Gameplay - Key Changes, Perks, and Character Progression
Although Fallout 4's character system is quite different from Fallout 3, the basics are still there. Gunning down baddies earns EXP, as does picking locks, hacking terminals, completing quests and crafting item mods, chems or workshop additions.
That being said, Fallout 4 does issue some key changes to keep things quite fresh. Just about everything has been adjusted or downright overhauled, including Perks, stats, item mods, enemies, radiation, chems, dialogue, combat and even elemental affinities. We'll be going into more detail on the combat, items and crafting in the other sections.
Items except for Power Armor suits no longer need to be repaired. This is a huge weight off our collective shoulders, and I'm extremely relieved to see gear repairs have been cut. Given the huge dynamism of the game's crafting system, item repairs just don't fit.
Power Armor has changed in a big, big way. It's no longer treated as just another set of armor you equip; now it's more like a vehicle that you enter and exit at any time. Power Armor also runs on fuel in the form of fusion cores, and at first they'll be hard to find. By level 20 I had about 17 of them, but all in all you generally want to use your Power Armor more sparingly. I'll go into more detail about Power Armor in the items section.
Radiation is much more crippling this time around. Your RAD count actually temporarily knocks down your total active HP, acting as a pretty severe handicap in battle. The more radiation you rack up, the less and less total health you'll have, so RadAway is a total must. Or you can just pick up a Hazmat suit, or mod up your armor with active radiation resistance.
Radiation is much more commonplace in Fallout 4 and generally is treated in a much more realistic fashion. RADs aren't just accumulated from environments, but monsters as well. Super Mutants and Feral Ghouls will afflict you with radiation with strikes, adding even more danger to the mix. Sometimes wildlife will have a modifier called "glowing" which means they'll inflict radiation.
Dialogue is still basically the same but has been slightly tweaked in a very intuitive way. Instead of being locked into a closed off dialogue screen, you can break the dialogue simply by looking away from an NPC. This is super handy when danger is nearby, or when you need to swap out your Charisma-boosting gear to successfully persuade an NPC or get better barter prices. Sadly we've triggered a few glitches in the new dialogue system, so it's not always perfect.
On the raw character progression side, Fallout 4 makes some bold changes. Skills like Medicine, Small Guns, Heavy Guns, Energy Weapons and Repair have been scrapped. I know it sounds really strange, but honestly this is a welcome change and feels quite comfortable from the get-go.
SPECIAL stats are still intact and are basically the foundation for any character's abilities. Certain stats are much more important than others: this time around Agility has much more weight as it determines AP. Other than Agility, Charisma is much more useful for its persuasion opportunities as dialogue options open up very frequently.
Action Points are now tapped for an array of active abilities in Fallout 4, including sprinting, melee attacks with firearms, power attacks with melee weapons like sledgehammers, and V.A.T.S. targeting. When I started I only put 2 points into Agility thinking that I could get away with it...and throughout my adventures I've really felt it every time I run out of AP while sprinting, or try to melee attack a Ghoul only to realize I'm out of AP.
I also skimped out on Charisma with my character but quickly found that the stat is quite useful. Luckily you can find in-game items that boost your missing stats, so I was able to equip Reginald's Suit (3 CHR), a Formal Hat (1 CHR) and a pair of Black-Rim Glasses (1 CHR) to boost my Charisma up to 9.
If you've read our past coverage, you'll know that SPECIAL points are entwined with the new Perk system in a kind of grid formation. Think of the Perk chart as a parking garage: each level requires a certain stat ranking to access. To unlock a Perk on level four, you'll need to have the specific SPECIAL stat at level 4.
Most of the Perks can be leveled up multiple times to give extra bonuses. Typically the last tier of a given perk gives a substantial "Mastery" bonus for devastating efficiency. Fallout 4 has some pretty insane Perks too: be sure to take a close look at the tenth level Perks like Gun-Fu, Ricochet, and Four Leaf Clover. Mixing and matching some of these Perks gives players the chance to really annihilate their foes with strategic brilliance, adding a whole new dimension to Fallout gameplay.
A lot of these abilities like the crafting skills--Gun Nut, Science, and Chemist--as well as the terminal hacking and lockpicking skills are gated off behind level requirements. You'll find that Fallout 4 is really exceptionally balanced to make sure progression isn't too fast or too slow, ensuring gameplay can continue as long as you want.
Bethesda has done a fantastic job in making every Perk useful in its own way. Every single ability has an actual use that will come in handy in any given situation. You might turn away from the Pickpocket perk at first, but those opportunities to grab a quest item off an NPC pop up quite often. Also, consider the Lead Belly perk for the beginning, as you'll be slugging down irradiated water and chomping on rad roach meat to gain missing HP.
The Perks all reflect all the different kinds of characters players can create. There's a pretty substantial web of possibility here, from the sneaky ninja who uses silenced pistols to execute devastating criticals in VATS to the explosively loud machine-gun toting, Power Armor-wearing gunner. Or you can get up close and personal with a customized saw-bladed baseball bat and decapitate your foes with grisly precision--whatever your fancy, Fallout 4 gives you the tools to make your dream character.
These changes are absolutely amazing and considerably change the scope and replayability of the game. Even though I've played the game as much as possible since I received the review copy it still feels like I've barely scratched the surface of what Fallout 4 offers.
PRICING: You can find Fallout 4 for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link below to see real-time pricing for the best deal:
United States: Fallout 4 retails for $60 at Amazon.
United Kingdom: Fallout 4 retails for £36 at Amazon UK.
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