Fallout 4 is great. It’s amazing. I’ve been playing it almost exclusively these past two weeks, and I feel bad about that to a degree. Then I stop feeling bad about it and boot it right back up again.
The game is almost everything I hoped for in my next trip to the wasteland. But of course, you can just read other reviews for all that is good in the game. I want to talk about one glaring issue I have with this game, one I’m worried will impede future play-throughs of it that I might attempt.
In short, it comes down to the conversation system. Here’s a screenshot from the last game in the series, Fallout: New Vegas.
In it, you can see three options out of the many you can scroll down and see. The system in New Vegas gave you options with multiple effects. In the image you can see one normal option and two lies. The second lie is influenced by your Barter stat; if it is 55 or above, the check will be successful and he’ll believe the lie. If your Barter is below the necessary amount, the lie that is told will be different, and probably won’t work on the NPC. Various stats could effect speech, leading to vary different discussions with each character and different results.
In addition to that, various perks you unlocked in the game could give you extra dialogue options. If you took the Confirmed Bachelor perk, you could unlock a bonus line of dialogue that could help persuade a character to help you out, for example.
Compare that idea to the following.
That is Fallout 4, and that’s what the interface looks like for conversations the entire game. You get four options for dialogue responses, and they seem to be static options that don’t change character by character. At best there are some speech checks that are influenced by the Charisma stat, but I don’t know to what end because I have literally never failed a single one.
Now, this is an eloquent and professionally designed chart of the dialogue trees in the game:
Basically, a lot of the time dialogue will go down one predefined path and nothing can change it. If you go with the sarcastic option, the character you are talking to might throw out an extra sentence of dialogue, but then continue on with the default statement he was going to make anyway.
There are a few instances where your dialogue actually has minor repercussions (another character might die, for example), but these are so few and far between that so far in sixty hours of playing, I can recall this happening once. Apart from that there’s also the ‘karma’ you can with your followers. Even if both option A and B take you to the same response from an NPC, maybe Cait prefers B and dislikes A.
This leads to a very linear experience and limits options for multiple characters. Consider this comparison, which I’m lifting from Reddit:
Man, comparing this “When Freedom Calls” quest here in this video to the quest “Ghost Town Gunfight” in Fallout New Vegas, it’s severely disappointing. Both quests have a similar premise: help defend a group of people/town from raiders/powder gangers.
In Fallout 4, the quest is completely linear, you just follow a straight line, kill all of the raiders, talk to the NPCs who apparently can’t look after themselves, hack a terminal, get the core for the power armour, get into power armour, kill more raiders, kill a deathclaw, then talk to the NPCs again and then that’s it. It’s structured like an FPS rather than an RPG, which is really disappointing.
Compared to the quest in FNV, there are so many ways you can go about the quest, in classic Fallout style. You can convince the townsfolk to help fight them off, some requiring skill checks to help give you an edge in the fight, and then you fight the powder gangers. Then and there once they attack.
Or, you could kill their leader when you first see him in the saloon, making the fight a little easier, or of course you can go over to where the gang is hanging out and eliminate them in any manner you wish, guns blazing or stealthy. Hell, with the intimidation perk, you can even scare them off, hilariously!
And that’s not all. You can even join the powder gangers with attacking the town if you want, you aren’t forced to kill them, and you aren’t forced to be the goody good guy! There are so many more choices in the first major quest in FNV compared to Fo4’s first major quests, and that’s really disappointing to see right off the bat.
Which leads to a question; is it possible to even DO evil things? In New Vegas you could opt to side with factions that are generally considered to be ‘evil’, and choose to do things otherwise looked down on. In Fallout 4 it apparently is not possible at all, apparently (possible spoilers in this link). There’s no actual choice. Of course, this is second hand information and when I do attempt my second play-through, I’ll TRY to not be a good guy, though according to the above video, that will be a futile attempt.
I digress though. I get that there are reasons for all this, including the fact that the player character is now voice acted. I can see by restricting the dialogue to this 4-directional system, it makes things streamlined between console and PC (not necessarily a good thing) and means that mods won’t be a hassle on the console versions (a good thing)… but it doesn’t feel like Fallout. Having all those options and all those possible paths and directions is what made the series special.
While I still love Fallout 4, this was one change to the game that feels like a negative, and didn’t need to happen. We’ll see if future additions to the game fix these issues I have, or if some talented people in the modding community do it instead, but for now I guess I have to enjoy being guided through the game as I am.