This past Tuesday, Bethesda Entertainment released the latest installment in the wildly popular post-apocalyptic RPG franchise Fallout. Playing as the Sole Survivor of vault 111, you travel through the area around what used to be Boston, Massachusetts, searching for the people who murdered your spouse and stole your son while you slept in a cryogenic chamber. At risk of giving away too much about the plot, I'll get right into the nitty-gritty of what this game is about, it's strengths and flaws, and most importantly, how accessible it is for everyone to play.
First, the game is visually stunning. Start to finish, the world is obviously expansive and completely interactive, as one would expect from Bethesda. You can walk from one corner of the map to the other, take up quests or ignore them as you see fit, and make all the moral and immoral choices that this post-apocalyptic world throws your way. On top of that, the music is fantastic. Initially, players can access two radio stations through their "Pip-Boy:" a station full of excellent pieces of classical music by composers such as Tchaikovsky, Chopin, and Debussy, which are all fantastic in their own right. However, it is the second of the two stations, which is full of jazz, swing, and the boogie-woogie of the 40s and 50s, that adds to the post-World War II era immersion of the Fallout world. On a personal note, I find my enjoyment of the music bittersweet, knowing that it could've been one more thing I could have used to connect with my late grandfather. I know he would've loved it.
The combat system is quite interesting, utilizing the V.A.T.S targeting system, which is a unique way to not only slow the action down for physically disabled players like myself to still take part in the action without being slowed down in turn by those obvious physical shortcomings, but it also allows all players to make called shots against the head, torso, and limbs of any opponent, human or otherwise. This is an excellent example of what I call "Game Equity," which is when game mechanic elevates all players to a higher level of gameplay. This is contrasted with "Game Equality," which consists of the game mechanics that elevate certain groups of players to the level of others; an example being when games change their color display to make allowances for red green color blindness. Both certainly have their place in game accessibility, but only one of the two has a positive effect on the entire population of users.
Unfortunately, the game does have its flaws. The use of a crafting system reminiscent of open world survival games is obviously an attempt by Bethesda to bring in that audience, but I find that I don't much care for it, beyond making modifications to my weapons and armor, or creating items that I will need in the field. I'm not part of the Minecraft crowd, and I don't need a giant castle full of electricity and amenities. Fortunately, the game allows you to simply throw down a large shack or two and put some beds of them and you can call it good as long as the area is defended.
More pressing are some of the bugs present or gameplay mechanics that require frequent Google searches, or spending too much time on the Fallout Reddit. I had to search Google in order to find out how to throw a grenade, exit my power armor, turn on my flashlight (which isn't even mentioned in the game for some reason), or manage the first and third person view which uses different keys to access depending on whether or not you are in a settlement. I mean, come on. Better an hour searching through Google than five minutes on Reddit. Still, they should have added these game mechanics within the first couple quests, in order to show the player how it's done.
Past that, one bug in particular has given me no end of trouble: the up and down arrows using the Pip-Boy menus are not entirely pervasive. Some menus I can use the up and down arrows with my mouse to navigate the list of items with no trouble. Certain other menus, namely my crafting menu and my aid inventory have the up and down arrows present, but clicking them is absolutely useless. I have tried a few different solutions with some of my adaptive equipment with varying degrees of success. When I remap my controller using Xpadder, I can navigate with my joystick, but have to switch tabs back and forth in order to move my player again. I've attempted using VoiceAttack using both normal keystrokes and DirectX to send the commands directly to the game, but neither work. believe it or not, I've actually had to go look backwards to find a solution. I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which I normally reserve for typing, in order to adapt to this glaring menu bug.
All in all, I have really high hopes for this latest installment of the Fallout franchise. It does require being able to use directional movement while looking with the mouse, but all of the commands are remappable. Additionally, the game will make use of a vibrant pre-existing modding community, and has the potential for great community-made changes, much like all the other Bethesda titles. It is entirely possible that some enterprising programmer might read this article and find a way to mod the game in order to ameliorate some of these gameplay issues that hinder its overall accessibility.