9 Mar 2016

Fallout 4: Why the Dialogue System Sucks


War. War never changes. I got Fallout 4 during the week it released and, like many others, was incredibly excited to try out Bethesda's new odyssey in RPGs. The lead-up to release was a fun experience; it was first revealed during E3 in June, and came out in October. While I do think the game is a visual and technical masterpiece, there is one giant issue with the game that prevented me from enjoying it: the dialogue.

In previous Fallout and other Bethesda RPG games, the player character's dialogue was all done through writing. By having a protagonist with no voice acting allowed them to be a true product of the player themselves. If you wanted to play as a mild-mannered martial artist from Canada, you could. If you wanted to be a psychopathic murderer from Scotland, you could. Character development was largely down to the player, and each quest had so many different dialogue choices, branches and paths that each one character felt unique and refreshing. Fallout 4, however, removes that in favour of voiced protagonists.

There are only two voice actors for the Sole Survivor, one for the male version and one female. This really takes away from the roleplaying experience, because you're not going to be immersed in the character if the voice doesn't quite fit them. This is the case, as both male and female actors play the role as a 'soft spoken, open-minded good guy' - which obviously only suits one role. It really cuts down on the amount of roleplaying you can do, if your character doesn't sound like an evil killer that murders everything (yeah, I play Fallout like a sociopath).

This ultimately also impacts the nature of the quests in the game. With little variety in voice-over work leads to even less variety in quests. The outcomes of each quest tend to only be in one way, maybe two if it's a major quest. In Fallout 3, there was a quest called "Oasis" where you have to deal with a talking tree called Harold. You could side with three different factions in this quest, or go your own route and burn down the tree yourself, meaning there were four different outcomes for 'Oasis'. In New Vegas, there were many quests just like this. Quests where you could tackle an objective in multiple ways, and each outcome felt different and held a lasting impact on my memory. In Fallout 4, each quest isn't very memorable due to them lacking choice.

It really comes across in the actual dialogue choices too. The dialogue wheel, which is built for controllers and lacks a proper keyboard and mouse interface by the way, is limited to four options. It usually goes like: 

1. Yes
2. No, but this will continue the quest anyway
3. Sarcastic Yes
4. What is that? (then loops back)

It's annoying, because if I refuse a quest then the other character will tell me they'll mark it in my journal anyway, so where is the real choice? Why on earth did Bethesda feel this dialogue system was a good idea, when players obviously want to have a proper role-playing experience in these types of games?

I don't know about you, but when a developer radically changes a popular gameplay feature in favour of an experimental but flawed one, it really becomes noticeable. I'm not the only one to notice this, and I think Bethesda should really go back to the old system for their next game. If Elder Scrolls VI has a voiced protagonist, it will NOT work due to the fact there are multiple races and genders available for character creation. Sorry, but I think I'm just going to go start a new playthrough of Fallout New Vegas.

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