So I’m pinned down in a cabin which is surrounded by radscorpions. Through the window, I spot a Grafton monster wandering around in the distance. After sniping it a few times I’ve got its attention and it charges the cabin – where it starts handling my radscorpion problem. Not being one to miss out on a good ol’ fashioned Mexican standoff, I walk outside and toss a couple of grenades into the mix to shake things up a bit. As all hell breaks loose, I take a quick selfie… and get photobombed by another player, stepping up behind me to give me a thumbs up for my sneakiness.
Life in the post-apocalyptic wasteland can be grand.
It isn’t always that way, of course. Fallout 76 was always going to divide gamers. First, self-contained single-player game masters Bethesda “sell out”, by creating an MMORPG; the glorious slow motion VATS from Fallout 4 became a simple self-aiming system; the hundreds of human NPCs from previous games – many with stories to tell or opinions to share – disappeared. Plus, sure, the game engine is dated. Basically, this isn’t the game most players wanted.
But this Frankenstein’s Monster of a game is what players have got. And damn, it’s fun! The trademark Fallout warped sense of humour is evident even before you leave the safety of Vault 76, as reports on the smug over-achieving superiority of yourself and your fellow vault-dwellers are displayed, rubbing players’ noses in their own potential failure. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” may emphasize the game’s setting, but “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” is the ironic vibe mocking those who play it? Exiting the vault, it’s a free-for-all where you can follow the basic questline or not, depending on how you’re feeling about things. Rebuilding the world be damned! Get a gun, food and water first!
From radiating questlines to infectious diseases and radiation poisoning, this game is pure Fallout. There’s a true sense of sadness, loss and danger mixed with outrageous comedy of the most warped kind – such as Mr Fluffy, a robot who loves its master the same way Norman Bates loved his mom. For all the talk of no NPCs, there’s a lot of dialogue from holotapes, robots, computers and more and the world never feels like a dead or lonely place. The game even takes time to troll its own creation and its critics, debating the merits of an automated world against one of the real people. Subtle? Nope… and thank you!
That brings up the whole question of the multiplayer aspect. Incredibly, Bethesda took a risk on knowing their players and got it right. Most interactions with other players are friendly, and there’s little of the camping mentality that people expected. There’s the ability to team up, but nobody’s bound by it and it plays perfectly fine as a single player experience. It’s a hybrid, and there’s nothing wrong with that. As for the music, it’s a solid (but limited) selection of tracks that tend to blur once you’ve heard them on a loop for 100 hours,
There are negatives, sure. A couple of times the servers went down on me for a few seconds, and once or twice the frame rate grinded before catching up with itself. It isn’t a constant problem in any way, but it’s a nuisance. There are a couple of bugs in the quests too, although Bethesda has vowed to patch them in the first update in just a couple of days. Oh, and there’s the Atoms microtransaction shop… but since you pick up plenty of those just from normal gameplay, you shouldn’t have to spend anything on these cosmetics. It’s problems like these which don’t help the game’s reputation, even if many are judging it without playing it. Because that’s the real issue here.
What saves Fallout 76 and pushes it over as a great game is simply how damn fun it is to play. Whether you’re running around in an open world environment with other people like your life depends on it – which it does – or are following the intricate storytelling, it’s a blast. Yes, it’s possible to have addictive gameplay without having the best graphics or control system – look at Tetris! Fallout 76 is stunning and vast, although sure it looks limited when compared with the likes of RDR2. Yet when it comes down to exploring, packratting, grinding, fight-or-flight questing and survival, this game delivers in spades without feeling boring.
Fallout 76 isn’t Fallout 5 – it’s a stopover, like Fallout Shelter. It proves that whether it’s a Lone Wanderer, a Sole Survivor or a random bunch of online gamers facing it, the wasteland can be a fascinating, unpredictable place. It’s an experiment that people will either love despite its flaws or hate despite its merits. But if you try it out, odds are you’ll be hooked.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some radscorpion meat to grill before it spoils, and I catch a nasty case of bone worms…
Fallout 76 isn’t Fallout 5 – it’s a stopover, like Fallout Shelter. It proves that whether it’s a Lone Wanderer, a Sole Survivor or a random bunch of online gamers facing it, the wasteland can be a fascinating, unpredictable place.
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