To answer the question posed in the title, a lot. After spending the past few days playing Fallout 4 on the PlayStation 4, my Sole Survivor has had quite a time exploring the Commonwealth. Mind, she still hasn’t accomplished many of the main story quests, but I was surprised to see how much progress she did make in that brief amount of time.
Fallout 4 begins with the possible hero or heroine at home with their spouse, infant son, Shaun, and a Mr. Handy named Codsworth. A Vault-Tec representative comes to register the family for their place in Vault 111 right before the bombs start to drop. The trio makes it to the shelter just in time and thinks they’re being put into pods to prepare them for decontamination and life underground. 200 years later, the Sole Survivor wakes up.
The Sole Survivor realizes he or she is the only one in Vault 111 left. Some drastic and dramatic things happened in the past 200 years, which acts as an impetus for the character getting out of there and facing the world again. The first task is to reach the outside, naturally grabbing a Pip-Boy along the way. Once there, it’s up to the player to do whatever he or she wants. You know, it’s the usual Bethesda open-world game way.
For my heroine, named after myself because how cool is it hearing Codsworth say your name, I decided to prioritize. My initial goal was to see if it was feasible to attempt to complete the main storyline within the first 24 hours of play. I decided I’d do side-quests only if they were on the way to the major destination, Diamond City in Fenway Park. After about 10 hours, I was more than halfway through, and it only took as long as it did because settlement building ended up being more distracting than I expected.
The pacing in Fallout 4 is rather good if people choose to tackle the storyline right away. My Sole Survivor is a classic paragon, so when the option to aid and join the Minutemen came up in Concord, immediately she helped with their Raider troubles. This first mission wasn’t too difficult. Especially since some prophetic help can prepare you for the surprise enemy who crashes the party once the Raiders are wiped out. Mama Murphy can use the “sight” to prepare you for a “boss,” as well as provide hints about the Sole Survivor’s family and a safe place for the group of survivors to settle down. Players can come out of it with a group of friends who’ll help repopulate their character’s hometown, a suit of Power Armor, a possible faction to align with, and the ability to found a settlement.
It’s about this time that I noticed something felt a little off, though. The reason why it seemed so easy to power through the main story in Fallout 4 is because there didn’t seem to be as many things distracting me. When my Sole Survivor reached Concord, I intended to have her explore. You know, have her hoard some items to either sell or use as materials for her settlement. See if there was lore to uncover. To my disappointment, I found that many of the buildings couldn’t be entered or explored. They’re there to provide ambiance, but you don’t get to go traipsing through them. For the ones I could get into, it felt more like the items there were fodder for crafting, rather than selling. Because I didn’t have that distraction, it was like I was pushed toward the primary adventure.
I also didn’t come across many distracting landmarks in my Sole Survivor’s early adventures in the wasteland. It was so perplexing that I did go out of my way to aid two other settlements as part of the Minutemen assignments, because I realized they were on the way to Diamond City anyway. Here’s the thing about Fallout 4. In Fallout: New Vegas and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, my Courier and Dragonborn could come across all of these hideouts, caves, buildings, and encounters that were supplemental. They had nothing to do with any of the sidequests or stories. In Fallout 4, I ended up unintentionally completing one of the Minutemen sidequests and most of a Trinity Tower mission because I ran into them on the way. When I later received the mission for one from Minuteman Preston Garvey and ran across the radio signal for the other, it was a matter of checking in with the people, watching as the game realized I’d already done the things, and checking back again. The same thing happened with the initial settlement missions.
It’s hard to tell how to feel about this. In a way, I appreciate how economical it is. I was in the area on the brief trek to Diamond City, got things done, and was able to enjoy the rewards without additional backtracking. On the other hand, it would have been great if the instances I had stumbled into had been unrelated events caused by people trying to survive in the Commonwealth. None of the tasks provided any intellectual challenges. The enemies weren’t terribly difficult, especially since Paladin Danse took point in the first Brotherhood of Steel quests. My points put into Charisma weren’t much help, as none of these early situations were ones I could talk my way out of. (Word of advice, pumping points into Agility, Perception, and Endurance are pretty good ideas.) It’s about world-building, I suppose. With Fallout: New Vegas, I had a great sense of the landscape based on points of interest discovered along the way. I didn’t get that with Fallout 4.
Reaching Diamond City itself was a joy, mainly because it was the first time I really saw people. Perhaps I was taking too direct a route, but in my first 10 hours I didn’t encounter too many towns. There was Sanctuary, which had become my Sole Survivor’s hub, the empty Concord, two small settlements I aided as a Minuteman, each consisting of between two and five people and a one-room shack, and a police station in Cambridge where the Brotherhood of Steel was setting up shop. I came across one dedicated trader in those five spots, and his selection was less than ideal. It wasn’t until Diamond City that I found an actual marketplace to start unloading accumulated materials, could talk with people who wouldn’t ask me to do things or start shooting at me, and get a feel for what life is like for the ordinary citizens of the Commonwealth.
So what did I do in my first 10 hours of Fallout 4? I escaped from Vault 111, became best friends with a German Shepherd, teamed up with the last Minuteman, aided two settlements because he suggested it, became head of his faction, was offered a place in the Brotherhood of Steel, wiped out four groups of Raiders, defeated three Super Mutants, killed more Feral Ghouls than I could count, established a settlement with 54% happiness rating last time I checked, and made it to Diamond City. Not too shabby for an open-world adventure, am I right? All of this was without that framerate issue hitting PlayStation 4 copies of the game, though I did see a Deathclaw get hopelessly trapped in some sewers twice and saw Codsworth continually clip through walls and ceilings.
Fallout 4 will come to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC on November 10.