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.
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…