“War…war never changes” but Fallout does. It began it’s reign of post-apocalyptic fun back in 1997. The series is set in a retro looking alternate timeline were the Cold War ended very badly, leaving the world a nuclear wasteland. Bad for the world, good for the player. Given the huge success of Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas it’s very likely that Bethesda Software will be putting together another Fallout game. The question is what will it be like, what new innovation in gaming shall this titan of franchises give us this time? Since there is currently no information, I will be doing a lot of guess work based on what we’ve seen from this developer in the past.
Location, location, location
One of the core features of any game is the setting, the space in which you the player will spend hours upon hours exploring, questing, committing acts of good or evil. The first thing we could see is a change in the location – it would be interesting to see locations outside of the United States such as London, Paris, Berlin or even Moscow. Having said that, the Fallout series has always been set in the USA, it’s the core of Fallout’s image – that wonderful mix of futuristic 1950s America and post apocalyptic setting – giving the game it’s unique feel.
With this in mind Fallout 4 will likely be set in another one of America’s well known cities. The series has already featured South California, The Capital Wasteland (formally Washington D.C.), Pittsburgh, New Vegas and many others. Will Bethesda do what every other game developer and movie creator has done still the dawn of modern entertainment use New York City? Hopefully not, Bethesda has managed to avoid this overused city and I hope that they will continue to do so, thereby keeping the franchise’s uniqueness intact.
While I have no desire to see any famous city in ruins, I would love to see them try their hand at Chicago as I think that the city contains a lot of possibilities. For example the Eastern sea front would provide a natural way of stopping the player from leaving the map area – there’s nothing like swimming in irradiated water to make you wish you brought more RadAways. Being one the biggest cities in America it would very likely have a number of Vaults spend out across the city limits, once again giving the player optionally to begin life as a Vault Dweller. Finally the city is far enough away from previous Fallout locations to ensure a fresh experience free from canon and backstory. One of the problems of having a multiple ending game is that the developers must take care in crafting a sequel, ensuring that no player’s decision will become invalid.
One thing can be for certain, the game will be based near a city that the player will be familiar with in some way.
Advances in graphics and gameplay during the creation of an Elder Scroll game has always fed into the next Fallout game and vice versa. For example the lock-picking first introduced in Fallout 3 was later used in The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim. So with this in mind it’s very likely that features seen in the latest Elder Scrolls game will find there way into Fallout 4.
One of the coolest features in Skyrim was the ability to transform into a Werewolf at will, none of this wait for a full moon stuff. This was further expanded upon in the Dawnguard expansion pack, during which the player had the option to become a Vampire Lord complete with it’s own talent tree. Of course transforming into one of these creatures would be somewhat out of place in a Fallout game, what ‘would’ fit is the ability to change into Super Mutant, Incredible Hulk style.
Being able to transform would not only give the player a bonus to their stats but could potentially open up unique questing. Giving the player the optionally to work alongside other Super Mutants, getting to interact with them rather than simply shooting first and asking questions later (an attitude normally adopted by any smart wasteland adventurer). Of course having this kind of ability would have to have it’s own quest line, perhaps the player’s Vault got infected by the FEV virus (the virus that turns people into Mutants), but it had a different affect on him/her, being the last survivor of Vault 123 he/she must now wander the wasteland alone, trying to find a cure (think the 1980′s Incredible Hulk TV series, but set in the post apocalyptic wasteland)… well until you find a companion character that is.
Skyrim also had the Dragon Shouts which really helped add an extra dimension to the combat and while Fus-Ro-Dah-ing someone off a tall building would be awesome, it sadly wouldn’t fit the universe. However one of the great things about setting yourself in a Science Fiction universe with futuristic 1950s technology, is that Gamma radiation can do whatever the writers say it can do. Your main character could follow such fictional characters as Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk by getting powers through SCIENCE. Suddenly your character can produce an stream of fire, fire eye beams, or even manipulate both individuals and the environment with mind powers. Something like this would of course need to be balanced in a similar manner to Skyrim’s shouts. There would also need to be a way of obtaining these powers in a way that is high risk. Perhaps the player will have to duke it out with Super Mutants or members of the Enclave who have had similar modification made to their genetic structure. Loot the gene thingy from the corpse take it to the local mad scientist, give him a few hundred caps and one gene changing beam later you got a new superpower.
