I’ve been a solid fan of the most recent Fallout games. When I say recent I mean the excellent Fallout 3, its blood brother, Fallout New Vegas and the so-so Fallout 4. I was there when Bethesda initially put out the ‘please stand by’ screen on their social media accounts and website and to say that I was hyped would be an understatement. I even stayed up late just to see what the big fuss was about. It would have been great to see them announce The Elders Scrolls 6 first, but a new Fallout game would equally be awesome. Well, that’s what I thought until they announced Fallout 76 and how it would be an online multiplayer game. This announcement raised some eyebrows among the community, but we always are suckers for Bethesda, so we gave Fallout 76 a chance and met it with open arms. Sadly the game turned out to be as volatile as a nuclear bomb and like a nuke that obliterates almost anything in its wake, the high hopes, that players like me had, were shattered and blown away to smithereens. Let’s count our bruises, shall we?
Before you get to play the game, Bethesda was so kind as to add a day one patch that was even bigger than the physical copy of the game. Now, this wasn’t too fun for players like me that had really slow internet, cause this meant that we had to wait for it to download before we could even start(A shoutout to my 2MBPS brothers out there). After a couple days of waiting, I finally got to play the game and it greets you with a cinematic explaining that Fallout 76 is the first vault to ever be created. According to said cinematic, The ones that had access to the vault were the best of the best in the community, which included scientists and engineers. Being part of, air quotes, the best, would mean that you’d start off with a specialized set of skills. To my surprise, all you could do was customize your appearance and unlike other Fallout games that have come before, the game doesn’t give you any SPECIAL points to start with. This would be the first sign of the grindy nature of the game’s progression system, but I’m kind of getting ahead of myself.
SPECIAL is an acronym that stands for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck. To level up, you have to gain XP by defeating enemies and completing quests throughout the wasteland. Let’s go about them one by one.
Leveling this stat will increase your melee damage and will also determine your carry weight. A must pick for players that are into getting up close and personal with baddies or for those that are into building so you could carry more stuff.
Leveling this stat would give you better awareness of enemies around you which means that those red dots show up sooner on your compass. Perception will also increase your accuracy during VATS, which is explained more under the Agility stat.
Leveling Endurance will increase your hit points and will increase your resistance to many diseases found throughout the wasteland. Since the game has more emphasis on survival, getting hit with diseases like food and radiation poisoning could be fatal.
In previous games, leveling your charisma would give you better deals with merchants and can positively effect on how people interact with you. Since Fallout 76 has no NPCs, charisma is now used to help your party out with the ability to share perk cards with your party or group.
These are cards that add boosts to your SPECIAL skills. Let’s use one as an example.
The Gladiator – One-handed melee weapons do 10% more damage.
You get perk packs when you level up. Specifically levels 2 to 5 and every 5 levels after that. Now each of these cards has a specific point and value and should not exceed the specific SPECIAL stat that it’s attached to, to be equipped. So if you have an Endurance level of two, you can equip two Level 1 perk cards or one Level 2 perk card for the Endurance stat.
The stat for the crafty players as this determines the durability of the items that you craft and determines the levels of the terminals that you could attempt to crack.
Determines how well you sneak and this also determines how much AP or action points you have available. AP acts as the stamina bar in fallout and determines how far you can run. It also determines how many times you can target an enemy during VATS Combat.
VATS stands for Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System. In previous games, you’d hit a button to slow down time and allows you to target your enemies different limbs. This made for awesome slow-motion dismemberment shots, but since Fallout 76 is online, VATS doesn’t slow down time, but it acts like auto-aim with a percentage element.
Determines the condition of looted items and your critical hit rate. An essential skill for players that are heavy looters and those who like to deal loads of damage with one shot.
Time to get back to the game since we have the basics out of the way. The game starts you inside vault 76 and is set a couple years after the nuclear Fallout. As mentioned above, the game allows you to fully customize your character’s appearance. You can customize everything from your eyelids to your cheekbones and even the length of your chin. You also can pick out the body type that suits you. You could be Kylo-Ren burly, Popeye thin or John Cena buff. The game gives you more freedom than ever before, to have your character look as dashing or as silly as possible. I personally prefer something in between so as to confuse the super mutants that might be roaming about.
