Fallout 4. What can one say? After years of anticipation, the 2015 sequel to Fallout 3 (2008) and Fallout New Vegas (2010) is found to be bigger and . . . different. It should be different, at least in some ways, of course. Fallout 4 (Bethesda Softworks, Rated M) is a BIG game, as so many new ones are today, but it tries to be too much in this reviewer’s view. How can a video game have too much? Well, Fallout 4 isn’t just any video game. It is one in a series, one in a franchise (Fallout New Vegas technically isn’t part of the franchise, but that makes no difference to player perception or lore) with a certain style and lore.
While there is a lot to be happy about with Fallout 4, the new gargantuan level of building and crafting (together with the related radiant quests) is not integrated well with the actual story of the game. It’s almost as if they’re two different things, two different games held together by thin threads. The story comes off as being really minimal compared to both the other in-game activities and the last two Fallout game stories. The ultra-tragic story sets the mood of the game, and when that mood is betrayed (finds no outlet), the resulting annoyance (anger and dismay, more like) spoils the game. But more on that later. Since this Fallout review would be really (really) long for one blog post, it was divided into two. This first part goes over things that are the same and things that are different in this newest Fallout (the lists here are not exhaustive), with the second part presenting the story, with commentary, and giving a final overall analysis and rating.
Hello gamers! So have you taken some time out from playing Fallout 4, which just came out today, or are you visiting here because you’re curious about it? Well, my family looked very much forward to playing it, and now it’s here! We ordered a Fallout 4 bundle from Gamestop because we knew we could use a new XBOX and controller, and Gamestop’s bundle came with an exclusive Fallout faceplate. (We made an unboxing video of it, posted at our Youtube channel, Lingering Trees.)
Having played Skyrim so much, and liking it (for the most part), I finally ventured to play some other Bethesda games. I played Fallout 3 for a while, then started Fallout New Vegas. I was initially not going to get the game at all, simply because of its name. I have no desire to go to Las Vegas, and deplore the “please sin in our city and enjoy committing adultery” TV ads put out from that place. I was concerned that the game might glorify sin, although I was a bit confident that Bethesda as a company – while trying to appeal to the widest possible audience for its games – was still not into the glorification of bad behavior.
I like role playing games (RPGs), which Skyrim and the Fallout series are (my son plays Borderlands and tells me it’s an RPG, but it seems to have less freedom about it and simply more shooting – I just don’t think of it as an RPG). Skyrim is more free however (and beautiful), it seems to me, with more rewards for exploration, than the Fallout games I’ve played so far. These games let you fulfill your desires for adventure, for completing difficult tasks, and for mystery-solving. So while these games are gory, crude (some sections of the games, and some game add-ons, have very crude language), and even sexual to a more or less degree, their verbal and moral choices contents are not much different than the real world. The gore in the Fallout series is pretty nasty though, and there’s no way to turn it down.
And if you didn’t know, the Fallout series takes place in the somewhat distant future, after a major nuclear war. The look is not futuristic, but more like retro 1950s (apparently evoking the falsehood of post-WWII optimism).
If you’re wondering if your teens should be allowed to play Fallout 3 or New Vegas, I think I would be criticized by many for saying “it depends.” Fallout 3 does not have the sexual content that New Vegas does, that I’m aware of (Fallout New Vegas has at least two females that you can “sleep” with, and they aren’t spouses), though it does have some pretty crude language in parts. The reason why I may seem wishy-washy about this is that, while I homeschool my son now, he had been to a small Baptist private school for two years, and what he heard and learned while there was nothing at all different than what is in the Fallout games. What kids are exposed to these days is horrible, not just that they learn bad words or sexual things, but that so many kids are very selfish and promote actions that hurt others a great deal (and these often involve sex). Truly, we live in a fallen world.
