This time, Fallout 76 is an online action RPG which is a departure from Bethesda Game Studio’s usual Fallout format.
Fallout 76 feels like an experiment into new territories, with online play, PVP combat, a slimmed down story, and no human NPCs, being just some of the big points of contention.
Fallout 76 is a prequel to all other previous Fallout games. Set only five years after the nuclear war that turned the Earth into post-apocalyptic ruins. The fallout shelter Vault 76 is opened with its occupants stepping out into destroyed West Virginia with the objective of re-colonizing and rebuilding the wasteland.
Scavenging your way through the barren and radiated lands of Fallout 76, you’ll be distracted from re-used Fallout 4 assets by some pretty impressive light rays, that shine a little hope on lifeless West Virginia.
Ever burning lands scorched with fire, toxic nuclear swamps, and dried up lake beds make for some reasonably diverse regions, but dare you to step foot into abandoned large towns or cities, the game’s frame rate takes a critical hit.
With all the different regions, there’s a decent variety of enemy types, with some monsters rarer than others like the gargantuan flying Scorchbeasts. You come across one of these and you’re best off running in the opposite direction.
Your Pipboy returns with the usual functions and mouse and keyboard unfriendly interface. The Radio function offers some very familiar music, but the absence of radio hosts or DJs are noticeable when you’re playing solo.
Photo Mode is an all-new feature, it’s surprisingly good, it features lots of different options and unlockable poses or banners. Regularly taking photos with friends at landmarks you come across is actually pretty fun.
When it comes to gameplay, Fallout 76 tries to reach multiple different audiences, with hints of Battle Royale PVP, and Co-operative events, leaving the Fallout purists with a very slimmed down story RPG experience. There’s a complete lack of human NPCs which removes any worthwhile interactions as well as the sense of agency through social choices.
It’s not all bad though, the level up system and equipping perk cards is surprisingly pretty good, maybe even a better system than what Fallout 4 offers.
It’s also addictive looting and scavenging for supplies through wastelands filled with memories and relics of life before nuclear warfare. If you’re lucky you may come across building plans or recipes which will open up a new building or crafting options.
Speaking of building, Getting to build your own base is initially quite fun. You can set up your base almost anywhere, provided there’s some distance between you and other buildings or landmarks. With the right plans and materials, you could potentially make yourself self-sufficient through water purifiers and growing your own food.
The servers or worlds of Fallout 76 are not persistent, every time you log into the game you’re on a different server with different players. If someone else has taken your plot of land that you’ve previously built upon, you’ll be forced to relocate for free.
But some of your assets like your crops are completely lost. You’re supposed to be able to replace most of your base down in one go, but this consistently does not work at all. You’ll usually have to manually replace all of your base’s parts and it’s a bit of an unnecessary chore.
You may remember the visually dynamic and tactical VATs system from previous Fallout games. Being an online game, Fallout 76’s VATs system is a very diluted system that just doesn’t have the same impact and satisfaction when used.
There’s no time pausing, no dynamic camera, and you’ll need a perk to even target specific body parts of enemies.
The Crafting system is pretty good. You can scrap weapons, armor, and junk at a workshop for materials with the chance of discovering new mod recipes. Modding your weapons with that extra special scope or grip is generally worth the effort.
You can also bulk up excess materials to either reduce their weight or allow you to sell them to robot vendors. Everything you craft rewards you with a little bit of experience which is appreciated. Mentioned earlier, the main story content of Fallout 76 is quite lackluster.
A lot of main story quests feel like chores or fetch quests and there’s never any sense of urgency. Throughout most of the story and side quests, you’re following instructions through audio logs or the occasional robot that you cannot interact with.
Like myself, If you’re playing multiplayer, you’ll probably even have your friends talking over the top of your audio logs anyway.
At Fallout 76’s E3 announcement, Todd Howard stated that we would be able to play the game solo, this is not the case, the game is always online. Although private servers have been stated to be a feature added later down the line.