Fallout 3 and 4 had somewhat eventful introductory vault encounters but with 76, it sort of just pointed you to the exit. I would’ve wanted a little bit more drama, more backstory or action as you exit the Vault, but all we get in 76 is a message from the overseer informing you, of all people, that she’s out there in the wasteland to carry on her special mission. The game doesn’t really explain why, but that’s the main quest, following the vault overseer around a wild goose chase all over the Appalachian wasteland. It would’ve been interesting if we had a little bit of backstory to go with. Like is she our mother? Is she our lover? Why do we need to follow her anyway? In some circles, this could be considered as lazy storytelling TBH.
Once you’re out in the world, you’ll be treated to the vast Appalachian wasteland, which is the setting for the whole game. It looks and feels like other previous wastelands that have come before. You can go anywhere you please while looting different houses for supplies. One should exercise caution though as the wasteland is as dangerous as ever. You have feral ghouls, the scorched and super mutants just running about. They are fine if you just encounter one or two along the way, but they mostly travel in packs and this is where playing solo can get a little bit overwhelming. The thing is you can use your different cheesy strategies while fighting the different beasts in the wasteland, as the AI can get pretty dumb. Unless they are armed with projectile weapons, all you’ll need to do is find an elevated spot and cheese away. Dying in the game isn’t that much of a problem. When you die, all the scrap and materials you picked up or ones that you haven’t stored will be left at the spot where you were killed. These scraps are useful as they are used in the different crafting options in the game. So all you’ll need to do is go back to where you died and you can start all over again.
The game is as buggy as you can imagine, which adds to its list of issues and makes playing the game feel like a chore. You might just be looting a random house here and there and the game crashes. It even happened when I was nearing the completion of a quest and since the game crashed, I had to start the quest all over again. I’ve never had a game that made me wish that I was washing the dishes instead. That’s how outrageously buggy it was. Hopefully, they’ll fix this up over the next couple of patches.
Now as mentioned before, there are no NPC’s to interact within 76. Quests are started by holotapes, terminals, robots or automatically activated when you’re near an interesting spot. This does change the game heavily as I personally had a blast talking with the different NPCs on previous Fallout games. Gone are the witty dialogues and the moral choices you had to make and the little interesting stories from characters that made the previous games charming and colorful. The lack of NPCs made the wasteland feel more barren and empty than ever before. You get to interact with other players along the way and you can communicate with one another by using emotes or simply talking to them if you have a headset on with a microphone. This makes for very interesting encounters as some players might not understand the language that you’re speaking and you end up getting lost in translation. Other players could turn hostile and could shoot at you if they please, but there’s no need to worry though, unless you fire back, the game does not let a hostile player do any significant damage to you, which pretty much kills the kill or be killed mentality that should come hand in hand in the wasteland. But if the players are friendly you can party up and do quests together. There are problems with this as I personally had a tough time partying up with a pair of friends from New Zealand. We tried multiple times trying to get the problem fixed by restarting the game on our own individual consoles and it still wouldn’t allow us to be grouped up. This felt very frustrating as it’s already hard to find friendly people in the game and to have that little connection squandered by a game’s buggy mechanics.
Speaking of buggy, let’s talk about the base building. You can bring up your portable camp using your pip-boy, but there are a couple of requirements you have to meet first. You can only set-up camp in a flat patch of land and it shouldn’t be near an existing location. This get’s rather frustrating too as finding a spot can get tricky and sometimes when you eventually do, you’ll be gobbled up by the different high-level baddies that might be residing the location. If you eventually find a piece of land that has no Deathclaws in it, you can build your very own base, using the different materials that you’ve looted in the game. The base building menus can get very confusing and intimidating to ones that haven’t really dabbled on it during Fallout 4. You get to build, floors, walls, statues and a wealth of other options are available. You need the right materials first and this is where inventory management gets tricky as you can only carry so much and adds to the hassle of base building. Picking a wall or structure to build can also get frustrating as the game has buggy environmental detection because sometimes it says that your selected structure is hindered by another object even if it isn’t. Once you’ve gotten around the frustration building your own base, there really isn’t that much to it than a fancy place to stay for you and your party. You could choose to raid and destroy someone’s camp, but the game does not allow you to raid anything from their stash, which makes the endeavor pointless and this offense puts a bounty on your head, which will entice more players to hunt you down and this for me is not worth the hassle.
All in all, Fallout 76 did really feel like a chore to play. It could be fun if you have friends or are really into base building, but as a lone wolf that wants to play a game for its story, it’s personally not worth the hassle.
Disclosure: This review is based on a review code provided by Bethesda. Read our review policy to know how we go with our game reviews.