Fallout 76. The multiplayer Fallout game we all asked for. Except we didn’t. Let’s see if Bethesda’s gamble has paid off.
Formalities first. If you didn’t like the gameplay of Fallout 4 you’ll absolutely hate this. I covered a lot of this in my preview, but I’ll reiterate the core gameplay here, and what Bethesda has changed in the short time following the Beta.
Gunplay remains unchanged at its core. It’s solid, and one of the better features of Fallout 4 that’s come over into Fallout 76. You’ll find the weapons comfortable to use, but you’ll have to enjoy the standard Bethesda bug of some iron sights simply not working as they’re supposed to. Launchers? forget about it. Blind prayer will be more useful. aside from that, weapons work as you’d expect. Accuracy is king here, with the general scarcity of ammo (we’ll get to that) you’re going to generally want to go for precision over lead-throwing.
Melee combat is also a rather direct port, which isn’t the best news. while other games have a certain element of lunge and tracking to their melee usage, Fallout 76 has none. this means you’ll have to do the tracking and lunging yourself which is easier said than done with the rather archaic movement on offer. I’m going to use the word archaic a lot to describe Fallout 76. This really is the title that shows the weaknesses of Bethesda’s insistence on using Creation Engine.
Remember when Preston would be all over your backside about settlements that need your help? Well, the building system is back, it’s as glitchy as you remember, and not half as integral as first claimed. A lot of noise was made regarding the introduction of C.A.M.P.S. into Fallout 76, but in reality, the system is little more than a shoehorned building system for the sake of it. Without the system, the game wouldn’t really lose much. The only place it holds much value is in the holding of workshops, which are areas that offer players increased resources, and the option to farm for a specific resource. These are a great addition, but is the building really necessary? Not really. These could be done quite well without.
The worst part about building in Fallout 76 is that you’re limited in space, and blueprinting simply doesn’t work. Built yourself an impressive home somewhere? Want it elsewhere? Good luck making that work for you. Will the game explain why you can’t place it? Nope. So you’ll end up just throwing out your crafting tables and stash begrudgingly and get on with your day. When it works the building is fun, but you can’t help but feel the time would have been better invested elsewhere.
These aren’t even the most infuriating elements of Fallout 76’s core gameplay. Leveled weapons and armor are tolerable, once you realize how they work. You’ll not want to get too precious with your weapons, especially at the start, as you unlock the ability to craft and find higher levels as the game progresses. I can’t help but feel that leveling the upgrades would be a better system, as right not there’s little incentive to upgrade your weapons as they’ll become obsolete so quickly. Not to mention that the only real way to gain new crafting knowledge is through scrapping weapons, so the title actively encourages you to change weapons more often than your underwear. The same goes for armor.
What is increasingly infuriating is the leveled enemies. An enemies level doesn’t really dictate much about its strength or health. A level 45 Robobrain does peanuts, but a level 30 Deathclaw will decimate you in power armor. That’s not to mention the amount of health they have. Some enemies do so little damage that at their higher levels they’re nothing more than a bullet sponge. A Cargobot comes in at level 50 and has no way to deal damage, but will take you literally thousands of rounds if you have the wrong weapon, and hundreds if you have the right one. Levels are more indicative of how much ammo you’ll waste than they are of the actual threat.
AND AMMO. Holy hell you’ll be infuriated by it. Ammo, alongside the same materials you could never find in a month of Sundays in Fallout 4 are a distant memory in Fallout 76. Several times I’ve found myself having to resort to returning to lower leveled areas with a melee weapon to farm ammunition from Scorched and Super Mutants. You can craft ammo, but again, that depends on resources, and you won’t be crafting enough effectively to make up for how much you need.
So does Fallout 76 do anything well? It tries to. That’s about as nice as I can be about it. as the closeness of the B.E.T.A. to the final release suggests, it’s far from a finished product. We’ll get into that later. Sadly some of the best features are also the worst, in that they’re so clearly missed opportunities. Take the storyline, for example. Fallout 76 poses a unique opportunity to explore the world of Fallout a mere 25 years after the bombs drop. That alone should make for a compelling story. In many ways, it does. You can see remnants of the time the bombs dropped, with voting booths and protest placards yet to be looted for scrap. The issue is, that none of it means anything to the actual story.