PVP is simply terribly designed. You can battle other players, but you’ll do barely any damage at all to them till they fight back, allowing the other player to line up a critical headshot before retaliating.
The game is trying to simultaneously please PVPers and non-PVPers on the same servers and has resulted in a mostly un-enjoyable system for everyone. Co-operative public events are a bit better, they’re often more menial tasks or involve defending resource-riches you’ve occupied with friends.
The events generally offer some pretty good rewards, but the same few events keep replaying in the same locations for a pretty repetitive and stale experience.
Fallout 76 is a full price game boldly offering a very large selection of microtransactions. Mostly cosmetics, but you can buy things like alternative water purifiers or workshops that you’d normally need plans to build, but they’re quite easy to earn normally.
Thankfully everything offered in the microtransaction store can also be earned in game through atomic points, earned by various, daily, weekly, and general challenges. Yet the prices are absolutely ridiculous, 15 pound for outfits or a single power armor paint theme seems laughable.
And lastly, a personal nit-pick… the Bethesda Launcher, this is yet another launcher my PC has to run to access my games. The Bethesda Launcher offers no achievements, no game time tracking, and all of the features that Steam offers, which is where all of my other Fallout games are.
Bethesda single player games are notorious for being buggy, so when you open up Fallout to online multiplayer with competitive forced PVP you’re going to have an even bigger buggier mess than normal.
Being always online adds new frustrations with server connection problems or regular server maintenance putting the game out of commission for hours.
Some of the game’s assets look absolutely terrible even at the high textures graphic setting. While the game performance is generally quite stable in most areas, if you enter any large town or city areas the game really struggles with the fps.
If you’re looking for a deep immersive Fallout story experience, skip this one. You can get some entertainment out of some of the really skimmed down Fallout systems here, but it’s a far cry of Fallout games.
You can potentially have loads of fun with friends here, but the same can be said for Connect 4. I’d predict that the microtransaction store is part of a plan to make Fallout 76 free to play much later down the line.
Along with your travels, you will encounter many, many foes! Some foes seem completely impervious to damage.
Some enemies will T-Pose to assert their dominance. But don’t let that intimidate you! Simply equip your finest armaments and blow them into meaty chunks!
Of course, some enemies will forego T-Posing altogether and will simply skate along the ground!
Sometimes enemies will simply appear in front of your very eyes! This also applies to my colleagues in the field. Always expect the unexpected!
On that note, at any moment, you could be the unlucky recipient of what I like to call ‘phantom damage’. Random damage that will hit you out of nowhere! Literally, everything is hostile in this new world! This radiation has affected some creatures…more than others.
It has also affected the gravity somewhat. Keep your eyes trained on the skies and occasionally, you’ll be treated to floating objects too.
Radiation is most peculiar. You may also find missing objects out there. Sometimes you’ll even find extra objects that shouldn’t be there.
But above all else; enjoy the wasteland while you can! Disconnections can strike at any moment! And that’s just a taste of what you can expect out there! You are now ready to embark on the reclamation of America! Good luck out there! …you’ll need it…
From the moment it was first announced, Fallout 76 had gamers on edge. But it was still shocking to see just how poorly the game was received upon release.
The backlash has been extreme, from fans and critics both. What happened to make this ambitious installment in the Fallout series such a nuclear bomb?
Well, a lot. Let’s break down the many failures of Fallout 76.
Server-side apocalypse – Rule number one for anyone attempting to launch an online game is to make sure the servers work.
Over and over again, high profile game releases have had disastrous launch weeks thanks to servers that can’t deal with a world’s worth of players trying to log in at once.
These release weeks can be brutal for even the most experienced developers.
It’s a challenge that should be anticipated — and Bethesda dropped the ball. Upon the game’s release, Fallout 76 was plagued with server disconnection issues, with new players getting randomly booted from the game without recourse.
