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.