Fallout 76 Review - Broken mind inside a shattered body.
Now Fallout 76 “beta” is finally here on PC and players can have a glimpse of what they will find on Nov 14th launch in few, time-gated beta sessions. In this brief review, I will not be focusing on server stability and connectivity issues but on the core concept of the game.
So what you can know from this Fallout 76 Review? In short: Fallout 76 is not a game. Whether its PS4 Xbox or PC version.
Fallout 76 Review - It’s not a survival
Fallout 76 announced itself as a multiplayer survival game that will revolutionize the genre. I was quite excited as I am a hopeless survival games addict that has spent copious amounts of hours in games like Rust, Ark or Conan Exiles. The problem with survival games is the basic idea of being able to lose everything, it sounds appealing at first but when you will lose your base that you’ve spent weeks building you will feel your soul crumbling down. Many players think that they can cope with the loss but once they have to face the grim reality of a survival game they usually quit. In most survival games there is also a PVE Server option but that’s like going to your drug dealer for a can of Red Bull.
Problem with Fallout 76 is that it completely takes away the consequences of your poor decisions. Your base is mobile, you can move it from place to place and when you disconnect from the server it vanishes completely. Your stash can be accessed only by you and when you are killed you lose only your junk items. After death, players always respawn with all their guns and armor. You will not lose anything of value no matter how hard you try to screw up. This completely butchers the incentive to engage in PVP with other players, raiding and looting are pointless and any PVP fun you were having in other survival game completely non-existent.
Base building is also pointless, other than a free fast travel point on the map (by the way: fast travel in a survival game, who thought that to be a good idea I wonder) and a place to stash your junk, there is no value in building it up. You dont need to care about defenses as there is nothing anyone could steal, you don’t need workbenches as those are scattered all over the place, same as beds and farms. Just like in Fallout 4, base building is a toy within a toy that serves no real purpose.
Another key aspect of survival games is resource management, in titles like Ark you have to keep yourself fed and hydrated if you fail to do so you will die of malnourishment, Fallout 76 absolutely kills that aspect by making dehydration and starvation limit your Action Points which basically means you won’t be able to sprint much or use V.A.T.S… and that’s pretty much it. Some could argue that radiation and RNG mutations are something new and fun but the reality is that none of those are actually deadly.
Fallout 76 lacks key survival features and the newly introduced mutation system feels more like a gimmick than anything else. So if not a survival… what is Fallout 76?
Fallout 76 It’s not an RPG
Fallout 76 is set in West Virginia. Players are inhabitants of Vault 76, one of few Vaults that were not sites of cruel experimentation performed by Vault-Tec. Upon leaving the Vault you will be set on an “adventure” by a robot to uncover why the entire valley is void of any human beings. The entire plot revolves about following a trail of audio logs, notes, and terminal entries. The only NPC interaction you will have will be with robots that provide no real conversation. The entire quest line is just series of “go there, kill this”, its pretty short and is as generic as any “mysterious virus” story goes. You will not be making any “morally grey” decisions, you won’t be able to get multiple ending or finish quests in various ways that will result in different outcomes. You will follow the dots until this “game” runs out of a story to tell. Then all you will be left with will be some repetitive and tedious world events that will grant you some minor rewards and exploration. I have played the beta for about 8 hours total and I have seen about 25-30% of the entire map, which means that full release will have about of 25-30 hours of boring content for 60$.
It’s not all bad tho. Exploration is still fun, running around old bunkers, schools, prisons, and amusement parks are as appealing as always, the problem is… you only discover something once. Exploration alone, as fun as it might be, will not last for long and once you are done with that aspect of the game you will notice that there is not much left to do.
Character progression also ruins the RPG experience as it’s based around randomized perk card system. Every level you pick one of your S.P.E.C.I.A.L attributes to level up, the higher the level the more points you have to spend on perk cards tied to that specific level. For example level 2 marksman, perk card increasing your rifle damage, will require 2 perception points. In theory, it sounds fun but the main problem is that the perk cards are given out in card packs that contain random perks. Do you want a gunsmith perk? You have to roll the dice. Currently, there is no option to buy additional card packs but the system has the potential to be exploited with microtransactions in the future and absolutely butchers RPG character progression.
It’s not a shooter
Nobody really expected Fallout 76 to have excellent combat but at least they could’ve tried. Melee fighting is basically “swing till it’s dead” and shooting is a weird mix of RPGesque modifiers and FPS. When you shoot your enemy straight in the head you still can miss due to some hidden modifiers. There is a V.A.T.S system which is basically a percentage based auto-aim that is usually more efficient in taking out enemies than regular spray-and-pray, so if you think your superior first-person shooter skills will give you an edge against others in Fallout 76 you’re wrong. Fallout 76 inherited all the terrible peeves of “typical Bethesda” combat. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is.
It’s not a PVP game
This should be covered in “survival” part of the review but PVP system in Fallout 76 is so bad it deserves a separate segment. Basically, you cannot just go around willy-nilly killing every player you encounter. When you attack another player you will deal only a tiny bit of damage until that player attacks you back, the fight is entirely between you and him and all the party members of either of the sides follow the same ruleset.
