Everyone seems to love Fallout for different reasons. The old-school gamers love the first two games for their excellent top-down tactical combat and intense sense of brutality in the world, while modern fans drool over the vast apocalyptic landscapes and tense firefights of the most recent releases. For me, I always enjoy the little things that helped make me feel like a part of the world. And in Fallout 4 (and soon Fallout 4 VR), the best example of that intention was the Settlement Building system.
Games like Skyrim VR let you buy houses or even build houses by purchasing pre-made pieces, kind of like following the instructions on a Lego set, but in Fallout 4 VR you can break everything down to its core pieces and create things from scratch. And we can’t wait to do it all over again in VR.
Sense of Ownership
When you’re standing in a new VR experience the first thing most people do is turn their head from side-to-side and look around. It’s almost like a test to make sure that everything is rendered correctly and the tracking works. Then after a quick glance around, we look down at our hands.
Since you can’t really pinch yourself in VR to make sure you’re not dreaming, or spin a top a la Inception, you can at least verify that you have control over your hands and body movement. That’s usually enough to sell the experience, but Fallout 4 VR has the potential to go a few steps further.
The problem with digital virtual worlds like Fallout 4 VR, Skyrim VR, or even the hyper-interactive Job Simulator, is that you are always going to feel like you’re just visiting a place. You didn’t build the house or decide to put the toaster on that counter, so every interaction you have feels like it was planned by someone else. But in the case of Fallout 4 VR and its dense Settlement Building system, now I’m in control of things.
I can tear down my house if I don’t like it and rebuilt it from scratch. I can turn on or off the lights and rearrange my furniture however I please. Nothing is nailed down (well okay maybe a few things are) in the world of Fallout 4 VR and having that sense of true ownership and agency is going to be incredibly powerful.
The best parts of any VR experience are the moments of subtle, sometimes intricate, interaction. Picking up a cup of coffee and pouring it down your throat in Job Simulator, reloading a gun by ejecting the magazine in Onward, or blocking an arrow and shield bashing an enemy in Skyrim VR.
Moments like that where you don’t need to think so much about which button to press or how to hold the controller and instead you forget the controller is even there and simply do what you’d do in real life and the expected result happens in the VR world around you. It’s a great feeling and it’s precisely why settlement building in Fallout 4 VR is going to be so amazing.
Granted, we haven’t actually tried the settlement building features in any of our VR demos yet, but we can make some assumptions based on video footage we’ve seen. Things like picking up items in the world and freely moving them around definitely appear to be working and that alone will make the world feel all the more alive.
And all of that adds up to the ultimate goal of any VR app: establishing a sense of presence. VR developers want players to forget that they’re wearing HMDs on their face and holding hunks of plastic in their hands. They want us to feel truly immersed in the digital space around us — and there are plenty of amazing spaces to visit.
Bethesda’s games have always evoked a strong sense of cohesion and immersion even outside of VR, so it follows that they’d only be even more immersive once inside of a VR headset. So if Bethesda can do everything it needs to in order to make Fallout 4 VR as great as it an be and polish out all of the rough edges, this could be the system-seller the HTC Vive (and VR in general) has been waiting for.
Learning from the runaway success of Skyrim VR on PSVR isn’t hurting either.
Fallout 4 VR releases for the HTC Vive next week on December 12th, 2017. You can pre-order it right now on Steam for $59.99. And don’t forget to read our in-depth interview with Pete Hines about Bethesda’s approach to VR this year. Let us know what you think of the potential of settlement building in Fallout 4 VR down in the comments below!