But to be more specific, Fallout New Vegas is not a game for older teens unless they’re very mature and have experienced the crudities of real life already (or read books with similar content). One can play Fallout New Vegas for the adventure and play a good character. Since it is an RPG, one can make all the best choices and do a lot of good in this fallen and war-torn part of the world, and basically ignore people and quests that are unethical. That’s part of what a role playing game is, after all. Whether you choose to let your older teen play it may depend, too, on your weighing of the game choices available for older teens. Do you choose games that are simply all shooting constantly, like Black Ops II, or Borderlands II–which is inbetween an RPG and first person shooter, in my view–, or games that are non-violent . . . well, you might be wishing for too much there . . . though there is Minecraft (which both my husband and son like to play) and sports games (which they don’t). And, of course, it would depend on your teen’s attitude – does s/he simply want to play a challenging game that is basically realistic, or are they out to experience a sinful fantasy? If the latter, then no matter the person’s age, there’s a problem there if one calls themselves a Christian.
Basically, these games are like living in a fantasy book, where you make the moral choices while battling for your life. And while dealing with gore. If the gore takes too much effort to deal with, don’t play the Fallout series. Skyrim has very little gore compared to these.
Some other comments. If you buy the Ultimate Edition of Fallout New Vegas, it comes with all the additional content. “Old World Blues” is good to play as early as possible since it has your own home in it with all the work stations, and talking appliances. It has quirky juvenile humor. “Dead Money” is very unpleasant and there isn’t much reason to play it, except for additional game play time (it is very gory and my husband even thought it was just stupid and low of Bethesda).
“Honest Hearts” is pretty, well, the scenery is quite a bit prettier than the main game’s map; it is in Mormon territory and this added content astonishingly quotes the Bible. This is pretty cool, actually, but the buzz I got from that dissipated upon hearing the outcome of the quest’s story. Main quests in the games have a visual story that plays when you complete them, showing different outcomes based on the decisions you made in the game. Because I helped the tribes defend themselves against the violent, slave-taking invaders, Bethesda chose to say that the tribes became militarized instead of just going back to their way of life. Wow, Bethesda, no on can defend themselves without becoming militarized . . . (pretty bizarre attitude for a violent video developer).
Another religious aspect of the game, though subtle and apparently confusing, is the inclusion of the Followers of the Apocalypse. This group has a very nice cross as its symbol and this is not hidden. They reside outside of the Vegas Strip in an old Mormon fort, while giving medical and educational aid to the area residents. If you visit the wiki site and read up on The Followers, you will read that they are a “secular humanist” organization. I’d like to know what secular humanist organization will use a cross as their symbol? Part of their reasoning comes from something the founder of the group said in an earlier game, about not worshiping so much as helping people. So, at least to a degree, one can’t blame atheists or anyone else for being confused about them.
What I don’t like about this aspect of the game is that while these people appear to be Christians, with their traditional cross flag and their type of aid that is traditionally Christian, they are in a Mormon fort. An uninformed player could easily get the impression that “Christian” and “Mormon” are the same, though they are not at all the same. Of course, Mormons have been pushing the Christian claim hard for some time now, but any real look into their main doctrines will show that many are diametrically opposed to basic Christian belief.
If you want an overall rating of the game, I’d say it’s OK. There are problems with it, like the multiple quest-arrow system that you can’t adjust or turn off, it not having a compelling enough main quest storyline, and – this is a biggy – when the main quest is completed the game is over. That is, you can’t play anymore unless you go back to a previous save. It’s very odd. Originally, I had finished the main quest before doing all the added content. I was shocked to find that the whole thing ended, so went back (the game does give you this choice before it shuts down). Frankly, I have no desire to play the game again, though the thought came to mind because of the additional “Old World Blues” content. It’s upsetting that it wasn’t a part of the original game; it doesn’t do anyone any good to get a fantastic and helpful home when the game is just about over . . .
If you’ve read any of my Skyrim posts, you’ll know that I like Skyrim quite a lot and recommend it. I’m writing this little post for parents, basically, who don’t know that much about video games. When I wrote my first post on Skyrim, I knew that there were games that were more violent and had more gore in them than Skyrim, of course. But after playing Fallout 3 – another Bethesda game with similarities to Skyrim, I wanted to share some thoughts.
