Five reasons Fallout 4 should have been made by BioWare

Posted December 16, 2015 by Sean Capri in Video Games

After 60 hours of gameplay and completing two of the possible endings, I realized Fallout 4 may have been better served by another developer: BioWare.

Settle down, I’m not suggesting Bethesda should pack up and stop creating these worlds for us. Between Fallout and Elder Scrolls, Bethesda has changed the landscape of RPGs and pioneered the Western RPG sub-genre. This is a mostly facetious reflection; exploring a hypothetical “what if?” that stems from my personal preferences.

I’m going to break a cardinal rule here by comparing Fallout 4 to the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series. It’s fine. Just go with it.

Spoiler Warning for Fallout 4. You’ve been warned. About the spoilers.

Gut-wrenching decisions

Less than 20 minutes into Dragon Age: Origins, I was confronted with the first of many paralyzing decisions. Do I betray my characters closest friend, Jowan, and rat him out for his unholy union with a Chantry initiate? Now, I’ve never been part of the Circle of Magi but the underlying themes presented in games like Dragon Age are so universal that I immediately feel connected to the conundrum.

I don't know you but I know I don't like you.

I don’t know you but I know I don’t like you.

Sure, there are moments that cause me pause but Fallout 4 never had me wincing, peering through one eye, regretting any single decision. Those moments might be out there but I never came across any. And after 60 hours, I must conclude they are the exception rather than the rule. Something this impactful should be strewn throughout rather than hidden away.

I didn’t care about Desdemona, or anyone at The Railroad, enough to care about slaughtering their entire faction. I barely cared about The Institute enough to justify such spontaneous violence. The story leads you to fear and loath this mysterious organization and completely relies on your character’s desire to find his son to solidify an affinity.

And if it isn’t a universal theme that drives these gut-wrenching decisions, it is the bonds you forge with real, believable, and lovable (or equally important, loathable) characters…

Companions that carry more than your junk

A surefire way to make a relationship with a video game character feel like a relationship with a video game character is to have them jump into an emotional diatribe just as you fire a mini-nuke at a Deathclaw. Both Cait and Nick Valentine chose incredibly awkward moments to tell me they wanted to discuss how important I was to them. It was as if we had spent a set number of hours together and an alarm went off that triggered the heartfelt appeal.

Let's talk about "us" later, we're being shot at by Super Mutants.

Let’s talk about “us” later, we’re being shot at by Super Mutants.

I genuinely like these two characters, in particular. Nick’s backstory fits perfectly with the lore and feeds into your distrust of The Institute. His performance (voiced by Stephen Russell) made me forget that Synths don’t really exist. But in the end, my relationship with Nick amounted to nothing more than a few side missions and finding my son. He existed in isolation from any other companions. Shouldn’t Desdemona care that I’ve befriended a Synth? Wouldn’t that interaction be insanely interesting?

And why doesn’t anyone think my dog is awesome?

None of these characters seem to notice each other other than a few passing comments. Where Bethesda wants to make sure you can collect every burnt magazine, BioWare has inter-party banter that highlight personality conflicts. Characters in Dragon Age will outright discriminate against another

An undefeatable enemy

The Blight. The Reapers. An old man?

Pfft. Chinese Nuclear Weapons.

Pfft. Chinese Nuclear Weapons.

What was the conflict in Fallout 4, really? The answer is an existential one and not nearly as daunting as an unstoppable galactic for or a horde of monsters led by an Archdemon tainted by Old God’s blood.

The conflict is in the world, man! The conflict is survival. The conflict is political. The conflict is boring.

The problem with Fallout 4 is it combines the branching storyline of three factions with the final outcome of the game. BioWare tends to separate the friends and enemies portion of the story line and maintains a constant end goal. The team that joins you to battle the big boss depends on the decisions you’ve made along the way. But in Fallout 4, the end boss depends on the decisions you’ve made which would be fine if there was enough character development to generate some genuine feelings towards any of the potential antagonists.

In searching for your son, Sean, you spend a great deal of time villainizing The Institute. And upon meeting Father – who is insanely boring, one-dimensional, and doesn’t give a damn about you or what you’ve been through – you drastically change direction pretty quickly. I understand this is really the only way to keep things moving along in order for the third act to be lined up but without a solid foundation, the story collapses under its own well-intentioned complexity.

Even StarCraft has cut scenes

This is one of the more subjective points of contention but perhaps if Fallout 4 took a minute to reward the player with a theatric cut-scene, the understated story beats would take on more prominence.

Nick Valentine should be the titular character in a film noir.

Nick Valentine should be the titular character in a film noir.

The argument against this would be “it takes the player out of the game,” and I get that. However, the way things roll out in Fallout 4 look like this: all done-next quest-set waypoint-listen to long-winded/uninteresting monologue-kill guys-all done-next quest…

I get it. Games like Half-Life dictate that you don’t need movie clips to tell a story. But Fallout 4 is an epic game with an epic world

Abra Cadab-nope

Somebody in Fallout universe, I don’t care if it’s the main character or a companion, should have powers. The SPECIAL system and its Perks tree is perfect for some outrageous upgrades.

The power of the 'stache

The power of the ‘stache

Before you say “that wouldn’t make sense,” just don’t. You know what else doesn’t make sense? Suicide Super Mutants who have the gentle dexterity to gingerly handle a miniature nuclear bomb and the dogma to commit the ultimate sacrifice, all in the name of removing a random human from the face of the Commonwealth. Funny how that works when you really think about it, isn’t it?

Anything can make sense in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. You could be a radioactive man or woman! Or better yet, you could meet someone with powers. Come to think of it, the fact that no one has radioactive abilities is a little far-fetched.

V.A.T.S. is one way Fallout has been able to disguise it’s combat weaknesses and BioWare does the same thing. Maybe I don’t want to be limited to shooting things and monsters. I want to rip a Feral Ghoul apart from the inside-out or freeze a Bloatfly and smash it to pieces with a baseball bat. That would be amazing!

About the Author

Sean Capri

I am a beady-eyed Canadian. I play video games and feed/walk my three dogs.