Bethesda did eventually issue patches for the problem, but the server meltdowns made a poor first impression on people who were already feeling uneasy about the all-new, always-online Fallout.
Some of Fallout 76’s server issues were uniquely frustrating. At one point during the launch week, Bethesda yanked down the servers for around three hours without warning, inviting even more backlash from players who then wasted time trying to connect.
When the game was working again, some high-level players messed around with the game’s nuke system, launching three bombs at once at the same spot. In an amusing twist, that onslaught reportedly resulted in a crash of the game’s servers. At least that crash feels appropriate.
The post-apocalyptic landscape that players explore in Fallout 76 is shockingly true-to-life in its emptiness. There is genuinely very little to do or see. Thanks to the sheer size of the game’s wilds of West Virginia, it’s not common to see other players around you in the game.
Most of your time is probably spent exploring by yourself — just like previous Fallout experiences. The problem is that Fallout 76 was clearly designed with multiplayer gaming in mind. It just doesn’t have enough content to satisfy a solo adventurer.
There’s a lot of traveling from point A to point B and killing things along the way, but there’s not really any narrative motivation behind any of it. While that storytelling void could potentially be filled by interactions with other players, those sorts of encounters just don’t happen that often.
The map for Fallout 76 is huge, but it only allows a couple of dozen players to coexist at the same time.
Apparently, Bethesda didn’t want their wasteland to come off like an overpopulated party zone. But they went too far in the other direction, creating a lifeless-feeling world with not much to do in it.
The result is a wasteland simulator that’s probably a little too accurate.
Basic bases Base-building has never been the Fallout series’ strongest suit. Fallout 4’s version of the game mechanic was plodding, tedious, and divisive at best. Some people liked it, but it seems that most didn’t.
Which makes it all the more strange that Bethesda doubled down on more base-building in Fallout 76. Did they at least improve on the experience? No, they did not. Instead, the base building system is one of the game’s biggest sources of frustration.
At launch, players’ stash limits for their inventories were horrifically low, forcing players into constant, tedious micro-management of their resources if they wanted to get anything done. Players were so vocal about their frustrations that Bethesda quickly apologized, promising to increase the limit as soon as possible.
It’s a step in the right direction, but as far as review scores and first impressions are concerned, the damage has been done.
“This game sucks.” Rats to V.A.T.S. The Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, or V.A.T.S., has been a part of Fallout’s gameplay since Fallout 3, and has roots going back to the very beginning of the series — but the mechanic just doesn’t work in 76.
As originally designed, the popular system allows players to pause time during combat and target specific parts of enemies for attacks.
Players could then watch their battle plans unfold in glorious slow motion, taking apart enemies with satisfying brutality.
But because Fallout 76 is always online, it’s completely impossible to pause the game. The restriction results in V.A.T.S. being more of an auto-targeting system, that’s often more useful for spotting enemies than for actually hitting them.
The changes make for a combat system that’s “V.A.T.S” in name only. What used to be involved and exciting is now remarkably disengaging and hugely disappointing, serving mostly to remind players of how fun this series used to be.
Poor PvP Multiplayer is good for two things: cooperation and conflict. While Bethesda made sure to inform gamers that player-versus-player wouldn’t be a huge part of Fallout 76, people still expected more than what the game delivered.
In its launch iteration, initiating a PvP encounter is a clunky experience for everyone involved, with players being forced to attack each other repeatedly before a fight will even start — so don’t expect any thrilling ambushes.
After the fight, the losing player respawns safely nearby, having lost nothing except time, and a little dignity.
It’s so low-stakes and unexciting that it’s worth wondering why Bethesda even bothered including it at all.
The developer reportedly intends to update the PvP system in the future, but as with a lot of the game’s problems, those promises don’t forgive the sorry state of things at launch.
Glitches in Fallout have been relatively acceptable in the past because of the game’s single-player nature. If the game screwed up in a way that impeded progress, your most recent save file would well, save you.
