But if you do, you’ll be greeted to a whole new world of Fallout with strange new places to explore and stuff to do. We would have backed up the previous statement if it were 2016, but we are entering 2019 and to come up with a game that uses the engine and mechanics from 2015 does have its downsides.
The wilderness of West Virginia is vibrant and it retains the typical Fallout environment feel with autumn colours and a lot of browns and greys. It feels welcoming nonetheless, but when you look at this year’s games like God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2, you realize how archaic the new Fallout looks. Yes, there has been a fair amount of work gone into the whole thing and that overshadows the graphical shortcomings.
This is exactly how other elements of the game feel too. You start off with a feeling of fun which turns into frustration, which turns into wonder and confusion, which turns into WTF sometimes too.
Life in black and white
So, Fallout 76 is a prequel and is set in a time when people didn’t know how to survive the irradiated wasteland. This is the backbone of the ‘plot’ that is portrayed through either diaries or notes that are left on the remains of someone who couldn’t survive the post apocalyptic world or those who passed away shortly after the bombs dropped.
You emerge from the vault a survivor among a group of others with the task of reclaiming the post-war world. This setting means you and the others are the only thing close to human life that has survived, which although sounds cool, isn’t.
Fallout games have been known for their quirky survivors and NPCs, which really brought the game some character and likeability. In the new Fallout though, you miss that. There are no character-driven stories and no cool survivors. All of that has been replaced by ghosts and their letters and notes of doom.
Truly a wasteland
The lack of NPC life means the story and the world is dominated by the non-living monsters and such. There’s no dearth of quests though, but they’re all linked to dead humans, robots or can be found on terminals, letters, holotapes and other morbid objects.
That is my problem - the dude for which you are carrying out the task is already dead and although you stand to benefit by completing the tasks, you don’t really feel as good about completing it as you would if you did it for an actual live character that populates the Fallout world.
This also breaks away from the ‘consequence’ aspect of the previous Fallout games, where your decisions could lead to the NPC turning into a friend or foe. I mean there’s only so many times you would want to go and fetch something from somewhere just because you found a scribbled note on a dead guy.
That’s not to say there aren’t proper missions. There are, and there are some really absorbing stories too, but it all feels a tad unfinished or brought down in scale. In all honesty, this is impetus to the game feeling and playing more like a DLC than a proper full standalone game.
I am a big Fallout fan and to see what’s become of the series makes me sad. It lacks a main narrative that used to be the driving force of every Fallout game and as a result, Fallout 76 veers dangerously close to irrelevancy and becomes repetitive in nature after about 20 hours of gameplay.
You can complete the entire game solo if you prefer, but that isn’t how Fallout 76 is intended to be played. You’re supposed to team up and shoot ‘em monsters up together with a friend. When that does happen, it is quite a bit of fun and also makes the task at hand easy and enjoyable.
It feels genuinely rewarding to help a fellow survivor out and you can have a lot of fun while at it. Those long and boring scavenger hunts don’t feel boring or repetitive and teaming up also allows for trade and gifting of goods and stuff.
In fact, going solo can prove difficult sometimes, especially when you’re faced with the tedious task of killing a Scorchbeast or the Grafton monster. It takes a lot and you need to utilise your weapons and ammo well in order to do so. But the effort is minimized and the fun is maximised when you do this with a friend beside your side. However, there are very few moments like these where there is a hardcore enemy to kill, most of the time the game goes back to making you scavenge for resources and crafting gear and upgrading your campsite.
The problem here is that it is a game that gets repetitive and the tasks start to feel like chores in a beautiful but buggy world void of interesting Fallout characters, so all the little fun had while teaming up doesn’t hold a candle to the massive repetitive nature of this game.
On top of that, you need to ensure your character isn’t hungry or thirsty or over encumbered. It reminds me of Arma 3 Epoch and even DayZ. Well at least DayZ didn’t promise the moon and neither did it cost as much.
Got to get a grip
Managing your health stats and other survival elements is a tedious undertaking because like many other survival games, you can’t pause the live action. Taking care of your character while on the go has its thrill as well, but some glitches like you constantly being attacked while switching gear becomes frustrating and you end up with sour words for Todd in your head.
Another interesting bit is the idea of the new VATS system, which no longer slows time down for you to select key areas of damage and shoot accordingly. It all happens in real time and while you can select high-value areas to target, we don’t see the point of having it. Sure it tells you which area of the creature is more vulnerable, but unless you were a big VATS fan previously, it isn’t going to make a lot of difference.
CAN'T PAUSE THE APOCALYPSE
Monitoring and managing these survival elements can also be a blessing and a curse, as you can't pause the action in Fallout 76's online world.
On the one hand, taking care of your character while on the run makes for some intense, looking-over-your-shoulder moments; on the flip side, getting pounded into the pavement by a mutated monster while you're switching gear can get old fast.
This, however, also supports the argument that you're better off playing with at least one other survivor who can watch your back while you're fiddling with your inventory.
The bigger issue, especially for fans of the previous games' V.A.T.S. system, is that the strategic combat's been neutered a bit.
Rather than pausing the action to pick specific, high-value targets on an enemy's body, the mechanic plays out – albeit less precisely – in real-time.
Those who played preceding instalments as straight-up shooters will hardly notice the difference, and may even prefer the change, but the vast majority who relied on the system to drop Super Mutants will likely be disappointed in the watered down take.
FALLOUT 76 VERDICT
Now here’s the thing. If you want to play Fallout 76 from a single player perspective, you must know that it isn’t as good an experience (nowhere close) as Fallout 3 or 4. However go in with a team and the enthusiasm of a newly emerged Vault-Tec noob and you may have a little bit of fun if you can get past the frustrating bits.
The battles and survival in general is much better when tackled with a friend but it isn’t anything new or revolutionary and it will certainly not blow your mind. You may want to blow up your mind, but know that Bethesda has promised future content and additional bits that you can do in the game - just like they promised Fallout 76 to be a game of epic proportions.
But jokes apart, there have been certain improvements to the game in the past few weeks and some of the bugs have also been fixed, so Bethesda at least hasn’t abandoned the game like everyone feared. But to think of it, I shouldn’t have to be writing something like that about one of the biggest names in the business especially when we are almost in 2019. Whether or not Bethesda manages to get things right again is anyone’s guess, but there are other games you can spend on.