Fallout 76 was created by Bethesda Softworks on November 14th, 2018. It was officially announced at E3 2018 on June 10th, and was definitely hyped up when it was announced. Todd Howard, director and producer of Bethesda Softworks, claimed that the game was “four times the size of Fallout 4”, “Sixteen times the detail”, and “you’ll have choices where you’ll decide the heroes and you’ll decide the villains”. However, when the game launched, it bombed in critical and audience appeal, labelling the game as a buggy mess, monotonous in inventory management, and extremely boring. I can definitely attest to this, as I pre-ordered the game back in 2018, and couldn’t even do their promotion of “playing the game 2 days early if you pre-order” due to the bugginess and the servers deleting my save. It felt empty with no NPCs outside of robots. It felt infuriating with the constant bugs that plagued the game. I quit after a week of playing the game. However, in April of 2020, they added a huge free expansion pack labeled “Wastelanders” that added a plethora of human NPCs and factions, and when I played it then, the game was a blast and felt like the world had a purpose other than being a sandbox. I actually completed the new Wastelanders expansion storyline and met some memorable characters. Now, with the new Pitt expansion pack released a month ago, allowing the ability for players to enter the raider infested city of Pittsburgh, let’s find out if the most infamous Fallout game is still deserving of the title as one of the worst Fallout games out there.
Fallout 76: Shaky lift, Steady flight
Story and Lore - 7/10
Gameplay and Mechanics - 8/10
Graphics, Setting and Artstyle - 9.5/10
Soundtrack - 8/10
Replayability - 5/10
Overall Ranking - 7.5/10
Fallout 76 has multiple questlines and stories, involving various factions and locations, so today, I’ll only be talking about the biggest and most noticeable questline, the Wastelander questline.
In the year 2077, the entire world was destroyed in nuclear warfare, but before the bombs dropped, a morally-questionable company known as Vault-Tec created various advanced bomb shelters known as “vaults”, and the game starts in vault 76. The goal was to keep people in the vault for 25 years and then open in order to allow us to “rebuild America”. The character wakes up as the last person in the vault, and has to leave the vault in an effort to discover where the Overseer went, as well as following the directive. As the character explores the world, they discover a “great treasure” that was hidden in Appalachia, one that attracted two factions, the raiders and the settlers. The character can choose to help one or the other to gather clues on the whereabouts of the treasure, and getting allies to help get the treasure with you. I found that, generally speaking, the raider characters are much more interesting than the settlers. I finished the questline originally as the settlers, and only remember one character in terms of personality, but even just starting raiders, I came across 3 interesting characters that have a great backstory. The questlines are fairly shallow compared to the other Fallout games, but I will say that the world’s locations all have great environmental storytelling. Tons of locations have pre-war and post-war notes that talk about the political struggle, living months after the bombs fell, or even internal struggles with families and scientific discoveries, and also explains it through environmental story telling, like with protest signs, messages, and corpses.
A lot of mechanics and gameplay in Fallout 76 are very similar to the previous game, Fallout 4, with some minor changes. The combat is almost identical to the previous, being an extremely customizable first person shooter. The guns and melee weapons gained can be customized to turn pistols into rifles or back into pistols, add status effects, make guns automatic, and increase stats for it. The major difference is I now have to learn how to make the mods for my weapon by finding the same weapon and scrapping it, which can be extremely annoying if you don’t get the mods you want. The more mods that I unlock for a gun, the lower the chance a new mod is unlocked, and it can be a slog to gather every gun I come across, haul it back to my base, and scrap them for the chance to get a new mod that I might not even use. The Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (VATS) is neutered in this addition to Fallout. While in previous games, VATS would freeze or slow the game to allow you to do an auto-aim shot, because everything is online, VATS now only allows players to do an auto aimed shot at the enemy, which made a VATS based playstyle feel pointless more like a utility. Another big similarity to Fallout 4 is the settlement building system, now rebranded into the Construction and Assembly Mobile Platform, or C.A.M.P. The C.A.M.P is almost identical, allowing players to build a small outpost to have a safe home, defenses, resources, and workshops, and certain questlines and factions will allow the player to have people live with them in their C.A.M.P. Some minor mechanics and gameplay assets include needing to eat and drink or else face stat problems, having perks each level that can help me or my team, and nuking the map in order to gain rare new resources and new enemies. A lot of these new mechanics are really fun and add a bit of challenge, but the problems with combat compared to every other game can make combat less fast paced or tactical, and can make the game feel really grindy at times.
