Companions are a mixed bag of both positives and negatives. They add to the dialog, but not in a way that would affect the outcome of a situation. In battle, they have some abilities that are useful, but on normal difficulty, the player may find that most fights are won without ever having to employ the extra help. The crew is there as backup in a firefight, though each has their side-quest. Early on, one person does have a cute mission where the player has to acquire certain foods and clothing, so said crewmember could go on a date. The whole situation may be meaningless as far as the main narrative goes, but the vocal performance from the sidekick in question makes it worth it. There is a sense of comradery to be had when interacting with most of them.
Gunplay and melee combat is the … OK. Similar to ‘Fallout,’ there is a stand-in for the VATS system, which comes in the form of time dilation. The player can slow time for a short period allowing for pinpoint accuracy and quick sidestepping. Unless the player is taking on around ten enemies at once, it is easy to overlook this ability.
The glaring problem here is the weaponry. Machine guns and flamethrowers have the same overall body. The ammo clips are even the same. Considering the player will often be looking at a firearm swaying in front of the screen, a broader diversity of weapons should have been present. Shooting doesn’t feel impactful. The sound effects also lack the robustness expected, especially when unloading an entire clip in a metal hallway. There are unique science-based weapons, but rarely is there a situation where a shrink ray feels like the go-to choice.
The melee combat is what it is. Most enemies use firearms, so taking a short sword or pike into a gunfight isn’t the wisest choice in a sci-fi setting. Had there been something similar to a lightsaber that deflected projectiles, maybe Captain Rio would have been inclined to choose close-quarters combat.
One of the old issues from Obsidian’s previous games does pop up. A majority of the time, if the player is to hand over an important plot device, the dialog tree will state so. When Rio was brokering a truce between two factions, this was not the case. The dialog option did not indicate that Captain Rio was about to choose a side. The conversation appeared to be in the negotiation stage. Then with one button press, she had started a war. The MacGuffin was out of her inventory. Optional missions were failed. All because the text failed to inform the player a transaction was about to occur on this occasion.
Another negative from the past is the lifeless NPCs. The dialog delivery is almost always fantastic, but the dead eyes and faces don’t match the drama unfolding. Captain Rio did play as an upright citizen most of the game. On occasion, though, she did decide to be evil. Sadly, the people she aimed her wrath at never outwardly appeared dismayed. The dead eyes just stared, and the faces remained in a state of complacency while the spoken dialog said otherwise.
The positive aspects come in from the RPG elements themselves. Leveling up allows the player to improve core skills: melee, ranged, defense, dialog, stealth, tech, and leadership. Perks differ from skills in that they offer specific modifiers such as improved damage when soloing or the ability to fast travel even when encumbered. During this playthrough, Rio had many of her skills and perks stacked heavily towards dialog, tech, and stealth.
This does not mean Rio was underpowered in a gunfight, but on normal difficulty, the game tends to be a bit generous to the player as far as survivability goes. Death did happen, but often the game felt a bit too easy. The next step up is ‘Hard’ which grants enemies more health and more damage output. This may be the way to go for experienced players. For the hardcore players, ‘Supernova’ is the way to go. This setting is akin to the survival modes found in ‘Fallout’ titles. The player must eat, drink, and sleep to stay amongst the living. Death is permanent for companions, and the player has no choice but to accept the flaws handed out after repeated exposure to certain elements.