“Which is Better?” is a new editorial series that dares to compare the best of pretty much everything. This week is a battle of the wastelands, as we compare two of the biggest games of 2015.
There were a lot of games I considered for this week’s entry. At one point, I thought it would be fun to do Fallout 3 vs. Fallout 4 or even Skyrim vs. either of those games.
Eventually, I decided it would be more useful to compare two games that have come out recently. And not just any games. Though they may not be the highest-rated video games of the year, there’s little doubt that The Witcher 3 (TW3) and Fallout 4 (F4) are among the most popular and well-received installments of 2015.
F4 in particular has reached a near-Skyrim level of social consciousness outside of niche gaming circles, moreso than TW3. The difference is that TW3 has skyrocketed in both quality and audience this year, thanks to the game being that good. I think you can safely argue that F4 has been more underwhelming in comparison, if only because the games before it have already set mighty expectations that few games in history could probably meet.
These are two very different games, but they’re certainly in the conversation for being the best of 2015. To find out which is better, we’ll have to go beneath the surface and uncover what sets each game apart in terms of story, characters, the overall gaming experience, and more.
Let’s begin with…
BEST ART DESIGN
How a game looks will always be a selling point for gamers. But outside of frame rates and the amount of pixels depicted onscreen, which of these games has the more inspired look?
This includes landscapes, character models, and even costume design. As you read this, you’re probably thinking about every subtle visual you remember from both of these games, and I think I can guess which one you’re thinking of the most.
For me, it’s TW3. Even though I played it months ago (and F4 is more fresh in my mind), I can readily picture the rocky hillsides of Skellige and what the shady individuals are wearing in Novigrad. I remember the sense of awe I got from discovering these locations and exploring every inch of them (and I mean every inch).
When I think of F4, I really just go back to what my character looks like with a Vault 111 suit underneath a set of combat armor. This isn’t a bad thing, but it certainly sheds light on how different the focus of these two games are.
It’s interesting because these two games are somewhat inverse. I can only play as Geralt in TW3, and how I customize his look is pretty limited compared to everything I can do with the Sole Survivor of F4 (down to picking a name). But on the other hand, I influence the plot of TW3 in a huge variety of ways, while F4 really only has a cluster of similar endings that range from me being pure evil to complete righteousness.
I love the Commonwealth of F4, but it’s honestly just a refined version of a wasteland we’ve seen several times already. Though TW3 is also a sequel, it brings The Northern Kingdoms to life in a way that’s a huge step forward for the franchise.
Both games have inspiring art design, but if we’re talking about which one is more novel and memorable, then TW3 is the clear winner.
At first, you might think TW3 wins this pretty easily, if only because it’s a game that focuses more on a central narrative with pretty rich characters. But F4, while different, also has an eclectic roundup of unique personalities, some far more interesting than what we have in TW3.
This is probably because F4 has more side characters. And every single one has a decent backstory you can uncover the more you get to know them. TW3 really only has a small cast of characters you care about, but they’re absolutely more interesting as a whole. So it’s a bit of a tossup.
Now, when it comes to voice acting and the lead character, TW3 wins by a landslide with Geralt. Even for a character who can’t display emotion, there’s a universe of depth to him that the Sole Survivor’s voice can’t even come close to. In fact, I sometimes wish you could opt out of hearing what your character in F4 has to say.
Yennifer, Triss, Ciri, and the other main characters of TW3 are also out of F4’s league in terms of likability and substance. I do think Valentine, MacCready, and even Piper are fun characters to hang out with in the Commonwealth, but at no point did I really care about what would happen to them next, which is a far cry from how much emotion I invested in my friends and allies from TW3.
It’s not a landslide victory, but TW3 wins this round.
Both of these games have a huge focus on defeating multitudes of faceless enemies. But which one does it better?
This is an interesting comparison, as well, because both games are action RPGs (well, F4 is technically an RPS). They both feature a ton of other side activities you can do with your character in-between the action, and they both let you fight in real-time.
With Geralt, you can fight with your handy swords (one for monsters and one for humans/animals) or use a small set of spells with varying effects. You can even make your own bombs. With the Sole Survivor, you can use many different types of guns and melee weapons, or you can fight unarmed . And you also have V.A.T.S., which lets you slow down time in order to focus your shots on the weak points of your enemy.
So, both games have great, thrilling action. TW3, in particular, features a major upgrade from its predecessor in this respect thanks to its fluid sword fighting and monster-hunting strategies that make you feel like a true witcher.
