Fallout 76 is the newest in a long-line and lived series of Fallout games, continuing on the work that Bethesda has done since Fallout 3. Skipping ahead 72 numbers, 76 aims to bring into the franchise what plenty of fans have been asking for, Co-Op, but covering that wanted feature with multiplayer aspects at the removal of living NPCs. Met by plenty of pushback, anger and general confusion, the game has had a rocky start, to say the least, floating, glitchy rocks. The BETA gave some bad impressions of the game, along with its bug-filled world, but has the final release alleviated some of the concerns?
Set as the earliest Fallout ever, F76 sees us within the vibrant location of Appalachia, an Eastern region of the US. As is usual for Fallout we have the main quest to find something, instead of a water chip, father or platinum chip we must instead find the overseer of our Vault, 76. While this quest is familiar to past main objectives in the series, it is instead dealt almost entirely through the use of holotapes, as they take us around the map, clearing out Super Mutants or handling survival tasks.
While the over-arching mission or story is to find your overseer it unexplainably gets marked as a side mission, instead only being completed as you follow the 1-3 “main” missions that are given to you at a time. Learning how to survive, finding out how long dead bandits lived, repelling the Scorched and even more far-reaching quests will have you travel the map in its entirety, over and over, picking up holotapes left by the overseer as you go.
In one of the most infuriating decisions, you are tasked with going to several “hubs” where you either find robots or dead people’s holotapes. From there you are sent out to several buildings or areas, do some research or killing, and then return to said hub. This quest structure becomes increasingly boring, repetitive and annoying. While some of the quest design is meant as a comedic approach to quest design, one of them stood out to be just padding and infuriating. I had to go to the DMV, which we all know sucks, but I had to spend 30 minutes going back and forth, or just waiting, to get the quest done in such a roundabout way. This was after I had backtracked to the same hub 7 times, lasting 5-8 hours.
The storytelling feels like it tries to keep to older games, although with a distinct lack of Human, Ghoul or Mutant NPC to converse with. We will talk with plenty of robots who have varying personalities, listen to the holotapes of the dead or read countless notes to learn about the history of Appalachia. In a surprising turn, the voice acting in some of the holotapes surpasses that of Fallout 4 or even 3. Complete despair, sadness, and regret are felt totally within their voices, with sincere trembles and cries. From teenagers begging for their parents to come home to survivalist teams arguing with one another over their current situation.
In stark contrast, the length of text, notes and computer terminals is very off-putting, this is intensified even more so as time does not stop while you read. If you find a terminal with 10 odd entries that is a good few minutes spent reading, while enemies surround you or players take pot shots. One of the major flaws I see in F76’s design is the sheer quantity of written text, we cannot afford to spend so much time reading while the world goes on. For those who love lore-reading it is a joy, but when a piece of paper can kill you for your inquisitive nature, it loses plenty of allure.
If you have played Fallout 4 at all than Fallout 76 will feel all too familiar, as most of the mechanics are still in place. Weapons now have condition once again, similar to Fallout 3 and New Vegas, requiring maintenance and repairs. Breaking down equipment will now teach you new attachments or enhancements to the weapons themselves, replacing the omniscient characters of earlier games who knew them all at the beginning. The same goes for base building, with objects needing to be taught via plans before being built. With a more progression-like approach to learning, Fallout 76 is a bit more immersive alongside a better flow. Though this does mean you will be carrying several weapons around, waiting for a workbench to break them down.
Quests also follow a similar design, enter an area and you are given either a radio signal or quest to investigate. Added into the normal quests, you can also take over workbenches in the world, to harvest the farms, factories or other buildings they are attached to for their natural resources. For every quest you complete you will be rewarded with an assortment of random items, from stimpaks and food to plans and recipes. However, this random jumble of items can often carry redundant or repeated items, I had 6 plans for the same revolver when I was done with the game.
Even after the outcry for an update, or move away, from the engine of Fallout, F76 instead continues to use the same engine from Fallout 4. This is seen heavily with the overuse of assets from the previous game, UI and mechanics also find their way over. Fallout 76 does add in a few new weapons, buildings and models, but it isn’t enough sometimes to warrant an entirely new release, feeling rather lazy in their design approach.
F76 is designed mostly as a multiplayer experience, with enemy numbers being easily 2 – 4 times higher. There was one building I cleared out that easily had over 20 Super Mutants in the first hall, with 20 or so more through the rest of the building. With such a high number of enemies, levelling comes around much quicker, with that particular building giving me 2 levels after I was done with it. The number of attacks I sustained, and the swarm that came after me, felt highly geared to a team of 4 over a single player approach.
While the game is geared as a multiplayer experience, it does allow for single-player approaches as almost all my playtime was as a lone wolf. You can sneak around and take out enemies with silenced weapons, craft your own base and survive easy enough. The main difficulty of being a solo-player is that of bigger player teams attacking you, or handling larger dungeons and events alone. Turning off voice chat, turning on pacifist mode and staying on the move will allow you a majorly solo experience if that is your preference.
