I know this may sound like sacrilege to some of you out there, but not long ago, I greeted the rumors of a Fallout 4 (opens in new tab) announcement (and indeed, the announcement itself) with a resounding "meh." I've tried previous games in the series but never lasted more than a handful of hours before boredom or antipathy set in and caused me to set the controller – or keyboard – down.
It's not that the games were bad. I could certainly appreciate them on a technical and artistic level, but I just didn't enjoy them. I couldn't connect with the characters, the sickly brown-green-gray color palette made me depressed, a lack of civilization made me lonely, and I have a deep-seated aversion to '50s architecture and design (I blame being forced to watch Grease so much as a kid).
Fallout 4, whether it intended to or not, looks like it will address my problems with previous games. Okay, maybe not the '50s visual design, but three out of four ain't bad.
The most obvious change – and, I would argue, the one that has caused the most divided opinions – are the graphics. Fallout 4's graphics look neater and cleaner than those seen in Fallout 3 (opens in new tab) and Fallout: New Vegas (opens in new tab). They also have a far greater emphasis on color, with saturated reds, purples, blues and more breaking up the monotony of the irradiated wasteland.
To some, this was offensive – how dare Bethesda make the nuclear apocalypse look like anything but the festering hellhole it would surely be? But to me, it's enticing - it looks like a place that might be nice to visit, and it makes me want to explore the world, to see what other differences and variations there might be.
And a quick sidenote on the look: Chernobyl is possibly our best case study for what happens to the land when nuclear radiation devastates it, and not-quite 30 years later, it looks more like The Last of Us (opens in new tab) than Mad Max. Humans still shouldn't live there and long-term effects from radiation have yet to be conclusive, but flora and fauna have definitely reclaimed the still very radioactive land. So in this respect, more color is actually more realistic!
Another big change that caused many a gasp within the Fallout community was the reveal that the player character would be voiced. But while others were lamenting the intrusion of a stranger's voice, I was celebrating. Silent protagonists have always felt like a personality-less prison to me – the video game equivalent of Bella Swan in Twilight.
By this comparison, I mean that to me, quiet heroes have always felt like constructs that exist to serve the player, not the world. It's immersion I want, and I don't have much of that when I know I'm not really in that world yet am treated by NPCs like I am. I don't need to think that I am the character I'm playing in order to feel like I relate to them and connect. In addition, looking at the person I'm playing as someone with their own thoughts, motives, and beliefs makes things far more interesting, as I never know quite how they'll respond in a given situation. It forces me to pay attention.
Lastly, the companion system is being expanded to include options of romance. This hasn't been explained in great detail yet, so who knows if it will be something as basic as Skyrim (opens in new tab)'s "Hey, you're wearing a necklace and I'm single, wanna get hitched and never see each other again" marriage or as robust as a Mass Effect party member. While I hope for something closer to the latter, either way, I'm excited to get to know my fellow wanderers of the wasteland as something other than a loot mule carrying my gear or extra gun in battle.
Ron Perlman famously said that war, war never changes. But it does, so why shouldn't Fallout? With all the change I see in Fallout 4's preview materials, I'm excited to give the series another try.
Image credit: lifeofpics1/Flickr