Fallout 76 has been in the spotlight for its very controversial style of gameplay and gameplay design. Will this be the wasteland we dreamed of? Come inside and find out!
I can say with 100% confidence and zero shame that I am a Bethesda fanboy. Over the last 12 years of working in the games industry, as a journalist or podcast host, some of my fondest memories come from dealing with Bethesda Games Studio. When Fallout 76 was announced, I was a little on the fence, but overall excited for something new in the Fallout Universe.
Even though I knew there were going to be no NPCs and it would be an online-only title, I still had pretty high hopes. Is Fallout 76 the wasteland we have been dreaming of? Or is the nightmare we never wanted? Find out now with our official review (in progress)!
A FAMILIAR WORLD THAT BEGS FOR MORE
We have seen Fallout change from a top-down Action RPG to a first-person action game title, but the one thing that has always stayed the same was the great story and personality laid out throughout the game. In the beginning of Fallout 76, you wake up 20 years after the bombs have dropped, Reclamation Day. It is now time for you and your fellow Vault Dwellers to go out into the world and try to make a new life for yourself.
Like many others, I started out by following the overseers missions, only to find out that most of the population of Appalachia has left the area and moved on to find more people. Upon discovering this information, I wasn't worried at all because I thought the overall story and online players would fill the void left by no NPC's. . .I was wrong.
The storytelling in the game has moved from exciting interactions with non playable characters, to text-based and audio based storytelling. In Fallout 4 this wasn't an irritating feature because it wasn't something you had to do all the time. Obviously, every Bethesda title had text based storytelling in the past, but the lack of interaction with NPC's to progress through the story really change the feel of the game for me. Maybe I am just a lazy gamer, but having no one actually there to interact with as you progress through the story really made it a bland experience for me and took me out of the universe a lot.
As I moved mission to mission it slowly started getting less interesting and more irritating, than anything. Just to think there is this huge map with a ton of really cool locations with ZERO NPC influence was honestly really depressing. The thing that has always made Fallout. . .well Fallout is the interesting, crazy, and funny characters you would run into. Going from a game that had characters like the weird and annoying Preston Garvey, the smart and very skilled Strong, and of course Dogmeat, to one that is littered with boring attempts at telling stories of the wasteland is a pretty sad thing to see in this style of game.
AN ONLINE GAME, THAT FEELS TO EMPTY
One of the biggest marketing lines for the game was that the map would be made up entirely of survivors, a.k.a. other online players. Well, on PS4 they are pretty much non-existent and, considering the fact that Bethesda hasn’t addressed this problem, it seems like this will be something that will not be changing anytime soon. On the map, you can see yellow dots which represent the other players on the server. The bad thing is that my experience on PS4 with online play has been disappointing as well.
Each server can have up to 24 players per map and at the most, I have had is around 12, sometimes it has been closer to 6. Just think about that for a minute, that's like trying to do a raid in WoW with 20 people and only 5 show up. Even the times I did find someone online, 4 out of 5 times they would have their mic off, which threw the character and any prospect of forming a team out the window. I have never understood why people play online titles if they don’t plan on using there mic. If it was one of the previous Fallout titles, I’d understand how a mic would be completely useless. For good or bad, Fallout 76 isn’t like previous Fallout titles. It’s a departure from the genre, and thus gamers need to evolve according. This game is predicated on group play and shared experiences, especially since the NPC's have been put out to pasture.
The lack of people online makes the game seem even more like an empty wasteland than before, which, I can’t stress enough, had me missing NPC's and companions. While it’s not the Fallout experience I expected, this shortcoming hasn't made me completely hate this title. When I decided to play the game a bit differently and stop comparing it to previous Fallout titles, I finally started enjoying it. . .in a kind of weird way.
In one instance, I came upon a church, during my travels in Appalachia, and found a priest outfit with a bowler hat. I needed to find a way to have fun in the game, so I looked on my map, fast traveled to the most online populated area and started preaching the word of Atom! With my mic turned on I was walking around saying “This was a holy event, we are all Children of Atom now! So let me give you the gift of the Glow.” Of course, there weren't many people that were there to hear, but the people that were thought it was hilarious. It’s nothing that adds to the story, but it’s something that was unique and fun, and it’s only viable because Bethesda took Fallout in this online direction.
