GAME: Fallout 76
DEVELOPER: Bethesda Game Studios
PUBLISHER: Bethesda Softworks
AVAILABLE ON: PC, PS4, XBox One
Thanks to my friend Kira for helping out with screenshots.
My first memory of the Fallout franchise comes from when I was in junior high, around 2001 or so. My mother subscribed to this gaming mag that would come with free full versions every month. One month it came with this game called Fallout 2. I blame this game solely for me missing school several days in a row. I was obsessed with Fallout 2, so much it took up nearly all my free time. It was the game that introduced me to RPG’s as a whole, and to this day remains my favorite in the franchise.
Later on I played Fallout 3, and became hooked again. Another game I played almost religiously and the amount of hours I have in the game is probably only rivaled by the amount of hours I have in Deus Ex. Fallout New Vegas I dug as well but didn’t play as much. And of course, Fallout 4 I loved (make sure to check out my review of it in case you don’t believe me).
So my point is I’m no stranger to this franchise and it is one of my favorite franchises in gaming as a whole. And it’s probably the reason I was really on board with the idea of releasing a multiplayer Fallout game. In fact, me and my friends discussed it as we played through the aforementioned Fallout 3, New Vegas and 4. What if we had a big wasteland to explore together, could form different factions and all around go wild in a multiplayer Fallout game?
Well, it seems we weren’t alone in thinking this, because Bethesda has now released Fallout 76. And as you may already know, it is the first game in the franchise to be a multiplayer focused Fallout experience. You may also already know it hasn’t exactly delivered on that promise to any satisfying degree. But I’m not here to tell you what other people have said about the game. If you want to know you may check out our own Dylan Chaundy’s opinion on the game so far.
Nothing like walking around in power armor and kicking ass.
A Different Fallout
Fallout 76 sets itself strictly apart from earlier entries by being the first Fallout game without any human NPC’s. In Fallout 76’s setting of West Virginia, which takes place shortly after the bomb fell, the vault dwellers are the only humans that exist. Which means the only humans you’ll run into are other players. The game is still full of quests to do and unlike what people will tell you, it does actually have a story. Just not one that is straight up told to you, you will have to read a lot of emails and listen to a fair bit of holotapes left behind by the people who died.
It takes a bit of an oldschool Bioshock approach to storytelling which to me feels a bit refreshing. While it does make the world feel really void of any friendly life, it does make it feel more like the humans you meet in the world aren’t just glorified quest-dispensers, they’re actual people. And you’re never left in a situation where you’re caught in a conversation with a NPC while something attacks you out of nowhere, which was common in Fallout 4.
The main story is basically just figuring out what the heck has happened to the world, and digging into the backstory of Appalachia, of which there is a fair bit. Most of the quests are related to sort of fixing the world and rebuilding it, trying to just sort of survive and make a new world out of the ruins. It’s a theme that fits the multiplayer approach the game is taking. A lot of focus is put on survival and exploring the world of Fallout 76.
Crafting is back in Fallout 76, with recipes found in the wild that you can use to cook up anything cool or tasty.
And there is a lot of incentive to. Exploration rewards you with caps, recipes for your crafting benches, enemies to kill which grants you experience and holotapes, terminals and notes that offer a look into Appalachia’s past. And when you’re not exploring, you can build your own place and deck it out with paintings and other decorations. Unfortunately, the building leaves a lot to be desired as a lot of restrictions are put on you. For one you can’t really build anywhere you want, your camp must be plonked down in an area that is free of obstructions, nowhere near an established settlement and you’re given a strict budget that means you’re limited to how much you can build.
Compared to Fallout 4 where you could build entire settlements, it feels a lot more scaled down. It’s pretty much like comparing EA’s Sim City reboot to older Sim City games. You’re mostly left with an inferior experience that is fun, but could be better. It doesn’t feel like you are rebuilding the world as much as you are simply making your own little cabin in the woods. And the building itself can only be described as… finnicky. It’s very particular in how it allows you to place parts. It likes flat terrains in general and as you will soon find out, Appalachia is anything but flat. So finding a place to build can be a real challenge.
There’s also the issue of your camps disappearing after a while in-game. Your stuff is thankfully stored in your inventory when that happens, but you still have to find a new place to place your camp when it’s removed. Generally there are a lot of these minor annoyances that don’t really ruin the game but does make it feel like it could be a lot better.
Building houses is easy but a bit finnicky.
Crafting is pretty much as easy as it was in Fallout 4. You gather junk and can even break these down into materials that you use for everything from crafting building materials and pieces of armor or weapons. You’ll need to find specific plans for some things if you want to craft them, which adds some further incentive to explore the game world. But overall it’s pretty simple. You can even craft your own ammo if needed and overall I find the crafting a lot more fun and deeper than it was in any previous game.
