Now that I have my Xbox One back and, more or less, back to the spot it was before it crashed on me, I’ve really been digging back into Halo 5 and Fallout 4. They’re both games that I’ve been looking forward for a big chunk of this year, so it’s fun to really dig into the mechanics of both games. Today I want to talk a little bit about the changes to the combat in Fallout 4, at least within the first handful of levels and quests. I know that there’s still a ton of little details to find out later on – especially once I really start putting skill points into perks instead of S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats.
Of all the changes from previous Fallout games to Fallout 4, I think the combat is the one that’s taking me longer to really adjust to. That’s a good thing though, because the real root changes are for the best. Bethesda brought in developers from Bungie and id Software to help really nail down the combat. Those are two of the strongest FPS developers ever, so the core fundamentals are certainly improved from the previous games. The gunplay actually feels more like a shooter, and puts a little more value in thumbskill than it used to. From an RPG standpoint, that can feel a little blasphemous. And honestly, I think if it had happened way back with Fallout 3, I think it would have been a much bigger issue. But RPG’s have evolved a lot over the last 7-8 years. Games like Borderlands and Mass Effect and Dead Island have really combined RPG fundamentals with more dynamic action. Fallout 4 is just the next logical extension of the progression, brought to probably the biggest stage in modern RPG’s.
What I think is really keeping me from adjusting faster is just that I’ve been playing New Vegas so much in the last couple weeks. Those last generation Fallout games had a combat that was a bit more determined by your characters skill levels. Use a traditional lead and powder gun with low Gun Skill, and it’s going to be less accurate. That extends to the V.A.T.S. mechanic, which I always kinda thought was borderline cheating. Freezing time and getting more accurate shots directed at individual body parts seemed a little unfair. Both of those facets have gotten a pretty strong focus with Fallout 4. V.A.T.S. now slows time down, but enemies are still able to fight back while you’re trying to place your shots. It’s still a little cheap to me, but much more in line with the in-universe rules. That, combined with the new S.P.E.C.I.A.L. focus, helps decide if you’re really going to focus on V.A.T.S or real-time combat with your skill point allocation.
That real-time combat has evolved to a spot that I think really puts it into a good place. It’s certainly not setting the world on fire, especially compared with the current crop of FPS’s out now, but it’s definitely better than it used to be. I feel a lot more in control of my performance – where I aim, is where the bullet goes. That alone would be enough for the combat to feel better, for me. But Bethesda also added in more flexibility – with a melee attack and grenades mapped to a shoulder button. No more specifically equipping grenades instead of primary weapons – just have them equipped and you can toss them by holding down RB/R1 button. That means that I’ll be using them a lot more frequently. Same goes with the melee attack – you have a gun bash now, tied to that same RB/R1 button. Take out a Feral Ghoul’s leg and it’s immobilized – no more wasting ammo on it, go punch it till it’s dead. That extends to the more nuisance enemies – Mole Rats, Bloatflies, Radroaches all can be easily felled with a few gun bashes. It makes Strength important for any character build, not just melee and carry weight.
Combat is always an important part for any RPG, and Fallout has finally, I think, gotten a great system in place that really fits all the different combat styles. It works with melee or ranged, unarmed or explosives. It’s not flawless of course, but I think it’s a great step forward, and has me thinking about how Bethesda could apply what they’ve done here with Elder Scrolls. Fallout is a huge game, with all kinds of moving parts, so there’s a lot to digest. Hopefully I’ll revisit the combat in a couple weeks after I’ve really managed to get a lot deeper into the game as see how it holds up toward end-game content.