Non-Spoiler First Thoughts
War Never Changes…. and neither does Fallout, and that is a statement I mean in the best possible way. When a sequel to a beloved franchise is released, you never quite know if you are going to get absolute greatness like Skyrim… or if you are going to be stuck with a Master of Orion 3. For those who loved MOO3 I apologize… but that game was horrible and broke from far too many of the tenets of the original franchise. Fallout 4 however… keeps all of the best features from Fallout 3 and New Vegas… and applies a next generation coat of paint and features to it. If you have been an aficionado of Bethesda games for very long you will notice that several of the really nice features of Skyrim have been implemented into this engine. Everything from the loading screen item previews… to the ability to favorite weapons and swap between them quickly in combat… are direct lineage to Skyrim. What you also get is some genuine evolution of the engine, in the form of just how content dense the world is and how much of it can be fiddled with.
At this point according to Steam I am roughly four hours into the game, and I have to say… that was the fastest four hours of my life. I mentioned yesterday that I did not stay up Tuesday night to play the game, but instead had to wait until after work yesterday. Additionally we have contractors coming to the house to put a door in our bedroom today… so we had to do a lightning round of cleaning before I finally got to sit down and play with my precious. From the moment I set down… every time I was aware that time had passed… it was an hour and not fifteen minutes like I had thought. Most of that time was spent not actively doing any quests or following the story line really. The first handful of events happen to play out in a pretty organic fashion, and I apparently followed the story line to a point… without really meaning to. I remember watching the demo footage from E3, and I have for the most part made it through the sequence that they showed… which happens pretty early in the game. It gives you a neatly framed vignette that allows you to understand some of the forces in the world that you are contending with.
For me at least the best part of this game is that they have taken things to essentially their logical conclusions. If you are living in a world with limited resources, then essentially everything you come across could be useful. In the past I was a horrible packrat and constantly on the brink over being overburdened. Why was I carrying fifty coffee mugs…. who knew… but I might need them someday. Those tendencies are absolutely paid off in full in this game because quite literally every piece of crap you find in the world is useful either to modify your weapons and armor… or to construct things for the new base building side game. Pretty early on, you end up in the neighborhood you once lived in. This then becomes your base of operations allowing you to scrap materials there, and build new structures. As you venture out into the world you find survivors that you can invite back to your little sanctuary, and in a fashion very reminiscent to State of Decay you have to watch after their well being and their defenses. I am assuming as your settlement gets bigger you will become the target of raiders and the like trying to take your hard earned resources.
The other big noticeable change in this game is that everything seems more dangerous. Radiation is a real problem this time, because instead of causing you to lose health over time… it reduces your maximum health pool. All of the old baddies are also more deadly… Bloat Flies move more erratically, Mole Rats can burrow under ground and pop up when you least expect them…. and move insanely fast… and there are new dangerous like giant mutated mosquitoes. All of this and more I have encountered within a short radius of where you actually start the game. Everything I am talking about is within visual distance of the Vault 111 entrance. Essentially this is a game that is going to eat every waking moment for a long while… because right now I feel like I have not even begun to unwrap the wrapping of the game… let alone actually dip below the surface. The big takeaway is that it is the Fallout game play that you either love or hate… with more advanced systems and more fluidity of character movement and actions. Everything “feels better” and I know this largely because I played quite a bit of New Vegas Tuesday night as a sort of placebo for Fallout 4 while waiting on it to unlock. The changes are extremely noticeable, even from the level the engine was at during Skyrim. I’m now going to shut up about my impressions… and launch the game and lose myself in it again.