Due to the nature of Fallout 76 as a live, shared-world game, we will be providing a rolling Fallout 76 review as we play through the game.
These impressions are from my time spent with the game on Day One after the servers went live. Stay tuned as we add more over the coming days.
Fallout 76 does not get off to a great start.
Unable or perhaps unwilling to fully commit to either a single or multiplayer experience the game is trapped in a strange middle ground. Whether played solo or with a group of friends rarely does Fallout 76 actually provide a memorable experience.
Instead, it’s a messy, frustrating, confusing bore. And I think that’s being kind. Now obviously, it’s very early days and the more I play the better my opinion of Fallout 76 may become, but for now, I’m finding it very hard to want to play or recommend to others.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Fallout 76 Review – In Progress; Day One
In Fallout 3, New Vegas and 4 leaving the Vault was a momentous occasion. It was built up to and was an epic moment of humanity reentering the world. Remember that feeling you had when you first left Vault 101 in Fallout 3? The bright sun burning your eyes as they gradually adjusted to the world around you?
Bethesda built up your exit of the Vault to an almost mythic status. Even in Fallout 4 leaving the Vault was an event. Not so in Fallout 76. Instead, your character simply wakes up hungover from the Reclamation Day celebrations to find that everyone else has already left without you.
As you wander through Vault 76 you’ll find that you’re unable to interact with almost everything, except that which relates to you hurrying up and getting out of the Vault. And when you do leave the Vault, it’s not with a bang, but a whimper.
Now, I understand that the whole point of Fallout 76 is for players to get back into the Wasteland and start repopulating, but it’s just poorly handled. I didn’t feel any real drive to leave the Vault and I didn’t feel particularly invested in getting out there and exploring.
That’s a big problem for a game like Fallout 76. It’s a line that you can draw through the entire experience and the question that kept coming to mind was ‘Why?” Why am I doing any of this? After you leave the Vault you’re tasked with finding the Overseer’s camp and it’s from here that you start your long, long journey of fetch-questing across the Wasteland.
Once you find the camp, you listen to a holotape that directs you to another location. On your arrival at this new location, you find another holotape which again, directs you to another location. When you arrive at that location…well you get the idea.
Fetch Quest 76
Quests in Fallout 76, so far, seem to boil down to finding a holotape, listening to it, then heading to the new marker on your map. When I say listen to the holotape though, I mean that you play it, but don’t pay attention because after having to listen to fifty plus holotapes already, you simply can’t want to care anymore.
Another huge issue I have with the way quests work in Fallout 76 is that they’re not shared. When playing in a group, each and every member of your group has to perform each and every task in each and every quest to complete it.
Never mind that I already looked at that terminal and got the information. Nope, your other teammates have to do the same thing or they won’t be able to continue the questline and find out where the next holotape is.
While playing with my team we wasted so much time on pointless busy work like this. Why on earth do we all need to read the same terminal if we’re all playing together? It makes no sense.
And the same goes for the way the world has been designed. Crafting is a big part of Fallout 76 as it was in Fallout 4. You’ll need to craft weapons, armour, medicine, ammo and food. However, each of these groups can only be crafted from their specific workbenches.
Say you find a weapons workbench and craft an awesome hunting rifle, but you have no ammo for it. You have plenty of gunpowder to craft it, but there are no Tinker Workbenches anywhere around, so you’re simply unable to craft any ammo.
The same goes for armour, medicine and food. By restricting certain items to certain workbenches, Fallout 76 is an exercise in frustration. Even worse is that when another player is crafting, you’re unable to do so. My group and I spent ages standing around, waiting for each other to finish crafting. That’s not a fun experience, let me tell you.
Restriction on crafting isn’t the only bewildering design choice in Fallout 76 though. That’s reserved for the Hunger and Thirst meters. Rather than being an interesting feature that adds to the game, both of them are simply annoying. They serve only to force you to perform some busy work semi-regularly. Neither adds anything of worth to the experience and ultimately, Fallout 76 could do without them.
Problems like this exist everywhere in Fallout 76 and they seem to stem from the fact that it’s a single-player game, masquerading as a multiplayer game, without fully committing to either. The single-player elements only serve to hamper the multiplayer experience and vice versa.
Got 99 Problems and 76 Ain’t Fun
If Fallout 76 had gone all in on the multiplayer aspect and let players actually role-play, I’m sure my first impressions would be wildly different. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, so they’re not.
Impressions of the B.E.T.A. have already made it clear how empty and lonely this world feels without NPCs and it’s still true of the final version. Even playing with friends, Fallout 76 is an isolating experience and not in the good way a Fallout game should be.
Without characters to talk to, information to glean from conversations and actual people to give you quests, exploring the Wasteland in Fallout 76 just seems pointless. There are no stakes. And that goes for gameplay outside the “narrative”
When playing Fallout 3 or Fallout 4, I would sneak into every new location, carefully scout for enemies and try and take them out stealthily in order to cause maximum damage. None of this is necessary for Fallout 76. Engagements with enemies, whether melee or ranged, rarely feel dangerous. My group and I never felt threatened or afraid that we were about to be defeated.
Don’t Help Mr Messenger
Oftentimes, I would pause mid-gunfight to loot a container or corpse, while an enemy was still shooting or hitting me. Even those enemies of a significantly higher level seem to hit as hard as a nerf dart. It’s a shame because combat has always been at least interesting in Fallout.
Strategically planning your attacks, sneaking in, killing a Super Mutant then having it all go to shit as you scramble to survive in VATS is a staple of Fallout. Not so in Fallout 76. All you need to do is rush in, shoot or flail wildly and wait until all the enemies top moving.
As for VATS, well the less said about it the better. Sure, pausing combat can’t work in a shared-world game, but the version of VATS in Fallout 76 is woeful. Hitting L1 lets you enter VATS and in real time you see your hit percentage rise and fall. Once it gets to an acceptable level you simply hit R2 and your bullet will magically hit your target, no matter where you were aiming.
I did unlock a perk that allowed me to target specific limbs, but it doesn’t change the fact that real-time VATS is terrible.
Having spent about six hours playing Fallout 76 I clearly haven’t seen everything there is, but so far, I’m not impressed. Things may change as I play more, but from what I’ve experienced so far, I’m not hopeful.
I’ll leave you with one final taste of my Fallout 76 experience. In the video below, you can see as my team and I activate a public event. The event in question is called ‘Escort Mr Messenger’ and for me, well it symbolises the Fallout 76 experience pretty perfectly.
Stay tuned for more.
Fallout 76 is being played on PS4 with multiple copies provided to PowerUp! by Bethesda.