Fallout 76 was announced at E3 this year as the latest entry into the Fallout franchise. With release closing by the second, and seemingly endless controversy surrounding it, has Fallout 76 been set up to fail?
These impressions come from the Fallout 76 B.E.T.A. Our full review of the release version of the title will be up in the coming days.
Fallout 76 B.E.T.A. Mechanics
Like many, I dived into the Fallout 76 B.E.T.A. with abnormal levels of apprehension. Far from the first Beta I’ve been involved in this year, Fallout 76 was the only Beta period that had me hugely anxious. Not even the bold claims regarding Battlefield 5’s Beta period had me this concerned. Maybe it’s because I’m a Fallout fan of old. I played the original games, and I was somewhat apprehensive when Bethesda rebooted the franchise with Fallout 3. Thankfully, both 3 and New Vegas turned out to be fantastic inclusions into the franchise, although the latter was considerably better. We’ll forget Fallout 4 happened.
Fallout 76 has a lot to thank Fallout 4 for, however. The core mechanics of the settlement system that had us wanting to blow Preston’s brains halfway across Boston are back, and integral to the title. Taking the form of C.A.M.P. building in Fallout 76 is your way to leave your mark on West Virginia, for as long as you’re in a session. The tagline at the start of Reclamation Day is to go re-build America. In reality, all you’ll be building is a wooden shack to put your shit and spawn when you need it.
Also transferring over from Fallout 4 is the weapon system. Crafting is back, but considerably more infuriating. It’s not like you can see all the potential a weapon has anymore, instead, you have to scrap weapons to learn modifications, and even then, you’ll only learn one. So that level 30 hunting rifle with a scope and stock you want? Chances are scrapping that will give you the medium barrel you wanted to change anyway. You can find crafting recipes for these mods, but finding one relevant to yourself is like looking for unicorn shit. You’ll note I mentioned weapon level above. That’s right, Fallout 76 has leveled weapons. In short, don’t give a fuck about your guns off the bat, because you’ll quickly find better ones, and regret wasting that precious aluminum and adhesive on that long barrel mod that’s done next to fuck all.
The same system has been applied to Armour, and if like me you don’t realize this, and think that level is set across all forms of an item, you’ll stupidly end up using level 2 leather armor at level 19. Yeah, it doesn’t work like that here. Being precious over your gear in the early stages is simply the best way to run out of the most valuable resources Fallout 76 has to offer, and it will only make the game harder for yourself. You’ll find yourself spending a lot of time searching aimlessly for scrap to fix your guns, because the old system of using guns and armor to fix guns and armor would have been barbaric, or something.
The one thing that comes across from Fallout 4 and doesn’t feel needlessly complicated is the gunplay. Yes, it’s a Bethesda title so there’s mouse acceleration on PC, but if you can look past that or plug in a controller, it’s a very comfortable and solid experience. The same applies to console, where I spent the majority of my time with the Beta. The only slight issue is hit registration, which would go through moments of delay, but I’m going to put this down the servers. Hopefully, when the full game releases this issue will be resolved. Hit registration was one of the few things that got better as time went on, so for that aspect I am hopeful.
One of the biggest and most notable changes made to Fallout 76 is the change made to the perk system. You no longer start out with points to spend where you wish, instead, you gain a perk point every time you level up, and your perks come in the form of cards. It’s a change that makes sense in the context of the game, but it also feels a little like change for the sake of change. The difference between builds and characters are what made Fallout replayable, but I guess that’s simply not the vibe they’re going for here. The cards are fine, they do allow you to build your character as you wish to some degree. You’ll have to find yourself more cards, these come from leveling, you get a pack every second level, and can also stack cards to add additional buffs. It’s an interesting system, it works, but it’s not classic Fallout.
If you’re wondering what Fallout 76’s gameplay looks like, you can find my first adventure in the Fallout 76 B.E.T.A. below:
Fallout 76 B.E.T.A. Multiplayer
Mechanics from Fallout 4 done, let’s get into one of the multiple elephants making the room incredibly cramped. Fallout 76 is a multiplayer experience. A first for the franchise. In my younger years, I always thought about how cool it would be to be able to go through the world of Fallout with a friend. Well, now I can. Just, not in the way I really want to. Don’t get me wrong. Fallout 76 with friends is a lot of fun. We chose to go hunting for the Windigo, making a treck to its cave that was as perilous as the beast itself. Genuinely investing gameplay. Sadly, if you’re playing without friends, you won’t quite find the multiplayer so engaging. In fact, you might not find the multiplayer at all.
