Fallout 76

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action
Publisher: Bethesda
Developer: Bethesda
Release Date: Nov. 14, 2018

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


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PC Review - 'Fallout 76'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Nov. 28, 2018 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

Fallout 76 is an online prequel where every surviving human is a real person. Work together, or not, to survive. Under the threat of nuclear annihilation, you'll experience the largest, most dynamic world ever created in the legendary Fallout universe.

Buy Fallout 76

For years, people have wanted a multiplayer game set in the Fallout universe, and now that we have it, I'm reminded of the story of The Monkey's Paw. Fallout 76 does an admirable job of making the Creation Engine capable of multiplayer, so you can adventure the wastes of West Virginia with a buddy while you hunt a Deathclaw or do some quests. However, the multiplayer aspect consistently feels shoehorned in, so it seems that neither the series nor the engine were ready for it.

It's not for lack of trying, as the game strives to deliver an experience that's similar to previous Fallout games. You wake up, presumably hungover, as the last inhabitant of Vault 76. This vault had a relatively straightforward mission in comparison to some of the others in the franchise's lore: Survive the war, emerge as one, and rebuild America. However, you emerge from that vault alone and unarmed, and your next course of action is entirely up to you.

It's assumed that you ignore the notion that, after living together for 25 years, the inhabitants of the vault would just scatter among the landscape and occasionally shoot at each other. There isn't really a central plot to Fallout 76, short of a few breadcrumbs involving the vault's Overseer and her quest to catch up on what became of her old life after the bombs fell. You'd think that the vault would remain a central hub where people would come and go, but it remains forever empty, as does most of the world.

There are no conventionally human NPCs whatsoever, enemy or otherwise, and most plot elements unfold via stories told via holotapes or terminal entries created by people who died a long time ago. There are a few token NPCs; some vendor Protectrons, a punk-rock Mr. Handy, and an oddly friendly Super Mutant come to mind. The NPCs rarely exist for a purpose other than to provide an interface to sell your junk for caps. Given how big the map is, populating it with only 24 human players makes the world feel effectively empty. There's zero indication of rebuilding anything, either in the gameplay or the meager underlying plot.

Initially, the game has you scurrying around and trying to catch up to various people or factions that existed in the world. You also quickly realize that you always find that — surprise — the person died a long time ago, and merely their notes/tapes/desiccated corpse remains. In previous games, you'd find a new town and see that some are population hubs with voiced NPCs. In Fallout 76, none of that exists; every town is either empty or filled with ghouls, mole men, or Super Mutants.

As such, the game is much more centered around getting out into the wasteland and making your own fun. There are plenty of points of interest to explore; you're led to some spots, and you'll encounter other areas and associated quests in your travels. Your own wanderlust is arguably the biggest thing that drives your direction. To this end, the game is satisfyingly massive and dense with points of interest. If your favorite activity in previous games was to explore the world, Fallout 76 has plenty of acres to cover and areas to poke around in.

After a hard day of exploring, you're eventually going to want to find a place of your own. Similar to settlements in Fallout 4, you can build your own C.A.M.P. in Fallout 76. This stakes a claim on a circular area of land, just about anywhere you want if it's away from points of interest and build your own camp. Generally, this means a building, some crops, and a turret to defend it from wandering enemies. Building a camp takes resources, which you get from gathering wood and scrapping the junk you find in your travels. The budget limit for your camp is generous enough to build a decent-sized, two-story structure and plenty of defenses.

Much as with the rest of the game, camps are not without their own issues. While you can set up turrets to defend your camp, the turrets break easily and won't fire on clearly hostile enemies until they have damaged the camp. Your camp disappears when you log out to keep it safe, and it reappears on the server instance you're on when you log in again. However, if you've built your camp in the same spot as another player's, your camp is automatically placed in storage when you log in, and you must find another location to re-establish it or switch servers if you want the same spot.

It takes resources to build your camp, make new gear, and repair existing gear, and you gain resources by collecting junk. Your player stash can be accessed from any "stash box" in the world, such as in your camp or at many points of interest. Any resources in your stash are available automatically at a crafting station, so you don't have to micromanage your inventory to craft something. However, the 400-pound limit of the stash is only four times the size of a starting character's inventory, so it can fill up fast. Compounding the issue is that the vendors in the game only buy certain items, don't have many caps, and their caps only reset after hours of real time.

If you were the type of player who hoarded everything in Fallout 4 because everything ended up being useful, these limitations can be crippling. An upcoming patch touts an increase to 600-pound limits for stashes, but I only see that as a band-aid solution. Until players can more easily rid themselves of their extra stuff — short of throwing it away —stash limits will have to be periodically and painfully micromanaged.

Arguably the point of Fallout 76 is to play the game with others, but this is another area that falters. When fighting a group of enemies, each player only gets experience for enemies that they had damaged, so parties must either carefully spread damage so everyone gets credit for the kill, or some group members will gain significantly different levels of experience. There is no text chat option, and with the VoIP functionality lacking a push-to-talk option, most players seem to play with it off. This limits your communication options to either third-party solutions or using a canned emote in-game.

I'd feared that Fallout 76 would be a griefer's paradise with its online-only gameplay, but thankfully, that hasn't been the case. Early in the game, I would barely read terminal entries out of fear that someone would pop me in the back of the head while I was reading. As I played, I found that most players don't really mess with one another. Even in the "workshop" areas, which only one player can claim for its resources and others can contest in PvP, most players left claimed ones alone. Lack of communication options also meant that cooperation was limited to public quests, but the game is far from the stressful open PvP experience that I'd expected.

The game itself hampers your enjoyment. During my time with Fallout 76, I had numerous crashes to desktop, the inability to move after fast-traveling, server lag causing inventory actions to take 5-10 seconds to go through, and other small bugs. I had three level-50 scorchbeasts attack my camp in an area that should have been a low-level area and cause some serious damage. Quests would occasionally disappear from my log, preventing progress on them until I relogged. I've had bugs where I'd take steady radiation or health damage for no apparent reason until I entered a new zone, and similarly I've just outright died out of the blue with zero indication as to why.

These are issues that I suspect will get patched over time, which is good because there are also some awesome game moments: tearing through a few dozen mole men with a buddy as he wields a Super Sledge and you're firing shotgun rounds, playing the banjo in your camp while a storm rains outside; wading into a public quest as you and other players cooperate to fix some piping and some sparking consoles; watching a player-launched nuke explode on the landscape and diving into the irradiated zone to slay the monsters within that fresh hellscape. There are many such moments of simple brilliance within Fallout 76.

This is what makes Fallout 76 painful: many worthwhile moments surrounded by a game with just as many nagging issues. The bare-bones plot and general lack of direction mean you must make your own fun. It's set in a largely static world that doesn't care about the choices you make, and the few times when you can impact the world may be lost to you or circumvented by others with a mere server hop. There's fun to be had if you enjoy the thought of poking around a Fallout wasteland with a friend. Otherwise, very little here feels new, and it feels like a lot of content is missing in comparison to previous games in the series.

Score: 5.7/10

Reviewed on: Intel i7 4790k, 16 GB RAM, NVidia GTX 970

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