Fallout 3 (2008) is violent and gory, no doubt about it. It is rated M for mature, but so is Skyrim (2011). Now, Fallout 3 is far gorier and has much more foul language in it (especially when the DLCs are added in), than Skyrim. So, how can anyone know about these games unless they play them? I mentioned in other posts how Skyrim has “passive gore” (bloody skeletons lying around), but that the game can become gorier if the right “perks” are chosen. With Fallout 3, one cannot turn down the gore. Comparing these two games, I’m surprised Skyrim isn’t rated T for teens; if the gore couldn’t be “turned up,” I imagine that it could be so rated.
Fallout 3 is definitely a grown up game, if anyone is interested in playing games like that. It is a high quality game, with lots to do and actually much humor. It has a lot more humor in it than Skyrim, and it is far far less glitchy, too. It is more challenging, for sure, and the atmosphere and information in it are worth thinking about (the game takes place 200 years from now, after China and the USA have a major nuclear war). It is like a morbid, crazy, and humorous Easter egg hunt for grown-ups. But, all in all, these games are for people who want to relax and have the time to do them. When I was a young adult, I was interested in my education and career, and rarely even watched TV. I’m not sure how alluring these games would have been to me, since they are quite “addictive” (who wants to stop looking for eggs in the middle of the hunt?), however. I believe this is something to consider when addressing game play of any kind with one’s kids.
From a Christian-cultural perspective, there’s one thing I think is neat about Fallout 3, and I wonder if it holds true for Fallout New Vegas (2010) or for the upcoming Fallout 4. This is the fact that Jesus is held to be the epitome of good in the game. Jesus is not talked about (that I know of right now), but when you behave well in the game and seek to be a good character, the term “karma” is used, but the image shown for the best levels are an image easily recognized as Jesus. While the game makes fun of people following any old thing in the name of religion, it obviously gives a nod to true good. There’s nothing wrong with pointing out how people make up religion and follow false prophets – it is something Christians should probably talk about publicly more, in fact. Are we interested in people knowing the truth and getting into heaven, or could we care less that people are so easily led astray? We are compared to sheep in the Bible, after all.
The newest Skyrim DLC is a mini one, called Hearthfire (this review is based on the XBOX 360 game). It allows the player to build up to three houses on property outside of the cities or towns, and to adopt one or two orphaned children. The trailer promised more flexibility in building, in my view, so at first I was disappointed in Hearthfire on that ground. But, after playing it for some time and building all three homes, I am disappointed and annoyed even more. Not totally disappointed, mind you, and I’m not advocating not buying it and trying it out, but I do want to present what is annoying and what needs to be fixed. HOPEFULLY, Bethesda will get around to making some fixes and making some additions to this DLC.
Let’s take a look at adoption first. Instead of simply allowing you to adopt the children already orphaned and being forced to live in the Riften (yuck!) orphanage, you have to decide amongst the four new orphans in the towns and them. There are now more orphans than ever to choose from . . ! No matter what you do, there will always be orphans. When playing Skyrim before, I wanted only to adopt some out of the orphanage, but now there are others – it just never ends and you are not allowed to adopt more.
Anyway, the kids are a nice addition for the most part. (If you don’t want children bugging you to play with them, maybe you should forget about adopting any in the first place, however.) It’s fun giving them things, and they will give you things once in a while, too. One day my son gave me a unique and odd green robe to wear. They love when you give them daggers. You can improve and enchant their wooden swords, and duel wield them yourself if you want a bit of a fun challenge. A problem with giving them items, to me, is that you are very limited in what you can give.
