Two Days Off Work to Wander the Wastelands

I promise there are no spoilers here. This should have been published a couple of weeks ago but, you know, I’ve been engrossed in Fallout 4 and forgot!

I had a plan:
– Book 10th and 11th November off work
– In October – Inform family that I will be away for a couple of days on the 10th
– Around 5th November – Remind the family that I will be away for a couple of days on the 10th
– Go to bed at 6.00pm on Monday, 10th November
– Get up at 10.30pm on Monday 10th November
– Ensure graphics drivers are up to date
– Sit with hands on keyboard and mouse till 12.01am
– Play Fallout 4 for as many hours as I can in the time I have off work

The plan executed flawlessly and I spent over 35 hours in the Wasteland before I had to pack up my PipBoy and get an early night ready for the real world of work, which started at 5.30am on 12th November.

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster I have to say.

I promised myself I wouldn’t rush into Fallout 4 which I have a tendency to do with all open-world games, so I watched as the camera scrolled around my power armour when the game started. It’s not very interesting if I’m honest.

The story began – I have to admit it wasn’t the story I was expecting but there again I had no idea what to expect. I think I was expecting it to have a similar “flow” to Fallout 3, but it’s completely different and strangely compelling. Video game plots and stories are not something that usually interest me (save the princess again blah blah blah, just give me the virtual guns to shoot and point me in the right direction please!) so it was a surprise to me that I was mildly interested.

The first thing that struck me when I got into the game proper was the god-awful juddering of the graphics. The game automatically selects the graphics settings and mine were set to medium. I’m used to playing most games on high settings so I was a bit disgruntled about it, but to get all this judder as well just pissed me off. I decided not to get into the usual two days of doing the developers’ beta testing for them that I often have to do and just sucked it up. After a short while my eyes got used to it and my brain filtered it out.

I plodded on and got absorbed into the virtual world that Bethesda had created for me. Meeting characters and accepting quests, remembering lessons from Fallout 3 – don’t wander too far at the beginning of the game and don’t try to steal everything. I got slowly but surely engrossed. The world is exactly what you’d expect, a desolate land filled with desperate people and maniac animals. Plenty of secret little areas to stumble across and a million shades of brown.

It’s great to walk around Boston and see some of the places that were important when the American colony’s treacherous rebellion was started against the British by a bunch of criminals desperate to increase their power base and profits.

I have to say though that the level of decision-making has not been as satisfying, so far, as it was in Fallout 3. I am expecting some major story arcs like blowing up Megaton or something but it hasn’t happened yet. Fingers crossed.

At about 20 hours in I started to get really frustrated. It seemed like every quest had a stupidly hard boss that I couldn’t beat. I did not have the money to buy the firepower needed to kill them, nor the perks to persuade them, so the game just got stuck for me. Sitting with 3 or 4 unfinished missions that I got no XP for after trying them for hours was no fun.

It came to the point where I had only one quest that I thought I might have a reasonable chance at beating. This quest was given to me after the others so in theory should have been a harder quest. It was exactly the opposite. I barely fired a shot, got through the whole quest and completed it. At the end I was given a weapon with some decent firepower and a load of loot to sell for decent money rather than the trinkets the game had offered up to that point.

I immediately went and completed the outstanding partially completed quests that I was able to. Unfortunately, even after completing everything in one of the quests,  it would not complete. I spent another hour trying to work out what was wrong and eventually I realised I was waiting for a bunch of NPCs to walk the entire length of the map that I had explored thus far. Very frustrating! And I was hoping that this wasn’t a sign of things to come. I went and completed some other quests and eventually the status notices told me that the NPCs had arrived, I met with them and the quest completed.

Now it probably sounds like I think the game is awful, but it truly isn’t. I think it’s because the world is so engrossing. Since that pivotal quest the game has completely opened up. The money, whilst still being sparse, is enough to give a decent chance.

It was getting towards the end of my time in the Wastelands so I decided to give the crafting a go. I have absolutely no interest in crafting or creating things in any game except Minecraft and that is only because I can play the game with my daughter. I felt it only fair to give it a go though.

You know when you give yourself a palm slap on the forehead? I gave myself a palm slap on the forehead. I realised that the key to having enough money is through scrapping things, crafting something else and then selling it. As soon as I started doing that the in-game currency started to flow.

I slowly but surely worked out the crafting and also the settlement creation. There is almost no help at all for anything, including the crafting system, which is a tad unfair. I think Bethesda could have really helped by giving some worked examples of how to build things. Granted, there are some help files but  they only cover very basic stuff. I spent probably 30 minutes trying to hook a power plant up to a light that I had crafted, that’s 30 minutes of wasted holiday time.

One of the most important screens is the perks screen and I think I have screwed my choices up on that too. I thought I had to fill in all the stars at the top most perk before I could choose any of those below it, but looking at other peoples’ builds I think I might have assumed wrong. Again – no help on this basic game mechanism.

At the end of my 35 hour stint I pressed shift & tab to go into the Steam overlay and message a mate of mine to say good-night and noticed an article in the “guides” section which mentioned upping the frame rate. I clicked on it and it described my juddering problem. It suggested that the game be set to borderless window in the graphics settings, rather than full screen. I did that and the game became as smooth as a silky silk worm making silk things for my grandma.

I really enjoyed my 2 days in the Wastelands but even with that amount of time  I have barely scratched the surface. Fallout 3 took me over 100 hours so I expect many more visits to the Wasteland from here on out and I’ll check-in with you once I’ve completed it.



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