From Three to Four: How Bethesda Can Improve the Next ‘Fallout’

If you have been without Internet for the past week or so, we have great news: Bethesda officially announced Fallout 4, and I, along with a few other Analog Addiction editors, could not possibly be more stoked for it. The mere confirmation of it has many wetting their pants in excitement. It’s hard to think about how it was only announced barely more than a week ago, and now we’re just a few days away from the gameplay debut at Bethesda’s first-ever E3 press conference.

While Fallout 3 hit the nail (board) on the head in bountiful ways as a video game, like any classic, there are always some things they could have done better. With the power of current-gen consoles, and on PC of course, here are some ways Bethesda could utilize the current technology to make Fallout 4 even better than its superb predecessor.

Different Repair System

While I understand the concept of repairing an item with the same item, stumbling upon duplicates sometimes happens few and far in betweenOn the other hand, getting weapons and armor repaired by a merchant is either too expensive, or it doesn’t get fixed enough – not to mention no one can repair an item to 100 percent except you. It’s also horrifying when you realize you accidentally repaired a regular weapon with a unique weapon, and there’s no save point back far enough to get it.

It’s a big, post-apocalyptic world out there. Other than ammo for the Rock-it Launcher, there are plentiful items in Fallout 3 you can pick up with no purpose. Add a system where we can break down those items for repair parts on a weapon.

Unrestricted Access to Collectibles and Areas

I have poured countless hours into Fallout 3. During those most recent hours, I was getting the last remaining achievements. They were mostly me trying to get collectibles with the Vault Boy bobbleheads and the alien captive recordings from the Mothership Zeta add-on – a.k.a. Fallout 3’s worst DLC in my eyes. Someone at Bethesda thought the brilliant idea of making some of these collectibles inaccessible after getting beyond certain points, especially in Mothership Zeta when more than half of the ship is locked after completing the DLC.

Restricting access to collectibles, and even some areas in the Capital Wasteland, is more of a poor design decision than anything else. The Fallout series is one where player choice is strongly emphasized, so why not give me an option to revisit certain portions of the game?

Make the City More Navigable

Exploring the Capital Wasteland is one of many highlights in Fallout 3. Sweetening the experience is the time I went to Washington, D.C., when I was in fifth grade circa 2003, so I recognized many landmarks when I first walked around the city in the game. I especially remember when I got to – wait, no, there’s a bunch of rubble blocking my way. I’ll just go around this way to – nope, more rubble. I’ll turn around and – OK, I know there wasn’t a pile of concrete here before!

This sums up some of my experience walking around the D.C. area in Fallout 3. It makes perfect sense that a world bombarded with nuclear bombs would have piles among piles of debris lying around, but from a player stand point, it gets irritating fast having to travel in the metros so I could get to something 10 to 20 yards away from me, which happened on numerous occasions. Have some fallen debris throughout The Commonwealth, Fallout 4’s setting, but don’t overkill it.

More Stealth Weapons

It doesn’t matter if your stealth is maxed out. If you sneak around and fire a gun just a few times in Fallout 3, you can still be spotted quickly. While I know people use melee and unarmed weapons for kicks, it’s not the best way to play seriously – or when you’re experiencing the game for the first time – when a majority of NPCs have guns.

There are only two silent guns in Fallout 3: The silenced 10mm pistol, and Infiltrator assault rifle. The pistol is useful toward the beginning, but becomes far less powerful compared to other weapons after leveling up so much, and the Infiltrator, while awesome, is only available if you buy The Pitt add-on. Throwing knives, bow and arrows, a silent barrel attachment, or the signature why-didn’t-I-think-of-that feature only Bethesda could think of, would be fantastic for Fallout 4.

Oh, check out this hilarious comic on Fallout 3’s stealth.

Faster Way of Traveling

“What are you talking about? They have fast travel.” Yes, and it’s incredibly useful given the size of the game, but your character has no way of moving faster on foot. Simply adding sprint would be great, and who knows. Your character in Fallout 4 looks like they have a garage where they can repair or upgrade things judging by the premier trailer. Let players build their own souped-up Giddyup Buttercup to ride around The Commonwealth, or restore a classic car from scratch.

General NPC Improvements

Fallout 3 can get pretty tough pretty fast depending on the situation. These times would be tougher, more exciting and realistic if the NPCs were improved in a few general ways. I’m talking about enhancements in things such as mouth movement, better body language, less robotic movements and sensible reactions when I shoot at someone or something. In a shorter sum: Be smarter and move less like a robot – unless you’re a Protectron or Robobrain.

The same interaction with NPCs in Skyrim should also be present. I never liked how the world around me paused when I talked to someone in Fallout 3. You sometimes get funny poses in the background, but having the world keep going is much better.

These small things sometimes reminded me “Oh yeah, I’m playing a video game” rather than being engrossed in an experience. This console generation has seen some impressive motion capture and AI responses in games. Let’s see that make the transition to Fallout 4.

Smoother shooting mechanics

People have mixed feelings about the shooting in Fallout 3. Some think it’s too stiff, while others feel it’s great. I fall somewhere in the middle. It’s still playable seven years later, and I loved it when the game first released, but it hasn’t quite aged gracefully over the past seven years. Fallout is an RPG and shooter second, and it certainly should be, but it wouldn’t hurt to make the shooting mechanics a little more loosey goosey and smooth for Fallout 4.

While we’re at it, Bethesda either needs to fix the third-person view, or not include the option at all in their games. It was at its best Fallout 3, but that’s not saying much when the other contenders are the third, fourth and fifth Elder Scrolls games. If we do have third-person in Fallout 4, keep the camera at a fixed position and maintain the sensitivity at the same level. It practically goes from normal to lighting when switching from first-person to third in Fallout 3.

Lastly, do not put in aim down sight. Plenty of games have this already. Keep the zoom from Fallout 3. It not only feels right with the game, but it separates itself from other shooters on the market.

Enemies shouldn’t level with you

Bethesda has had this in their games since Oblivion, and I would like to see it eradicated. The more you level up, the more your enemies level up with you. In Oblivion for example, I could go to a camp of bandits when I was level five, and they would have the most basic weapons and armor because of my level. If I returned to the same spot and bandits returned, but I’m at level 20 with better gear during this second visit, they would have around the same armor and weapons I started getting at that level. This was also present in Fallout 3.

A post-apocalyptic setting is a scary place. Without the right experience or abilities, some places and enemies should make you think twice before you tackle them head on. Enemies not leveling with you would not only add extra challenge to Fallout 4, but it would add a higher sense of danger and intensity, something that would undoubtedly be present in a collapsing world.

What do you think Bethesda can do to Fallout 4 to make it an even bigger hit than the previous title? Do you have even more ideas than what’s listed above, or should nothing be changed at all? Let us know what you think in the comments below, and let’s hope the game launches in 2015. Good hunting!