Bethesda is one of the most celebrated developers of our time and for good reason. The company seems to consistently produce game-of-the-year games time and time again. Impressively, they’ve tackled both fantasy in their Elder Scrolls series and sci-fi in their Fallout series with incredible success. Today we pit the most recent installments of each series against each other in a ruthless, unapologetic review of both games. Before we get started, here are some things to consider:
- The games were created by the same developer
- Fallout 4 was released almost exactly 4 years after Skyrim
- The difference in setting creates inevitable structural differences regarding plot, soundtrack, and scenery
Now, without further adieu let’s begin with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
What is better? To be born good, or to overcome your evil nature through great effort? — Paarthurnax (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)
In the fifth installment of the Elder Scrolls series, players are introduced to the land of Skyrim. Like in the past Elder Scrolls titles, the land is full of magic, battles, and various races of creatures with one major difference: dragons.
Players start the game as a prisoner. However, they soon realize they are the last dragonborn and fated with the burden of defeating Alduin, the leader of all dragons, terrorizing the land.
In Skyrim, gameplay mainly consists of completing the main quest objectives, as well as side quests that can range from finding items, defeating enemies, looting houses and so on. The major guilds: thieves guild, mages guild, and fighters guild (The Companions) are back and with even richer quests and story lines than ever before.
In contrast to the Fallout series, in Elder Scrolls, melee combat is generally preferred over ranged weapons. This is also true for Skyrim, with the exception of course being bows as well as magic and shouts (dragonborn powers). Generally, ranged attacks are required when fighting dragons.
Side quests in Skyrim have a different design and feel in the sense that completing the full storyline for a certain guild ex: becoming the thieves guild master, felt completely separate to the main quest of the game. It was as if the members of any particular guild were completely unaware of the dragons terrorizing the land or the ramifications of the civil war.
On one hand, this complete disconnect from main quests and side quests can give players a break from the heavy main quest of the game. On the other hand, it would’ve been interesting if the completion of certain side quests and guild quests changed the main story line in some way.
Graphics & Audio
Considering Skyrim was developed one generation behind Fallout 4 there are bound to be technical graphical specifications where Skyrim is at a disadvantage. However, taking that disadvantage into account, Skyrim is superior.
Die-hard Fallout fans may be smashing their keyboards in protest at that last statement, but the truth is the beautiful scenery and diverse landscape and wildlife that Skyrim has to offer will always be more fun to explore then the uniform wasteland of Fallout 4.
While Skyrim has no VATS system, finishing blow animations are beautifully well done. Especially when the finishing blow is from a ranged weapon far away and players can watch their well-aimed hit in slow motion.
Even though Skyrim was released 4 years earlier than Fallout 4, the sound effects hold their own and don’t show any weakness compared to Fallout 4. As well, the fantasy setting makes for a much richer and more beautiful soundtrack.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Radio Freedom, but Fallout 4’s soundtrack just doesn’t compare to Skyrim’s.
“War never changes.” — The Sole Survivor
In Fallout 4 players take on the role of a vault dweller whose spouse is murdered and baby son is kidnapped right before their very eyes. Fast forward 210 years later and the player wakes up from cryo-sleep with the sole mission of surviving the wasteland and finding their son. Just like in past titles the Brotherhood of Steel is back and they play a big part in the main storyline. As well, there are numerous other factions the player can join that will alter the ending of the game.
Just like in previous Fallout titles, players roam the wasteland completing main quests and side quests, fighting raiders, helping out other survivors, joining clans and picking sides. The VATS system is again in effect, which is one of the main differences in gameplay between the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series.
Combat mainly consists of ranged weapons. Being set in a sci-fi post apocalyptic wasteland, guns and futuristic laser weapons are naturally the primary choice.
One amazing addition to the Fallout series in Fallout 4 was the settlement building/tower defense mechanics. The player has the option to build settlements and defend them using other settler NPCs, turrets, and so on.
One thing I liked about Fallout 4 was that many of the side quests were related or at least felt related to the main quest of the game. Of course there are random quests that had nothing to do with the main story line, but the quests surrounding The BOS, The Minutemen, and The Railroad all felt like you were creating a stronger story for the main quest line.
Graphics & Audio
With its initial release being on PS4 and the Xbox One, Fallout 4 offered the best graphics available in this generation. The scenery was clear and beautiful, with very long draw distances. Being an open world game, Bethesda’s trademark or signature if you will, is if you can see it, you can touch it.
This means any building, any bridge, any mountain in the distance was never merely apart of the background, but rather an active and reachable area of the game. As well, the VATS system’s slow-mo animation and occasional decapitation are a sight to behold.
The sound effects of Fallout 4 are again well polished and intricate. The fact that every gun and every bullet sounds different is an achievement in itself. Furthermore, the countless hours of dialogue captured is an incredible feat and the voice acting for everyone from the main characters to random settlers was quirky, unique and well-acted.
Fallout 4 takes an arrow to the knee
Both games are masterpieces and players can, have, and will enjoy countless hours on both. Fallout 4 is inevitably more graphically polished due to differences in technology within the 4 year gap of release dates. With that said, the setting, and level & map design of Skyrim are superior to Fallout 4 and much more fun to explore and breathtaking to simply watch. While the gameplay elements of both games are similar, Fallout 4’s side quests feel more integrated within the overall story and create a greater sense of connection within all the moving parts of the game. While story and setting may be a subjective preference between sci-fi vs. fantasy, Skyrim’s main quests and side quests felt stronger and better developed. The lore of mages, thieves, werewolves and dragons felt deeper and the story lines were more satisfying to complete than those of the post-apocalyptic world of Fallout 4.
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