How Fallout 4 improved upon Skyrim
It’s been roughly 4 years (not including expansion packs) between the releases of Skyrim and Fallout 4. Bethesda used the same game engine (the Creation Engine) as the software platform for both Skyrim and now Fallout 4. This choice could be from familiarity, cost-effectiveness, prudence of utilising their own IP, etc. Or simple laziness and a lack of creativity. However there are large and small improvements over Skyrim and we list them below in terms of NPC’s, inventory management, quests, music and building mechanics. This is how Fallout 4 improved upon Skyrim.
NPC followers – More sophisticated
Follower companions will react and comment on specific objects the player picks up. For example pre-war items including guns and typewriters, (“Well there’s a classic”); and newspapers, (“Take your time, the literate keep me fed”).
Additionally, followers will comment and like (or not like) successfully completing quests accordant to their personalities.
They will realise when you have reached your carrying capacity and offer to help. Companions in FO4 are more observant and will suggest carrying something when reaching near or exceeding carrying limit. While housecarls of Skyrim are “sworn to carry your burdens” if you engage them to do so, FO4 companions actively want to carry (and use) your burdens.
Companions will either approve or disapprove of specific actions the player makes such as when stealing, lying, helping others, negotiating for more money, giving chems to others, lock-picking, hacking, avoiding or inciting violence and persuading others, etc. This elaborates far beyond Skyrims companions who will or will not object to attacking and/or stealing from others.
Like Skyrim, you can add particular armour and weapons into your NPC’s inventory. Unlike Skyrim you can also select which ones you wish them to use. However with respect to weapons – and similarly with Skyrim – they will later change back to a favoured weapon.
NPC non-followers – Slightly more sophisticated
NPCs will register your non-response if you take too long in answering a question. For example, a bartender asked me if I wanted in on a job. Hesitating about taking it or not, he soon reminded me, “You didn’t say anything” while in-game blankly staring him in the face.
If listening to the local radio you may also hear descriptions of exploits you directly participated in.
Like walking past guards of the towns in Skyrim, security officers in Fallout 4 will remark upon events you’ve been involved in. While the amount of quotes do not appear anywhere equal to the hundreds within Skyrim, security officers will choose to focus on who you’re travelling with (“Oh, you gotta robot butler? I wanna robot butler!”).
Inventory management – Slightly more sophisticated
FO4 uses workbenches to mod armour and weapons rather than smithing or at a grindstone. When modding guns and armour the available mods will be bolded (and subsequently paled out if unavailable) with respect to player level and available resources. If possessing the required materials available mods will be displayed via a window situated the bottom left corner. This brevity in modding is really useful and intuitive given the hundreds of resources picked up across the Commonwealth.
Scrolling over unequipped armour and weapons will show a (+) or (-) sign comparable to your equipped items. This quick representation highlights whether you are using using the most effective items.
FO4 endeavoured to customise the inventory search through sorting via weight, damage, value, etc, rather than the simple alphabetical list. This helps. Moderately. In addition it is now possible to name certain items to help find that item quicker.
Navigating the inventory system is equally time-consuming and cumbersome in Skyrim and FO4. As both games are multi-platform it is understandable that a single comprehensive layout is easier to implement. However scrolling and scrolling through hundreds of items takes time and reading to find the improved needle +1 in a haystack. Overall the technical additions of inventory management from Skyrim to FO4 are welcome. The foundation is still clunky and cumbersome.
Quests – Similarly sophisticated
When a new quest is added, a gif-like image displays Vault Boy performing an action relatable to the quest. The idea is novel and supports the over-enthusiastic nature of Vault Boy.
Skyrim’s quests are arguably darker and more evil (e.g. ‘The Taste of Death’, ‘Boethiahs Calling’, etc), while FO4’s provoke more anxiety and unease (‘Painting the Town’, ‘Mass Pike Tunnel’). In FO4 there’s a feeling that life is cheaper, more dispensable and without being the Dovahkiin can be snuffed out abruptly from being jumped by raiders or getting hit with a rocket. For example, if you see an innocent toy monkey in a non-descript area with eyes flashing yellow to orange then red – pull out your gun.
Also, the ratio of unfriendly people to friendly people is significantly higher in FO4. Likewise is the number of unpredictable deaths from their bullets/grenades/rockets or exploding cars and canisters nearby. Haphazardly venturing into some areas will awaken ghouls (similar to the draugr of Skyrim) but rather than lumber towards you will rush to attack quickly and fiercely. Add to that the inconspicuous pressure plate mines, tripwires and gun mounted turrets and death within FO4 is more quick, sudden and incalculable.
With each game the main quest isn’t prioritised over the side quests in the journal log providing a natural and free playstyle.
Locations are dotted on a large map and only fast-travelled if visited previously.
Fallout 4 quests featured inside bunkers, subways and old buildings are generally tighter, more confined and feel more separated to the open world than the caves, crypts and temples of Skyrim.
Elevators/lifts are often too small to travel up and down with companions and often they get left behind. It’s unusual why the elevator design was akin to a shower or a large kennel.
Music – More varied
The FO4 score is minimalist, atmospheric and stirring and overall feels more Firefly and Planescape Torment than Elder Scrolls. Composer Inon Zur was a perfect choice given his accompaniment to Fallout 3, New Vegas and Dragon Age games. During firefights you realise the music has already crept up on you raising the tempo and testing your mettle regardless of battles you can and cannot win.
Alongside the score, the player can opt to listen to –
Radio – a mix of songs from the 1930’s – 1960’s. Old timey, sometimes hokey but endearing and appropriately contextual.
Classical radio – by luminaries Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, etc.
Certain radio frequencies – which relay a transmission directing the player towards miscellaneous sidequests.
Building – More sophisticated
Like Heathfire, FO4 allows you to build a dwelling. Unlike Skyrim, FO4 allows you to build a dwelling for others; a small one for a specific companion; for a whole camp; and even for entire settlements. On top of this FO4 gives you the option of where to place both the dwelling and its contents rather than the pre-decided positioning of Skyrim. The building mechanic has been seriously revised and improved upon allowing much more creativity and choice.
Unlike Skyrim, almost everything can be broken down into usable parts. When entering workshop mode, materials that can only be scrapped will be highlighted a yellowy-orange and green for functional (scrapping and usable) items.
A core handful of materials are needed to build a house in both Skyrim and FO4.
While home contents require more effort in finding often specific and obscure materials to build with.
A “Creation Kit” world builder for Fallout 4 was announced at E3, 2015. It will likely be available in early to mid 2016 with modding support for PC (of course) parallel with Xbox users and later for PS4 players. Until then Nexus Mods can cater for your needs particularly if you’re into more realistic textures for eyes, weather, blood pools and female body textures.