The new hotness that everyone is talking about this week is Fallout 4. For the first time in a very long while I’m actually able to play a big new release at launch, and I’ve been quite excited about it. You see, I’ve never played any of the Fallout games. I haven’t even played any of the Elder Scrolls games. Nope, never even touched Skyrim. However, Tam chose Fallout 4 for the Aggrochat game of the month for both November and December. It turns out that everyone but me was excited and planning to play the game no matter what. I, on the other hand, get to be the guinea pig, the fresh eyes looking at everyone else’s old favorite. Part of me is worried I’ll never love the franchise the way everyone else does and I’ll end up raining on their parade. But I keep reminding myself that my outside perspective is important too! I can’t be the only person in the universe who has never played these games but is still curious about them. Hopefully some of those other folks listen to the podcast too.
I started up the game last night. I only had a few hours to check things out so I didn’t expect to get far. I had a bit of struggle getting the game to launch properly on my machine, but once that was sorted it was time for the intro. The opening cinematic paints a history of war and soldiers and how they’ve shaped the game world, through the lens of one family. It set the mood well and shaped the background of what I assumed would be the main character. Then I got to actually create my character. The character creation was set as getting ready in the bathroom mirror, and was very cute. Being unfamiliar with the system, though, it took me a little time to figure out the mechanics of the facial sculpting and changing of features. Once I did it took even longer to settle on a face I was happy with. I usually enjoy having the maximum possible customization options, but one of the pitfalls is that it can sometimes be hard to create a look that doesn’t keep landing in the uncanny valley.
After I finished and finalized everything it took me a second to realize that the game had started. I only needed to step away from the mirror and start moving around. It was very seamless and cool, I just wasn’t expecting it! I spent a few minutes exploring my house, and something weird started to dawn on me. I’m very used to video games giving an intro from the male perspective, and then plopping my female avatar into the story and moving forward as if she’d been there all along. I had been assuming that’s what Fallout 4 was doing, but I think I was wrong. As I looked around the house and interacted with my character’s husband and baby, it dawned on me that he was the soldier. The intro was 100% his. Who the hell was I? I found a law school diploma on a shelf, I think it was supposed to be mine, but the print was too small to make out. That’s all the backstory I’ve found for myself so far. I’m the wife of a soldier, and possibly a lawyer. I know the male character doesn’t exactly get that much backstory development either, but at least they have that intro cinematic. I really wish that there had been something like that for the female lead, or at least that it was clearer somehow what her story was from the beginning.
This brings us to the baby. I joked on voice chat while I was playing through the intro that I hoped I’d be able to chuck the baby into the nearest vat of radioactive waste as soon as possible. It’s not that I hate babies (although honestly I’m not a huge fan). It’s that the baby was pretty obviously a setup for either a plot device or some sort of horrible escort mechanic and either way I wanted to avoid it if possible. Generally when a game gives you a spouse and kid right in the intro that you’re supposed to get attached to them and then watch something bad happen to them.
After exploring the house a little bit I got to assign my stat points. It is always intimidating doing this in a game where you don’t fully understand the mechanics yet. Is it better to dump everything into one or two stats, or should I spread them around a bit? Who knows! But it is also part of the fun of playing a new game. I tried to aim for things that vaguely sounded like the type of play I enjoy, like ranged combat. We shall see how it works out for me. Once I finished there was no time to worry about it, because suddenly there were bombs dropping and we were running for the vault. On my first attempt I got distracted by the pretty scenery and ended up dying because I didn’t get there in time. Whoops. From what I gather the rest of the game will be super open ended, so I wasn’t quite expecting to be railroaded so hard, but since it was basically a tutorial it made sense. I got shepherded into my cryo-tube and got to watch said bad thing happen to the spouse and baby, and then it felt like the game properly began.
During the rest of my play time I made it out of the vault and back to my house, slowly starting to learn some of the mechanics along the way. I scavenged every little thing, and even dabbled briefly in building some structures. I’m curious to what degree that system will be optional or necessary going forward.
I felt like a lot of my play time after the intro was spent doing nothing. But it was an enjoyable, exploratory sort of nothing, that let me get my bearings in the game and the world and start settling in to get comfortable. I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time with this game and I’m very curious to see what kind of balance it strikes between story and free-form wandering.