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A great many people seemed to be upset that Fallout 4 was moving away from the more traditional “choose from a list of options” dialogue tree and instead going with a “dialogue wheel” of sorts. Conversations were now limited to a total of four responses at any one time.

Fallout 4 Dialogue TreeI can see how at first glance it might seem that this is a serious limitation on the game. However, the possibility of only four choices at any one time isn’t the real problem. Take a look at this simple chart I cooked up over to the right. The first layer of dialogue choices has four. The second layer can have up to 16 different choices. The third layer can have up to 48 different choices.

The only true limitation around “only four choices” that I’ve found is that you have to fill up the space sometimes and so you’ll get something like “Sure,” “Yes,” “Sarcastic,” and “No [Doesn’t Actually Work]” as options. However, because Fallout 4 has four options at all times there’s often a type of filler where two or even three of the choices will essentially lead you down the same path. It seems like a bit of a gimmick in this respect.

The dialogue wheel in Fallout 4 does have one major problem, however, the short answers on the wheel sometimes don’t sensibly relate to what is actually said. You might get an option like “Kill Him” but it could be any number of things. You could be saying “You should Kill Him,” “I’m going to kill him,” or “I’m going to kill you [the person I’m talking to]” and get wildly different results with all three. And worst of all, there’s not really any way to tell until you actually try it.

Anyone who’s played a Fallout game can tell you that certain dialogue options will immediately lead to combat. It is therefore especially important that what your character says can be interpreted by the player before they say it. And that’s the biggest weak point of the current dialogue system in Fallout 4—you just flat out have no idea what the heck is going to come out of your character’s mouth some of the time.

And sure, you could save scum if you say the wrong thing to go back and do it again, but that’s not the point. You shouldn’t have to. This is something that I would argue is outright bad game design on Bethesda’s part. It doesn’t even make sense in terms of screen real estate – 720p televisions and monitors are the bare minimum nowadays and ought to be able to comfortable accommodate far more text than a handful of one word options. 

This is something that can be fixed. Modders have already restored a more classic system (although getting mods to run in Fallout 4 is a tricky proposition as the modding SDK is not officially out yet). And as for on Bethesda’s end, they could change things up where highlighting one of the choices tells you what you will say in text. Press the same direction again and then you will actually say it.

As for the “only four options” complaint, I don’t really feel that’s that big of a problem. The short text, however, is absolutely a problem and something that needs to be fixed. (Still, it’s already been handled by modders for now.)

There are other complaints regarding the dialogue system that I feel are perfectly valid, of course. Skill checks don’t really tell you your chances of suceeding. The obfuscated nature of the dialogue tree as it exists in Fallout 4 means that some players may miss some skill checks entirely.

Some people have also brought up complaints that the dialogue system hinders roleplaying in Fallout 4. While I do feel that the lack of roleplaying options and variety in story choices are a weakness of the title, I don’t think this is the fault of the way the dialogue system is designed. Bethesda could have easily put these options somewhere in the dialogue tree. So really, if anything this particular complaint is not insomuch a fault of the dialogue system as it is a fault of Bethesda’s writing and design choices in other areas.

It’d be nice if Bethesda fixed this one themselves, but it feels like a deliberate design choice on their part for … some reason? I honestly don’t know. At least I’ll be able to grab the “Don’t Put Your Foot In Your Mouth” mod if I feel the need to.

What do you think of the new dialogue system in Fallout 4? Do you prefer the dialogue wheel in Fallout 4 or would you rather have it be as it was in the older games? Let us know in the comments below!

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Robert N. Adams

Senior Writer

I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I haven't stopped gaming since. CCGs, Tabletop Games, Pen & Paper RPGs - I've tried a whole bunch of stuff over the years and I'm always looking to try more!

  • Robert Grosso

    The problem I feel is that Bethesda copied the idea from BioWare, but not the implementation. They sort of made it a truncated version of the dialogue wheel and combined it with Alpha Protocol.

    We have seen BioWare tinker with it since Mass Effect, they add tonal images, investigative options, in Inquisition for big ticket choices they tell you exactly what they mean so people know the context. That type of tinkering goes a long way in making the wheel easier to manage.

