I'll be honest with you, I've been playing a lot of Fallout 4. How much, you ask? Well, according to my trusty Steam Shame Tracker™, I know that I've sunk in about 294 hours into the game since its release on November 10th. I can't tell if that's a lot. It's probably a lot. Have I accomplished much? Have I found everything there is to find? Built everything that can be built? Nope. I've just made three separate game runs doing everything slightly differently from the previous run with vaguely different play styles. That's the magic of the Fallout games, isn't it? It's pretty much the same thing, but at the same time it's not. I've tried to come up with a reason why it's so appealing and it's really hard to put into words. I'm still going to give it a try though. Brace for ranting.
So what was my first impression?
It Was More of the Same In A Good Way
First off, we've all pretty much played this thing by now. For those that have, there wasn't much of a learning curve when it came to general game play. The stuff that we knew from Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas were still there. There were little changes, though. V.A.T.S. slowing down time instead of just being a complete pause was very cool. It made combat feel more dynamic and made me think on my feet more. The new way Power Armor was presented in the game was pretty interesting. The whole mechanic made a lot of sense and made me wonder why that wasn't the case from the beginning.
Of course, the bulk of my time was burned building bigger and better settlements for NPCs that don't really appreciate my work. Slap a sleeping bag in a cot or build a sprawling island town and everyone just plugs along the same. But for some reason I wanted to make it better. I wanted to make interesting looking towns and lively markets.
But why did I want to do all of that stuff? What drove me?
The Details and A World That Felt Alive
The thing is that if you boil it down to just its guts, it's still pretty much the same game as it was since Fallout 3. You're a single person that gets thrown into some pretty extraordinary circumstances and you're handed a gun. There are people to kill, bobbleheads to collect (or in NV's case it was snowglobes), and you have things to scavenge. That's pretty much it. So what sort of witchcraft makes each game so amazing? The little things.
It's this knack that Bethesda has for making a world feel alive. That weird sense of purpose that the open world gives you. The changes and tweaks that they add to each game go a long way, too. From the way you use your Power Armor to how junk isn't really junk anymore which is real bad for your Bethesda induced hoarding habit. You can even find little stories in how certain buildings are laid out. Most of the stories are tragic like when I found a hatch in an overturned train car. There was a bunker there with two skeletons laying down on a single mattress and they were embracing each other. There was also the way Arlen Glass played his daughter's holotape twice after I handed it to him. He played it once during dialogue and as I was walking away, he played it again. I turned around and saw a sad, broken old man clinging to something long gone. It's random small details like that that made the game for me.
So, yeah, war never changes. And as long as Bethesda keeps their approach to the little things the way it is, then I'm completely okay with that. Also, less bugs. Less bugs would be cool, too.