The opening moments of recent Fallout games have always astounded me.
Stepping out into the world on the heels of a gun fight in Fallout 3 is one of my favourite moments in video games as was watching a nuke detonate as we descended to Vault 111 in Fallout 4.
Fallout 76 has none of that. You wake up, create your character and in a few minutes you’re outside Vault 76 with the world waiting for you.
So far I have put 20 hours of my time into this game and I simply can’t bring myself to click “Play” on this game any more.
This is why.
Turning mustard seeds into mountains
Fallout has always been a game series marred by bugs and glitches. In the past this could be looked over because somebody in the modding community would ultimately save the day with a fix while Bethesda dragged its feet.
This time around, however, the modders are not here (as the game is always online) and Bethesda Game Studios has – to true to form – released yet another game riddled with bugs.
The problem is that in the space of an online game – which Fallout 76 is – these bugs are simply unacceptable and beyond that, for $60, gamers are expecting a playable game at release. Small bugs that got a chuckle from a player are now huge behemoths getting in the way of enjoying the title.
To me the most egregious problem with Fallout 76 is the lack of world building on Bethesda Game Studios’ part.
This is driven largely by the lack of friendly non-player characters and it feels lazy. There are of course quest givers in the form of robots, computers, holo tapes and notes that you happen upon around the world.
Gone are the NPCs that would turn on you if you picked the wrong dialogue option, gone are the companions who would divulge details of their life in the wasteland. This game is you, perhaps some friends and the nasties of Appalachia, and it sucks.
On adding friends to the equation – our experience has been terrible. The user interface on PC makes no sense at all and if you manage to get a friend on the server you’re in good luck. We experienced rubber-banding, lag, lack of voice chat and more while trying to play with friends.
Fallout 76 is a lesson in frustration.
Speaking of frustration, lets run over the survival aspect of Fallout 76.
Much like other games in this genre, there are four meters you need to monitor at all times in Fallout 76:
- HP – if it reaches zero, you die and have to respawn
- AP – Used to sprint and target enemies in VATS
- Food – Eat regularly or suffer
- Water – Drink regularly or suffer
Not paying attention to either of those meters results in bad things happening. Don’t drink enough and you become dehydrated and AP regenerates slower, don’t eat enough and you will carry less weight, lose all your health and you die.
Imagine having to monitor a shared spreadsheet all day for changes and you’ll have an idea of what Fallout 76 is like. Missions are interrupted by the need to hunt for ammunition, healing items, water and food which can often take 30 minutes to an hour. I often find myself logging out of Fallout 76 having done no missions but already bored of boiling water, crafting food and healing up.
You can set up a CAMP which you can fast travel to for free (fast travelling around the map costs you caps now for some reason) or setup in certain locations around the world. Moving your camp costs caps though and eventually moving your CAMP around is just a pain.
Everything in Fallout 76 feels like it is out to get you. There are very few “safe” areas and in this game that is problem. In the early stages of the game it is so easy to become over encumbered it’s stupid.
As such you spend a lot of time managing your inventory but this is now an extreme sport because at any moment an enemy could spawn near you and start attacking.
Other issues with this survival skewed Fallout 76 include:
- Food rotting at an alarmingly fast rate
- Being thirsty every time you log into the game
- Being over-encumbered because you didn’t focus on upgrading strength
- Being hungry but having no food or food crafting station around
- Getting a cool mutation but losing it because you took RadAway
All of these things make Fallout 76 more difficult to enjoy.
Fallout 76 also inadvertently punishes players for picking the wrong SPECIAL (strength, perception, endurance, charisma, agility, luck) attributes.
After 20 hours in the game I am unable to carry more than three weapons, ammo, the gear on my back and the most minimal amount of junk I need for crafting. This means that I cannot pick up new gear at all without running the risk of becoming over-encumbered.
The Fallout 4 Elephant in the room
At E3 we were promised better graphics, better performance and a game that just works.
Aside from some new textures, enemy models and landscapes, Fallout 76 looks identical to Fallout 4. Hell, at release the game even had bugs that were present in Fallout 4 that were only patched out because the community took the time and effort to fix that game.
To me that says Bethesda pretty much hit Ctrl C, typed a few extra lines of code and then hit Ctrl V.
The graphics are okay until you start looking at things a bit closer. Textures often take forever to load in and there is a serious amount of pop-in from the landscape as you walk. You can go up mountains and see for miles but you won’t see “distant weather systems” on the horizon, you will see pop-in.
Oh and the water looks, well, see for yourself.
In a bid to make VATS “work” online, Bethesda thought that simply making the feature auto-aim for the player would be good.
In the immortal words of the orange president, WRONG!
The only reason combat worked in previous Fallout games was BECAUSE of VATS.
The ancient shooting model that Fallout uses just doesn’t work in an age of twitch shooters. After playing Destiny 2 for a few hours and coming back to Fallout 76, shooting feels like chore. Reloading takes forever and enemies are much faster than you, aiming is frustrating especially with a scope and even shooting an enemy point blank can result in a miss.
The more I play the game the more I find myself saying “For f**k sakes Bethesda”.
Never, ever again
I am rather lucky in that I have not paid for the copy of Fallout 76 we were sent for review purposes. Had I been forced to pay full price for this game I would be banging the door down at Bethesda Game Studio to demand a refund.
There is absolutely no need for anybody to play Fallout 76. Yes, this is a Fallout game that you can play with friends but your friends will curse your name for making them purchase this game.
Should Fallout 76 become free to play, even then we’d caution against using your data to download and play this game.
There are fundamental issues with Fallout 76 that no amount of quick patching will fix.
As its reward for this failure of a game I am giving Fallout 76 the lowest score I could give a product. But more than that I would caution against ever pre-ordering a game from Bethesda, not just the game studio but the publisher itself, before you know exactly what you are getting yourself into.
This sort of behaviour needs to be called out and apologies to the folks who poured hours into making this game but your boss, Todd Howard, lied to us and I don’t entertain liars.
Disclaimer: Fallout 76 was begrudgingly reviewed on PC using a a copy of the game sent to Hypertext for review purposes.