jeudi 19 novembre 2015

Tales from the Commonwealth - Part I

June 2nd, 2015. On that date, noted video game developer and publisher Bethesda revealed a countdown - along with the words "Please Stand By" - which was set to expire the very next day. On that day, hundreds of thousands of gamers rejoiced as Fallout 4 was announced with a short trailer. A few days later, during Bethesda's E3 press conference, I watch, wide-eyed, as the game was shown in greater detail and, to basically everyone's surprise, was set to release less than 5 months later, on November 10th. Needless to say, I was extremely pumped and immediately pre-ordered the game (along with 3 others, therefore being handed a 30% discount by Amazon for pre-ordered games during E3). The hype train was just starting. I can safely say I haven't been this excited for a game release since Bioshock Infinite.

After all, Fallout 3 ranks very high in my personal list of the greatest video games of all-time and is comfortably in my top 3 favourite games of the last generation (along with the likes of The Last of Us and Bioshock). It's only natural for me to expect the subsequent Fallout games to be as good, if not better, than FO3 was. Fallout New Vegas, released merely two years after 3, was a fantastic game I absolutely enjoyed and would recommend in a heartbeat.

However, this time the hype I was experiencing was on another level completely. It had a lot of time to build up between 2010 and 2015. In fact, I even re-started to play Fallout 3 last year, even if it was just for a few hours, just because I felt like it and I kinda needed the fix of going back into a wasteland and walk around, discovering weird stuff and killing a bunch of raiders.

Anyway, I finally got Fallout 4 through the mail a week ago, on Thursday November 12th. Even if I still have at least 10 unopened games on various consoles (not including the PS+ titles piling up) I immediately installed the game and the now-inevitable Day One patch. That very night, I played for about 2 hours before the game crashed on me. Sure, it always sucks when a game crashes, but in a way it did force me to go to sleep. Those Bethesda games, I'm telling you, have a way of eating time away like you wouldn't believe...

During that mission when the game crashed, I obtained the first Power Armor, something you usually got a lot later in previous Fallout titles. However, the Power Armor requires you to insert a Fusion Core inside of it for it to work properly. So far, in the 11 hours - approximately - I put into the game, I have used the Armor for less than one and burned through 2 of the 3 Cores I managed to find in the Commonwealth. In case someone wasn't aware, Commonwealth is the name given to the city of Boston and the areas around it, where the game takes place.

So far then, the game plays mostly like Fallout 3 and New Vegas. There's still the always entertaining but slightly-less-useful V.A.T.S. system, which, in this game, slows down (instead of stopping it in FO3 and NV) time to allow you, the player, to select a part of the enemy's body you wanna target. We also find the Pip-Boy menu on the player's left wrist, almost unchanged and still somewhat of a hassle to get around. There are still companions (so far I've found 3 of them), although in this game I'm pretty sure they can't die, which is an improvement over past games. All in all, you'll feel right at home if you've played either of the past two games.

The biggest addition (at least that I've discovered so far) is the introduction of settlements, which act as bases for you to build upon and improve in any way you see fit. Eventually, I guess, you can have settlers to inhabit those settlements and make them prosper. I have one main settlement so far which I've worked on for perhaps 30-45 minutes in Sanctuary Hills (which is, incidentally, the main character's neighbourhood before the war). You can scavenge almost anything (cars, tires, mailboxes, ruined houses, tables, TV sets, etc.) into materials you will use to build whatever you need. Water pumps, house, turrets, workbenches, etc. Eventually  I'll make more time to dabble in a little more, but so far it seems like something you can spend a ton of time with.

The other big addition I need to mention in this first entry is the crafting system, which is a LOT deeper than I ever though it would be. You can modify your weapons and gear in tons of different ways. For example, you take that Pipe Pistol you have and you can, if you have the required materials, install different scopes, sights, grips, barrels, bayonets, etc. All of these will change the weapon's stats. It might reload faster, be more accurate, be lighter or heavier, etc. Obviously I haven't been able to change a ton of weapons or gear so far since you still require some rarer materials for modifications. Most of the materials can be found almost anywhere, in various junk you scavenge across the wasteland or modified gear/weapons you find on dead enemies. And that's the beauty of this new Fallout, every thing you pick up can have some value other than bottlecaps (the game's currency). That coffee cup is worth a measly 2 bottlecaps? In past games you would have ignored it. In this game though, that cup can be broken down into ceramic, which might help you build something for your settlement, improve a weapon or something else useful. It's a very neat and very welcome new system I really enjoy so far, even if I have a lot of trouble keeping my character under the weight limit.

Also, the shooting has improved a lot. In previous games, shooting enemies like you would do in a regular FPS wouldn't be particularly fun or efficient. You could do it with the proper weapon, but it felt off a little bit and you would usually resort to using the V.A.T.S. system all the time, which was fine since it's a great way to play, but still a tad disappointing. In FO4, the combat has taken a major leap forward and it's now a lot easier and practical to just shoot enemies like you would do in any other shooter. Sure, it's no Battlefield, but it's more than acceptable for a RPG this massive where the combat can often be an afterthought. I still use V.A.T.S., but nor nearly as often as I did in FO3 and NV.

So far then, I'm having a blast playing this game. Just look at my playing time, which is nearly 11 hours in 8 days. That's more than an hour a day. Sure, some people probably logged over 100 hours in that game so far, but for me, 11 hours in 8 days is a miracle. I have two part-time jobs in two schools, I'm a part-time student and a full-time father and husband as well as a massive sports fan (meaning free time is often spent watching the NFL, NBA or soccer). In those circumstances, I'm very lucky to be able to play this game that much. I also feel like I barely scratched the surface of what awaits me in the Commonwealth, and that's a feeling I love.

More to come soon!

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