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Fallout 4: what it can and can't learn from Skyrim

Fewer generic bits, more melee, and tougher morality

It doesn't take an evil genius to figure out that Fallout 4 is just over the horizon, given that "Three Dog" voice actor Erik Todd Dellums has tweeted about the return of his character - and following Skyrim's monstrous success, it's likely Bethesda will share ideas or even full-blown features between the franchises.

In our latest outbreak of ill-advised chin-stroking, Alex Hawksworth-Brookes and Edwin Evans-Thirlwell ponder what the new Fallout can learn from its Nordic stablemate - and what it can't.

A more colourful post-apocalypse
One of the things that has consistently frustrated us about previous Fallout games is the overbearingly dusty palette, a relentless combination of grey and brown. Yes, a certain unanimity of tone is expected of a post-apocalyptic game - but if, as rumoured, Fallout 4 is a direct sequel to Fallout 3, there would be plenty of ways to introduce a bit of visual verve.

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The latter's storyline involved bringing a supply of clean water to the wasteland, and a sequel set in neighbouring Boston could reflect this by showing life returning to the countryside, perhaps following in the footsteps of the surprisingly vivid Metro: Last Light. With Skyrim, Bethesda managed to create a variety of areas, each easily distinguishable from the rest - Winterhold is all icy shores, sea mist and cliffs, while Whiterun is defined by open heathland, rivers and forested slopes. The studio should aim for a similar diversity of landscapes with Fallout 4.

Assuming the fiction supports it, Skyrim's enhanced weather system could be implemented as well. We want more of those atmospheric moments when the weather shifts, changing the entire character of the environment in the process.

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More engaging random world events
Skyrim's Radiant A.I. had the potential to be incredibly exciting, throwing together spontaneous but fully articulated questlines as you explore, but the results don't quite go the distance - the random missions and encounters often involve generic characters like "Hunters", and quickly lose their charm. Fallout 4 will doubtless feature a version of the Radiant system, given how much time and effort Bethesda sunk into it, but for the idea to truly work these events need to feel more tailored and natural, with fewer repeated elements.

Better integrated character development
One of Skyrim's greatest accomplishments is that so much of the RPG development take place within the world - when levelling up you look to the stars for guidance, and crafting a sword actually involves the use of a furnace. Similar steps should be taken with Fallout. The Pip Boy is a great concept, an all-in-one answer to the question of character management, but Bethesda could evolve it further.

Levelling up in Fallout 4 might occur via changes in the character's DNA, perhaps - after hitting a new level, players could open up a screen that shows their genetic structure, scrolling through various chromosomes associated with different abilities, and picking a piece of DNA to "mutate". Perhaps some form of holographic projection technology could be introduced, a la Dead Space. As long as it doesn't scupper the aesthetic, we're all for it.

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More famous locations to visit
Despite the presence of Nordic gods, flying lizards and wandering necromancers, Skyrim never feels less than real, tangible. Fallout 3 has the same solidity to it, thanks to hand-worn art direction that strikes a fine balance between futuristic and retro, but Fallout: New Vegas felt a touch less plausible perhaps, as there were fewer historic landmarks to pick over. If Fallout 4 takes place in Massachusetts, tours of post-nuclear Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bunker Hill and the Constitution (one of the world's oldest warships, don't you know) would be a good way of grounding the game.

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