Fallout 4: Feeling SPECIAL

I held off from buying Fallout 4 for my PS4 for all of…ooh, three days before I took the plunge and traded in my copy of Arkham Knight over the weekend.

In all my dislike of the latter game (a serious disappointment!) I’d forgotten that the long-awaited release from Bethesda was pretty much the entire reason I paid over three hundred quid for the privilege of a new console back in July.

So after a very late night getting to grips with the Commonwealth on Saturday, plus bumper playing sessions throughout this week, I wanted to talk about two things which have made the biggest impression on me during my gameplay so far.

fallout 4 please stand by screen

One is a completely new feature which was sort of previewed in the less impressive Fallout Shelter mobile game (and which I’d previously loved the hell out of in Animal Crossing: New Leaf – how’s that for a night and day comparison), and another old RPG favourite used in an interesting way.

Today I’ll talk about the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. and Perk system, before moving onto Workshop and crafts later this week.

Fallout 4 Perk System

Before Fallout 3 I don’t recall having a fondness for the RPG genre (unless you count Legends of Valourwhich I do not) but the previous Perks system utilised in Fallout 3 and New Vegas always made me look forward to levelling up, when I could choose from a plethora of useful and less useful ways to enhance my abilities in the Wasteland.

I knew that big changes to the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system were coming as soon as I watched the very funny intro video to each as the game installed, but I can’t say I was ready to ensure my character (who I’ve named Lucy) would end up being very balanced in each unique skill area.

In previous playthroughs of New Vegas and Fallout 3 I always, ALWAYS favoured Intelligence and Charisma over any other system, and would even reduce points assigned to Agility or Endurance in order to ensure that my guy or girl was the smartest and sassiest Wanderer around. It didn’t matter how nimble they were or how much damage they took because I’d always have some decent armour and plenty of Stimpaks to hand, whenever the going got tough.

Fallout 3 Special book

But the first thing that strikes me about Fallout 4, which ties in neatly to the topic next time, is just how much actual crap I need to be able to carry. The Strong Back perk can only carry me so far, and it’s especially annoying because I don’t like to focus on Melee Weapons, but I really need to top up my Strength stats. I’ve already had to leave behind a Junk Jet in the Institute because it’s too bloody heavy, and I’m afraid of what will happen if I go back in there. But not giving Lucy some muscle will come at a heavy price.

If I don’t collect all that junk, my settlements will go unstocked, and I will run out of valuable building materials. I’m actually dropping guns over aluminium cans just to be able to get precious resources to my settlers. In placing such emphasis on the need to scavenge (which you would do in this doomsday scenario, naturally) Fallout 4 has managed to turn one of its prequel’s interesting but ultimately useless features into an absolute necessity. That’s the kind of upside-down world-turning I like to see in video game sequels, because it has made this place a lot more realistic.

But now that levelling up seems to take bloody forever (and oh man I hope the level cap is, like, 1000), Lucy’s stuck with her mid-level intelligence, polite tone and rubbish bartering skills. Hardly a winning combination for wasteland survival.

Five For Friday: Scenic Views in Video Games

This week’s Five For Friday: virtual vistas, unspoiled plains and views to explore from the comfort of your own home.

Five For Friday geek culture views

I read an interesting article on the Guardian this week – a strong reaction to some British business type’s claim that all games are made by spotty nerds, lack “artistic flair” and won’t do the UK industry any favours. His generally being hugely mistaken aside, that middle bit for was an especially incorrect assumption. There are plenty of video games out there which pack all kinds of artistic flair – from iconic soundtracks to character and story developments that wouldn’t look out of place in one of those HBO dramas that the kids seem to love so much these days.

Nowhere in gaming is true art more immediately appreciated than the graphics, and while the best visuals are derived from moments of action and interaction, in some games there’s nothing like climbing up to the top of a hill and admiring the view. This week’s games chosen in Five For Friday possess just those moments; open-world games set on planets near and far which, even during the heat of the action, may cause you just to stop, tilt up on your controller and just…wooooah.

