An oft-mocked anecdote in the gaming industry comes to us by way of Machinima. Back in 2012, Ubisoft was about to release the excellent Far Cry 3, and as usual with big-name games these days, advertising kiosks were set up in stores across the country. Usually, these kiosks will be giant cardboard displays with one of the game’s principle characters (the antagonist Vaas, in the case of Far Cry 3) and some colorful decor to draw the eye. There’s also usually a box quote or two on the kiosk from a respected review source (IGN, Gamespot, et al) with a quote from the review and a score. At least, if the reviews are good.
Far Cry 3 was a spectacular game, and as such its reviews were good. Ubisoft opted to use a quote from Machinima’s review of the game. Machinima isn’t a traditional game review-centric site like the ones mentioned above, but rather a fairly large gaming media conglomerate housed on YouTube, and built off of a pretty deep community of content creators who push all the levers related to games and media. So, it was kind of strange for Ubisoft to go with their review quote, but still not too weird. What was weird about it? The quote they went with was “Like Skyrim with guns,” followed by an attribution with no actual score, despite the fact that Machinima gave the game a 9/10.
“Like Skyrim with guns”? Really? It’s particularly funny for a couple of reasons. One, at the time of Far Cry 3’s release, Skyrim had been out for about a year, so it was still quite possible that people hadn’t played it. Far Cry 3 was developed by Ubisoft, and Skyrim was made by Bethesda. So, in advertising for their own game, Ubi effectively advertised someone else’s, as well. I guess they were kind of going for The Worf Effect, wherein someone is immediately judged based on the fact that they can stand up to someone who’s known for being particularly strong. That said, Far Cry 3 really isn’t Skyrim with guns. At all. I mean, they’re open-world sandboxes, like half the games on the market right now, and Far Cry does have some RPG elements, but that’s pretty much where the comparison to Skyrim ends.
They’re both great games, but it seems silly to try to convince someone to buy your game based solely on that person’s understand of the fact that this other, very different game, made by a different company, is also very good. It’s like opening a lemonade stand and having your sign be an arrow to someone else’s lemonade stand that says “like that guy’s lemonade, but the cups are plastic”. Weird.
So, why am I writing this? Because lately I’ve been way into a game that practically is Skyrim with guns, Fallout 4.
The similarities are far more abundant, first of which is the fact that it has the same developer. But it also has a very similar feel and atmosphere. The UI is more like that of Skyrim, and the inventory management and RPG elements are also nearly identical, if not a little better. While the Fallout series has traditionally been an RPG series (especially the first two), the latter installations have included the FPS aspect pretty heavily, as well. Fallout 4 seems to be a turning point for the series.
For starters, it really incorporates a surrealistic art style that wasn’t as prevalent in the other entries. I didn’t spend too much time in Fallout 3 or New Vegas, but I could tell they were definitely aiming for a far more realistic look and feel than Fallout 4 does. And I kind of dig it.
Historically, I really like games that opt to have an art style over aiming for realism. For instance, the Borderlands series and Telltale’s games look like comic books, which is awesome. The BioShock series and Dishonored also have very distinctive looks to them as well, and can be quickly recognized as members of their respective series. Fallout 4 isn’t completely this way, as the terrain has some realistic textures and makes great use of lighting to bring out the wasteland of Boston post-nuclear war, but there’s definitely an almost … Pixar-like quality to the character and weapon models. It’s kind of hard to explain, but there’s definitely a style there that I really like.
I haven’t gone too deep into the story thus far, but that’s mostly because of the sheer amount of possibility in Fallout 4’s massive, rich world. Bethesda has yet to disappoint me with their massive games like the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series, and I’m fully willing to realize that it’s most likely because they only come around once every five years. Fallout 4 isn’t so much a culmination of the other entries in the series as it is a realization of some different sides to the story that Bethesda’s been telling since the 90s. The interesting thing about the Fallout series is that, unlike, say, the Assassin’s Creed series, they’re not constantly striving to add to the same formula. They’re changing things around with each release, which makes all of them worth playing.
Personally, Fallout 4 is probably my favorite entry in the series, despite the personal connection I feel to the world of New Vegas. It’s just … a lot lighter. There’s still room for deep customization and interesting character choices to make as you progress, but they’re streamlined in a clever way that presents all your options to you at once in a less intimidating way. The world itself is destroyed, but incredibly beautiful, and even at night the entirety of the scenery around you just pops– it’s hard to explain, but really awesome to see. It explains fewer things to you at the outset, which seems like it’d be frustrating at first, but it also gives you a chance to explore and figure stuff out on your own. Plus, you get an adorable German Shepherd.
Just like Skyrim, there’s an incredibly vast wealth of lore and stories to find, but if you don’t care about them, you can totally skip over reading any of the notes and letters scattered across the Commonwealth and just hit some assholes with a wrench or pop their heads off with bullets that somehow manage to decapitate their targets every time. The world is big, but not overbearing.
While the comparisons to Skyrim are the most obvious and far more accurate than they were when Ubisoft did it, I’d have to say the game I’d most liken it to is The Witcher 3, at least in terms of the improvements and changes made to the formula. like The Witcher 3, Fallout 4 not only improves on its predecessors, it tries a new, streamlined, more fun method of telling a better story. The world of The Witcher 3 was bigger, brighter, and more fun, as is the world of Fallout 4, and both games show the hallmarks of a veteran developer who knows what they’re doing. They’re going to have to seriously fight The Phantom Pain and Tales from the Borderlands for my game of the year.