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Fall Out For Fallout Four

I took four days off to play Fallout 4... and, well, versus Fallout 3 it is basically just an all around increment with a few new features.  Turns out that it's basically a sequel.  Who knew?
At least V.A.T.S. mode is good for dramatic kill cams.
In combat, the gameplay in Fallout 4 feels different because it has been rebalanced to feel more like a good first person shooter.  This has reduced the importance of leaning on the V.A.T.S. mode, and it feels like a slippery slope considering the original two games of the series were entirely about turn-based combat.  At this rate, I wonder if the fifth game will eliminate V.A.T.S. completely?  I, for one, would be sorry to see it go.

I like how power armor is handled differently in Fallout 4.  Instead of just being another kind of armor to stick on your character, it's treated more like a human-sized vehicle you can customize and tromp around in.  You can't wear them constantly because they consume fusion cells, essentially fuel, when you are using them.  In practice, I found retrieving my power armor for tough fights to be a bit awkward because you both need to identify a situation in which you need your armor and then drop what you're doing to go back and get it.  Considering the many restrictions involved in using power armor, I think it should provide even more advantage when used than it currently does.
I hope you like this screenshot: you'll be spending an awful lot of time managing your inventory.
Aside from that, the gameplay is basically more Fallout 3.  Yes, even despite combat being more twitchy, the additional streamlining of the basic character statistics, and the handling of NPC dialogue being broken down to four choices or nothing.  The overall feeling of the RPG mechanic in action is essentially the same in Fallout 4

This is probably because, in both games, the greater bulk of your time is still spent managing your inventory while exploring post-apocalyptic environments.  Honestly, the inventory management gets a bit monotonous during a long session of play.  I am left feeling I need a porter NPC to run my inventory back to a settlement from time to time so I don't have to.  There is no such NPC... yet.

Speaking of NPCs, the companions (of which you can unfortunately only take one at a time) are now invulnerable to permanent death.  Some players may prefer to mod this out, citing the hit to the immersion.  Personally, I think that was a good change, because it was bothersome to have to reload your saved game whenever your companion did something dumb and ended up dead. 
You won't find this structure in your game of Fallout 4 because I built this practically from scratch using the new settlement system.
The map in Fallout 4 is rather big: after over a solid 24 hours of in-game time, I've barely explored a quarter of the map.  Yet, it seems oddly compact relative to Witcher 3's map, which has a lot more empty space for traveling about on horseback.  Perhaps feeling less impact from travel time speaks well for the diversity of Fallout 4's content.   If this is not enough content for you, I am sure we will be seeing a few expansions before Bethesda is done with this game.

The settlement mechanic was every bit the star of the show in Fallout 4 that I hoped it would be.  Though the piecemeal building interface feels a bit awkward at first, it is very liberating to be able to build once you get used to it.  In fact, it's so awesome to be able to build up settlements that I find gathering settlement-building resources has become my primary motivation to play.  Admittedly, I can still see much room for improvement in the settlement interface.  Perhaps I'm biased, as this was the primary feature I bought the game for. 
One of my supply line NPCs, personally kitted out by me to look like she's ready for a rough post apoloyptic journey.  I would like to be able to customize ALL the NPCs of my settlements, but it will take a long time to do.
I can't say that this is a comprehensive review because, even with over 35 hours spent playing Fallout 4, I feel like I have barely scratched the surface.  Consequently, the biggest impression I currently have of this game is that it is a staggering time sink.  At the pace I play, it would probably take me a least 150 hours to totally exhaust the content in this game (not that this is an uncommon amount for open world Bethesda games).  Even once I've seen all there is to the world of Fallout 4, there's the potential to keep playing, building up settlements and such.

It should be a good thing for a game to be so massively absorbing of time considering that absorbing time is what good games do.  However, I wonder at the quality of my time invested matches the quantity, as it seems to me as though I am spending too much of it just sorting my character's inventory so I can then go out and find a new place to load it up again.  Having proven unable to settle this cognitive dissonance in a reasonable amount of time, I am going back to work tomorrow feeling a bit dissatisfied at how little I accomplished in a mere 35 hours of play.  It's the end of the world, and I still don't have enough time.


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