One of the most obvious gaps in my gaming experience is that I’ve never put significant time into a Fallout or Elder Scrolls game. While an RPG will occasionally grab my attention, it’s not a genre I typically seek out. As a result, both of these franchises have slipped through the cracks…until now, of course.

Recently, a pricing error on XBOX Live made Fallout 4 available for free to customers for a short time and I was able to get a copy and play the first hour or so of the game. The next day, Microsoft revoked those licenses – the free copies were clearly an error – but I was already hooked. I went out that week and bought a copy of the game so I could continue my adventure into the wastelands.

What first grabbed me in Fallout 4 was the story introduction. Years ago I gave Fallout 3 a chance, but it just didn’t grab me. I thought that the intro was bland and the idea of creating your character as a baby and watching him grow up just didn’t make me feel attached to him in any way. It felt bland.

In Fallout 4, you create your (adult) character in a pre-nuclear fallout setting and play up to the dropping of the bomb and your entrance into Vault 111. It’s a gripping intro and the series of events that takes place inside the vault immediately makes you want to see the main quest line to completion.

In addition to some storytelling improvements, one of the biggest changes to the Fallout formula lies in its gunplay mechanics. Even Todd Howard described Fallout 3‘s gunplay as “meh” so this was obviously something that Bethesda placed a lot of focus on for Fallout 4. As a part of that focus, the studio hired Josh Hamrick from Bungie to come in and work on tuning the game’s firearms to feel better for the player. This is something that comes through crystal clear in my opinion. Fallout 4‘s weapons feel fun and unique when using them. With the amount of weapon variety in the game, that’s crucial.

I’m only a few hours into Fallout 4 so far, but what I’ve seen up to this point has made me hungry for more. While I have some frustrations with the game, such as its tendency to give very little information to the player or its settlement-building mechanics, the moment to moment gameplay out in the wastelands makes up for the shortfalls. While I may never look at the series with the reverence of a longtime fan, Fallout 4 is certainly a step in that direction.

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