they still managed to surprise. The words I am about to write don’t really hold a lot of weight on the millions of fans who are salivating to get back into the wasteland, but Fallout 4 encapsulates so much of what Bethesda does well.
It’s not just the open world brilliance or the clever collector’s edition Pip-Boy. It’s the fact that they have been hard at work on this game since they wrapped Fallout 3. Keep in mind that they churned out a bonafide all-time great game in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in the midst of their development cycle. Everything that they learned through breathing new life into the Fallout franchise in Fallout 3, in what Obsidian accomplished with the surprisingly stellar spin-off Fallout: New Vegas and refining their signature world building in Skyrim appears to be melding beautifully in Fallout 4.
Set in the Commonwealth, a post apocalyptic Boston, Fallout 4 takes the framework of Fallout 3’s Capitol Wasteland and expands it with true to life landmarks, fleshed out neighborhoods and a much larger variety of environments compared to its predecessor. The color palette, already a noted improvement from the drab greenish grey of Fallout 3 or the burnt tans of New Vegas, is lush and thoughtful, from the bright colors of the pre-war era, to the golden dome of the State House. It is far and away the most vibrant Fallout game to date.
Fallout certainly starts with the world that they build around it, but the story is the focused core. We already know a ton about the experiments that were conducted in the vaults after Fallout 3. So where does Vault 111 fit into this? How are you the only survivor of the vault? Why are you only emerging now, 200 years after the bombs originally fell.
And there it is, the element that will set Fallout 4 apart from the series. You aren’t a vault member tasked with saving a vault. You’re not the chosen one sent out to save a village. You are not the lone wanderer, exiled from your only home on a quest to find your father. You aren’t a courier, delivering a package, and taking over a corrupted city in the process. So who are you? You are the survivor. A link to the world of Fallout before the vaults, before the radiation. It is a dynamic that will bring a new addition to the Fallout universe, a sense of direction beyond the framework of the overarching quest. You have a story to tell, a mystery to unravel.
Where Fallout 3 relied heavily on NPCs as the storytelling crutch, adding vocal work to the protagonist is a big deal for a franchise known for its silent heroes. The voice is as important as the gameplay supporting this entry. From the return of VATS to the ever expanding customization options. Not only can you customize your entire arsenal and armor load out, you can build entire towns for you to thrive in. By allowing town building, it creates a new dynamic by which is genuinely Fallout at its core. All the inhabitants of the wasteland are survivors. Survivors that needed to work with each other to survive.
Everything that Bethesda has laid out before them, in the framework of all of their games. Is the idea of building towards a purpose. Fallout 4 truly captures that mentality and focus as we get ready to return to the wasteland.