Fallout 76: It’s Complicated


Maximilian Looft, Author

After the fanfare that ensued after Bethesda’s E3 conference back in June, I felt like I was the only person who didn’t have a death wish for the developers who had made three of my all-time favorite games—Fallout 3, 4, and Skyrim. I felt like I was the only person who didn’t hate them after they announced that Fallout 76 would be a permanently online game, vastly different from their previous single-player open-world games. I was open to the idea of the game not having any human NPCs, that this was just a game I would be able to play with my friends and just have fun with.

Now that the game is out, my opinion has changed a little.

One of the first things you notice about the game is how quiet it is. You walk outside of the vault just like Fallouts 3 and 4 and are stunned by the view. You take a minute to just stare at the Appalachian Mountains, and you start to explore. You realize just how quiet it is.

This quietness, and loneliness, is almost entirely a result of the lack of human NPCs—Non Player Characters, for anyone who’s never played a video game. If not I don’t know why you’re reading this.

But anyways. You no longer have anyone to talk to. There are no people to trade with, and it really gives the impression that this almost beautiful (and dangerous) wasteland belongs entirely to yourself, and it’s a rather strong feeling that sticks with you for a while. But not forever.

This feeling drags on as you explore some more, as you discover the town of Flatwoods and find remnants of people who survived the nuclear holocaust. They’d tried to establish themselves as an organization, the Responders, but all you find is what’s left of their base and many of their corpses. This is great for establishing that there were people here, making the game feel more alive, but there aren’t many more of these in the game.

Eventually, the feeling of this vast world that belongs to yourself wears off, and you’re left feeling, well, bored. I found myself really just exploring instead of doing many quests as the quests themselves aren’t that intriguing, mainly being the dreaded fetch quest that plagues every game, except this game is almost entirely fetch quests. Go here, activate this. Go there, listen to a holotape.

But the game’s exploration is spot on. Exploration is a must in this game as you need to explore to survive in this game. You need to constantly find scrap and junk to modify your weapons and armor, and to build your base, as well as find food and water just to survive. This constant need for food and supplies pushes you to go to new places, therefore experiencing many new locations all the time.

Building your base can be fun too, when put in the right area. You could find yourself unlucky and place your base in a densely wooded area that constantly gets attacked by high-level enemies, or up on a ridge that gives a fantastic view and leaves you relatively safe from attack.

However, there is a system that works against this: your stash capacity. Everything that you don’t need immediately in your inventory, primarily all of your junk and weapons and armor that are too high level for you, goes into this stash that always stays with your base. The problem is that your stash has a limit as to how much stuff you can store in there, and I encountered that problem just a few days into playing. This means that I have nowhere to put any more junk I collect, nowhere to stash rare items that I find, and I must resort to selling them instead. I have to keep my inventory full of junk and weapons that are too valuable to sell or break down into parts.

This breaks away quite a bit from Fallout 4 where workshops grant an infinite amount of space for all the junk you collect, and you can build other storage spaces for your other items. Now, I don’t think the stash should have an infinite capacity, but you should be able to reduce the weight from junk you store in there since the game is heavily centered around collecting junk to make your weapons better and improve your base.

So, when this inevitably happens, you almost just want to stop playing. That is until you start playing with your friends.

Playing this game alone and playing with friends are two vastly different experiences, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a blast playing with my friends, being chased by giant Anglers or being caught by surprise by a giant Hermit crab and using all of our explosives on it. (If you hadn’t realized, there are a lot of giant creatures in this game.)

A Fallout game that you can play with your friend(s) is what many have asked for years, although most meant a sort of co-op multiplayer where you could join a friend’s world with actual human NPC’s, similar to Dead Rising and Dying Light, not really an MMO sort of game. But Fallout 76 still delivers a little bit of what people wanted — just experiencing the horrifying magic that is Fallout, with a buddy or two.

But even while you’re having a great time with your friends, the issues still glare in. A lot.

The bugs and glitches that litter this game are hard to avoid, and they are just unforgivable. I’ve put a great deal of time into many of Bethesda’s games, more time than I’m willing to admit, and I know they have a reputation for being a little buggy. But the number of bugs I’ve come across in my approximately 30 hours of playing is ridiculous. Constantly, animations for various enemies never play, so often I’ll be fighting and scorching ghouls who are just floating at me, and in some occasions T-posing. Twice while leveling up now, I’ve chosen a perk card for my character, but I’m unable to find the perk card anywhere in the leveling menu, meaning I just wasted a level of my character. There are plenty more bugs, including the game’s volume getting twice as loud whenever I aim down a gun sight, player models being distorted, the framerate being brought down to an abysmal crawl in the more active areas of the map, etc.

The other problem that stands hand in hand with the bugs are the graphics. Graphically, Fallout 76 is virtually the same as Fallout 4, except for a much further Draw-distance and an abundance of Godrays. But if we forget about those, the game looks really really bad. Back in 2015 when Fallout 4 launched, there was some debate about the graphics as they were slightly behind by a few years, but it was hardly an issue. That was three years ago, and 76 looks exactly the same.

Not only that, but some parts of the game look even worse than Fallout 4! There are so many boulders, cars, planes, and other objects that have textures so laughably bad they could fit right into Fallout 3.

Overall, graphically, the game is incredibly disappointing, and the number of bugs that hinder the game’s experience just downtrods the experience even more. If anything, the multiplayer is the only redeeming part of this game; the part of this game that everyone was outraged about is the only thing that can keep it afloat. This game feels like it was released a year early, like the developers tried to make this work, but it falls short. And there’s one big reason why.

Fallout 76 was not developed by the same people who made the Elder Scrolls or Fallout series. It was made by Bethesda Game Studios’ newest branch, Bethesda Game Studios Austin. BGS Austin, which was established early this year, is the company’s third office. BGS Austin actually used to be its own game developing company, otherwise known as Battlecry Studios. Ring a bell? I didn’t think so, which is why they basically sold themselves to Bethesda after their unsuccessful attempt at releasing their game Battlecry.

Fallout 76 was not brought to you by the developers of Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3 and 4. It was made by a company that attempted to make free-to-play games, but failed. I’m disappointed about how the game turned out — I wanted it to be great — but I’m also mad at Bethesda for putting one of their games in the hands of a new and rather inexperienced team.

If anything, it feels wrong to be reviewing the game right now. It feels incomplete, like it’s still in an early beta. But I have a little faith in Bethesda to redeem themselves here. If they can fix many of the bugs down the line, fix issues like the Stash and Camp limit, and possibly even add some human NPCs later, they could bring my 6/10 to a 9/10.

But as it stands right now, Fallout 76 is a 6/10, and I would not recommend getting it until further down the line when many issues are fixed — unless these problems don’t matter to you, and you just want to play with friends.