Fallout 76 has also introduced level locked equipment, meaning you cannot use any rocket launcher till you hit level 20. This can be a major blow to some players who want to experiment or use higher-power gear but does aid with the whole PvP aspect. Item level also affects the stats, with armour giving increased defence and weapon giving higher damage values. A big disappointment with this system is that you also will not be able to attach any armour to power armour frames, as the lowest tier requires level 25.
As you level up you will also gain S.P.E.C.I.A.L points to spend into your attributes, with the maximum raising to 15. Instead of skill points or perks you now have perk cards, which use up these points to attach their effect to your character. For example, if you want to craft tier 1 weapons, you will need a rank 1 perk card slotted into your intelligence. This does allow you to personalise your build a bit more while limiting your overall power to your stat points. You may select 1 perk card per level, with card decks being rewarded at certain levels, every even level till 10, then every 5th level.
An issue with the perk decks is that you get random cards, meaning you may get all melee and ranged cards when you are focusing more on a crafting build. Alongside unusable cards you may also draw duplicate cards, with a max ranked concentrated fire of Tier 3 you may pull more of that card, making them almost pointless, with the only use being a lower cost to your stats, allowing you to move around cards.
You no longer have a permanent base within the world, instead, you have temporary workshops and a moveable C.A.M.P. The workshops allow you to harvest natural resources like ore, wood or fusion cores as you defend them, while your camp can be packed and moved around. The pickup and go design of the camp is a friendly approach to bases, but with Stash boxes and the camp itself, you may only store 400lbs of loot, which is nowhere near close enough to how much you need. I easily filled this 400lbs within a few hours. While Bethesda has promised to increase this size, it has not been improved within the first patch.
PvP is locked till you are level 5, with attacks causing majorly reduced damage, to my estimate 10%. If you retaliate, the game will lock you into a fight with the player, and their team, meaning the damage reduction is removed. If you do not retaliate, the reduced damage will continue, and the attacking player will need to hit you several times to kill you. On death, you drop your materials and Junk which are mostly more valuable than Caps. You, or any nearby player, can pick up your Junk and run off with it.
While you may be able to revive from death, with the loss of caps and junk, your moveable C.A.M.P can also be damaged in a worse way. If you place down this portable base, other players are allowed to attack and destroy the building, from turrets to walls. While they cannot steal from your stash, it can be very annoying to return home to see the walls and turrets all gone. With next to no reward for doing so, Bethesda should have just removed this feature or altered how PvP would work.
In my opinion, the wanted system does not function as it should, feeling far too imbalanced and easily broken. For your first offence, you are only set as 10 caps for a bounty, no matter what you do. So killing a player is the same as just taking some aluminium out of their resource gatherer. This creates a weird morality when you do “evil” deeds and does not reflect the severity of your actions. You could easily rack up 100 caps in bounty by taking items from resource gathers as you could by killing players. You could also have a friend just do wanted acts to create a high bounty, to then kill them to get free caps on that character since you can go into negative caps.
I have been a major advocate for 76, trying to push forward the things it does right, however, I had found far too many things wrong with the game to continue that much further. The quest design is MMO-like, becoming repetitive and boring to a point where I even entered a rant about it. Rewards become obsolete far too easily, with later quests giving me plans for shelves and wooden armour when I was in full power armour. Bethesda is known for its bugs, but 76 has an astronomical count, from camera bugs, enemies disappearing and reappearing, models floating in mid-air and bodies rag dolling away, enemies not dropping any loot, rockets stopping in mid-air and much more. There was even a time where I could not invite 2 of my friends into a party, for no reason whatsoever, restarting completely only fixed this for 1 of them.
Fallout 76 also feels way too padded and rushed in the way it has designed quest flow and optional objectives. Towards the later missions you are tasked with going up and down the same road 3-5 times, to then going back to the beginning of the map, back again, to then go back across the map, back again to then go to a new location far off to do it all again. A game should not feel like a chore to do, and infuriatingly 76 just wants to give you a to-do list where half of it is “go here”.
The gameplay is quite enjoyable, though it does carry a lot of the designs from Fallout 4 and I enjoyed that release. Taking down a building full of enemies, sniping off scouts from the battlements, throwing in grenades or going in full melee swinging, all builds are viable and bring excitement. But with a dying engine, increasing amounts of reading within dangerous climates and seeing a bug around every corner, the game is pulled down too heavily.
Overall, Fallout 76 gets a 6/10, it is enjoyable for the FPS and RPG elements but is broken too harshly by poor quest and world design, and glitches. The voice acting in the holotapes is mostly top-notch, but some worse performances and multitudes of reading bring world building down too many notches. Progression feels somewhat random with the packs but is enjoyable when you can pick more SPECIAL points and perks for your build. If you are looking for a co-op Fallout, then 76 may be for you, or maybe you will just be better off with the co-op mods for previous entries.
Fallout 76 was developed by Bethesda Game Studios running on the Creation Engine.