I played Fallout 76 on the lowest settings available due to not having a powerful enough computer, and while the actual graphics were not amazing, the setting and style of the game more than makes up for the fact. The map is divided into 6 different biomes that are all completely distinct and gorgeous in their own way. I think the biome players start in, the forest, feels almost perfect in terms of where to start, being a fairly optimistic and pleasing place to start in. The map is vital for discovering important landmark areas, making the player feel like exploring these new areas and discovering new locations while on route. The entirety of Fallout is well known to have an atom-punk style to the entire game, with 50’s wallpapers, weapons, and music, while also including retro-futuristic appliances like laser weapons, rocket-powered robots, and nuclear-powered cars, but this game also had the sort of theme with cartoonish characters centered around the outdoors. There’s a lot of assets shared between this game and Fallout 4, but the new assets completely outweigh the previous games, with buildings, items, and weapons that better fit their theme of Appalachian and woodsman. Not only are these locales and biomes gorgeous, but one feature allows players to take in-game pictures and pose with logos and filters, which definitely adds to the fun and potential beauty when it comes to screenshots and creating memories. I’ve played the game previously on a much more powerful computer and was baffled by the beauty of the game, and while the graphics are a little lackluster for my gameplay, the world was still gorgeous as a whole and felt perfect.
The majority of the soundtrack is either ambiance or copyrighted songs from western/country musicians from the 1950’s, including Ernie Ford, Bob Willis, and The Ink Spots. The ambiance very much fits the theme, with slight hums of bluegrass instruments like harmonicas and pianos, as well as string instruments like banjos. It makes the world feel empty, but not hopeless. There’s also points in the game where players can play various types of instruments that do play a song that fits together when multiple instruments and players are available. Players can also tune into the radio in their menu to listen to the copyrighted songs that fit in the world. The music overall completely fits the theme of West Virginia and the theme of Fallout as a whole. Of the various songs they chose for Fallout 76, one of my favorites that has a jaunty tune but depressive lyrics is Bob Willis’ “Bubbles In My Beer” namely for the tune rather than the message, which you can listen to the “Appalachia Radio” version here: https://youtu.be/mD6_V4GfUrY
Despite this being an MMO game, I didn’t find that I was drawn back too much. Its got a couple interesting things to keep players coming in, such as a battlepass you get by doing daily and weekly missions, daily and weekly missions in itself for the store currency “Atoms”, and of course the new dungeons, expeditions, and expansions, but I found it somewhat hard to play the game consistently. I would play for a couple hours or so, log off, and not touch the game for a while, which is the opposite of what an MMO wants to do. I think one of the problems with coming back is simply how grindy the game is. Unless I’m completing quests, I’m more than often going to the same places I’ve explored for resources, blueprints, and weapons to haul back to my base to either break down or sell to other players. When players reach LV 50, they lose the ability to upgrade their stats and can only transfer points from one stat to another, which feels utterly pointless. players can get “Legendary perks” when they reach LV 50, but many of them are minor or situational boosts if the player is already going for that playstyle, like automatically opening locked containers or terminals, less action points used when running in power armor, or +50 increment to status DMG when wearing “a matching set of armor”. I stopped playing my last playthrough when I reached LV 52 since there simply wasn’t a draw to continue.
Perhaps one of the most controversial aspects of Fallout 76 it its ingame premium shop and subscription, The Atom Shop and Fallout 1st respectively. Many players complain that not only are the Atoms expensive for mostly cosmetic items (Some items and packs cost the equivalent of $15), but that some items could put one person at an advantage over another, and they will bring back items that were said to be “one time only”. When Fallout 1st was introduced, allowing players to have their own private world, unlimited scrap box to store junk items, special cosmetics, and a small amount of Atoms monthly, people were especially angry at this, claiming that this was the equivalent of paying to win. Where I stand on this is a mixture of both sides. Players can get Atoms from doing in-game quests that are occasionally character-tied or across their accounts, at 40-80 Atoms per challenge, which usually is enough for me when I want to get a costume or specific item. You won’t be able to get everything in the shop using just the challenges, but most of the time, I don’t really want half the stuff available. However, I believe Fallout 1st is a desperate attempt to get more money out of players, and doesn’t really feel needed for a game that’s already $40 to buy on Steam.
Overall, Fallout 76 is a game that people assumed was a complete failure when it first came out, and it was. Many people looked at it the same way they look at Bethesda as a whole, and called it a terrible game, and I could testify to that. But if you look at it now compared to what it was 4 years ago, it’s almost a completely different game that feels like more love was put into it. It’s a gorgeous and unique location for the Fallout franchise as a whole, and I would love to see more games that tackle places in the U.S.A or even other parts of the world for that matter. The gameplay is mostly built off of Fallout 4, which, apart from a couple questionable changes and mechanics, is fairly good overall, and the Wastelander questline made the game feel more like the player has a point of being there instead of just going on a goose chase for the overseer and just exploring with little reason. It’s not a game for everyone, and it’s not a game that you can run on a 2019 office laptop without facing horrible lag or diminished graphics, but if you like MMO’s, Fallout, FPS, or just want to play a game with friends, I would recommend at least looking into Fallout 76.
Fallout 76 can be bought on the PS4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows and Steam, which you can find here:
~Gorgeous world and locations
~wonderful fitting soundtrack
~Hard to play for long periods without being bored
~Unneeded microtransactions that theoretically put people at an advantage