    I think Bethesda should of either kept with the line dialogue, and keep it all exact what you say, or went full blown Alpha Protocol and make everything like the “sarcastic” option in terms of how you answer people.

  • Vault Man

    Fallout 4 isn’t perfect, but I think the biggest thing holding it back is the dialogue. I want it back to how it was in Fallout 3/New Vegas.

  • There’s a reason the #1 and #2 most popular mods on Fallout 4 Nexus expand the entries to list the actual dialogue.

  • bishop99999999

    One of my favorite moments in New Vegas was in the REPCONN headquarters building, where you can pass a luck check to randomly guess the password with a security bot. These kind of interactions were small, but felt hugely rewarding and really let you enjoy the writing of the game.

    All in all, the dialogue wheel is the thing I am most disappointed with in FO4

  • plakia

    The whole game is shit. Bethesda can’t make good games anymore.

  • It’s not the dialogue system specifically that bothers me so much as that the character is voiced at all. Typically games that offer dialogue options with silent protagonists compliment a blank slate avatar and allow your own imagination to fill in the gaps. You pick what you want to say, and your brain will do the rest, adding all little intricacies found in verbal language. A voiced protagonist ends up saying things that clash with your own image. ‘My character wouldn’t say it like that!’ You think.

    Or it would, if Fallout 4’s main character was your avatar, but it isn’t. It’s a set character like Geralt or Shepard. And no disrespect to them (they’re great characters), but I wanted to play Fallout with my own avatar – a staple of the franchise for decades. That’s why when the E3 presentation showed the character creation segment I was disappointed the protagonist started out in a heterosexual marriage with a child and basically had this whole other life without you, while the crowd just seemed happy to get a female option.

    Does this mean Fallout 4 is a bad game? Not at all. It’s just undergone a fundamental shift in terms of roleplaying. This isn’t my Fallout anymore.

    Hope this isn’t gibberish, I banged it out kinda quickly.

  • Mighty No. 56008

    Pretty much this. Also I’m pretty sure it’s because of the voiced dialogue from the main character that our choices are limited. Guess they were too lazy to get the voice actors to record multiple responses like in previous games.

  • Toastrider

    ICE CREAM! I remember that one 🙂

  • Louis

    The dumbest thing about being “happy to get a female option” is that that’s been the standard since Fallout 1.

  • Scootinfroodie

    It makes me sad when a new game with a dialogue wheel/4 directional dialogue comes out and they don’t at least have the decency to use Alpha Protocol as a jumping point. The time limit and tonal consistency of your answers (choose your flavour of smug, sarcastic jerk) played to the strengths of limiting dialogue the way they did and contributed to the feel of conversational mechanics within the game. I wish AP had been finished and hadn’t been panned. I would have loved to see a sequel

  • IIRC You can also pass that one if you have low INT.

  • I wouldn’t say so. I mean, look at all the options for dialogue in Fallout 3 and New Vegas. Sure, the protagonist wasn’t voiced but all the NPCs WERE.

    So the whole “Voice protag limits your options”, I don’t think that really flies as an excuse for me. That’s not the reason IMO.

  • FlamingoJet

    There is a mod for that.

  • TeLin特林

    People have been saying that since Oblivion.

  • TeLin特林

    And it’s been a standard for Bethesda’s open world games forever.

    God…it’s like the average gaming “journalist” had a lobotomy over the past few years.

  • plakia

    Yeah, and it’s true. Last good game they released was Morrowind.

  • Eli Wintercross

    Bethesda takes 4 steps forwards and 10 steps back each game they make.
    We always get some great improvements but it is always at the expense of over-simplification and removing of things we didn’t want removed.

  • TeLin特林

    Well opinions and buttholes and all that 😉

  • Mighty No. 56008

    Hmmm I dunno, I still think it’s a factor. I mean, it explains the lack of multiple answers your character can give, which in turn limits the number of replies the NPC have to give back to you.

  • Mighty No. 56008

    Yeah, I was rather confused when watching the reveal video of the gender option and the crowd going nuts over it. They’ve always had it!

  • Robert Grosso

    Well is the Soul Survivor supposed to be a blank slate at all?

    I think that is the real question, the presentation that Bethesda gives suggests no, but the gameplay says yes. That perhaps is what Bethesda needs to reconcile.