Oh Bethesda, when you announced Fallout 76 at your briefing during E3 2018 I along with many others shared the same reactions of “really?” and “why?”. Multiplayer Fallout was never something I expected to hear mostly because it was something I never wanted or needed from the series and so whilst curious about it, I was never really hyped up. After managing to spend some time in the beta at the ungodly hours it was held for the US players, I had concerns about it, but with Bethesda bigging up how they were listening to player feedback with changes incoming ahead of launch, I at least hoped that Fallout 76 would release in an OK state. But this is Bethesda at the end of the day, and the one thing I can take from the Fallout series is to expect bugs….sadly these were not the ‘smash over the head till they pop rad-roaches’ kinda bugs.
By now if you are reading this then you will already know just how bad a state Fallout 76 is currently in, and that is even after a 51gb launch day patch and another 47gb patch just a week after launch. 100gb of patching in 7 days of its launch and it is still full of bugs, glitches and issues that any launch game in 2018 from a massive AAA publisher like Bethesda should be ashamed to release to market. This is a game that highlights everything that is wrong with Bethesda and how is uses its most iconic gaming series with such recklessness that it is no wonder fans on every platform Fallout 76 is on are angry and review scores have been just terrible. I very rarely start a review by warning readers to immediately avoid the game but in this case, I have to begin by saying DO NOT BUY THIS GAME RIGHT NOW.
Fallout 76 is a game that belongs in early access and only early access right now, that is just how broken and unfinished this game is. Bethesda have simply taken elements from Fallout 4, stripped away just about everything that made Fallout 4 remotely fun, and believe me when I say that I found Fallout 4 an average experience at best, and decided to make their own “Sea of Thieves” game for fans to make their own adventures in. So many promises were made about players being to do anything and everything they wanted to do in their own Fallout world but this sadly fails to deliver on most of them. Every time I fire this game up I encounter issues and bugs almost immediately such as when I spawn at my camp, I arrive in the game before my camp is loaded into the game and more often then not, if I fail to move out the way fast enough, the camp will actually spawn right on top of me, trapping me underneath it and I kid you not, within the first few minutes of being in the world I am having to fast travel to my camp from the game map which is just crazy terrible after two HUGE patch updates.
So just where has Fallout 76 gone so wrong, well for me it all starts with the moment you leave Vault 76 after you create your own Vault dweller and then leave the vault because you wake up to discover you are the only person remaining in the vault because everyone else has already celebrated reclamation day and have left. One you collect your bits and pieces for what you need to start life in “Appalachia” which is the Fallout representation of West Virginia in the US. The very first thing that hits you are the visuals which are exactly the same as Fallout 4, which released in 2015 making it a three-year-old game. It really hits you just how average the graphics engine is right now in 2018 so the very fact they have stuck with it is annoying. It becomes more annoying when you get visual issues such as the world around you not only looking rather ugly but when details on buildings fail to load correctly which happens constantly not to mention the screen tearing and right away, the reality that this is still a work in progress game hits you.
The next thing is that the game has zero NPCs in it, which Bethesda said as part of the reveal of the game was so every person you met in the game, would be a human player. The problem this has in reality is that in this world of Appalachia which is four times the size of the world in Fallout 4, is that it forever feels empty of life. Now you do come across enemies and missions can be found to do, but not having NPC Characters to tell you their story, to team up with or to visit where they live just removes the kind of experience you expect to have in a Fallout game and it is just weird. It also means that every radio signal you hear will never lead to meeting an NPC and that every settlement, farm and town you go to will not have anyone that you can engage with unless it is a human player or one of the boring enemies that you encounter in the game.
When I mean boring, I mean tragically boring such as the Scorched, which are the Fallout 76’s version of the Walkers from the Walking Dead who are just zombie level enemies that can be armed and will swarm you till you wipe them all out. Their animation is just as woeful as the AI behind them and they are never threatening and instead are just annoying things on screen that do nothing more then highlight how bad the AI is and how god-awful combat is in the game but will come to that next. Exploring the world feels shallow and is not helped by probably the worst quests and missions in a Fallout game yet which boil down to either fetch quests such as finding and collecting ten beer bottles (not kidding) or going to place B to grab something to then return to place A for very little rewards. The quests end up being so mundane at the beginning that just wish there was an NPC you could at least talk to so that you can learn their story. Instead you just keep finding letters and holo tapes of people long since gone or dead to find the lore of this land.
