Fallout 4 wins our 2015 award for Best Setting, and Phil, Chris, and Samuel explain what the wasteland brought to the year below. We'll be posting the rest of our awards and personal picks daily as we approach the end of the year, which we're collecting on our main GOTY page.
Phil Savage: Fallout 4 is a comfortable game to play. It's the logical next step for Bethesda's distinct brand of RPG—better in a myriad of ways, but similar enough that you can instantly get down to the business of shooting and looting. Some of the RPG elements have been dialled back, but what remains is an deft, enjoyable shooter with an amazing degree of combat customisation. Beyond that, though, Fallout 4's great achievement is The Commonwealth. I enjoyed the Capital Wasteland of Fallout 3, but, outside of Washington itself, never had a sense of it as a specific place. Boston is writ large throughout The Commonwealth—a dense urban environment that takes centre stage. It's packed with detail, and filled with standalone vignettes. On the macro level it looks stunning, even as the small-scale graphical fidelity isn't anything to get excited about. It's a world that begs to be discovered, and it's easy to lose hours doing just that.
Chris Livingston: The best stories in games aren’t the ones developers tell players, it’s the ones player tell themselves and each other. Bethesda RPGs have always given players ample room to ignore the official narrative and create their own characters, histories, motivations, and stories, and Fallout 4 is no exception. When you step out of Vault 111 you’ll find plenty of stories waiting for your attention, but not begging for it, leaving you free to come up with your own. Be a hero, a scoundrel, a collector, a craftsman, the leader of a settlement, or just a lone wander. Conquer the wasteland in power armor, or sneakily pickpocket every person you meet, or try to get by on charisma and luck. Or, simply build a house and see if you can fill it with melons. Other games may have bigger and more beautiful words, but none are so filled with possibilities.
Settlements and crafting also give you a great opportunity to ignore the main story and come up with your own goals. The settlement system isn’t exactly robust and can be pretty clunky to use, but building your own base lets you put a personal stamp on the world, and it’s hard not to feel some attachment to your favorite base after a while. As ugly and shabby as it may look, it’s still home, more than a rented room or a purchased dwelling ever will be. And that kid of yours you’re trying to find? He can wait. Once glance at the list of weapon attachments that you can’t quite afford or haven’t unlocked the skills to build yet, and you’ll forget about your wayward brat and spend the next several dozen hours scavenging and exploring and fighting until you’ve built the weapon of your dreams. The main story is fine, by the way! But it can wait until you’ve done all the things you want to do first.
Samuel Roberts: There’s a tension to exploring Fallout 4’s environment that is entirely unique to Bethesda’s 3D interpretation of this series—it’s the fear and excitement of the unknown, of picking through the wastes and seeing what remains of a land once dominated by mankind. And while I was actually a bit disappointed by the downtown part of Boston in Fallout 4 and its fairly blank streets, the outskirts of the city, containing miniature settlements, curious structures in the distance and unsettling remnants of a natural landscape, is where the 7-year leap over Fallout 3 is mostly keenly felt. I love how messed up the creature designs are now, too—walking through an abandoned supermarket is suddenly as jumpy and enjoyable as playing Left 4 Dead.