Printed on it was the word "TUIT", and the following advice: "After years of searching I have finally managed to obtain a round Tuit. No longer will I have to wait to do all those tasks I have put off."
That's what open world games can feel like to me - especially RPGs. Your map and quests list ends up getting full of things to do, errands to run, people to kill... all of which are jockeying for your time and attention.
Fallout 4 is an incredibly idiosyncratic game. Half the time it feels like it's conspiring against you.
Nothing about it is that user-friendly. The Pip-boy, as a method for navigating your character's stats, inventory and map, is ugly and clunky. Very little is explained up-front about how to actually play the game (remember when games used to come with instruction booklets?). The combat is unforgiving, and half of my victories appear to be the result of my opponents getting snagged on scenery.
And yet... there are moments in Fallout 4 that are just sublime.
So I'd accepted a request to go and clean out an old factory of wasteland raiders, which I'd been putting off. Most of Fallout 4's quests are of the go-there/kill-those variety, and I was looking for a little more variation in my variety. Eventually, I could put it off no longer, so I made the trek to the other side of the map.
After some stressing, I'd mopped up the guards outside - at least one of whom had sunk up to his shoulders in solid concrete, which made taking him out with headshots a doddle. Another was catapulted about 100 feet into the air when shot in the leg with my pistol.
But thank god for the game's quicksave - a feature which doesn't appear nearly enough in console games - because even with the game giving me unintended windows of victory due to buggy infrastructure, it still took multiple attempts to get through. My rad count had eaten into my health. I was low on stimpacks because I'd been using them on the dog. Quicksave was my only saviour.
It was when I made it inside the building that Fallout 4 started tugging on my heartstrings, despite my determination not to fall in love with it.
There was something about that difficulty level (albeit softened by quick saves,) coupled to the weird vagaries of the combat system - that VATS thing - and being lost in a huge, maze-like structure (decked out in beautifully convincing style - I believed it was a place where the rubber-faced, tentacle-limbed, raiders might actually live). There was something about not having indicators telling me where my targets were to be found that made searching the corridors and rooms all that more tense.
It could've all conspired to be frustrating. Instead, I bought into it in a way I haven't done with a game in years. My euphoria at being in that world, at finally achieving my goal... well... the last time I remember getting that buzz off a game was back in the mid-90s, with LucasArts' little-loved Outlaws.
Fallout 4 is full of moments like that for me, these oases of gaming euphoria.
Unfortunately, they're broken up by stretches where the game drops the ball, and I'm left lamenting how much better the overall experience could've been if the graphics engine was supporting all that lovely art design, if it didn't so religiously adhere to over-used RPG tropes and storytelling, and was just a little bit less of a faff in areas that should feel user-friendly. Because of that, its biggest success often feel inadvertent rather than by design.
It's also probably the worst example yet this year of a game that utterly alienates newcomers. This, more than Halo 5 or Assassin's Creed Syndicate, is a game for fans of the series.
But - by the Atomic Gods! - when it's good, Fallout 4 is very, very, very good.