But glitches are another thing entirely in an online game with no save system to speak of.
Where once gamers could rely on a trigger-happy autosave system to bring them back from encounters with even the worst bugs, Fallout 76 no longer offers that failsafe.
Thanks to the player’s inability to save their progress, any game-derailing glitches can cause players to lose a significant amount of time and progress.
Without being able to hit a simple reset, players who experience quest-breaking glitches are forced to log out of the game completely when they need to try again. Maybe that doesn’t seem like the biggest deal if it happens once or twice during an entire playthrough.
But Fallout 76’s launch was pretty glitchy, testing players’ patience and pushing many to the breaking point. All of the lost time adds up, considerably souring the experience. It’s just another way in which the game takes away something players used to have control over.
And it’s a surprisingly big factor in why Fallout 76’s launch was so disappointing. Tell us a story Bethesda is a name that’s long been associated with great storytelling, but Fallout 76 puts that reputation to the test.
The company has produced titles that challenge our understanding of how to tell a narrative in video games, whether they be the sprawling fantasy epics of The Elder Scrolls or the sci-fi mind-bender of Fallout 4. They’ve also filled their games with an interesting atmosphere, emergent stories, and one-off quests that can resonate with players even more than a game’s main storyline.
Good stories are kind of the developer’s thing at this point, which is why Fallout 76’s frankly boring narrative feels so inexcusable.
The game was heavily criticized at launch for featuring next to no reason for players to explore its world.
It’s another problem that can be traced back to the multiplayer aspect. Rather than having the weight of the world on their shoulders, players in Fallout 76 feel more like errand runners in a world that don’t really need them.
The inability to meaningfully affect the fate of West Virginia takes away the sense of agency typically present in Fallout games.
The result is a narrative that’s almost entirely based around people who died hundreds of years ago, whom the player will never meet.
Instead, players only really interact with scarce robots who point players in the direction of holo-tapes and records that show them what happened during the 200-year-old Great War.
It’s an alienating decision and a terrible narrative device, keeping the player completely disconnected from the events that make the world interesting.
But Bethesda made things worse by releasing massive patches for the game that was as big as fifty gigs. The result is a major headache and a big-time turnoff to gamers who might see such a massive bandwidth commitment as a frustrating final straw.
Artificial stupidity Fallout games have a way of making their players feel smart, but Fallout 76 is making it happen for all the wrong reasons. Essentially, the enemies in this game are dumb — even by radioactive zombie standards.
There’s also not much variation to them, which means players quickly start to feel as if they’re having the same stupid encounter over and over again.
In Fallout 76, too many enemies fall into one of two categories. The first type of enemy is a kind of dimwit kamikaze, charging into battle with no strategy, directly into players’ lines of fire.
The second type of enemy is an ineffective coward, hiding behind cover and then occasionally firing into the air.
And that’s honestly it.
During the game’s launch window at least, those are the only two types of battles players could expect out of the game.
Even worse, the glitchy enemies have plenty of problems navigating the game’s environment, getting stuck in place, glitching into the air, or just getting stuck behind things.
Video games left this kind of bad AI in the past, so the sorry state of things in Fallout 76 just feels inexcusable.
The game quickly makes you feel like there’s nowhere to go, nothing to do, and little to see. There isn’t even a major hub for players to gather and interact with each other.
The experience is just… sad. At its core, Fallout 76 bombed with audiences because it tried to be all things to all people, and ended up satisfying nobody.
It’s big, it’s broad, and it’s broken. Ambition is great, and it’s not necessarily bad that Bethesda wanted to try something new. But execution matters.
Games are about having fun, and that’s one thing Fallout 76 isn’t. Its nightmare launch is already the stuff of legend, and we’re not sure if Bethesda can fix these problems after the fact. And even if they could, it’s possible frustrated players may not care.
The damage is done.