I took the release day for Fallout 4 off as a vacation day in the hopes of getting a large chunk of time with the game.  I wanted to get into the game before the initial wave of guides and walkthroughs come out so that I could experience the Boston area with fresh eyes.  I really should know better by now.  The fact that I was watching the twin girls means that I essentially was able to squeeze in an hour of “extra” time into that effort while they were napping.  Honestly, for the gaming aspect of it, it probably wasn’t worth a vacation day.  I can’t really complain about the Daddy time though.  Even with that being the case I was able to spend a good 3-4 hours with Fallout 4 yesterday and I definitely enjoyed the experience.  There will be some minor spoilers going forward for the first few hours of the game so keep that in mind.

Character creation is of course the first thing that presents itself and they’ve done a lot to improve it over Fallout 3 and Skyrim.  The control that you have over the facial features of your avatar are much more detailed as gone are the slider bars and instead you can essentially directly manipulate any feature of the face.  I found that using the mouse in this way was incredibly intuitive and actually led me to create a customized avatar instead of using one of the presets.  Also, they way that character creation is presented by using it as an in-game scenario is nice to see.

After finishing the avatar customization by using the bathroom mirror you’re treated to a quick 5-minute introduction to life before the War.  This is where they hook you into the main story by showing a loving family and a baby boy.  Soon, you receive a short visit from the local Vault-Tec representative and you’ve set your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. scores.  I was initially a little disappointed in this as the 21 points that they give you for this most important of tasks seemed a bit on the low side.  This made more sense later.

Only a few moments after the visit completes, the “big bad event” happens and you family rushes to the vault, where the entire group is essentially tricked into get into cryogenic freezers and are frozen for a touch over two centuries.  You are unfrozen twice during that time.  The first is to watch the main plot develop by having your baby boy stolen and your spouse killed.  The second is when you are revealed as the sole survivor of Vault 111.  The developer did an excellent job of making me intensely dislike both Vault-Tec and the mysterious baby thief in a very short period of time.

This is where the meat of the game begins and it is glorious to behold.  The updated engine certainly improves the overall quality of the world and the distinct lack of that annoying green tint is a distinct improvement.  As I’ve done with most of Bethesda’s games, I spent a good 5 minutes after entering the world proper just looking around at the different items in the environment.  One of the first things I noticed is the drastic change to the sky which certainly seems to be more realistic and less static than it was in Fallout 3.

While you’re in no way forced to go where the game directs you for the first quest I decided to do so and was lead to an interesting mission where I’m introduce to both one of the deadliest monsters in the Fallout world as well as one of the deadliest sets of gear.  It’s something of a drastic change to get power armor so early, even if it is almost necessary to survive the fight with the deathclaw.

I did find that the combat is more “shooter” style than the previous version and one of the biggest surprises for me was that time no longer stops when you are in V.A.T.S., it continues to move forward very slowly.  I found this more than a little disconcerting when a pack of mongrels were within a couple of feet from me.  I think overall it’s going to be an improvement as you can’t use V.A.T.S. as a kind of poor man’s pause to take you out of the action.  Combat requires you to be on your toes more, though it’s still a little float overall.

You’re also introduced fairly early to two other important features of the game.  The first would be the companion system via the introduction of Dogmeat.  This German Shepard is your best friend and can even be used to get one of the best guns in the game way too early, if you are so inclined.  The second is the crafting and settlement systems.  This one is going to be a blessing and a curse for me as now just about everything you can pick up in the wasteland is potentially useful as it can be broken down into components that you can use in other ways.  You can use them to create modifications for your weapons and armor or to build and defend entire settlements.  They’ve spent a lot of time with the crafting system and I know that I’ve already sunk probably 1-2 hours of my 2-3 total play time into it.  Talk about scratching an itch.

The last thing that was different and I’ve honestly not been able to decide if I like it yet or not is the complete eradication of skills and the new perk tree.  The first tier of the perk tree are perks that increase each of your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attributes by one.  This is the reason that they give you so few points to allocate during character creation.  In the short time I was playing I was able to reach level 8 and while I never put anything into this first tier of perks, I saw that I could and it’s an easy way to increase those attributes, which is necessary to reach the higher tiers of each ability.  I did enjoy the fact that you can pick and choose among any available perk in which you meet the requirements.  Those you don’t are grayed out though you can still hover over them to get a description of the perks and their requirements.  The chart is rather large though and honestly a little confusing, especially if you don’t realize you can scroll down and don’t have to pick perks in any particular order or than through requirements.

That brings us to what makes a Bethesda open-world game, the quirks and bugs.  Honestly, I haven’t had a ton of them in the time I’ve played thus far.  There have been a couple of speech/subtitle bugs and I’ve had occasions where Dogmeat seems to get caught in a barking cycle but there hasn’t been anything game breaking as of yet.  I’ve also not crashed to the desktop a single time, which honestly is the golden standard as far as I consider.  I’m generally willing to cut Bethesda quite a bit of slack given the expansiveness of their games.  In the end, they don’t tend to ruin the game and can occasionally lead to some really fun and interesting moments.

I’m looking forward to getting back into this game and am terribly excited about the mod scene and what they’re going to do with this game.