There is a photo mode where you can freely move the camera, add filters, adjust FOV and generally take really good screenshots. Even better, the game will display your screenshots on loading screens, which I wish more games would do. An even bigger bonus is that you can customize your appearance anywhere you want (as long as no enemies are nearby and such). Just having this option without having to pay a plastic surgeon to do it makes the game a lot of fun for me, since I love customizing my appearance a lot.
You can share items with other players in the world by dropping them on the ground. And thankfully items that are stored in containers are client-side so you don’t have to worry about people taking stuff in front of your nose too much. I did notice items that appear in the world itself are server side though. And someone taking it before you do will remove it from the world (for a while anyway). And in your camp you can store items in your own stash, which helps if you need a place to store stuff like junk or legendary items you don’t want to sell or scrap.
Fallout 76 features quite an additional and unique cast of enemies, some inspired by West Virgina folk lore.
Enemies and Weapons
Enemies range from the expected Super Mutants, ghouls, mole rats and radroaches to more unique enemy such as the game’s Scorched faction. Which are semi-ghouls who can wield guns and other weapons and pose more of a threat than regular ghouls. There are also things like Mothman, Scorchbeasts and Grafton Monsters that can seriously ruin your day if you come across them. So don’t piss them off. Ghouls and Scorched are fairly easy to deal with. But the more powerful monsters will require a lot more manpower to take down.
The weapons also feature a lot of series mainstays such as the 10mm pistol, pipe rifle, pipe pistol and hunting rifle, but also more unique melee weapons such as the fire axe and golf club. Playing a melee focused character in this game was a lot of fun for me because of all the different melee weapons. And you can customize your weapons as well, adding all kinds of new things like rocket engines to your sledgehammers.
If you ever wondered how you would look without power armor while wearing power armor, now you know… and I bet you wish you didn’t…
Glitches and Bugs
The game does have its fair share of glitches which range from mild annoyances to straight up hilarity. Sometimes the game will just give up, have a complete seizure and things will go horribly wrong. Such an experience was when a world I was in for some reason wouldn’t let me equip power armor. Instead it would disappear from my inventory and leave me a horribly disfigured glitchy mess until I rejoined the world. I think I must’ve gone through like 3 power armors this way since all of them disappeared. Luckily I’ve never had any crashes or seriously game-breaking bugs. So my experience has been fairly tame compared to what I’ve heard from other players.
I’ve also never had any particular issues with the game’s performance and it’s been fairly decent on my rig. Granted my PC is pretty powerful, but not more so than what other people are running. I’ve heard the game plays a lot worse on console though so take that into consideration. I’ve had some server issues of disconnecting, stuff that’s completely expectable in an online game, and not really that annoying.
The game might be the most colorful in the entire franchise, with a very beautiful autumn atmosphere to it. Beautiful godrays also help make the game look rather beautiful.
Graphics and Sound
Graphically I’ve heard people say the game is pretty ugly. I’m not sure if I agree with that as I honestly find the game rather beautiful. Especially if you compare it to earlier titles like Fallout 3 and even Fallout 4. The amount of color in the game is amazing. The game has a very appealing Skyrim-like feel to it with a lot of nature, hills and very dynamic terrain to explore.
Other Fallout games so far have felt kind of flat so Fallout 76 feels extremely refreshing to explore as a result. I very much have enjoyed all the vistas in the game so far and continue to sort of just get taken back with how good the game looks. That is when the lighting doesn’t glitch out or textures don’t load properly. Sometimes the game just doesn’t seem to know what to do with the lighting. Which is a shame as the game does look really good otherwise.
Sound-wise the game is pretty good as well. The soundtrack is amazing, with several great songs to listen to. The voice acting is generally good across the board as well. It’s a shame most of it is limited to holotapes and such, but it’s good enough to make me engaged in the game. Weapons sound pretty good as well and overall I can’t complain about the sound in the game.
Given Fallout 76 is an online game, you cannot wait or rest and skip time so you sleep in real time and heal up while doing so. Thankfully the game shows you in third person while you do so, much like many mods for Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 did.
As it stands, Fallout 76 is not the best game in the franchise. But is it the worst? I’m not really sure. The game is still awaiting private servers which may add more mod support. And patches keep fixing the worst issues of the game. But how much you’ll enjoy the game will definitely depend on your expectations. So if you expect a typical Fallout experience you may be pretty disappointed by Fallout 76.
But if you are willing to embrace it as a multiplayer Fallout game where you can bring some friends, share some Nuka Cola and explore a beautiful wasteland while listening to the Beach Boys, then I definitely recommend getting it. Definitely not at full price as it’s not worth $60, but definitely around $20-30 which is what the game seems to have dropped down to pretty quickly after launch. You can definitely go worse than Fallout 76.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10