Firstly, I must start off by saying that I absolutely love Bethesda and the Fallout franchise. Like many gamers, I always have and probably always will have a soft spot for the atrocious inhumane choices one has to go through when playing the games. This is an IP that has just always felt like it was in a league of its own.
Set in post-nuclear West Virginia, as the last member to leave Vault 76, the latest game in the franchise tasks you with upgrading your stats, killing some bizarre creatures that walk through the wasteland and basically do what you can to survive. You know, Fallout stuff. In Fallout 76, a game that marks the beginning of a new chapter, however, you have a few friends along for the journey. And while that all sounds mouthwatering to any fan of the franchise, the new instalment adds many changes to the winning formula, both good and bad.
The biggest one of these changes is that Fallout 76 is an online-only game and can, apparently, be played in single player or multiplayer modes. That said, I found that if one does not team up with others, you can get absolutely annihilated by the wasteland’s creatures and also fellow players who decide to team up against you.
I kept being killed by the same team over… and over… and found it frustrating because the mission I was trying to complete was adjacent to their base camp. Just how crowded an empty wasteland be?
I kept being killed by the same team over… and over…
Yes, there’s a beautiful world filled with ruins to explore and scavenge, but forcing players to wait for others to progress through missions before you can continue is annoying. Want to use a terminal? You’ve got to wait in line. Want to use the cooking station the mission directed you towards? You’ve got to wait your turn. See, at its core, Fallout 76 is a singleplayer game trapped in a multiplayer’s body. There are just too many people running around playing hide and seek while you’re trying to focus on your own game. And it’s a daunting experience for everyone, especially those who haven’t teamed up and are playing as a lone wolf.
Added to that, having to play on European servers made for some funny moments watching players phase in and out due to some major lag issues. I expected this, so it never came as a surprise or spoiled my experience too much, but I have to wonder why gaming companies don’t build servers in Africa. Hopefully, this can change in due time.
The overhauled V.A.T.S system just isn’t the same. Yes, it works but, because it now takes place in real-time (instead of slowing down time like in the previous games), lag issues did mean that using the system left a sour taste in my mouth. I get what Bethesda is trying to do and, should they sort out the lag issues, it may actually give combat an interesting twist but in its current state it can hinder a player’s ability to absolutely obliterate their opponents or any dangerous wasteland creatures.
As with Fallout 4, the game still has a fairly deep crafting system…
As with Fallout 4, the game still has a fairly deep crafting system, which means you’ll be picking up everything, including the kitchen sink, as you explore the wasteland. Not only can you craft new weapons but the resources you scavenge can be used to build your own little paradise in the wasteland. Base building in Fallout 76 is similar to what we got in Fallout 4, although it has been noticeably improved.
Bethesda has some of the best story writers in their midsts. However, having no NPC’s in Fallout 76 to give you missions, or just keeping you company, does take away from the experience we’ve become used to. Instead, you get missions from discovering tapes or robots around West Virginia. While the writing is once again spot on and kept me intrigued and continuing to move forward, listening to the tapes while my teammates were chatting in the background made these moments less impactful.
I found figuring out which cards would complement each other to be surprisingly enjoyable…
The new PERKS system was something I had to get used to at first, but it worked amazingly well once I started picking the best cards for my build. You gain PERK card packs by levelling up your character. Each pack contains four random cards, each with a specific PERK. And while you will still be assigning points to your S.P.E.C.I.A.L attributes, the new PERKS system is by far the best addition to Fallout 76. I found figuring out which cards would complement each other to be surprisingly enjoyable and less of a chore than I initially anticipated. Basically, PERKs are now assigned to cards, which you can equip a certain amount of. This allows you to continually change your build as you see fit. The cards can also be ranked up by combining various low-level cards.
As this was a BETA, it is understandable that there would be bugs and glitches. Of course, it would not be as polished as one would expect. However, the buggy nature of the game, paired with the sometimes lack-lustre visuals, made me a little concerned for the final product.
Fallout 76 does feel like a Fallout game deep down underneath its thick survival game skin, and there are some welcome new additions to the formula we all love, however, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something missing while I was playing. Sure, teaming up with friends and braving the wasteland can be fun but, as a single player experience, it’s not quite there yet. Plus, the large number of caustic players who just kill for the heck of it may push many away from the game.
I’m excited to see how the game turns out and, while I am a little concerned, I still hope that Bethesda can pull this off and give us the Fallout experience we all deserve. At the moment it’s a bit polarising.