Entropic Crusader

Home of sci-fi and fantasy author, Benjamin Matthews
Constantly rehashing Vaults, BoS, Muties, Raiders. Their games are about as fresh as 200 year old milk.

So let’s talk about Bethesda’s big problem: they simply don’t care about choice and consequence any more. They only care about money and making shallow games that appeal to as many casual gamers as possible. You need look no further than their actions in recent years (especially the whole Creation Club fiasco, paid mods, and Fallout 76) to understand that ever since Skyrim they’ve realised they can basically just put no real effort in and still make a shitzillion dollars.

Part of this lack of effort is never, ever locking content away from the player. So having Sanctuary become a no-go area after Act 1 until you advance far enough to liberate the place would be a big fat nope; that’d be locking content away. Likewise, having the player locked out of faction content (as happens in New Vegas) is a big no-no as well. Which is why you can do basically everything for every faction in Fallout 4 until the very end. And even then, I suspect the only reason you eventually side against one faction is so Bethesda could put a pretty nuclear explosion in their promo materials (again).

Skyrim suffers the same problem; you can be head of all six major guilds within minutes of arriving, and joining one has no repercussions on any of the others. Contrast this with Morrowind, where there were consequences, and you could easily lock yourself out of an entire guild questline / story by joining one of the others. But then Morrowind was largely crafted by one guy with a vision, and it shows. Coincidentally, he left after that game and Bethesda’s world building and story quality fell off a cliff. Hmm.

Bethesda also removed skills from Fallout 4, simplifying the game systems and removing any sort of level cap in an effort to get people to play forever on a single character. There’s virtually no real re-playability to be found in new character builds, because character builds don’t exist any more. Every new character ends up the same because there are certain perks that are necessary for everyone. And with them being level-locked, you can’t specialise early on, either.

And let’s not forget the cherry perched on top of the disgusting shit cake: radiant quests, the lowest of the low when it comes to quality and fun. They’re just MMO daily grind quests, except you don’t get anything useful from them. Just more xp and items, which you can farm anywhere anyway.

I’m not just wasting your time. Honest.

Then there are other issues such as unique weapons not being unique, meaning every character again ends up basically identical. For example, in New Vegas every single unique variant weapon was actually unique in that it had its own model and texture, and either required you to complete a quest—sometimes locking yourself out of a unique item entirely if you went a particular route—or visit a dangerous location to acquire, rewarding you for exploring.

Contrast with Fallout 4, where uniques are almost without exception just the base gun / weapon model with a legendary effect attached. And for the vast majority it’s virtually impossible to ever miss them, except by not having enough money for those stocked at shops… and money really isn’t an issue in this game anyway.

At the end of the day, I don’t expect Bethesda to change how they make games, not any more. They’ve found a formula that makes them ridiculous amounts of money, and expecting them to risk that by actually making good games is silly. When all’s said and done, Bethesda has become just another AAA factory churning out bland games lacking in creativity, same as the rest.

And that’s depressing as all hell. But more than that, it’s sickening knowing that what used to be my favourite game franchise is in the hands of people who don’t understand or respect it, and only care about it to the extent that it makes them money.

(Update: Starfield just confirms what I said above.)

As wide as the ocean, but deep as a puddle. This should be Bethesda’s motto.

New Vegas had a theme running throughout the whole game that I mentioned during the main Fallout 3 series. It’s a theme that’s especially prevalent in some of the DLC: let go and move on, or begin again and make the same mistakes in a never-ending cycle? Frankly, I feel it’s probably time to let go. Fallout is effectively dead (Update in April ’24: the Amazon Fallout show confirms that Fallout is officially dead), at least as far as getting anything worthwhile going forward is concerned.

One of the main reasons for that is the man known as Emil Pagliarulo, lead writer and designer at Bethesda. His writing is almost Hollywood tier, meaning it makes no sense and lacks any sort of consistency or logic. He employs liberal use of coincidence and contrivance, plus an unhealthy dose of outright author fiat and bullshit plot twists that make no sense. His writing even includes DEI checkboxes now, thanks no doubt to now being owned by Microsoft.

I say almost Hollywood tier because I will at least credit him with not stuffing politics into the stories he writes, or bashing the player over the head with “”””moral messages”””” (I’d add more air quotes there, but I only have so much space). At least, that was the case, but Starfield confirms Bethesda have been infected with the mind virus, so even that minor piece of praise is now out of the window, too.

Even putting aside new issues like DEI nonsense, Emil completely fails on any sort of thematic or moral level as well, with black and white conflicts that are about as complex as playground arguments among grade schoolers. The single exception to this is the Stormcloak / Empire conflict in Skyrim, which still prompts heated discussions to this day.

So props for that one, Emil, assuming you actually came up with it. Credit where credit is due… bearing in mind that Skyrim had at least five other credited writers (Brian Chapin, Jon Paul Duvall, Shane Liesegang, Alan Nanes, William Shen), so it’s possible this wasn’t even Emil’s work. The quality is above par, so I would certainly lean towards it being one of the other guys…

All in all, he’s a terrible writer who should be kept as far away from a morally grey and ambiguous series like Fallout as humanly possible. Because really, I don’t think I could stomach yet another bland ‘where’s my family member gone?’ main quest (so of course Amazon’s series did exactly this…). It was boring when it was Dad, and it was boring when it was Shaun. Oh, and it was boring in Point Lookout as well. And Far Harbour.

That’s four times they’ve used the same basic conceit in only two games. Enough is enough, Emil, seriously. Is Starfield going to have you crossing the galaxy in search of your lost husband / wife? I really hope not. (Thankfully, no, it didn’t… but instead you search for Dragon Shouts, but IN SPACE! So that’s hardly a win.)

And this is pretty much my main problem with his writing in relation to Fallout; he focuses on entirely the wrong things, and locks the player into predetermined roles instead of letting them actually pick a role and play it. You know, like a role-playing game? Honestly, I won’t even bother with their games going forward. Not least of which because of the introduction of woke, plus the insane prices of so-called AAA games these days. It ain’t worth it, and I’m just done giving them my time or money, especially when there are so many great indie games to check out.

So long, and thanks for all the f̶i̶s̶h̶ fallout

Maybe one day I’ll talk more about New Vegas or the original Fallouts, and dig into why they were such great games. Lord knows there’s enough to discuss. Compared to Bethesda’s sophomoric fare, the difference isn’t even night and day, it’s far more stark than that.

Back when I first wrote this series (back in 2017 or so), I added a caveat here where I talked about a potential MMO in the Fallout universe, and how that could potentially be an interesting way forward for the series, if given to another studio. But since Fallout 76 is a thing now… yeah, any potential for a positive outcome on that front evaporated into the ether back in 2018. Oh well.

Sadly, I’ve pretty much had it with modern Fallout. And that sucks, because it used to be one of my favourite gaming franchises. So thanks, Bethesda, just like every other soulless corporation, you ruined everything good about it to the point where a long-time fan like me can’t even be arsed to give it the time of day any more.

At least I’ve got plenty of good quality indie games to occupy me. Kenshi, Rimworld, Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead, UnderRail (see my review of this one HERE, if you want a spiritual Fallout successor with way better combat and an even more interesting setting). There’s no shortage of fun to be had, and for a fraction of the cost of bloated, bland, bullshit-laced AAA garbage (perhaps we should call it BBB, huh?).

The only problem I face now is not having enough hours in the day to enjoy all of them…

Thanks for reading this lengthy series, it was fun to write even if it was pretty depressing, too. I hope you enjoyed it.

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