Fallout has since its inception been a stickly solo affair, there were rumblings about a Fallout Online quite a few years about but for the most part it’s just you on your lonesome. Fallout 76 is here to change that affair in a rather drastic way, does it pay off? Let’s find out!.
Fallout 76 is set in 2102, 25 years after the nuclear war broke out and laid literal waste to the world, based in the region of West Virginia it’s down to you as a Vault Dweller to venture into the new world and rebuild it to guarantee generations to come.
The first main swerve of this title is the way the narrative plays out, unlike the previous Fallout titles, the main story isn’t really that involved, there isn’t any epic set pieces, & well I’m sure you have heard, there aren’t any human NPCs. The story is mainly progressed through various audio tapes and files on computers you can read which help build the world and the events surrounding your “birth from the vault”.
This is a major criticism of the game and one I personally didn’t mind, I’m the kind of player who tended to ignore the main story of the Bethseda Fallout games, instead walking my own path, tending to side quests and finding my own adventure. Fortunately that aspect is there and the pieces of main story I have read about in game have been quite interesting but I can see why people would find issue with the lack of quirky human NPCs and companions.
The major “Shtick” with Fallout 76 is it’s somewhat of an MMO though on a much smaller scale, the only other humans you’ll meet in your time at West Virginia are other players, now I know this can be a massive turn off for some people and initially I was quite skeptical of how it would work, fortunately Bethesda have put some “Anti-Grief” systems in place and the game for the most part can be played solo should you still want to dive back into the wastes of Fallout.
Visually, Fallout 76 is all over the place, it’s not an upgrade over Fallout 4 and can often look like something that wouldn’t go amiss on previous gen but on the odd occasion you’ll hit some surroundings which look fantastic and really pull you into your adventure. The Robot NPCS animate as you would expect when they are working, they sometimes have a tendency to skip more than a few frames and can look quite jarring.
The usual nasties of the Wasteland are there as you would expect, from Super Mutants to Mirelurks they are all out and ready to cause you some pain, unfortunately there hasn’t been any changes to their visuals from Fallout 4 and that seems to be a case across the board in terms of graphics and visuals.
The audio is as usual top notch from the team here, the voice acting is highly believable which does help give the audio tapes some weight, in this case it’s a lifesaver with the story being told mostly through them. There are also some tunes on the radio which will help you pass the time when you’re building your C.A.M.P or feeling brave out in the wastes.
The ambient sound while exploring the wastes is also outstanding and feels like you are wandering around the shattered remains of the world with new and unusual wildlife and fauna.
So the gameplay in Fallout 76 and the main reason you’re here, well as mentioned it’s somewhat of an MMO lite which if you haven’t played any kind of MMO before basically boils down to it being somewhat of a grind fest. As you wander the Wasteland following the path of your Overseer you’ll come across hundreds of quests which usually involve you fetching something, exploring somewhere or killing something/s, wash rinse and repeat, for someone who just likes to explore and carve their own way through the world this isn’t an issue but if you’re looking for something more substantial like Fallout 4’s main story then there isn’t really anything here for you, the main “campaign” of the game is basically a giant game of “catch up” and pick up the pieces while you’re there.
If you’re more of a social creature then there are a few more options here for you, raids which involve your team taking on super powered beasts OR you could go for PvP and prove you’re the baddest of the bad out here in the wastes. The issue I found with the PvP was that it seemed to heavily favor melee over ranged weapons, especially with the changes they have made to VATS which I’ll go over in a second.
So VATS which has been a staple of the series has had a dramatic retouch to account for the always online, multiplayer style of the game and well frankly it doesn’t work, at all. Rather than stopping the game to aim at a specific body part, this stays full speed and just has a percentage which shows your chance of hitting the enemy in general. The percentage jumps up and down with all the speed of a certain Blue Hedgehog and I found the ability mostly pointless outside of PvP where it would near enough teleport me to my opponent and let me bury my fire axe firmly in their skull.
Not only is Fallout 76 an online multiplayer experience, it’s also a survival experience too!, yes that fad that died off just a quick as it came is back and it does impact the way you play this game quite a bit, for better and worse. ‘76 is alot more about managing your hunger, thirst and RADS than ever before as they usually come hand in hand, neglecting any of them has a negative effect on your health and can result in death!. You’re also restricted in how much you can carry and in a bizarre move so is your storage box, this means it’s a delicate balance of hoarding what you can, having the bare minimum in weapons and scrapping what you can to help you build C,A,M.P you can .
Unfortunately Fallout 76 isn’t the most stable of games, even by the series standard, throw in server issues and you’ve got all the makings of a truly rocky experience. I’ve had quest items stop working, NPCs refuse to speak to me despite pressing the button several times, my C.A.M.P disappear on me multiple times, boots from the server and just outright crashes causing me to reboot my console. It’s a shame the game is in the state it is in, because when it works I really enjoy it, it gives me most of what I want from a Fallout game but allows me to explore with my friends and family and make my own fun while I whittle down the hours and rebuild my C.A.M.P for the umpteenth time!.
There is a good chunk of fun for any Vault Dweller to find here with Fallout 76, when it works and if you aren’t too fussed about NPCs, Set Pieces or having to read your own story, it harkens back to older times for better and worse and that is what I think will divide people on this title. I personally really enjoy the title when it’s not breaking around me, the social aspect is naturally better with friends but you will meet the occasional random who isn’t acting like a complete tool. It’s a shame they didn’t put much more work into this title as it often comes off as a multiplayer mod for Fallout 4 with some of the character stripped out but for the right price it’ll easily consume a weekend or two.
Still more quests and locations than you can shake a stick at
With friends the game becomes great fun
Voice acting and soundtrack are superb
Looks & feels like a Fallout 4 Mod
Riddled with performance issues, glitches and server issues