Editorial: Fallout Fall-out

Will he ask me to blow up a town that worships an undetonated nuclear bomb? I hope so.
Who is this mysterious man in the Fallout 4 trailer?

So, that Fallout 4 trailer landed yesterday. What do you think, readers? Interested in spending some more time in what looks to be another incremental step forward in the Fallout universe? Personally, I know I will pick this game up and have some fun with it, I just hope I will be able to carry myself through to the end of what will undoubtedly be a very robust game. But speaking of robust games, I have also been playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt lately despite being very uncertain about my interest in that series. And like all massive open world games, Wild Hunt has its share of problems and issues with gameplay (or more specifically, the gamefeel, am I right Lusi?).

The now-ubiquitous flaws present in Bethesda’s Fallout and Skyrim games often get a pass in the face of the massive amount of content those games offer, the openness and freedom of exploration, and the seeming randomness of events that a player can encounter making their playthrough very unique. But those flaws can be persistent, they can even be game-breaking, and the worst part is that they are now being made up for by the paying customers that make up the modding community. As I have discussed before, it sets a murky trend of customers picking up the slack for the content producer’s own product and, while I enjoy mods and what the modding community represents, something about this never sat well with me. At any rate, it is obvious that these flaws exist because of the greatly increased difficulty and expense of bug testing a massive open world. The Fallout and Elder Scrolls games were also, for their time, very good looking games and so their design was not compromised much for the sake of the game’s scope.

As a small tangent, that compromise has been steadily increasing for those two series since Bethesda has decided to stick with the Gamebryo engine and appears to be doing so again for Fallout 4. The expense of using a new engine and the difficulty of working with less familiar software both outweigh the idea of using something like the CryEngine or the newest version of Unreal to really push the series into the next gen visually. The trailer, which uses only in-game assets, looks very nice but is obviously just a heavily modified Fallout 3/New Vegas game engine at work. Compared to some of the truly stunning offerings by big-world games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, this game looks a lot like a cross gen title. And being so late into the generation I hope the old rumors about that matter are untrue.

Not New York City? Pshh, Boston.
Fallout 4 was rumored, and has been confirmed, to take place in Boston.

But back to The Witcher for a moment, it has plenty of its own issues to contend with. The early reviews that discussed difficulty with getting Geralt or his horse Roach to move around in simple ways is pretty true. Since so many of his movements are procedurally animated, and since so many of the buttons perform contextual actions, it leaves me picking flowers when I want to run away and bumping into NPCs in every town. Compared to a game like Bloodborne, Wild Hunt has a much heavier, slower feel. Thankfully this translates well in combat because the pacing of the action is very formulaic. But as for the world of Wild Hunt, it is truly massive. There was initially some bugginess in the opening area, some textures flickering, some NPCs glitching out, but overall the game has been quite bug free. And more to the game’s credit, the world is very diverse and the individual areas are very unique. Unlike the old Bethesda games, not every sidequest takes me into a samey looking cave or run-down building. Many of Wild Hunt‘s missions take place out in the beautiful expanse of the game’s world. Being a “current gen” game, this also means that when the actions does go indoors, it is not accompanied by a loading screen which helps to unify the gameworld a lot.

As the current gen tech lets games hold more things in memory, this will have profound benefits on open world games in particular. Items that are dropped will stay put for the entirety of play, fewer load gates will be present to chop up the game world, more varied locales can exist that do not require reuse of as many assets from the rest of the game. If any one kind of game stands to benefit from the increased horsepower of the latest machines the most, from a gameplay standpoint, it could easily be said that belongs to open world games. Hopefully this means Fallout 4 will see some of these benefits and not wait upon the modding community to plug up all the holes.

So, have you been playing any of The Witcher 3? Did you see the Fallout 4 trailer? Give me a holler in the comments, because I will take that over nothing at all, folks! I mean it… I’m lonely…

7 comments

  1. Now that we know Fallout 4 is taking place in Boston, it is time for the inevitable Assassin’s Creed American Revolution edition/Fallout crossover.

