The jump from single player only to online play is a bold and costly move by Bethesda with Fallout 76. It’s risky and potentially a rewarding decision, if done correctly, in a way which Fallout fans will truly appreciate. Just picture it now: a wasteland free to explore with a group of random Vault dwellers you encounter on your escape from the iconic underground Vaults.
Fallout 76 aims to be just that and to an extent it achieves this. However, past it’s aged game engine and galore of bugs, the game is more negatively plagued than anything when it comes to what we have grown accustomed to with the Fallout franchise in previous iterations. The world itself has no NPCs to offer, just enemies and other survivors like yourself looking to loot and move on with the odd occasional big wig who thinks they can take everyone on in power armour.
The missed opportunity for me was with the exclusion of NPCs as they could have made safe havens filled with them to bear quests and random encounters on your travels – the Fallout way of doing things. That’s what I loved about Fallout 4, building a settlement heading on out to bump into random strangers who set me off exploring a Super Mutant laid museum for a rare collectible piece.
Fallout 76 feels lifeless when you strip back its online players, as the only other layer to that are AI enemies who at the best of times are fairly easy to deal with unless they bug out under the map, as they did on one session with me, resulting in my character dying and walls to my cosy home destroyed.
Luckily a quick pop up on C.A.M.P allowed me to repair the damaged walls upon reloading the game, but it was still a frustrating and avoidable experience had the game received further polish. Setting up camp is a fairly simple build job, with camps having to be a good distance away from towns and once you have a saved blueprint you can pop up your base build anywhere. To give it praise where it’s due, the building element is actually on par with Fallout 4, and the pop up base feature is a great addition that hopefully Bethesda will keep and refine more into future titles.
New building parts can be acquired through acquiring plans, which are basically books given to unlock items such as lamps, turrets or barn building parts. The list goes on. Random players you meet on your travels can also trade these to you, which is probably how you’ll acquire these predominantly. The general scavenging for base scraps to build is repetitive and highly addictive if you were into building settlements on Fallout 4, then you’ll be burning away hours on Fallout 76 doing the same.
“If you want to survive the new wasteland, you’ll want to stack up on plenty of chems.”
Every time you load into a game your base will construct in the same location providing no one else has built in the same area on the newly joined server. At which point, you can unpack your base at a new location. Thankfully the new patch removes terrain in the way such as props or rocks now as well, otherwise before it was a nightmare to place your base down.
If you want to survive the new wasteland, you’ll want to stack up on plenty of chems from Stimpacks to Rad-aways, you’ll be needing both these two to survive. You’ll also unlock a bag full of these when completing quests, just ensure you never reach zero stocks on these items as you’ll be stuck in a pattern of dying otherwise.
Quests provided are mainly given through world events, due to the lack of NPCs to speak to as quest givers. Over time these do become repetitive and a lot of this means you have to farm the same quests again.
Generally fighting against enemies controlled by AI seemed fairly straight forward with very little challenge. VATs is more fluid than Fallout 4 as it syncs in real time rather than slowing down gameplay, which is evidently due to the online feature.
There are actually very little new additions to enemy types you’ll encounter, as most assets in the game are recycled from previous Fallout titles, dominantly Fallout 4. Given development time on single player Fallout titles though, there is often 4-5 years spent developing and Fallout 76 feels like it was rushed to completion to release with the Christmas looming window in mind.
In terms of map design, the world is filled with more areas of interest to explore and less space between these points, which is something many Fallout fans will give credit for. As for the space provided, there’s a clear purpose of this being used for building bases seemlessly.
The real threat intended in Fallout 76 comes in the form of player encounters. They leave you feeling gripped to your seat as to how they will pan out, especially when a higher level player turns up in power armour fully geared and follows you around. Most of these encounters, I found to be friendly so far, with players gifting me plans and supplies to help me on the deadly road. The game has a real community feel to it in its current state a month down the line.
Fallout 76 combines a large portion of Fallout 4 assets and flaws without making any real much-needed refinements for the online aspect. The world is vast and at times lifeless without NPCs and a sparsely player count to each server. Where Fallout 76 excels is providing hours of online fun when you team up. Players can help build your bases and you can take over areas such as a food factory to produce Preserved InstaMash, which was a real Fallout highlight for me. Hopefully future content and patches will get Fallout 76 to where it needs to be, as the world and mechanics are there, it just lacks any real polish, partly due to its aging, clunky game engine.
- Base building is fun
- Online aspect works well
- A friendly community online so far
- Game breaking and fun ending bugs
- Recycled assets are rife
- Lack of NPCs