Okay… so. (Spoiler-free)
I will say it because this needs to be said, Fallout 4 is harder than any Fallout experience I have ever had and I have played them almost-all with the exception of Tactics. Fallout New Vegas had a Hardcore Mode that made your character thirsty, hungry, sleepy etc. Which meant you had to tend to those needs on top of surviving. I completed it on hard difficulty to get the most of harshness of the scorched world.
In Fallout 4, I was slightly disappointed that the Hardcore feature was not included… but, five hours into it and I can see why it is not (mods will surely add it). The enemies hit harder and are faster, they also come in numbers so you have to deal with a group making it necessary to find cover and pick them off. This is not a run and gun, well at least not at first. I personally LOVE IT! For once in a great while I have felt like I was truly surviving in my endeavors and was desperately scavenging for ammunition and stimpacs.
Story wise, you really aren’t missing anything. Most Fallout’s don’t carry from the last. I will note that there are several references behind it that a long-time player will catch note of. Personally, it makes the experience even greater but I wouldn’t say you are missing out. You said you brushed up on the lore, which is a good start. Also, during loading screens there are details of the world of Fallout so you learn more about certain creatures, factions, or even locations that you wouldn’t otherwise know unless you played the original Fallout’s developed by Interplay.
Gameplay, it didn’t take me much to figure out what buttons did what with a quick button check. There isn’t a secret button configuration that props a unique action. The only gimmicks I will note are your third/first person which is the Snap button and your V.A.T.S which is your LB button and your sprint which is LS - click it, that is. I do have an important word of warning, there really isn’t a tutorial. I mean it’s the fourth so I assume they are expecting you to know the fundamentals by now but still that can’t be said about crafting and building which is confusing. I decided to skip it for now and just focus on the quests and adventures. I will try to hunker down on crafting and building later tonight. I will save before hand because I know I will likely ■■■■■ up, but that’s part of the experience though. I do wish they walked you through though.
In conclusion to my long rant of trying to “sell” you the game, I love it. Fallout 3 is my favorite game of all-time and I do not doubt that Fallout 4 will take its place after 50 hours. There is a good reason for that, I love the story - the lore is fantastic and as @Fwufikins said…
He is totally right! You become the lone wander, you immerse yourself in the story and world left in decay. There are so many crazy experiences that you will come across and characters you will deeply feel for. 5 hours in and I have already become attached to my first companion not because the game gave me the story/tools too but because of my personal attachment to k-9s and such. So, for $60, I think this game is well worth the experience and investment. Not to mention it will give you something to do on top of the numerous assignments due (college ) until the release of Shago or better yet, Season 3!
Side Note: To be quite honest, I have been very disappointed with this generations line of games. Perhaps I am being very picky or just expect more in comparison to last generation’s games. Few games did it for me: The Witcher 3 (not really my type of game, but good), GTA V (which I already played enough of on last gen), and of course KI (the first fighting game I truly invested my time and effort in). Really, only KI has made me so eager for what was in store and impatient to get back to. All I can say is, it’s good to be back to the wasteland.
Edit: Just saw the length… I do apologize for this extremely long response that could’ve been answered in no less than a few words. I get caught up sometimes.