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Ah, Fallout 76. Modern Fallout’s first foray into the online multiplayer territory and it went over…less than perfectly with its fans. When it was first announced that a new Fallout game was coming, people were pretty excited, except for the looming fear that Bethesda would take the glorious single player, choice valuing, multiple solutions Fallout and bastardize it to match today’s most toxic gaming trends. Would it be a battle royale, like every other game seemed to be? Would it be multiplayer? If it had multiplayer, could you still choose to play it as a single player?
Then when details starting coming out about exactly what Fallout 76 would look like, it seemed like everyone’s worst fear had been realized. People were freaking out, screaming into the aether, burning down villages, the usual internet outrage machine. But among the remains lay a small group of people who were at least willing to give this thing a shot. Some were even excited about it! While I had been expecting a typical Fallout game, I had also always wanted to be able to play alongside my fiancee and other friends in my favourite video game franchise. After tens of hours of playtime, here are my conclusions about Fallout 76.
Firstly, I think it makes sense to run down a list of the way this new entry into the franchise differs from other modern Fallout games. Obviously, there is multiplayer, it’s online, and the quests are more MMO directed than RPG. Another difference is that there are no NPCs in the sense that there are no other normal human beings in the world. There are enemies such as ghouls, Scorched, and other wildlife, but there are no raiders or human settlements. Anytime you see another human in Fallout 76 it means it’s another real player. There are also new things like timed events and PvP zones. Finally, there is no real end game, no ending conditions that could be considered winning or completing the plot.
Story and Environment
Personally, I’m no offended by the idea of there being no NPCs. Sure, in the past, raiders have been a key part of the universe, the omnipresent villain no matter where in the US you’re playing. But I was interested in seeing how they would make up for the lost characters. It was also reassuring to know that other players couldn’t hide in plain sight and attack me when I wasn’t expecting it. My problem with this new world is the reasons for it given in the plot. According to the game, there is a virus running rampant across Appalachia that is turning people (and anyone else for that matter) into the Scorched. The reason why there are no people is that they have all turned into Scorched or been killed by them. The only people living are the ones who have only just left the vault with you. But really, literally, everyone has been turned into Scorched? There isn’t one tiny faction somewhere that survived? Not even one weird hermit living in the mountains? It’s very hard to believe in a world where people have always managed to avoid other plagues such as FEV, Vault 22 virus, and the like.
Besides that annoyance, I find that the world is still very true to modern Fallout. The stories that can be found at every house and settlement, the giant monstrosities hiding around every corner, and the ever cynical take on large corporations and government programs. As far as the story goes, to make up for the lack of actual humans telling you their account, the terminal entries, voice clips, and notes seem to have at least doubled in size. This doesn’t work super well with a game that is now multiplayer. Many times I’ve told Nick to hang on for one second, I’m still reading that note I found minutes ago. If you can deal with that and suspend your belief to accept that everyone was keeping a diary on exactly what was happening to them at all times, this shouldn’t get in your way of enjoying the game.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have always been a big fan of the workshops in Fallout 4. It’s the first time in Fallout that you can actually have an effect on the rebuilding the world around you. In previous games, you had to just work with what other people have rebuilt into settlements and that was it. I really loved building new settlements, getting people to work together, and trying to fix up the wastelands.
As for the workshops in Fallout 76, I still like it, despite missing a large part of what made them so satisfying in 4. In 76, you have your C.A.M.P (Construction and Assembly Mobile Platform) which you can use to build a personal settlement for all your crafting, cooking, and resting needs. It is still fun to put together a building and try to get creative with your architecture, but the best part about settlements in Fallout 4 to me what the rebuilding of society. Since there are no NPCs, there are no beginning villages to build up.
So far, all I’ve built is a fairly normal 2 story house with a turret balcony and every crafting table in the game. However, I look forward to crafting better and better settlements as my level grows and my settlement capacity grows too. The only choices made with this system that I flat out disagree with is the Stash (a personalized container that you can use but no one else can access) having a limit to how much you can store in it and the lack of ability to scrap other things that were in your settlement before you placed the C.A.M.P. Both of these things are supposed to be changing in upcoming patches though.
I absolutely hate PvP. I am a horrifically competitive person and while I’ve learned to not get too heated when I lose to computer people, losing to real people still rustles my jimmies. Especially since people online can be a touch rude when then win and when they lose. Luckily, Fallout has a system in place for people like me! Something called consent based PvP means that until your target fights back, you do little to no damage to them. That means you can’t just sneak up on an unexpecting level 5 player and snipe them into oblivion with your level 92-ness. It’s almost like every fight is a proper duel, with both parties aware and prepared for the fight before it begins properly.
