Think you want to play Fallout 4? Read this first- it may change your mind!
First off, let me start by saying there are some minor spoilers in this article if you haven’t started the game yet. That said, I recently started playing Fallout 4.
I know...I’m about 4.5 months too late. I like to blame it on the huge stack of games I got for Christmas, and the fact that having a family means I don’t have quite as much time as I used to.
That said, I’ve been having a blast. (Get it?)
But while I’ve had the time of my life sniping ghouls and sending Dogmeat the Invincible into Super Mutant Suiciders, life’s not all sweet rolls and Nuka Cola. There are a few downsides to this awesome game, and I think they’re partially why I put off playing it for so long.
I’m a guy that likes to focus on just 1-2 things at a time.
When I’m eating, I clean off one portion of my plate at a time. I can’t take a bite of veggies, then a bite of meat, then two bites of bread, etc. When I’m doing schoolwork for my MBA, it’s easier for me to just sit down and do it for hours all at once than one hour a day for several days straight.
But focusing on just one thing at a time is tough to do in Fallout. Obviously I could play that way, but then I’d feel like I’m missing out on other things. So I’ll do a quest for the Brotherhood of Steel, but get a little tired of Paladin Danse. Then I move onto a settlement quest for Preston, along with building up and checking on my existing settlements.
…but then I think: “Wait, I’m supposed to be looking for my son!” So I start back on the main quests. Before I know it, I’ve spent 4 hours and hardly feel like I’ve done anything.
So if you’re like me and have trouble focusing, Fallout 4 will be a struggle. Count on constantly having a long list of quests you’re supposedly “working on.”
Skyrim has got to be in my top 3 of most-played games. I’ve started dozens of characters, beat the main story at least 10 times, and have memorized the dialogue for a lot of the faction quests. The great thing about Skyrim is that you can do EVERYTHING in one playthrough. Realistically it doesn’t make sense, but neither does the fact that a dragon doesn’t kill you in one swipe.
In Fallout 4, you just don’t have that luxury. Once you get past a certain point in the story, you have to choose one group and stick with it. You can’t have your sweet roll and eat it too.
While that is attractive in that it opens the door for multiple playthroughs, I’ve had trouble playing through Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas more than once each. For some reason I just couldn’t get back into it -- mainly because I’m more of the dragon/fantasy guy of Skyrim than a post-apocalyptic guy, I guess.
If I’m only going to get one playthrough of Fallout 4, I want to experience a lot. I want to see what kind of stories are available, rather than pigeon-holing myself into just one or the other.
This doesn’t just apply to factions, either. I want to have the strength and constitution to run up and smash people with a giant hammer, but change it up and pull out that sniper rifle when I feel like it. I want to have the mysterious stranger take out baddies, but also know I can just pacify that mirelurk queen if I so choose.
And while you can do that if you’re willing to invest 100+ hours into the game, this brings up my final issue…
Most of my playthroughs of Skyrim happened BD (Before Daughter). I had a lot more time back then, so I could devote 2-4 hours a night to playing video games.
Now… not so much. My days are spent working and watching my little one, and nights are full of schoolwork for a graduate degree. So what used to be 2-4 hours a day of video game time is now reduced to about 1 hour a day.
Do you know what you can get done in an hour of Fallout? You can basically build a few water purifiers around your settlement and explore a new building/area. And that’s assuming you didn’t have to travel from vendor to vendor finding supplies for your freaking water purifiers.
When it takes that long to go through one area, it’s actually kind of discouraging. My hour will be up, and I’ll feel like I didn’t get nearly as far as I wanted to.
So then I’m tempted to play another hour and forgo schoolwork or time with the family or sleep or going to the bathroom. And even if I put the controller down for the day, the game still sticks in my mind. I’ll be thinking of what I want to do around my settlements next, or which side quests I want to do, or which new companion I want to hang out with for a while.
And I’m not even a completionist! I’m not someone that tries to get every single achievement in a game. I’ll gladly leave things by the wayside if I feel they’ll take me too far from the experience. This drives my wife crazy, because she has to get all of the bugs in Zelda, all of the flags in Assassin's Creed, etc.
But this game is just that awesome and has that much content that it’s hard to pull myself away.
I read an article that said you can’t play Fallout 4 the way it was meant to be played if you have a family. And I agree with that, because there’s so much to do and see, and it’s hard to give it the attention this masterpiece deserves.
But you know what? I’m going to keep playing anyways. Because even though I probably won’t get every companion or complete every side quest or find every bobblehead or get every achievement, I'll find other things to do.
Maybe I’ll keep taming deathclaws, or sending my invincible dog to attack Super Mutant Suicidiers because it’s a blast watching them blow up their buddies.
Because the best -- and worst -- thing about Fallout 4 is that I can do whatever I want.