Is the wasteland a little too quiet these days? Is the end of the world better with a few friends around? Find out in our Fallout 76 review.
When diving into Fallout 76, it’s important to let go of certain expectations. While it’s essential to keep in mind the entries that have come before, Fallout 76 is a unique installment in the series. If you go in looking for the karma decisions and dramatic narrative of past games, you may be disappointed; however, if you come in seeking a variety of quests and a big world to explore, the game has you covered. Fallout 76 takes some time to get used to, but if you’re patient, there is a lot to enjoy.
Taking off into Appalachia with a couple of friends allows players to create their own adventures in a largely familiar Fallout mold. The game includes a variety of events and quests to keep groups entertained, pitting them against a wide selection of grotesque, and intimidating enemies. One of the more prominent Fallout qualities that the game drops is that of a karma system; player choices and morality are more of a free-for-all given that this is an open-world multiplayer experience. There is somewhat of a larger narrative at work, but like previous Fallout games, sometimes you may want to take on some side quests instead.
The start of the game sends you on a number of fetch quests as you learn the ropes. Upon listening to a Holotape, your first goal is to head towards a location, only to pick up another Holotape and head towards another area, and so on, and so on. These fetch quests go on for some time, eventually leading to more interesting and varied missions. There was a mission where I went into a mine to clear them of infected creatures. The environment was a great change in pace while also bringing a boost in challenge. That mission promised that the more I continued to play, the more there would be to discover.
It is possible to play Fallout 76 by yourself, but doing so makes the game a somewhat isolating experience. Part of this isolation comes from the fact that the world feels lacking without NPCs (minus some robots you come across). It’s jarring that there aren’t any as they make for one of the best components of any Fallout title, bringing life and character to the game world.
Speaking of the game world, Fallout 76 takes place in West Virginia, making for the most beautiful locale a Fallout game has ever had. Walking about the immense forests of Appalachia is truly wonderful. The land offers a diversity of locales that keep things fresh; from the various towns, to the bewitching wilderness and dank mines, the game’s world provides many spaces to tread and seek treasures. Fallout 76 does a solid job providing environmental storytelling. As you’re walking by one place, you may see a few corpses holding each other on the side of a road; it’s one of the many morbid sights that will catch your attention, getting you to wonder what those individuals may have been thinking in their last moments.
As mentioned early, Fallout 76 does include a larger narrative, but by no means is it as dramatic as past entries. Essentially you leave your vault to look for your overseer and roam about from there; there and then an interesting plot moment may come up, but narratively, Fallout 76 lacks the emotion and thrills compared to past titles.
That said, Fallout 76 has a stronger emphasis on survival compared to previous Fallout games. Whereas past titles kept track of your radiation levels and any potential issues you may have, Fallout 76 also keeps track of your hunger and thirst. When these cravings are not satisfied, your ability to use action points is impacted. Helping with your survival is that of the C.A.M.P., a portable device that allows you to build a base. In this regard Fallout 76 is a lot like Fallout 4; in making your base, you can set up turrets, create a means to cook food, and build structures as your heart desires.
What makes survival more intriguing is that of the real-time gameplay; say you’re in the midst of trying to craft some weapons or healing materials, if an enemy shows up, they can attack you no matter what. Simple acts like pulling up your Pip-Boy don’t pause the game anymore; actions are real time, so you have to be more careful in where and when you decide to manage inventory.
The game also has more of a need for crafting materials. The world is full of different items you can come across and scrap, allowing you to build new armor and weapons along the way. I found this to be more simple than I expected, for you really can pick up almost anything you see, scrap it, and have more room to carry items.
Combat is pretty standard with the only significant changes being that of V.A.T.S. Rather than having the enemies move at crawling speeds, V.A.T.S. has enemies moving much faster, providing the player a locked on approach to attacking. In this shift it felt that V.A.T.S. had lost a good deal of its accuracy; I came to realize that I would have a much better chance of landing critical shots without using it. The RPG leveling system isn’t as dynamic as Fallout 4, but it’s easier to manage; building a deck of the stats and perks that matter to you make for an enjoyable means to customize your character, all while building upon your chances of survival.
Concerning bugs, fans of Bethesda have come to expect issues with game’s upon release; however, in my hours of playing Fallout 76, I dealt with very few problems. Even with some moments of lag and pop up textures, I’m glad to say playing was, by and large, a relatively smooth ride.
Fallout 76 may come off as somewhat of a jarring experience for long time players of the series (especially those not use to multiplayer or online gameplay). The lack of NPCs makes the world feel a little too empty, and the beginning requires slugging through some boring quests before things get a little more interesting. For longtime fans of the series it requires some understanding and acceptance; for those who have played games of similar ilk, it merely requires some patience. However, as one continues to progress in the bombed out remains of Appalachia, they will find themselves enchanted by the scenery and the promise of fun yet to come.
Whether you play with friends or by yourself, Fallout 76 is the beginning of a fascinating direction for the series. Having Fallout be an open world online game makes lots of sense, for the core element of the series is that of exploration in a post-apocalyptic world. I think in time, as Bethesda continues to build upon the game, we will see Fallout 76 become a stronger entry in the series, as well as a worthy online role-playing adventure.
Fallout 76 Review copy bought by the reviewer on PS4.
Fallout 76 is out now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.