Fallout 76 boasts a map that comes in at almost 4 times the size of that in Fallout 4. A frankly startling, impressive feat. You’d expect a map of such a size to feature an impressive server limit, but alas, you’ll be seeing about 22-32 players in a server. Now, Battlefield can feel lonely with 64 players on a map 1/10 the size at times, so you can see where the issue is. For the first hour of the Beta, you couldn’t miss players. They were everywhere. After that hour, it took me literally days to see anyone, despite following the main story religiously. Fallout 76 is a game that allows players to do whatever they like. Perfect. As it should be. The issue is that with a map so large, and a player count so low, is that you end up with player interaction becoming an almost non-existent rarity.
A lot of early reports referred to Fallout 76 as a ‘lonely multiplayer experience’ and honestly, it’s spot on. Of course, if you have friends with you it’s far from it, but that can be said for any title. This does mean that playing Fallout 76 on your own is ever more viable, but you can’t help but feel that’s missing the point. Kinda because it is. The point of Fallout 76 being a multiplayer title is to encourage that experience, yet you can literally see it on the map. The odd group of two or three, and then multiple scattered dots of lone wanderers. That’s the wrong Vault Dweller, but it’s oddly more apparent here than in any of the single player games. At least in the past, you could have a companion with you to not only cover your back but provide aimless conversation should you need it. Here, the only thing keeping you company is the radio. Unless you’re a YouTuber, because hey we’d all hate to lose the sweet, sweet ad revenue.
Fallout 76 Storyline
Ok I know it might seem a little early to talk about the story while only in Beta, but hear me out. Fallout 76 actually has an interesting storyline. It’s got an interesting world. The issues come when you choose what angle to look at it from. Here’s what I mean.
Fallout 76 is either an empty, desolate wasteland for good or for bad. You can see it as an interesting take on leaving the vault, not stepping out into a world that’s been inhabited by the remnants of humanity, but instead plagued by sickness that has wiped out the remnants of humanity, leaving the robots behind as the closest thing to civilization. That is a world that is genuinely interesting, but for me doesn’t work in this multiplayer setting. Imagine for a second. You leave the vault. You go from faction to faction, only to find them wiped off the face of the earth. Later in the game, you see actual people, only to watch the die moments later. That feeling of loneliness does not have to be such a big negative. Anyone remember Dead Space?
The second way it can be seen, is as a missed opportunity. Could there be human NPC’s in a multiplayer game? of course. Bethesda has done it themselves with The Elder Scrolls Online. I get why they’ve gone down the route they have done with the storyline they’ve put in place, but it could also easily be done with human NPC’s, as opposed to robots. I dare say that the idea is to make the residents of Vault 76 the only remaining human life. Sadly, as mentioned previously, that really doesn’t come across too well.
The thing is, it’s the lack of humanity that makes the world interesting, and you can imagine what it would be like if say, you had the vault working as a community to try to solve the issues as well as work on the Overseer’s mission. I’m going to make a bold claim, but making the storyline something akin to that of Red Dead Redemption 2, with a group of survivors banding together would have worked incredible here. But instead, we have this.
The sad thing is that Fallout 76 has a genuinely interesting plot that’s rather blindsided by the likes of events and other random crap dotted in the wasteland. I can’t help but feel that a genuinely unique Fallout single player has been washed away for the sake of shoehorned multiplayer, and that saddens me greatly.
Fallout 76 Controversy
So how has Fallout 76 been set up to fail exactly? well unless you’ve lived in a Vault for the past few weeks, you’re sure to have heard a lot of talk about how Bethesda held the Fallout 76 B.E.T.A. and the subsequent news following.
First off, the Fallout 76 B.E.T.A. had the classic ‘XBOX EARLY ACCESS’ that everyone screamed and cheered about in equal measure. After the aimless shit talking stopped, peoples attention drew to the limited timed access players were given, and the ‘sudden revelation’ that the beta is the full game. This information was available on the FAQ for a decent amount of time before release, and really shouldn’t have been the revelation that it was.