  2. Fallout 3 was so broken on the PS3 that it became unplayable to me after awhile. When it was working, I enjoyed the hell out of it. When Skyrim came along on the PS3 I took it back within a month because it was unplayable. Seriously. It was just freeze after I took a few steps. I’m hopeful for F4, and the setting looks great, but it’s no good to me if I can’t play it.

    I’m enjoying the Witcher 3 (like everyone else who isn’t Polygon or named Moosa). But there are SERIOUS control issues that aren’t getting any notice. I get what you mean about the gamefeel, Mel. Geralt is like a tank. If you’re walking forward, it’s like he doesn’t want to turn right or left. I often wind up stuck between trees or in a house as I’m trying to get out because you have to treat his movement like a car.

    Combat is a pain in the ass because I can’t tell when I’m locked onto someone, or know who I’m facing if there’s a group of opponents. This has lead to me just scaling back the difficulty and swinging wild a lot of the times, such as when I fought an entire fortress filled with armed men. I hate to see a game so well written (and it IS wonderfully written in a way you just don’t get from games) staggered by control issues.

    Nonetheless, the Witcher 3 is pretty much everything else a WRPG should be. Well written characters who don’t feel like genre stereotypes, beautiful areas that are believable and feel like living places, etc. I don’t want to downplay the game’s quality in my gripes about controls. Suffice to say, it’s the best WRPG to hit the mainstream and I hope if nothing else, that it sets the bar higher for quality writing.

    And music. That soundtrack. Wow.

  3. @Wolfe: Geralt does indeed control like a tank, and navigating him around tight enclosures like in a house or just between NPCs walking around town is a pain, although doable. But I haven’t had any issues with combat. Not recently, anyway.

    When I began playing I was coming hot off of Bloodborne, and so all of those habits and all of that muscle memory was getting in my way, since you simply can’t play Witcher 3 the same way. I never lock on to enemies, I stopped doing that pretty quickly since the lock-on mechanic is really wonky, and you need to be able to switch targets rather quickly when in a big fray. Geralt fights a lot like Batman does in his games, where there’s always a soft lock-on that will direct his attacks to a certain enemy, and it’s dictated partially by which direction you’re holding and which enemy is closest. I thankfully got the hang of that before too long.

    This game also handles a lot of the collectibles way better than something like Dragon Age Inqusition, which makes that process much more tedious. And something else that generally goes unremarked is how FAST all of the menus are, and how quickly you can just jump into the game (on PC, at least). It’s all instantaneous in a way I haven’t seen since cartridge days. More of this, PLEASE. The load times are kept to a minimum frequency and are themselves pretty short on my computer, and MOST importantly the game world loads very smartly. What I mean by this is: if I’m fast traveling to somewhere nearby, or if I die right next to where I saved, the load time is next to nothing because the game doesn’t stupidly dump EVERYTHING from memory and reload ALL of it. It just loads the things that need to change. Bloodborne needs to do this (and many other games need to do this) and it’s just obnoxious when out of 50 or 60 hours of your time, HOURS of it are spent loading.

  4. This was a good read, Mel.

    I am greatly enjoying Witcher 3 right now. I love the world and I love how the sidequests tie in to the narrative and help build the world. It is a very impressive game and puts games like Dragon Age and Skyrim to shame. Whenever I’m not playing it I feel an urge to jump back in, and few games have actually had that effect on me in the last few years.

  5. @Wolfe: I just gave the soundtrack a listen and I can’t really say I was blown away by anything. A lot of servicable orchestral pieces with some vaguely eastern European vocal chants accompanying some of the tracks. It works well enough during gameplay, but on its own I found it pretty forgettable. In fact, I’ve taken to turning off the music in the game and letting the ambient sound of the wind and water and Geralt’s foosteps set the mood. So far, I prefer it.

  6. @Mel: What can I say really? I like it lots, but tastes are subjective.

    Also, I tried combat without the lock on after your mention above and it went even worse. I literally got juggled between three bandits until half my health bar was gone. I’m not a fan of what they’ve done with that.

  7. I read this article (and most of your articles), but don’t play these games and have no particular comment to add. :/ Thanks for writing, though.

Comments are closed.