Now, for the building bit – I’ll get to the hunt for butter after this. The three homes you can build are on three specific pieces of property you can buy from the Jarl’s or their stewards. One is near Whiterun, although it’s part of Dawnstar hold. Another is outside of Solitude, with a view of the land bridge that is that city, though it is a part of Morthal hold. The third is close to the lake south of Riverwood – a beautiful area that is like having a vacation home in the woods – and is a part of Falkreath hold.
I am not going to go through all of the addition choices, but will mention a few that give notice for some reason. You can build what is in a provided list for each room/addition, but you don’t have alternate choices within the list. You don’t have a choice between a bed and a table for a certain spot, for example – there’s is only one thing designated for that spot – you can only add it or leave it open. And, you cannot demolish a wing later in case you change your mind about the kind of house you want.
All the homes start off with a small starter room (home!), and in order to add the specialty wings, you must build the main hall attached to the first starter room. The starter room has a bed and fire pit in it, and so it is livable as is. However, if you hire a steward – very advisable since not all the mill owners will sell you wood, as the add-on claims – then where do both of you sleep? This is actually more of a problem later.
You will have the ability to add two small beds and a double bed in the main hall for you and your spouse, and your kids (forget “choice” – there is no other options for this area, nor any other, in these Hearthfire houses). However, the steward and housecarl always sleep in the beds that are for the kids, or one of them may sleep in your own bed. This is a problem with the game. If you choose to build the bedroom wing, this is not a problem. But if you choose to build a different wing and use those main hall beds, then good luck! The problem is only compounded by the fact that there is only one bed left in the original building for both the steward and the housecarl. This obviously was not thought through by Bethesda, and I find it quite astonishing.
The storage room was a very major disappointment. Seriously, Bethesda couldn’t spring for a dragon claw holder and some other holder for specific items – like the various named jewelry you can find – especially since everything always pops out of display cases and off of shelves? This really fries me! Come one, Bethesda . . . really!?! Give us something for the money. The cellar is a bit interesting in that way: you can build a shrine holder and all the shrines to the gods. But a storage room that doesn’t store all those specialty items? Wow and weird.
The homes do not incorporate anything from the Dawnguard DLC. It seems like the ability to add new plants and new creatures, like from the Soul Cairn and the Vale, at least, should have been designed into this new DLC. It becomes obvious that this add-on was planned from the beginning. Skyrim had orphans and they asked to be adopted, yet you could not adopt them. There is no Dawnguard content in Hearthfire, except for one thing: you can give your child an armored dog from Fort Dawnguard (a nice surprise). So, why wasn’t this simply part of Skyrim to begin with? My “other half” is really into the Elder Scrolls, though Morrowind specifically. He told me that in the past, an add-on such as this would’ve been free. It seems Bethesda held some of the content out in order to make some more cash, while providing a not so great product.
Which brings us to the butter quest. There’s not a formal quest for butter, of course, but there is an actual one. Butter is as hard to find as gold- if not harder – as far as I can tell. You will want butter if you build the kitchen wing (it probably has the best looking wing interior), which has an “oven” for baking. Butter is an 0ft-needed ingredient, but good luck finding it!!! You can’t make it, even though you can own cows now and there is a butter churn in the kitchen. So far I have only received one butter out of the churn. I have searched high and low for butter, looking to find it in various places, and to buy it. I never find it (it isn’t laying around like soup or stew), and have been only offered it to buy about three times from various vendors. Wow. Who knew baking could be so hard?
So if you want to have something new to do in Skyrim before the next big DLC comes out, and you like having children, then Hearthfire would be worth the $5, in my opinion. But otherwise, the choice is of course up to you, especially if you want to bake but don’t feel it worth hours of your time in a quest for butter!
November 9 Update (XBOX): After months, the churn finally had a new bowl of butter in it. BUT, within a short time, it had butter in it again. Perhaps there was an update that loaded that we didn’t notice, or perhaps it’s very random! Also, the best places I’ve noticed to buy butter are from the town stands, from the vendors selling vegetables and other foods (that is, the dark elf in Riften and the two humans in White Run and Windhelm).