The flow of gameplay is balanced remarkably well, giving the player nice doses of exploration, combat, looting, and crafting at any given time. The most improved element of Fallout 4 is the gunplay. It doesn’t offer the finesse of a Destiny or Call of Duty, per se, but it feels good, and turned running and gunning into my preferred method of play. I used V.A.T.S. mostly for strategic reasons, such as identifying target locations, and to build up critical hit chances for difficult encounters. The biggest problems tied to combat come from the technical performance; framerate stutters and dips are fairly common in larger firefights and within densely populated city areas. Also, don’t expect much help from your companions, as they frequently run blindly into chaos.

The real game-changer in Fallout 4’s combat is the power armor, which functions more like a vehicle that can soak up damage and allow for more aggressive maneuvers. Taking on higher-level enemies has its rewards, as any foe with a star next to their name drops a rare weapon or armor piece. The kicker: Fuel for the armor is relatively rare, so you’ll want to scout ahead to see when you should bring your Iron Man suit out.

Players don’t have to wield the arsenal that is given to them. Weapon crafting is immensely satisfying and easy to understand, but it comes at the expense of crafting the character you want, as perks are required to truly maximize the depth of this endeavor. The perks are an area where Fallout 4 makes a big step forward in making leveling up exciting and meaningful, but a relatively large step back in having to sacrifice points just to see some of the coolest elements of the game. The solution to this dilemma: Explore more of the wasteland to earn experience points and perks. Given just how enjoyable this element of the game is, that wasn’t a problem at all. However, players who just play the critical path will likely have a scattershot of skills.

Fallout 4 didn’t blow me away like the previous iteration did, but it did keep me thoroughly entertained and fully vested in journeying across the wasteland. As Bethesda’s “Welcome Home” marketing campaign teases, when fans of Fallout 3 or New Vegas enter this new world, it’ll feel strangely familiar. As one of the top games of the previous generation, this isn’t a bad thing at all. Fallout 4 has all of the trappings that can keep you engaged for days on end.