I emerged victorious after a long and bloody battle with a couple of burly Super Mutants who wanted nothing more than my head on a skewer. I popped a stimpak and took a deep breath, assessed my surroundings and checked the map on my PipBoy. Nearly there. It had been a tough journey, one hampered by the aforementioned Super Mutants, a few good-for-nothing Raiders and a particularly nasty Feral Ghoul who just wouldn’t stop jumping at me. But all of that is behind me now — I’m the King of the Wasteland, nothing can stop me now. Suddenly, a band of Raiders emerge from behind me, screaming and shooting in overwhelming numbers. I turn around just in time to see the world slow to a frightening ten frames per second, allowing me enough time to get a good look at the rough textures upon my attackers faces – the awkward, unnatural nature of their animation. I’m no longer the King of the Wasteland. I’m playing a game alone in my bedroom. Immersion over.
This has been a problem plaguing Bethesda Game Studios’ tentpole RPG’s ever since 2006’s Oblivion. The studio seems to get a pass on their technical woes due to the ambitious nature of their open-world games, but is this free pass acceptable? Should we expect more from these games after all these years, or are the bugs just an accepted part of these games which have such a wide scope?
I think the answer lies somewhere in between. There’s a line between silly and frustrating that both the Fallout and the Elder Scrolls series have straddled perilously for the last decade or so. In a peculiar kind of way, seeing an object levitating or spinning as you walk into a room is quite endearing and harmless, as is dispatching an enemy only to see their bloody corpse rotate and contort in on itself like some kind of apocalyptic version of The Exorcist. Those are the kind of bugs that fans of the series have come to expect, the kind that make you hit the share button and show your friends the time you sent a vile mutated mole rat spiralling far over a distant hill with just one whip of your pistol.
On the other side, however, is the kind of issue that prevents progress, issues that make you feel like the game has no respect for the time you have put into it – and have now maybe lost – due to technical woes. Errors that force the game to crash are present, although the most profilic and the most troublesome of issues plaguing the console versions of Fallout 4 are undoubtedly frame-rate related. These kind of issues that players are having makes it harder to stomach, harder to forgive Bethesda for not fixing the issues that have been so prevalent in their games for such a long time. Some would argue that the games that Bethesda Game Studios likes to make have too many variables in order to be sufficiently focus tested, considering the fact that the majority of objects in the game world are available to be picked up and moved, and will stay there in perpetuity until moved again. This is a huge part of the Fallout or Skyrim experience, and helps make these games so unique. The world is your sandbox, and everything in it is yours to do what you wish with. That sort of ambition comes with a price, and it seems like BGS are more than willing to pay it instead of change their ways.
Regardless of any bugs that the game may have, it hasn’t stopped it from reaching a huge audience, with more than 12 million copies shipped already. But with each release of a Bethesda Game Studios RPG, this conversation will rear its head once more. The majority seem content to put up with the jank that these games offer alongside their ambitious nature, but I’m waiting for the moment the shark is jumped. The moment when the fans demand that their favourite worlds are technically stable as well as creatively fulfilling.