If you’re a video game fan, prepare to part ways with your free time for the next several months. Fallout 4 has arrived.

The role-playing epic from publisher Bethesda Softworks stars players roaming as survivors of a nuclear war, escaping their underground vaults in search of life in a post-apocalyptic Boston.

Creators have not been shy in expressing how much time players will spend in the game. During an interview over the summer, one of the game’s producers said he played Fallout 4 for more than 400 hours (not a typo) and still found new material.

Safe to say Fallout 4 is a really, really big game. But we knew that before its Tuesday launch. Here are some things we learned exploring Fallout’s new wasteland.

1. Creating your character is a lot more interesting.Fallout 4 starts with a husband, wife and son in their suburban Boston home. Players choose a male or female character, with the selection represented by the couple jockeying for the bathroom mirror. As you change your appearance with the game’s sculpting tool, the husband or wife might make a cute comment. “Sweetie, you like my nose, right?,” says the female character as I adjust the shape of her nose. In another situation, the husband says “Shaun has your eyes,” referring to their infant son. Like Fallout 3, as players experience the very quick shift from newborn to adult, Fallout 4 tries to establish a strong connection with your character from the beginning.

2. This game is great for hoarders. If this is your first trip in Fallout, scavenging is a huge component to succeeding. Nearly everything has value in Fallout 4. The weapon, piece of armor or stimpak (health pack) are obvious items to grab, but don’t overlook that coffee cup, since it might provide ceramic needed to augment a weapon or add a crucial piece to your settlements (which we’ll get to later). Seriously, take EVERYTHING. You might need it later.

3. Watch your weight. It’s something I forgot until I noticed my character moving a lot slower than normal. Players can only carry so many items. Once they cross their limit, the excess gear slows them down. Always stay aware of the load you carry, and don’t be afraid to sell items or scrap them for material.

4. Dogmeat is great … most of the time. At one point, players meet their canine companion. The dog is great for carrying items, fetching new stuff and attacking enemies. Also, the sound of Dogmeat yelping after an attack always made me sad. Players press a button to issue commands, then pick their order such as “Fetch” or “Follow.” You can even equip Dogmeat with armor. There were times where Dogmeat wasn’t always helpful, like walking around in a circle while raiders were shooting, or when he ignored commands to investigate a body. Guess dog training schools are hard to find in a post-nuclear wasteland.

5. Real-time combat is a lot better. The Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (V.A.T.S.) is still great. If you’re new to Fallout, players tap a button to use V.A.T.S., which slows down time and lets them dismember an enemy, such as shooting a leg to slow them down or an arm to cause enemies to drop their weapon (brace for lots of exploding body parts). Using V.A.T.S. eats up attack points, so players cannot lean on it every battle. Fortunately, compared to games like Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, real-time firefights are much better. You have greater control of your weapon, and aiming is easier.

6. Bugs are still a big problem. You don’t only worry about Bloatflies and Radroaches in Fallout 4 (unless you’re cooking them, which you can totally do). Players are going to see some strange technical glitches in the game, which likely won’t surprise those who player earlier Fallout titles. I’ve seen Raiders get stuck in walls, my character mumbling at a reporter with no dialogue options and Dogmeat fight a mole rat while suspended in mid-air. You have been warned.

7. You can build your own Fallout settlements. One of the more interesting elements in Fallout 4 is the option to build your own settlements. With all that junk you’ve collected, you can create structures of wood or steel, and attract residents. But it’s not as simple as putting up a building with some beds. If you want power, you need to build generators, then run a wire to the object you need to power. In workshop mode, any items a player sees can be scrapped for material. There are also workbenches to augment armor and weapons. As if you didn’t have enough to occupy you with exploration. The only issue is the game doesn’t really explain clearly exactly how to do this. There’s a lot of trial and error involved.

8. It is very easy to get lost. This game reminds me a lot of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, in that you start out on a mission, then discover a new building to explore, or an empty settlement to build up. Or you find a Raider camp to clear out and scour for items. Or a Deathclaw tries to rip your face off. Or you run into that guy who wants to replace bottlecaps with a form of credit. There’s way too much to do, which reminds me I have a Super Mutant den to clear out.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.

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