Imagine this situation now: you are running around solo and encounter a group of five. You engage one of them and he hits you back, you are now fighting, his teammates try to help but you don't reply to their damage just yet, you kill your target, now you have four other players that tagged themselves on you, you pick one at the time killing the entire party off. This terrible system is supposed to be a middle ground between PVE and PVP crowd but currently, it serves only as an annoying tool for griefers (griefers, that this system was supposed to defend against).
Other than that there really is no real incentive to attack other players other than sheer boredom. There is nothing to gain except some scrap material. You can occupy and defend a resource node that will produce food or concrete for you over time but why fight over it when you can just change shards until you find one with the resource being unoccupied? Fallout 76 fails to deliver any drive to fight other players, there is no value to territory control and base raiding is pointless. You don’t even compete for the treasures found in various chests since the loot is personalized, which means everyone gets their share.
It’s not a multiplayer game
Don’t get me wrong, it IS, in theory, a multiplayer game but it’s not built like one. The entire idea of a multiplayer game is a shared experience, Fallout 76, however, makes other players nothing more than an annoyance. When you are performing quests only one person can contribute towards its progress, a party can consist of a maximum of five players and there is no way of constructing a permanent establishment or form a more formalized group like a clan or a tribe. Members of your team are useless against hostile players unless the hostile player lets you fight him and resource ownership always goes to a single player. Currently, Fallout 76 does everything in its power to make group play as pointless as possible. The only multiplayer content that actually might need a group are the random repeatable world events but you can do it with random people that you never had or will speak with.
Fallout 76, in Bethesda announcement, has no NPC’s because it was the players that were supposed to fill up the world. In practice, we just have some random people you won’t interact with and you won’t care about, I find Nazeem walking around Skyrim commenting on the frequency of my visits to the Cloud District more immersive than random, stupidly named, phantoms. Problem with this solution is that NPC characters are designed to act like human beings inside of a story, actors that help us immerse into the world. Players are, well, players, they are not here to entertain us, they are here to play the game. Unless you encounter a group of hardcore roleplayers you will not have any meaningful interaction with other people in West Virginia.
BUGS BUGS BUGS
We all got used to Bethesda games having bugs, no matter the platform, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, despite delivering the best narrative experience every single game is riddled with bugs, but it is nothing that you will see in Fallout 76. Playing Fallout 76 and exploring the wasteland of West Virginia will make you encountered bugs so elaborate you might think that some people in Bethesda actually made their careers around crafting those errors. During our gameplay, we have seen some of the worst bugs: duplicating power armor, duplicating entire buildings, unable to add friends to the friends list, bugs that make you immortal, bugs that make you unable to leave your power armor, server crashing when triggering events, CAMP sinking under the textures, glitched NPCs, weapons straight out not working, inability to join a group, huge random FPS drops, loading screens taking a couple of minutes, overpowered one-hit melee builds, locations that make your game quit to desktop, bugs that stop you from completing main story quests - and those are just a top of our list, the actual number game-breaking bugs go on endlessly.
Despite the heavy media coverage and massive outrage on social media, Bethesda did little to patch the most pressing issues focusing their patch around non-pressing matters. Those bugs might have been tolerable if this was not an online game with PVP elements and competing over resources. Bethesda promised two updates in December yet none of them fixes exploits like unlimited weight or endless perk stacking - and let me tell you - I much rather cope with low-res textures and glitchy power armor than going versus players that one shot you with a rolling pin for a weapon.
It’s not a game
Some might say that Fallout 76 tries too hard to do everything at once. I would say that Fallout 76 does not try at all. It feels like a big fan-made multiplayer mod for Fallout 4, more a gimmick than a real game. The lack of any goal or incentive to participate in any activities make Fallout 76 nothing more than a hiking simulator. The lack of impact player has in the world is a massive blow to what this game was supposed to be: a survival. The only few hours of fun you will get is from exploring the wastes of West Virginia, beyond that there is nothing that would justify the current price tag. Bethesda, once again, wins thanks to a blind, overzealous fanbase which will be continually exploited by this gluttonous company until it’s fed money. Perhaps it is time to stop trusting the company that releases “early access” 14 days before launch and calls it “beta” to shield itself from any criticism.
Fallout 76 is a disgrace to the genre, not only it shipped as a broken mess we haven't seen since Assassin's Creed 4 on PlayStation 4, but the Power Armor Edition shipped with a nylon bag instead of advertised canvas. To makes matters worse all the sponsored, pc games shill media tried to hide the fact that in the age where Rockstar Games can release a perfect game like Red Dead Redemption, Bethesda is trying to push their fully priced piece of post-apocalyptic garbage. Fortunately, in the latest news, Fallout 76 simply bombed in the reviews and even the promoted links did not help, perhaps the poor results will make Bethesda realize that the time for releasing feature void, poor quality, half-arsed, legacy defying products is over no matter how hard they advertise it.