Though Fallout 4 has become one of the most anticipated games of the fall, Bethesda took a different approach to rolling out information regarding the massive RPG.

Bethesda didn’t debut the game until this year’s E3 conference, and has remained largely silent about what would await fans as they ventured out into the wasteland once again. Returning players to a post-apocalyptic world, Fallout 4 allows players to explore an approximation of New England called the Commonwealth after nuclear bombs have devastated the land.

Coming five years after the last Fallout release, Fallout 4 aims to tweak some of the standards of the last few games, including the leveling up perk system, combat, and more. And in addition to the new story, locations, and characters to discover, a new suite of building mechanics allow players to customize their own settlements as well as a host of other tweaks.

But can the latest adventure in the franchise live up to its beloved predecessor. Initial reviews appear to indicate yes, though as players spent dozens (if not hundreds) of hours with the game, expect the full scope of the title to come better into view. EW offered its experience of Fallout 4 from the viewpoint of a franchise newcomer, but read on for what a host of critics thought of the game.

“Of course, as is the tradition with developer Bethesda Game Studios’ open-world RPGs, the main story isn’t nearly as gripping an attraction as the huge number of well-written side quests you’ll come across just by wandering through the ruins of the Boston area, now known as The Commonwealth. I found it difficult to complete even the most basic point-A-to-point-B task without being sidetracked at least twice by enticing detours. An abandoned comic book publisher office? How can I not explore it? Boston’s famous Fenway Park? Gotta see what’s become of that. A crumbling high school with heads on pikes outside? I bet there’s great loot in there! Practically tripping over new discoveries like this, I feel like a kid on Easter whose parents are bad at hiding the candy.”

“The wasteland can be a bleak place, but this is also the brightest and most vibrant we’ve seen a Fallout game. Just like the game’s mood — which switches effortlessly between being funny, scary, relaxing and tense — the brilliant art direction makes sure the barren landscape stays interesting as the hours tick away.”

“Junk is also necessary for another of Fallout 4‘s features. You can erect homes, establish small vegetable gardens, and fortify defense systems to provide a new lease on life for lost souls. There’s a lot you can build and the process is easy, but unless you love to be creative, you may not find this pursuit very worthwhile. There’s something to be said for the contrast between killing monsters and providing aid to the down and out, but the main quest only asks you to construct an object or two, and never incentivizes you to build a proper settlement.”

“The story is also much more engaging, based mostly on its central premise. Rather than a bland cipher, this game puts you in the role of a parent. After being shuffled into a Vault and cryogenically frozen, you’re awoken temporarily to see your infant son kidnapped. The quest to find him and those responsible for taking him is the driving force behind everything that follows, and the female voice performance (I played as the mother) tinged the appropriate grief and anger into every conversation that turned to her missing child.”

“There are other clarifying tweaks that simplify a lot of old mechanics. Radiation poisoning no longer makes stats deteriorate, and instead eats away at your maximum health. It’s a more immediate concept to grasp as you juggle staying alive with eating food that makes you weaker. Elsewhere, guns no longer decay or need repairing and the weapon wheel’s been replaced by a cleaner D-pad system. The new voiced character works well too – played just neutrally enough to slot in inoffensively, but definitely a person in place of a blank camera for NPCs to talk at.”

“In the early game, though, Fallout 4 is a world of low percentage hit chances and declining ammo, which gets to be a bit of a drag in the early dungeons. To their credit, Bethesda takes steps to mitigate this issue by almost immediately giving you a laser musket, a suit of Power Amor, and a minigun — powerful early game weapons balanced by a relatively limited pool of ammo and energy. If you’re struggling with one of the early dungeons, they will do in a pinch until you get some more reliable weapons. “

“Players can also use the Vault-Tec Automatic Targeting System (VATS) in combat, a tool which slows the action to a crawl and lets the player target specific body parts. VATS has been augmented in Fallout 4 with a new critical hit system. Successful hits add to a meter which, when filled, allows the player to designate an attack for a guaranteed hit with bonus damage. This new mechanic adds an additional layer of strategy to VATS and makes using it a more engaging experience, as critical hits are performed after the combat action commences and can be timed for maximum effect.”

“Gone from Fallout 4 is the titular Karma system that gave players points towards good or bad Karma for their respective deeds. While some may argue that the Karma system did relatively little in previous games, I felt it added a little flare that gave people interesting and unique options in gameplay. Fallout 4 feels like you can only play it one way now and it’s not yours; it’s theirs. Perhaps this was a proper choice considering you’re a parent on the hunt for their missing child, and it wouldn’t be right to make them an evil prick who recalibrates a religious ghoul-filled rocket ship so that it careens into a mountainside.”

“While a shocker at first, I’ve grown to love the new leveling system. Having everything streamlined into one unified skill tree makes sense, and it’s made gaining experience a more fun endeavor for me. Every perk has several levels, often leading to big rewards in exchange for dedicated points investment. Fortune Finder, for instance, not only allows you to find more bottlecaps around the world, but it offers a chance for enemies to explode in a shower of them during combat at its highest level.”

“There are complicated internal politics and conflicts happening within each city — peace always seems fragile, and while there are factions, the term feels reductive here. The social hierarchy of the Commonwealth is far more nuanced than in previous Bethesda titles. Each city has a relationship with the other outposts, and generally, characters have relationships that link them to more than one place. It’s not as simple as jumping through a checklist of hoops to do some quests — though that’s also available for each. Instead, there are difficult relationships between them. There are no easy allies, and no easy moral positions to align yourself with.”

Fallout 4 is now available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC.

Fallout 4
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