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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!