The combat is so bad, I mean from using guns to melee weapons, they all just feel so terrible to use in combat. Hit detection can be so hit and miss even at close range it just feels so clumsy and awkward which is not made any better by the enemy’s AI also being terrible as they just flail their arms if they are the scorched who also have worse aim then any Storm Trooper in Star Wars or enemy in the A Team. It is just so uninspired that the only hope of real combat comes from the PvP with other players but this has been so nerfed to avoid griefing that PvP is rendered redundant form the off. In order for players to engage in PVP battle, both players must fire so for example, if I were to happen across you in my game and I fire at you, the damage would be so low it would barely register even if I had a weapon that was 20 levels higher then you. Now as long as you don’t return fire, it will stay that way, I couldn’t kill you no matter what weapon or explosive I used but should you return fire then “COMBAT” mode begins and normal damage will be taken. Killing other players will result in you having a ‘Wanted’ status which will mark you on the map for other players to hunt you down for a reward in caps. The whole system is so handicapped in trying to avoid players griefing or trolling each other that it just nullifies any point in taken part in PvP which just leaves the teaming up option for public events which are also so dull and uninteresting to complete that I just stopped bothering to take part in them.
Another system that is also made pointless is the whole survival where you can get hungry and thirsty if you do not eat or drink, you can even become sick and take damage if you fail to take any medicine to cure yourself. The reason why this is all pointless is because you always find food and something to drink along with medicine to cure disease or to remove radiation almost everywhere you go exploring so it never becomes something you need to greatly worry about so negates the entire point of having a survival element to the game. This is all before you being crafting your own medication at the chemistry table or crafting your own weapons and armour and cooking your own food. Now before you can craft you will need to discover and then learn the plans or recipes for items and food before you can craft them but again, these are pretty much found everywhere you look so you can learn all the basics you need and then more as you level up further.
My pain of crafting really comes in the form of the C.A.M.P. base building system, which was first brought into Fallout 4 via DLC but in Fallout 76 is a big part of the game itself. The whole idea is that wherever you are in the world you can use a portable C.A.M.P. unit to enter build mode which allows you to build a camp. Unlike Fallout 4 however, this is a really limited base building mode at the start and its rather problematic. I spent an hour building my first camp, finding materials needed to put something I thought would make quite a cool home base. I really liked my three-floor structure which was defended by turrets and even had a whole garden area plotted out with Corn and wild berries for food. But the next day, when I loaded the game back up to carry on, I found my camp was gone, just wiped from the world with nothing I built even stored in the inventory of my C.A.M.P. so basically everything I built and scavenged for was just gone. This happened to me twice and this was after the second game update was released. This is on top of the issue I first described of launching into the game only to have my camp spawn after I had spawned into the world and often right on top of me if I failed to move out the way. It is just such a clumsy base building that almost nothing has been learned from the one added to Fallout 4 and its bothers me greatly that they took a system that is two years old at best and actually made it worse.
Before when I said that Fallout 76 was the ‘Sea of Thieves’ of Bethesda I absolutely meant it. What Bethesda has done is create a massive world size playground and expects players to either team up with friends or with random players in order to make their own adventures in this world. As a solo experience this is not worth your time because so much of it is locked out until you reach a high level such as power armour which you can find very early in the game by exploring the area around Vault 76 but only to be told you are too low a level to wear that power armour. You can wear the power armour chassis though and as someone who now has five sitting in my Stash box, the grind to get to a level to actually make a complete set of power armour in a world that is so boring and broken just adds to the disappointment of it all. But like Sea of Thieves, when you do and can group up with friends it does become remotely fun because everything is better with friends, the world can be broken and boring but playing alongside your friends and seeking out the big events in the game such as the fall out areas and the large flying scorch beasts, which are just larger re-skinned Skyrim dragons btw, but the big difference is that this is a fully priced AAA game and Sea of Thieves is free to play with the Xbox Games Pass. The price has already dropped both here in the UK and the US but it is still a full price game for something that only deserves to be in early access/preview programme.
Fallout 76 is easily the biggest disappointment of 2018 and the lowest point for Bethesda for quite some time. The marketing for this game in no way does justice to just how poor a state the release version is in right now. At the time of writing this, Bethesda has set out their plans for the next two game updates but that will make four updates since it released and the majority of those updates are to fix broken elements in the game world for a game that was in beta for almost a whole month based on parts of the last Fallout game from three years ago. There is no silver lining with Fallout 76 at the moment, the gameplay tedious, the world is a broken mess and if you really want to have a Fallout game experience you are better off just buying Fallout 4 GOTY and working through that instead.
Avoid Fallout 76 right now, Bethesda could well fix and add more elements to the game that will make it more fun to play but right now, avoid this mess because its not finished, for the asking price and even if it drops below £30 for the holiday season, it is not a completed game and just the very fact is has a micro-transactions system called the Atom shop where you can buy cosmetic items to craft in the game for anything from £5 to £15 just for cosmetics just highlights how wrong Bethesda have gotten Fallout 76 and the fans of the series.
Fallout 76 made me sad and angry at the same time and for it to be one of the final big-name titles of 2018 is a very sorry state of affairs. Bethesda has let everybody down with this, and they have a lot of work to do to make it right and until they do, avoid it.