It’s no secret that Fallout 76 has had a lot of controversy surrounding it. Most of which is stemming from hardcore fans wanting a traditional Fallout experience. After spending more then sixty hours with the final release and many many more with the beta, I can say, much like I did back in October when I had a chance to preview the title, that Fallout 76 is still my favorite Fallout title.
Those upset that the game doesn’t have a traditional story are justified in their disappointment. However, Fallout 76 does have a story, and it’s told through holotapes as you follow an Overseer who has been living in the wasteland long before the peaceful residence of Vault 76 emerged.
Welcome to a beautiful wasteland
It’s a bit disappointing that Fallout 76 doesn’t feature NPCs to dish out quests, but I found myself enjoying this type of story-telling much more. It makes me feel like I’m in an actual post-human world that hasn’t been completely decimated by bombs, where people haven’t yet repopulated West Virginia. I felt more like I was listening to the remnants of those people who survived the fallout but couldn’t tell me their stories themselves.
A lot of these holotapes tell a tragic story of their owners and what they had to go through up until their final breaths. Listening to the holotapes and then going to the locations described in them, you see just what happened to the many who lived through the fallout.
West Virginia is a gorgeous place to explore. The fall setting really distinguishes it from past Fallout titles. The open wilderness is a breath of fresh air from the ruined cityscapes of past titles. That’s not to say their aren’t towns or cityscapes in Fallout 76. It just feels more peaceful to explore the open landscape than a city ones.
There are some visual problems that occur. Textures can be muddy and sometimes take way too long to properly load. The lighting can also be a big problem where a lot of locations are incredibly dark, even during the day, forcing me to turn on my Pip-Boy flashlight, which illuminates everything in an ugly green hue.
Blinded by the light
The worse offense with lighting comes during sunset. Sunsets are blinding to the point where visibility is almost zero. It’s like driving home during sunset after a snowstorm and the Sun is combined with the reflective blind light of the snow blasting directly into your corneas, resulting in you driving off a cliff because you can’t see where you’re going.
When it comes to missions, there are plenty of them. There wasn’t a time in the game where I didn’t have some place I had to go to complete a mission. There’s a mission in almost every new location I discovered. Because there aren’t any NPCs, quests are received from letters you read, radio transmissions, items found on dead bodies, and holotapes.
There was never a time where I didn’t have a mission to do. In fact, I had too many missions to do and sometimes it felt overwhelming. One thing that’s important to note, and I found this out the hard way, is how missions are tracked when you’re in a group. If you join a group where someone else is the leader, you will see their quests displayed with their name in front of it.
Fallout 76 has plenty to do in its wasteland
If you have the same mission as your group leader, you yourself won’t get credit for completing the mission. Instead, you get rewards for completing the mission with your group leader.
When you leave a group that same mission will still be incomplete on your mission list. This means you can work as a team and complete the same mission twice and reap the rewards.
It’s a weird mission structure and also kind of annoying. Even though you get the experience points and caps for competing those missions with a group, you won’t get the item and weapon rewards that the group leader will get.
Fallout 76 is a different beast when it comes to how it plays and those looking to play this game just like Fallout 4 may be disappointed. Sure, most of the functions remain intact, but for the most part Fallout 76 plays more like a shooter now rather than the traditional slower-paced RPG shooting we are used to.
I quickly discovered that the game functions a little better and a lot faster than in previous titles. Shooting feels a lot smoother then it did before. That is until you get frame rate drops, but more on that later. The V.A.T.S. system remains in Fallout 76 but works more like an auto-assist here. I found myself using V.A.T.S. more than I thought I would. In light of this, V.A.T.S. is a great system to use when you are up against smaller and faster foes.
Inventory management is a massive chore
The biggest problem with Fallout 76 is inventory management. The longer I played, the more it started to feel like an inventory management game. Constantly having to worry about food and water is a chore. I felt like every half hour I had to consume half of my water supply just to keep going.
Weight is another big issue with Fallout 76. Of all the bugs and glitches the game has, seeing a message telling you that you’re over-encumbered is the most infuriating thing I’ve experienced in Fallout 76. Constantly having to watch what I carry and how much it weighs is a pain in the ass.
It really kills the idea of grabbing everything you find to scrap it for crafting materials since you constantly have to keep space for important things like armor and food and water.
Crafting plays a bigger role in Fallout 76 than it did in Fallout 4. Scrapping everything you find nets you all the materials you need to repair your gear and craft new new gear. Crafting new gear and weapons requires you to find blueprints, or you can buy them from the various robot vendors throughout West Virginia.
If you build it…….they’ll try and destroy it
The C.A.M.P. is also your mobile camp site and base if you chose to make it so. The C.A.M.P. is used to set up a safe haven for you and your teammates. You can build crafting stations and storage boxes at your camp. You can also craft furniture and build your own little base of operations with decorations and life-saving equipment like water purifiers to get clean water and gun turrets to protect your base.
The problem with building an entire base is that when you exit a server or join another server, your base will disappear. The good news is you don’t have to rebuild the entire thing. You can in fact make a blueprint of it and lay it down elsewhere just from the blueprint.
The perk system is a little different here as well. You unlock perks by leveling up and choosing which one of the attributes you wish to put points into and what perk to unlock. You will also gain Perk Packs that you open like a loot box which will contain random perks you can equip. You can even combine two of the same perk cards to get a boost to a specific perk.
The problem with this system is you don’t always get the perks you want. If you want to level up your lockpicking skills, you have to hope to unlock that skill from the Perk Pack, because it doesn’t come naturally as you level up.
Fallout has always been a single player experience, but with the inclusion of mulitplayer, Fallout 76 drastically changes the the landscape. The title is always online, and you will constantly see other players running around the wasteland. Interacting with them is easy through emotes and open voice channels, and you can also trade with them and join their groups.
PVP is where things get really rough. As I mentioned in the preview of Fallout 76. You can not turn PVP off. If someone wants to kill you they can. It’s going to take a lot of ammo to do so and you have to be above level five. PVP really only starts when two players attack each other. A message will display, telling you who you initiated PVP against and you can either go at each other’s throats or walk away while they slowly pick away at your health.
The thing about PVP is that it doesn’t really have many benefits. There is little benefit outside of simply doing it. If you do manage to kill your opponent, they don’t lose anything important. The only thing they lose is their junk that you can pick up. There really is no benefit to killing other players.
If you’ve played a Bethesda game, you know what to expect when it comes to launch week performance. There are plenty of issues, but none of them are really game breaking. Screen tearing, incredibly bad frame rate drops, and enemies magically spawning in front of you are just some examples of the problems you’ll run into.
There are plenty of technical problems, but all them can be fixed. Much like their past titles, these problems were always present, and it’s no different here. Do they get annoying? Absolutely, but it’s not to the point where the game becomes unplayable. Give it a few months of polish, and Fallout 76 will probably become a must-buy.
Fallout 76 is a blast to play with your friends and a fun somber experience on your own. It’s a refreshing take on a franchise that is beloved by many. Is Fallout 76 for everyone? Probably not, but it’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing a Fallout game. And yes, I’ve played them all. It’s got its problems, but hopefully those issues will be resolved quickly.
Fallout 76 is a long term project for Bethesda and it can only get better from here.