In another playthrough, I went on a solo mission of discovery and photography. I started traveling location to location, taking pictures, looting, and just taking in the world. That is when I realized I had been playing the game the same way I play Minecraft, and suddenly a revelation hit me. Maybe that's what Bethesda wanted us to do, all along. Maybe this whole time I have been playing the game wrong. Then, I started to see the genius behind what Bethesda had concocted with Fallout 76. The game really shines in the choices you can make and the way everyone can play this game completely different.
As I started my journey of discovery, I wanted to get back in to the story and see if it was a better experience, now that I was used to the world. Unfortunately, that is the moment when I started noticing the game has some pretty serious problems. The bugs in this game are like none I have seen in a Bethesda title, which really disappointed me and made me wonder why the game was never delayed.
BUGS HAVE INVADED WEST VIRGINIA
Most Bethesda titles have bug issues still to this day. I would have to say, if I were to guess, its the fact they have used the same “Creation Engine” since Skyrim was released. The graphics, in my opinion, are still great and we are obviously dealing with an updated version of the engine, but graphics are not always everything.
One of the bugs that really frustrated me, had to do with what has become a staple in the Fallout series, the VATS system. In several altercations, there were times where I would lock on an enemy with the VATS system, have 95% accuracy, and hit nothing. This was very irritating, due to the fact that I was surrounded by Scorchers and Ghouls. Which, brings me to my next bug, the enemies are more buggy than scary.
You know those moments when you’re playing a game, you see an enemy unaware of your presence, you crouch, and try to stealthily approach the target before it sees you or shrieks for others to attack? Yeah, that’s not something you have to deal with in Fallout 76. I found myself walking right up to enemies without even alarming them. I do not know the in’s and out’s of game development, but with all of the bugs, Fallout 76 just seems like it was very rushed in production.
A VERY DIFFERENT WASTELAND
In a lot of ways, Fallout 76 still feels like Fallout. With pretty much the same controls as the past four Bethesda titles, music from the golden age, destroyed yet beautiful areas, and of course all the rads you desire, the game still feels part of the Fallout series. One thing that is different, though, is the Card based perk system. As you level up in the game, you will get card packs that let you, not only chose what perk you upgrade, but how you want that perk to affect you character.
Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck are at the forefront of the level up system, once again. As you level up, you choose a perk to upgrade, then you can choose a card from within that perk’s section. I thought this addition to the game was one of the best things about Fallout 76. You can share the perk cards you gain with friends and if you get duplicate cards, you can add them together to make a more high-powered perk card.
I feel that if Bethesda would have done more changes like this to the overall world, the game would be more enjoyable. The fact that the perk system and “in-game cosplay” are my two favorite things about the game shows you how incomplete this game is, at this point.
CAN FALLOUT MAKE A COMEBACK?
Overall, the feeling that encompasses my travels through Fallout 76 was that it’s a very rushed and unfinished game. A lot of the things advertised for the game I have yet to experience, like Nukes, PvP, Team CO-OP and more. This obviously has to do with the lack of PS4 players, but it is still a pretty disappointing dilemma to be in. Fallout 76 struggles to stay as familiar while missing a lot of the meat that made Fallout a fan favorite title. As the theme song said, this was almost heaven, but only became a purgatory of bugs and disappointment.
I think Bethesda can make Fallout 76 something much better than what it is. The caveat to that, though, is that I feel by the time they fix the game it will be well over 200GBs of data, which will be a pretty hard selling point for the online world, that is Fallout 76. Since this is an entirely online game, similar to the likes of Destiny (2), WoW, etc., there will be updates throughout its first year, that will make the game more tolerable than it currently is. So stay tuned, because I will definitely be giving Fallout 76 more time to become a better game before I throw in the towel for good. Let’s just hope we have the memory to accommodate all of the updates needed.