I am currently twelve hours and change into my trek through the Bostonian wasteland, and I am here to confirm on the day of release that Fallout 4 has treated me right during that time. I'm playing through for a full review on Steam, so I can't comment on some of the technical hiccups that have affected users on console. What I can do is give a report of what I'm feeling at the current moment, and what you can expect next week when I'm through with my adventure. Or at least with enough of it to give a score, as Fallout 4 is the type of game that just goes on and on, no matter how much you want or need to complete it.
As players emerge from Vault 111, they are greeted with a slightly more guided experience than you would have expected if you've played the previous two games. It's an introduction to scavenging around, unlocking doors, and hacking tutorials that should make newcomers feel welcome, and it ends with an abilitease featuring a set of stocked out power armor and a deathclaw that is most enjoyable. You'll also notice the game catering to those new to Fallout in the form of dialogue options that question everything from the nature of ghouls to who the Brotherhood of Steel are. Despite the inclusion of these tutorial heavy sections, the beginning of the game didn't feel like a waste of time, and I was immersed immediately into my new surroundings.
During this phase, I did learn about some of the mechanical changes that Fallout has gone through since Fallout 3. Rads play a much more noticeable role in this game, with a bar that eats away at your health meter whenever you step into the wrong area or get hit by a ghoul. Thus, I find myself using Rad-X and Radaway just a frequently as Stimpacks, which wasn't the case in 3. A more well known change is the perk system, which absorbed the skill points from the previous games. This I'm less a fan of, as there are less interesting perks to choose from when half of them are dedicated to improving your lock picking or hacking. I also miss some of the more unique dialogue checks, such as when you needed a certain science level to comment on a specific type of radiation.
After the initial tutorial, you are also given a quest that helps familiarize you with the game's settlement building systems. The tools at your disposal here remind me of Halo's Forge mode, with a bunch of pre-made assets that you can slap pretty much anywhere. If you follow through on this path, there are eventually more settlements to unlock, and you even get calls to help settlements while you're out on your adventure. If you're not quick enough, these calls will fail, but it's not clear whether there is any negative to this other than to make the residents of that settlement unhappy, and the draw wasn't there to jump out of an office building as I was looting it to help out.
The story and character development so far are spot on, with a wide rogues' gallery of interesting people to chat up and help out on your journey. Side quests pop up left and right, which would be overwhelming in most games, but feels right at home in the wasteland. I did enjoy some of the improvements they've ported over from Skyrim, including guards and residents who will share rumors with you as you pass that are basically pointing you in the direction of new areas to explore. It was easy to miss big chunks of past Bethesda games just due to the sheer scope of the world, so it's a welcome change to have the game let you know what it considers important and what you should explore anyway to find the game's unique weapons.
Of course, if you're not interested in finishing quests for the best firearms, you can always build your own unique guns. The weapon crafting system is easily my favorite part of the game, with a deep list of customization for each type of weapon, even those you might not expect. Want to add a scope to your automatic shotgun? Want to turn a pistol into a rifle with an adjustable stock? Want to wrap barbed wire around a pool cue and then name it Barbie? Fallout 4 has your back in all these cases and way more. The system also allows you to evolve your favorite guns over time and keep using them even as you go from warding off radroaches and mole rats to getting in firefights with super mutants and their rabid hounds.
Bethesda has used the long development cycle afforded to them by Skyrim's runaway success to craft the type of hard-hitting, long-lasting experience that is becoming rarer and rarer in 2015's landscape. Fallout 4 stumbles very slightly in modernizing Fallout 3's systems, but the world is still as engrossing as ever, and the new customization options feed into the love of modding that is already built into the game's audience. I can safely say from what I've played so far that if you loved any of Bethesda's past efforts in the franchise, you owe it to yourself to head over to Diamond City and start all over again. Look out for our final review next week, where I'll have much more to say about the game's story and my final thoughts on this next great step into the wasteland.
Fallout 4 is being reviewed using a copy of the game purchased by the reviewer on the Steam platform.