The storyline of Fallout 76 sees you bouncing through faction after faction, realizing they’re all dead as a dodo, and listening to the recorded messages of the dead. Happy happy happy. The element of choice is what made Fallout New Vegas so appealing, but none of that exists within the story of Fallout 76. The story unceremoniously throws you from robotic remnant of a faction to robotic remnant of a faction, effectively having you finish their dirty work while making you conveniently bump into the corpse of some other faction. It’s all a little too ‘I’ve seen this before.’
Repetitive doesn’t even begin to describe it. Talk to a screen, do a menial task, talk to a screen, do a menial task. It’s all very similar. The biggest complaint many have had is the lack of NPC’s in Fallout 76. We’ll NPC’s do exist, in the form of robots, but it’s the lack of humanity many have an issue with. Personally, it’s the lack of conversation that gets to me. There’s something intriguing about a world where the technology remains and the humans have passed. That is the world of Fallout 76. What makes it feel so empty is the lack of communication. We’ve seen robots able to hold a conversation in the past, and we meet some factions that are passed off as existing elsewhere. Quite why simple conversation has to be missing is rather unexplainable.
That’s the thing. Lonely does not have to be a bad thing. Titles such as Dead Space and Bioshock have done loneliness justice in the past. The truth is, it’s hard to get such a feeling right in a title that’s so focused on multiplayer. Quite frankly, you can play Fallout 76 for hours and forget it’s a multiplayer title. Event’s do next to nothing to bring players together, Workshops claim to entice PvP but honestly, nobody cares. Fallout 76 is great fun with friends, and that really is it’s only saving grace. It’s easy to claim that this is why the enemies are leveled as they are but honestly, with Bethesda claiming that we can play the game solo just as easily, it’s honestly complete trash. The only thing I can say they’ve done right in this regard is the dungeons, as they will level quite fairly depending upon the number of occupants, but thanks to the leveling system, sometimes they’re already a cakewalk on your own as it is, or they’re completely impossible.
There are several reasons as to why Fallout 76 is so lonely. One is, of course, the lack of human NPC’s but that doesn’t have to mean lonely in a bad way. What does mean lonely in an awful sense is the implementation of this fact, the lack of encouragement to interact, and the fact there is a mere 32 players Maximum per server. Seriously? The map is boasted as being 4 times the size of that in Fallout 4, and they expect 32 people to be able to constantly interact on it? Get out of here. You can follow the main story and never meet a soul. Fallout 76 has an identity crisis and really shows how too many ideas can pollute a product.
Is Fallout 76 at least stable enough for these kinks to be developed out? No. It’s not even close. Honestly, day 1 of the B.E.T.A. felt more stable than the title does now. Freezes, server disconnects, non-existent textures, delayed hit registration and countless other bugs make this pile of hot garbage often unplayable. You can go for hours with nothing, you think you’re safe. And then 20 high-level enemies pop out of thin air, your screen freezes and you’re disconnected. You get to a key point in a quest, you get disconnected, and upon your return, the quest is nowhere to be seen. You trawl half the map to fix one ticket dispenser and arrive to find you can’t do anything to it. Invisible enemies take the final biscuit and make it frankly impossible to recommend Fallout 76 to anyone in its current state.
Let’s not get into the missing features on PC such as Push to talk, uncapped frames and FOV, because frankly the fact they’re missing from any title in 2018 let alone a triple-A title is little more than an insult.
Lastly, Fallout 76 looks like Fallout 4 with a bunch of glitched textures. When everything comes together, the world does look great. There’s some nice scenic variety that does serve as somewhat of a saving grace. With how often the textures like to disappear and bug out, it’s hard to find the beauty at times. Plus, looking like Fallout 4 isn’t progression, it’s looking 4 years older than everything else coming out this year, which for Bethesda, is not a good look at all, especially considering their blind allegiance to the Creation Engine.
Fallout 76 is easily mistaken for a Creation Club attempt at Fallout 4 multiplayer. It’s a shame. There’s some genuine intrigue in the storyline and potential for a Fallout experience like no other that’s compelling. Sadly stale, repetitive gameplay and the least stable launch of the year goes a long way to tarnish that. We’ve still got a Fallout experience like no other, it’s just sadly one we’d rather forget about.