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Fallout 76 Review – The Lonely Road

I've been a fan of Bethesda era Fallout played since their restart of the franchise with Fallout 3 . Despite…

I’ve been a fan of Bethesda era Fallout played since their restart of the franchise with Fallout 3 . Despite the casualization of the franchise and the move to make it more of an action shooter with a little RPG mechanics, I continue to come back to the franchise because of its open world, post-apocalyptic palette that allows me to explore while I’m carving out my own history. Scripture may have been useful sometimes, but there is something about the formula they’ve had that causes me to make random page costs. Their latest post, Fallout 76 discards all individual players’ history in favor of an online, multiplayer-focused Fallout game. Does this huge change work work? Is it worth it?
Issue: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Platform: Windows PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One
Release Date: November 1

4th, 2018
Players: 1 – 24
Price: $ 59.99

Fallout 76 began as an experiment to add multiplayer to Fallout 4 previous single player game in the franchise. As such, it is meaningful that the game looks very like its predecessor, even though it seems to have got a bump in visual. The game is also in the same engine, which has probably been upgraded to the new game.

The textures, the environments, the objects and the foliage look similar to previous games, and do not affect much so much. The large size of the map, which is mostly open world like any other Fallout game can cause some performance issues, ranging from randomly floating objects and textures, large frame drops, full game lock ups, and now the introduction of latency.

I’ve spent between 50 and 60 hours in the game between PlayStation 4 and Windows PC versions, where the PC building seems to be more stable. I have not had a complete crash yet, but I’ve had several full lock-ups and network latency is getting bad sometimes. The game itself goes a bit slow sometimes when you are in an area with a lot, but not too often.

The lighting in the game definitely seems to be the most improved part of the overall presentation, and sometimes I was impressed by the environments. I spent the most time with the PC version of the game, with the visual settings all maxed. It really seems as if this has the most foliage of something Fallout game, which is odd because it takes place shortly after the nuclear weapon.

Many fans and friends have asked me how broken or unplayable that game is – the short version is Fallout 76 has usually been a stable and very playable game for me. I run the game on a good rig and on the gigabit internet so the single framerate dips or choppiness feels like a combination of network delay and the engine itself tries to stay.

Most of my time with the game has again been on PC. The game has typically run on a stable frame rate and I have not experienced any really game-breaking results. On PlayStation 4, the game had more striking dips and choppiness, but overall it was still the most playable. I have had friends telling me very different experiences, but so far my game has been stable.

Fallout 76 With regard to gameplay, all you saw in Fallout 4 but as previously mentioned – without any real story or NPC. The core play goes down to: explore, kill, scavenge, scratch and then change or build. There really is not much more to the game than that, so if you do not participate in this, it’s definitely not your game. Multiplayer is there, but it feels arbitrary to be honest.

My question with multiplayer in the game is that Bethesda is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to game design. There is no real threat or stamina in the game because the servers are arbitrary, your C.A.M.P. or the base will disappear when you log off or unpack it. Other survival sandbox games have set, permanent servers where the player’s entry or building has duration.

Furthermore, the lack of other players or player-to-player battles eliminates the multiplayer factor for me. When I first built my base, I only dared to cities to scavenge and I rarely hit player-killer or player for that matter. PVP is also discouraged unless both players shoot each other so it’s so pointless. There should be clear and separate servers.

The reason behind the lack of traditional servers is that Bethesda wanted to avoid breaking the dump. This happens regularly in the game anyway with its archaic menus, or the oddball bugs here and there. Certainly enemies can get wonky physics and fly or objects can be randomly unusable, but I would have preferred to just go on a PVP server instead.

If something feels multiplayer in this game as if you can only play together. Being a cock in this game will literally make you label as a player-killer on the map, and you’ll also get a sum. There were several times strangers and I would of course clean up areas or bodies together. “It’s fun with friends” is very true here, because you can definitely have fun stomping ghouls together.

As a solo experience, the game can be fun with the aforementioned gameplay loop of just rinsing and upgrading things. I found myself in the minutiae to tear out schools and hospitals for food trays to get more aluminum to repair my weapons. The problem is that this has become most of what the game is about now, and it can get quite damn alone.

Since this is a survival game, you must handle your hunger and thirst. Bethesda did not want to deter more casual players, so these mechanics are to a large extent a cakewalk to handle and it does not take long to get your first water purifier. After that, the game is mostly a piece of cake and you will mostly do the sweep for better exchange and better material.

This is an open world Bethesda game, so I have to say that the game works better than I thought it would. I have not had a server connection yet, but it seems that the performance on consoles is more sketchy. This game probably runs on the same technology and engine powered Fallout 4 and with most Bethesda games, the longer you play the more unstable they can get.

For the time I’ve entered the game, I have not seen the typical Bethesda goofiness where the game saves I’ve begun to collapse at the seams. Perhaps due to the lack of real player bet on the map, the basic change in focus on the game is coded with many players in mind, and not just one. There are some problems with latency and AI behavior.

