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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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Fallout 76'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Nov. 6, 2018 @ 3:00 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.

Pre-order Fallout 76

We're on the cusp of getting something that I've always wanted: a Fallout game that I can play with friends. In my experience with the Fallout 76 beta, hope is finally becoming a reality. At the same time, the old adage of being careful what you wish for hasn't been far from my mind. Fallout 76 is a multiplayer Fallout game, but it doesn't feel like any of the other games of the series.

In what seems to be the tradition at this point, you play as a vault dweller who is leaving the safety of their vault in order to brave the perils of a world ruined by the nuclear apocalypse. This time around, you play as a member of Vault 76; its inhabitants have emerged to restore order and civilization to the wastes. Your playable character wakes up alone in the vault, having overslept the big emergence event.

The early portion of the game takes place in the vault and walks through some gameplay basics. Some elements, such as Pipboy usage and general inventory management, are effectively the same as they were in Fallout 4. Other aspects, such as the franchise's S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system (AKA your character attributes), have seen a radical overhaul.

Every time you level up (until level 50), you earn a point to allocate to an attribute, which then improves some fundamentals. For example, adding a point to Agility makes you tougher to detect while you sneak around. In leveling up your character, you also acquire perk cards. Perks require a certain number of slots, so if you've only spent two points in Charisma, you could either equip two level-one perks or one level-two perk — but not a Charisma 3 perk.

It's a system that effectively replaces both player skills and the traditional perk system. As an example, if you want to learn lockpicking, you'd only need to equip that perk card. To pick stronger locks, you'd want to upgrade the card, which increases the number of slots it takes up. You can swap out perks at will, which gives you a lot of flexibility while also undermining the kind of permanence that used to be involved with character-building in the series.

Frankly, it gets a little weird once you emerge from the vault. The world features zero NPC characters, with the heavy lifting of plot development done almost entirely via holotapes (taped voice messages). It's strange to explore the game world where the only living things other than yourself are primarily composed of enemies who simply want to kill you, or other players who also possibly want to kill you. There's the odd Protectron or other neutral non-humanoid NPCs here and there, but the only humanoids that you can interact with come in the form of other players.

In the beta, this plays out in the form of 24 other players who happen to be in your instance of the game. The result is probably as predictable as you'd expect. Some players are happy enough to group up with you and explore the game's content together. Most of them are just going about their in-game lives, flitting between quest areas and areas of interest. Some of them are going to shoot you in the back of the head while you're out in the wilderness.

Until level 5, you are completely immune to damage from other players. Beyond that point, if you are fired upon, you only take 50% damage until you decide to fight back, so getting taken out with a single sniper shot isn't a realistic threat either way. In the beta, I had no issues with getting attacked, but I wonder how well that will hold up after the game is launched. You can't exactly opt out of combat, and the odds are decent that out of 24 players, someone might want to kill you and take your stuff.

Other elements of the game have had to make some concessions to the online-only gameplay. The VATS system no longer slows down the game at all, and instead, it serves as a form of limited auto-aim. This comes in handy sure, but it also feels like the removal of another familiar facet of the Fallout series. It certainly helps aim at smaller or more mobile enemies; it just operates much differently than any previous representation of the system.

At any point in the wilderness, you can put down C.A.M.P., which allows you to use Fallout 4-style base-building to make your own home out in the wastes. Doing so requires resources such as oil, steel, wood, etc., depending on what types of things you are building. It's easy to build a camp, but it's much more cumbersome to move it. Doing so basically tears down the old one and partially refunds the material costs. To reuse building designs, you must save existing ones into a blueprint, which is also a burdensome practice. If you'd like to relocate but realize that your blueprints either don't exist or are out of date, you must travel back to camp to save them.

The beta is a glimpse into what Fallout 76 can become, and so far, it's unlike any other game in the series. I'm genuinely trying to withhold judgment at this point, since I've only scratched the surface and the game has much more to offer, but the whole thing feels experimental and tenuous in comparison to previous Fallout titles. The changes may end up having a positive impact on the overall experience, and we'll find out soon enough when the game launches.

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