F4 is more of an action game than any other entry in the series, which is good news if that’s your favorite element of F3 or New Vegas. The gunplay is incredibly smooth and responsive. And the introduction of artillery strikes and other ways to call in aid from friendly factions is a fun strategy.
There are many different types of enemies you can face in TW3 and F4, so they tie when it comes to variety. And both games are pretty challenging depending on how you want to play.
But when I consider how often I can switch up my tactics, I have to credit F4 for having great experiences for each of its many weapons. I can pick up new weapons on the fly and feel good using them, while doing the same in TW3 will usually lead to a quick death. The problem with TW3 in this regard is that it’s easier to get stuck in your ways, so there’s not as much room for exploration in how you want to take down your enemies.
F4 is also more fun when it comes to crafting your armor and mixing/matching. Most of what I used in TW3 was pretty ugly and ineffective unless I went to the trouble of doing armor quests. Overall, the armor sets are cooler, as I mentioned above, but it’s harder to get the right look or change things up if you get sick of what you’re wearing. With F4, it’s a blast to mod your weapons and armor, instead of a drag.
This was a close one, but F4 gets the point.
Look, I love the main quest in F4. It’s much more engaging and unique than any other I’ve played in a Bethesda game, let alone the Fallout series. But that might be more indicative of how low the standard is, as well as how underwhelming much of the side quests are in F4.
100 hours in, I’ve gotten to the point where almost all of my missions in F4 are recycled retreads. Characters I’ve stuck with in order to see where their stories go have all but stalled. And I’m rapidly losing interest in coming across any more of these side quests that will put me on yet another fetch/kill errand that will somehow boost me through the ranks of an established faction.
Throughout F4, there are moments that take you out of the game completely, because they’re designed for an open world, not an open world story. TW3, by comparison, blows F4 out of the irradiated water with its spiderweb plot and remarkably complex side missions that can be just as interesting as the main story.
It’s strange because usually Bethesda does a great job with smaller story moments found in their open world, like with surprise characters and random events that happen by accident. Just stumbling across an encounter in their games is pretty thrilling. This is certainly present in F4, but not to the same extent. You mostly just come across endless battles going on in the distance, which are fun to track down, but pretty one-note.
In TW3, I had a grand time starting seemingly mundane side quests that spiraled into massive conflicts I couldn’t have predicted, and almost all of them had satisfactory endings I didn’t see coming.
TW3 wins this round and then some.
BEST GAMING EXPERIENCE
This category is about how a game looks and feels overall. And it’s also about how it makes you feel.
In terms of graphics, TW3 is simply a more beautiful game. But F4 excels at having a more dense location that feels more alive. As we’ve discussed already, both games have great gameplay with myriad options for how you play it. And both games are wildly addicting.
That said, if you ask me which game I’m glad I played, then I immediately think about TW3.
I’ve enjoyed F4 thoroughly, and it’s been fun spending hours of my time creating massive, sustainable settlements. But after building all of the walls, setting up the turrets, hunting for elements in the wasteland, and coming back every once in a while to fix the problems of the settlers, I don’t feel fulfilled.
Overall, F4 really isn’t a rewarding experience. Not much of what you do amounts to anything within the confines of the game.
But TW3 left me with a smile, despite my ending not being “the best one.” The work and effort I put into that game directly affected the outcome of the characters, and after I finished, I didn’t feel like it was time wasted.
This is obviously subjective, but everyone I’ve talked to about this game has more-or-less said the same. F4 is a blast for a while, but it does little to impact the gamer. Maybe it didn’t need to do that in order to be successful, but I already know which sequel of which series I’m more excited about, assuming either of these franchises continue.
TW3 made me fall in love with a series I’ve only sort of liked for years. The graphics blew me away. The stories and characters were unlike anything I’ve come across in an open world game. And it’s a game I want to play again.
I want to keep playing F4, but only because the game taps into a side of me that’s compulsive. TW3 exploits what makes me love the art of gaming, and that’s no small feat.
This was tough, but I feel pretty good when I say that The Witcher 3 is better than Fallout 4. As I’ve said, both games are marvelous and deserve praise. But the former is certainly superior in a variety of ways, notably in how the gamer feels when it’s completed. And it’s even got better characters, an amazing story, and some decent action that make it the convincing choice.
Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments.
Thanks for reading this! You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni