Tan­gen­tial, inessen­tial and yet thor­oughly ab­sorb­ing, base build­ing is an­other sub­tly bril­liant ad­di­tion to the Fallout tem­plate. You’ve long been able to own a part of the waste­land, usu­ally us­ing your rooms as skip for all the junk you just can’t bear to leave out­side, but set­tle­ments let you shape it and give all those hoarded fans and clip­boards a pur­pose. What stag­gers is the ar­ray of depth. Sim­ple bolt-to­gether pre­fabs cater for dab­blers, while power sys­tems, de­fence em­place­ments and a host of dec­o­ra­tion op­tions and work­sta­tions are all here for the com­mit­ted fixerup­per. There are, of course, a few quirks – walls float rather than obey physics, and us­ing the menus near ob­jects can be awk­ward – but it’s sat­is­fy­ing that you can add to the wastes, not just make them emp­tier.

Char­ac­ter sculpt­ing and depth in­stead falls more heav­ily on the ti­tanic SPE­CIAL perks chart, al­low­ing you to shape your vault dweller into a light-fin­gered sneak as eas­ily as a brash gun­slinger, but also al­low­ing you to im­prove your craft­ing, loot­ing, set­tle­ment build­ing, and even tra­ver­sal moveset. Lev­el­ling is slow enough that each early choice has def­i­nite mean­ing, and key perks such as turn­ing rads into health or be­ing able to dis­ap­pear un­der­wa­ter truly af­fect how you ap­proach fu­ture en­coun­ters. One grum­ble is how far down the col­umns the perks for ar­mour and gun mod­i­fi­ca­tions lie, mean­ing the first few lev­els are un­able to make you any­thing bet­ter than the waste­land has al­ready pro­vided. But that few points ever feel wasted in a chart of 70 op­tions is the best kind of praise for Fallout 4’ s as­tound­ing smor­gas­bord of buffs and pow­ers. Fallout 4 is as ec­cen­tric as they come. It sub­tly shifts the ethos of postapoc­a­lyp­tic ad­ven­tur­ing to suit longterm com­mit­ment in your vault dweller and see­ing all its world has to of­fer, but to the detri­ment of the de­sire to re­play the game from scratch. It re­fines the core shoot­ing and user in­ter­face, but oth­er­wise adds only a clutch of en­joy­able yet nonessen­tial ex­tras, such as set­tle­ments and ar­mour pieces. And de­spite feel­ing like a throw­back, it is a po­tent re­minder that Bethesda has made some of the bet­ter role­play­ing worlds to ex­ist. Mods will pol­ish it, patches may fix it, and drifters still won’t see what the fuss is about. But if you’re of a mind to set­tle down, there are few more re­ward­ing places to do so than the Com­mon­wealth.

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