Fallout 3 – Outside Vault 101

Okay, so we’ll start with a location that doesn’t exactly inspire a visit to the travel agents any time soon. But once your character’s made their escape from the relatively safer confines of Vault 101 at the start of the game, the view that awaits them outside is very impactful in its own right.

fallout 3 vault 101

Look at that. Spooky, isn’t it? It’s just the beginning of a potentially horrifying adventure. Man I can’t wait for Fallout 4.


Mass Effect 2 – Ilium

The Mass Effect trilogy has more than its fair share of stunning vistas, especially when engaging in space combat. But one of the highlights for me comes from the second game when you visit Ilium to see what Liara’s up to. When you first enter the spaceport Nos Astra and start making your way through the market, the view out into the city is just amazing.

mass effect 2 ilium view

It’s one of the most striking sci-fi game views I think I’ve ever seen, just stunning, and it gives me a real thrill to imagine it happening somewhere out there.


Mirror’s Edge – the city skyline

In what’s already a fantastic game, the views were what really grabbed me the most in Mirror’s Edge, just the rush of getting out onto the rooftop and seeing this gorgeous blueness before you.

mirror's edge review

At the time, all games were about running through murky environs with your fellow soldiers or gang members to perpetrate whatever ‘gritty realism’ was involved in the story, but this rush of stunning colours was the perfect antidote. Hopefully the recently-announced follow up will be just as refreshing!


Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture – just about everywhere

This game was name-checked in that Guardian article as a token of that British artistic flair, and after finishing it myself earlier this week, I’ve got to agree – there’s so much of this interactive mystery that I just had to stop and stare at. The trails of light, the sound design and most of all, that beautiful Shropshire countryside – particularly at night, but showing a glimpse of that might just be a bit of a spoiler.

everybodys gone to the rapture

from PS Blog

For the purposes of this list, the best thing about Rapture is that I can’t even pick out one single view to call – most of the exterior is simply stunning to look at, and the interiors so well-detailed that estate agents should hire developers The Chinese Room to furnish their virtual show homes in future.


Minecraft – your own creation

To finish off, there’s nothing more creatively impressive than building your very own virtual view for the neighbours to get jealous of – and in the gaming phenomenon that is Minecraft this can very easily be done. But it, and games in general, can do so much more.

minecraft church

St Ben’s

The writer of that Guardian piece mentioned earlier, Keith Stuart, has written before of the benefits of Minecraft allowing his autistic son to have some much-needed order and control over what must be a very trying day-to-day life by playing god with these blessed bricks. It’s a very touching article and yet more evidence that not only does gaming deserve its artistic attributes but it can do so much more to help people, as evidenced by the fine work that the likes of Special Effect perform every day.

Been a while since I did one of these, hasn’t it! Don’t worry, I’ll soon forget again.

A Tune For Tuesday – ‘Civilization’ from Fallout 3

The Andrews Sisters and Danny Kaye, with a standout track from a game that’s already brimming with soundtrack quality, Fallout 3.

To celebrate the fact that I’ve put a silly amount of time into another playthrough of Fallout 3 during some holidays from work, I thought I’d share one of my favourites from the game.

Of course it’s from Galaxy News Radio – because I’m not about to share anything from Enclave Radio (unless it was ‘Stars And Stripes Forever (hopefully not forever)’ from The Simpsons.

“That’s some nice flutin’, boy.”

I don’t know how popular The Andrews Sisters were – before my time, obviously! – but they’ve also featured in BioShock, Mafia II and L.A. Noire – so they must be the go-to group for that old-timey feeling when setting the scene.

This is ‘Civilization’, recorded with Danny Kaye.

Which is your favourite song from the GNR soundtrack? Leave your answers in the comments!

A Tune For Tuesday – from Fallout 3

Feeling that this week’s tune should be a little more chilled than usual, readers, so by special request, a song described only in my research as “a jazz standard” and nothing else.


What’s your favourite Fallout theme?