“The B.E.T.A. is the full game. Our current plan is for your progress to carry over once Fallout 76 officially launches on November 14. Stay tuned for more information.”
This was the reason for the limited, time-slot access given to players. If players were allowed full access, it would have been possible for players to beat the game for 5 bucks with their pre-order code. Bethesda isn’t quite THAT stupid. Obviously, the time slots really don’t work out for everyone. For me, I was required to often stay up into the early hours to get my playtime, and I dread to think the hours those in mainland Europe and further east were forced to play.
A lot of players found the issue in the time slots stating that they’re not required to do so in other Betas. Let’s shed some light. Most commonly, the Beta gives players Limited access all of the time. Fallout 76 on the other hand, gave players full access at limited times. See the difference? The bigger and considerably more valid issue is how close the Beta was to release. The game launches November 14, Yet the Beta started in mid-October. Literally a matter of weeks before release. Now Bethesda stated that the Beta was to ‘test the servers’ and of course it did just that. But it also brought to light a host of serious, game-breaking issues within weeks of release.
One issue I ran into was the complete loss of quest progression. In the main story. Just after receiving a quest the servers crashed, and I was forced back to the menu. Upon rejoining, my worst fears were realized. The quest was gone. Go back to where I got it, nothing. Progression, gone. What it took was for me to go back, check my recorded footage, pray I’d opened the map, head to the location, and try to shoehorn my way into the quest. I did it, but it took me 3 hours, and the vast majority of players won’t be recording their play sessions. Bugs like this so close to Launch are incredibly alarming, and the forums speak volumes of the same thing happening to them.
Oh, let us not forget those poor PC players who went to play on the first day of the Beta, and had their entire game deleted. Even better, players now cannot delete the game from their PC’s if they do not own the game. Those given codes by friends are now stuck with the game unless they delete the files manually.
To add to the insult of the PC players, the dated engine of the title has left a lot of creature comforts and features for dust. FOV? Nah mate. Frame rate? Capped. It’s ridiculous to think those are features lacking in a title releasing in 2018, but here we are. What’s worse? Bethesda originally rejected the idea of push to talk, and it took the fans blowing up the forums to get a note of ‘Were working on it.’How on earth have Bethesda messed this up so badly?
Additionally, Fallout 76 is set to do what we all love. Release half its shit late. The other Vaults are in the game, but getting inside is another story. It looks like these are set to open during the title’s lifespan, but Vaults are an integral part of the franchise. It feels lazy to have these left for ‘content’ down the line. I’ve got nothing against supporting a game, especially to keep it up to date with fresh content. I do have a problem what that content seems to be left behind from launch with no explanation, or intended release date. Other titles have been road-mapping their post-launch content, and that’s a great way to do it. Let players know what to expect and when. Don’t just state you’re working on these incredible things, because as Battlefront 2 has shown, players will not stick around to find out it’s coming 16 months later.
What has concerned players the most, is that the performance of the Beta generally deteriorated as the sessions went on. Day 1, was relatively pain-free. later days saw worse performance and more bugs. Yes, more time to notice, but performance dipping in the same areas? There’s something not quite right about that.
Concluding the Fallout 76 B.E.T.A.
Do not get me wrong. I had a lot of fun playing the Fallout 76 B.E.T.A. This is a game I can see myself investing time into. There’s a genuinely interesting story here that I want to explore, even if a multiplayer title doesn’t feel like the best place to explore it. There’s just this overwhelming feeling that the game isn’t going to be in its best state for a matter of months. The reliance on the old engine and the seeming copy and paste of Fallout 4 assets are concerning, especially when you see that some bugs from the last title have transferred over.
I’m hoping that Fallout 76 does good. It will, it’s a Bethesda game. But it feels like there’s been too little done to save the issues that came to light in the Beta. Elements feel rushed, and lazy. Work seems to have been put into areas it’s not needed, which has ultimately put Fallout 76 on the pile of games that probably should have been pushed back a few months. We’ll find out once the title releases, which knowing Bethesda, will be a few hours early.