“Fallout 4” is good, but not great

“Fallout 4” is more or less like Bethesda’s “Fallout” and “Elder Scrolls” games before it. Yes, there’s a new story here, a wide-open wasteland full of sidequests and activities there, and a few tweaks and mechanics to make the whole “Fallout” experience feel more streamlined for the modern gaming era.

If you loved Bethesda’s work on “Fallout” or “The Elder Scrolls,” you’ll like “Fallout 4.” I can’t stop you. Even I like it quite a lot. In a standout year like this, however, I worry that Bethesda’s ongoing mistakes are becoming more and more unforgivable.

The role-playing genre has changed irreversibly since Bethesda’s last RPG venture, “Skyrim,” came out. “Dark Souls” changed the way players interact with each other in RPGs, and games like “Shadow of Mordor” have shown game enthusiasts a new way to make boss and enemy design engaging. Even this year, games like “The Witcher 3” and “Undertale” have become new benchmarks of the genre from which other RPGs can and should be judged from now on. In addition, when it comes to open world design, Hideo Kojima nailed that on the head two months ago with “Metal Gear Solid V.”

Had “Fallout 4” come out any other year before this one, I have a feeling I would have liked it a lot more. Perhaps I’m just spoiled. “Fallout 4” is very good, but it isn’t great. The story is okay, and it has some standout moments. There are a couple characters that are really enjoyable, but most of them are pretty bland. There are more than a few sidequests that really grabbed me, but they were overwhelmed by the glut of “go here, kill this certain guy, and come back” quests that seemed to be everywhere.

The “S.P.E.C.I.A.L.” and perk systems from previous “Fallout” games have both been radically overhauled in several good ways. The clunky karma system from previous games is gone, and thank heavens for that. The new town-building mechanics did an unexpectedly good job of drawing me in, making me invested in the characters and the economy of the Commonwealth.

It really feels like Bethesda took many cues from its players’ mods, and that’s a very good thing. It shows that they’re willing to listen and cater to their fans.

However, it’s inexcusable to release a modern game in this buggy of a state. The excuse of “It’s Bethesda, their games are always buggy” is starting to get thin, especially when games like “The Witcher 3” or “Metal Gear Solid V” release with far less glitches.

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If you love “Fallout” and want more of it, go ahead and get it. I won’t stop you. I have no doubt that this is going to be one of the top sellers of the year. I’m concerned, however, that if Bethesda doesn’t really innovate with their series in a way that’s noticeable, then other games will leave it in the dust. In my opinion, games like “The Witcher 3” already have left it in the dust. As it is now, “Fallout 4” is merely pretty good. It will have to be a lot better than that when “Fallout 5” eventually rolls around.