14 November 2018 (released)
24 November 2018
So, if you’re reading this then I’m sure you’ve seen the nuclear fallout from the game centres on Nuclear Fallouts! Of course the game in question is indeed Fallout 76 and by now I’m sure everyone has shared their opinions and hatred on the game. I ask if it’s really terrible and to answer that honestly, no it’s not. Not by far, but there are plenty of things to discuss about Fallout 76 and why so many have been up in arms about this online RPG shooter.
Fallout 76 puts players into the role of their ideal survivor as they awaken inside one of Fallout’s iconic shelters. As you soon discover, everyone in the shelter has left and it’s your turn to leave and discover the new world which lies in ruins. From the point of leaving the Vault, you discover a breadcrumb trial that leads you to an exciting adventure of self-discovery and making friends in the wasteland.
And, that’s it basically. The story is just an uninspiring breadcrumb trial which doesn’t amount to the narrative of previous games. That’s the first problem.
So players are left to their own devices when it comes to Fallout 76 and offered small hints on where to go if they so desire. Otherwise it’s all up to the player to venture forth, make alliances and discover the world of West Virginia in Fallout 76. Now the world is pretty staggering, in terms of scale as this is the largest world in any Bethesda game. There is a rich diversity of environments across the game world, from lush forests, decaying wastelands and urban ruins that once homes millions of people. Fallout 76 can still immerse players as the world is pretty engaging through exploration and holds plenty of secrets and hidden rewards for those brave enough to venture far and wide.
I still enjoy Fallout’s sense of adventure and the captivating pull the world has over me. I wanted to go forth and find every location, scavenge each and every bit of loot and discover and potentially kill every beast I came across. There’s something missing though and this is the first big problem, the total lack of NPCs in the world.
Sorry that’s actually wrong; there are NPCs in the game. What I meant to say was there’s a total lack of interesting NPCs to engage with. What made previous Fallout game so immersive and interesting, where it’s diverse locations and the people in them. I loved exploring the world of Fallout 3, NV and 4 just to speak with bizarre and colourful characters, each having their own stories, views and purpose in the world. Removing these NPCs is like removing blood from a body, it’s just feels wrong and such an odd choice to begin with.
I gather this was to avoid any odd moments where you might have a dozen people trying to talk to the same NPC for a story/side quest which you can get in an online multiplayer game. But as the world is so huge and that there’s only going to be about 20 people in a server, this actually makes no sense.
The lack of interactive NPCs and players can make this Fallout 76 a rather lonely experience and even with 20 or so other people in the map, it’s easy to play for a an hour or more and not come across a single person. It’s just baffling as I’d expect to see someone else other than creatures, super mutants or giant flies swarming around. But when you do get to meet other people, it can be a lot of fun and the best way to play Fallout 76 is co-operatively. Going for the PVP option doesn’t amount worthy rewards compared to being alienated and hunted down by other players for pissing them off.
The roaster of missions is a mixed bag with plenty of them being tedious or repetitive while others are inventive, intense and an immense amount of fun with other people. It would feel more complete as an expewrince if there were actual quest givers in the world, balancing out the reward system and giving meaning to completing the tasks at hand.
While the game can be fun with other people, that’s not an excuse for messing with classic elements and relying solely on players to make the game fun. As this drastic change to formula effects other elements as well for better and worse. There is a neat mechanic that allows players to set up camps wherever on the map as long as it’s on a flat surface which does allow for some players to build something of a home. It’s mainly taking the elements from Fallout 4 and slightly watering them down, but it does the job to ensure you’ll always have a home no matter what.
But then there’s another vital gameplay mechanic which has been watered down in the worse possible way. The V.A.T.S mechanic has had a major overhaul, where it was a great way to introduce a simple yet effective tactical element to an FPS game, has now become a mere auto-aim mechanic.
This is a shame as there are a bunch of new creatures and their all pretty cool. Including some beasts that were inspired by West Virginia folklore and others that include giant crabs using buses as a makeshift shell on their back and some downright creepy dudes who are just unsettling but fit perfectly into the world of Fallout. Hands down, this Fallout has some of the best enemy design out of the series, but poor AI does impact on the combat experience sadly.
Now to be fair, on paper Fallout 76 has an interesting idea and something that if done right, could have been extremely wonderful. Many have a soft spot for Bethesda, who have delivered highly engaging narrative driven RPGs in the last 12 years. But while these games have had many issues, we still love them, myself included.
But the big problem is that it lacks many of the great elements brought to us by the Fallout series in the last ten years. But when Bethesda are using the same engine they’ve been using for the last decade to make their latest game, it just brings in all the same issues as before and with quite a few elements being changed or just ripped out the game can feel very shallow.
Fallout 76 is not terrible, it's just extremely dull and a major disappointment considering we've had Fallout 4, New Vegas and Fallout 3 since 2008. We wanted innovation and a lot of us were giving this a chance. But sadly it’s heavily unpolished and needs much more depth. With new updates I’m sure this could be a great experience but now, it’s okay.
++ Expansive and detailed World
+ Loads of new creatures to fight
-- Game world feels devoid of players and lack of interesting NPC
- Poor enemy AI
- Poor execution of V.A.T.S
A PS4 review copy of Fallout 76 was provided by Bethesda for the purpose of this review