There have been many times when the creep AI is completely brainwashed. Whatever the creature, there were many times I would shoot my sniper rifle in my head and they would stand there and stared me down. I think this can record in network delay is a problem here and there, where sometimes my attacks – varied or melee – would hurt my enemies a few seconds later.

V.A.T.S. is basically completely unreliable now because it works in real time, while mainline Fallout game would pause the game when you started the feature. This removes the last real tactical part of the franchise that remained because real-time enemies make the reliability of V.A.T.S. random at best. I use it just to quickly detect enemies in thick foliage.

I wanted a part of this review for some of the dubious business decisions taken in Fallout 76 . For one, the game has a micro-transactional store called Atomic Shop. This store currently only sells cosmetic items, which you can buy with “Atoms” that can earn in the game or – you guessed it, bought with real money. I did not even know that it existed, to be honest.

The game shows massive Atomic Shop and I have to see people talking about it on social media before I was looking for it. Because the game uses the same engine as Fallout 4 of course, it also has reuse of assets from that game. There are assets in C.A.M.P. creativity package literally copied into Fallout 4 and it is unacceptable. Should all new assets be so difficult?

With the limited number of changes in the game and the blatant reuse of assets from Fallout 4 I sometimes knew that this could easily be presented as a spinoff and it would be much less backlash. In many respects, it feels more like a cash move, an experiment to see how a core group who prefer single-player RPG is responding to such a drastic change of gig.

The change of benefits to these new perk cards has worried me. They will eventually roll into Atomic Shop. There is no point in changing a system that was not broken to focus on a gambling system, where you are not guaranteed to get the benefit you really want at a certain level. Bethesda has promised that they will not let you buy cards with money, but I think it’s possible.

There is really no overall story in Fallout 76 page assignments. The supposed main story has followed you to Vault 76 Overseer after she left before you woke up. Unfortunately, this consists of finding old holotapes and listening to her rattle off about her life. The only NPCs in the game are robots and Mr. Handy robots that scream dumb things or missions.

The only mission you can get is usually to get assignments or inquiry missions and it’s many times you lead to think you can actually meet with an NPC – just to find it’s another dead body, or a robot. The assignments are useful, but mostly boring and soulless. I do not know we have done boring retrieval to Bethesda before, but then we had a true NPC with a story.

I think Bethesda could have at least tried something of middle class, having the map to be generally open and sandbox for players to move in, but have navy towns here and there with real NPCs that string together long chains. I get why they went for a pure multiplayer experience, but this decision killed all these appeals. This game will have too many long fans.

Since there is no overall story there is no real playoff to Fallout 76. The closest thing you can get today is to start the nude and gather a high-quality creature that acts as a raid boss. When the boss is killed you rinse and repeat in another place.

The music of Fallout 76 composed by the series’s starring Inon Zur, is quite amazing. The instrumental pieces that would fade in and out while exploring had a really nice balance between mystery, wonders and, most importantly – a bleak, fragile, lonely feeling that reflected the same experience you get when you play. It just fits the match so well and I really enjoyed it.

The few voices you hear from holotapes and the single robot here and there are done well. My only gripe is that it was all this effort made for voice work on these holotapes when all this could have been used against actual NPC. Having a real character with emotional body language, wishes and needs would help make the game feel more lively.

Sound effects are usually quite large, especially the different weapons that you can figure out pain in the wilderness. I have been quite impressed with the sound design of modern Bethesda games, and while they may sound similar – or maybe the same – as before, they still sound good here.

Overall, Fallout 76 resembles the core gaming experience found in Fallout 4 ] only with multiplayer sorting in any way. There is no real overall story and no NPCs that really talk about, yet there’s a great map to explore and gather things while they’re just getting stronger. It is the modern Bethesda Fallout experience, distilled to the kernel’s game run.

You can be joking by saying that Bethesda finally listened to fans who complained about their story by completely removing the story, but now it feels like having no legitimate direction. I can dig the monotony of spelling and scrapping, but eventually there is nowhere left to explore. I’m unsure how much I can recommend it, especially with support is limited.

I’ve had my time with Fallout 76 and I will keep coming back to the game but I’m not sure how long the game will last after the first buyers and interest dies down – it can boil down to players who make their own thing. As a lonely experience, you can get some fun out of it, but do not expect a big story or something – the game is literally what you do about it.

Fallout 76 was reviewed on Windows PC and PlayStation 4 using review copies purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamers reviews / ethics policy here.


The Good:

  • The Nuclear Game May Be Addictive
  • New World With Many Areas To Explore
  • Visual seems to be an improvement over Fallout 4
  • Haunting and Fit Soundtrack
  • Preston Garvey is not born yet so he can not annoy you every three seconds

The Bad:

  • Unreliable performance sometimes, framerate dips, hard-locks, etc.
  • No real NPC or motivation to play apart from exploration.
  • Available missions are boring and lifeless. Download often missions
  • Multiplayer feels arbitrary
  • Bad server organization / lack of stamina, player structures disappear between sessions / servers

About Brandon Orselli

Big Papa Overlord on Niche Gamer. Italian. Dad. Outlaw is fighting for a better gaming industry. I also write about music, food and beer. Also an IT guy.

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