There are some flaws in this system though. For example, there is nothing stopping people from just following you around, jumping up and down in front of you, and waiting for you to accidentally hit them with a stray bullet. Once you hit them even once by accident, you are now fair game. While this has only happened to me once before, and I managed to avoid the jerk anyways, it kind of undoes the work to reduce griefing. Of course, you can block people, but all that does is mute their microphone to you, remove them from your map, and remove you from their map. They still exist in front of you though, so they can still do that annoying jumpy thing. I think blocking someone should remove them from your game in all ways. You shouldn’t be able to see them in the game or on the map and they shouldn’t be able to see you either.
There is also the bounty system. This means if you are repeatedly attacking someone who is pointedly not attacking back, you get a bounty on your head. This is to stop people from abusing the fact that even if the other person hasn’t fought back, the minor damage initial shots do can add up to a kill. If you have a bounty on you, you are fair game for PvP as well. However, this system is a little broken too. For example, the jumpy thing I mentioned earlier doesn’t net someone a bounty. It only goes into effect if the person is repeatedly attacking a bystander, not trying to troll that bystander into attacking them. There is also no way to forgive a bounty, so in the off time that Nick has accidentally shot my C.A.M.P or me (before we are in a team together), he just has to wait for someone to come and off him. I can’t just report that I, as the target, forgive him and it was an accident.
My experience with having other players in my Fallout has by and large been very pleasant. Except for the single moment I mentioned in the PvP section, I’ve only met lovely people. There were the people who came by our C.A.M.P, waved at us, used our workbenches, and then paid us in steel for our trouble. There was the person who came to collect the bounty on Nick and after killing him, not stealing Nick’s loot and just leaving him some stimpacks for when he came back. We’ve had random people come to give us back up in fights, which is especially helpful when we were probably way too under-levelled for it. At one point I needed to kill a deathclaw, and when I ran up to the quest marked one, someone else was about to kill it. Instead of finishing the job before I could get a hit in, they stopped and waited, letting the deathclaw whale on them for a minute while I got my shot off.
Basically, Fallout 76 is full of cheerfully emoting, generously sharing folk and a couple of trolls in between. I think this comes from the fact that I don’t know if any hardcore Fallout fans really wanted a multiplayer game, so they are trying to make the best of it by being nice to the other players. It actually warms my heart quite a bit, especially if you’ve ever tried playing some of the other MMO games and heard what people are willing to call your mother if they lose.
Quests, Events, and Dailies
I am actually surprised at myself with how much I enjoy the dailies and events in Fallout 76. As someone who absolutely revelled in the normal Fallout quests with their alternate solutions and moral quandaries, I expected to find the quests in 76 to be weak and empty. Honestly, some of them are. But I have found that it doesn’t mean they aren’t fun too! I think the number one less I’ve learned from Fallout 76 is to stop taking Fallout so seriously. I know it might be hard to believe anyone can take a game about a post-apocalyptic sock-hop world full of zombies and smart-talking robot butlers too seriously, but here we are.
- The photo mode is actually ridiculously fun to mess around with
- The Atom shop is full of great additions to the options for clothing, C.A.M.P building, emotes, and more! Plus the fact that you can earn the premium currency for free through achievements is a huge plus
- Getting to play my absolute favourite game franchise ever with my fiancee, something I couldn’t do besides sitting next to him and watching him play
- Honestly, just the fact that there is more Fallout in this world is great
- Mothman. Just…Mothman.
- Fighting the boss type creatures, such as Scorchbeasts is a great challenge
- Weapon crafting, upgrading, and modifying has been tweaked a bit and I enjoy the mechanic
- I appreciate the survival mechanics, especially since they are kind of on easy mode. Playing with those additional metrics is previous games would mean playing it on a higher difficulty than I prefer
- The new perk system combines what I liked about previous Fallout levelling while adding some new dimensions, such as combining cards and sharing them with teammates
Changes I Want
- Anti-griefing systems to take into account people who are griefing without technically damaging someone else
- Larger limits on building size and an infinite limit on stash size
- More Mothman
- I WANT TO SELL EXCESS AMMO
- Any automation in settlements (hire robots to tend to crops?)
- A better, more robust blocking system
- Higher bounties sooner to increase the incentive to not be a jerk
- Ability to romance Mothman
I like this game. I really do. Sure I have some criticisms, but I have some criticism for any of the modern Fallout games. It’s pretty impossible to have a completely perfect video game. I haven’t gotten around to playing it in a couple weeks, but I definitely wouldn’t say that I’m giving up on it in any way. I know they’re still working on it and that my issues with the game will be addressed in one way or another. For now, I’m just trying to not get too caught up in fussing about lore or continuity and enjoy just being a wanderer.