Return of Past Features
Fallout 3 was the first game in the Fallout series to move from a top down camera with turn based combat to a 1st/3rd person shooter RPG (with a bit of turn based combat). While the shooting gameplay was not as refined as names like Gears of War, Halo and Call of Duty, it did have something they did not. Enter VATS (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) helping to compensate by pausing combat for a moment to deal pin point accuracy to the targets face… in slow-motion. One year later and in New Vegas you could finally look down the barrel of the gun (yay). Fallout 4 will no doubt improve upon this, making the combat far tighter and easier to use. So will we still need VATS to give as assistance? Probably not. Though I think getting rid of it would be ignoring the very roots of this franchise. Perhaps the system should be improved to allow the player to do shoots that wouldn’t normally be possible. Like bouncing a bullet off a nearby wall then into a men’s face (“BOOM Headshot”) or causing a missile to home onto it’s target, all shown in slow motion.
Over the years Bethesda have been making their worlds bigger and bigger or, at the very least, more jam packed with stuff to do. If Fallout 4 is roughly the size of Skyrim (perhaps bigger) the player will need aid to traverse this great wasteland. The quick travel system does allow players to instantly move from one discovered map marker to another. This to me takes away the feeling of discovery and the sense of danger you get. Giving players access to a car would help maintain these feelings while still being able to travel across large distances in a less time consuming manner.
In Fallout 2 you could find abandoned cars and get them working again. Well it’s unlikely any vehicles left out in the elements for so long would since be in working order, they may contain useful parts. The game could have an entire quest line focusing on finding bits and bobs to assemble and then later modify the player’s own personal ride, giving the player hours of fun cruising across the wasteland with their radio turned up to 11. Something like this would no doubt need to be balanced ensuring that the player doesn’t become invincible while driving. Then again it doesn’t have to be a car, it could be some newly discovered creature that works similar to a horse, maybe even assisting you in combat (come on mounted Deathclaws!) In any case the affect would be the same, giving players access to faster means of transport while at the same time keeping them engrossed in the experience.
Love or it or hate it Multiplayer has become a fundamental part of the gaming industry. There are few games released in recent memory that didn’t have some sort of online mode; Co-Op, Deathmatches an online Auction House. And with Bethesda now entering the world of online play through The Elder Scrolls Online (MMO), will we be seeing a online features for the next Fallout?
My answer is most likely, Fallout in the past has given you the option to travel with an A.I. driven companion so replacing this individual with your buddy wouldn’t change the experience too much. This would need to be balanced as having two players in the same space would make encounters far easier. I think Co-Op would work best in Hardcore Mode (from Fallout New Vegas) the players would have to manage hunger, dehydration and sleep deprivation. Turning the game more into a stimulation of what it would be like to be a lone wander in an atomic wasteland. Suddenly the players are now having to not only share ammo and guns but also food and water.
This could be further improved with Scenarios, giving the players a specific set of equipment to start with. For example the ‘Vault Dweller Scenario’ would have players wearing Jumpsuits, carrying Purified Water, Pistols and a bit of ammo, with the simple mission to save your Vault from a Super Mutant menace (like Fallout 1). The ‘Freed Slave Scenario’, would have the players start with nothing but rags, some melee weapons and one working gun. Their mission would be find a new place to live all the while being hunted by Slavers seeking to recapture them.
These Scenarios would allow Bethesda to throw it’s hat into Multiplayer ring without damaging the singleplayer experience and also giving the community months of fun as they create their own Custom Maps/Scenarios daring people to complete them.
Fallout 4 is coming, the question is will it surpass it’s forebears or be seen as just another entry in a successful series. With any luck it’ll mirror Skyrim’s amazing gameplay bringing an age of debates and arguments as fans ‘discuss’ which Fallout game reign supreme. Untill then we must wait till Bethesda unveils the next installment of this wonderful franchise. I sure I’m not the only one who will be pre-ordering it when they finally make an announcement.