Fallout 76 had a lot to say when it was revealed. It was multiplayer, it had the largest world of any Fallout, it was going to be fun. The trouble is that it just doesn’t work, the world is too big and empty, and the quest design as uninspired as it gets. If the only way for a game to be entertaining is by having your friends make jokes about it as you journey together, then it has failed at one of the things that most games should be. It has failed at being fun, it has failed at being entertaining in its own right. If you want to hang out with some friends in an a post-apocalypse, then just go to a pub and watch the news.
While Fallout 76 is effectively a buggy mess, marred by frame-rate issues, quest bugs and general calamity when it comes to the engine, there’s still a decent amount of fun to be had here. Whatever you do, though, don’t come in expecting Fallout 5 otherwise you will be supremely disappointed. Fallout 76 is effectively about base-construction, survival and world-building, not the story and your part in it, which isn’t a bad thing. The execution is though.
Fallout 76 is a bold experiment with one of gaming’s biggest and most beloved franchises. Unfortunately the experiment seems like a failure so far. Bugs and glitches are everywhere, but worse is that the core principles of design just don’t function the way they seem like they should. Concessions had to be made in all facets of the experience to make multiplayer work, and sadly the benefits do not outweigh the costs. If you have a good group of dedicated players that will help you dig into the deeper, higher level parts of the game then it starts to grow into something unique and fun. Without that though, most players will abandon the game long before the more interesting elements develop.
Remember: as it’s an MMO, there’s the real possibility that just like Elder Scrolls Online the Fallout 76 of today is going to be very different to the Fallout 76 of next year, so while it’s not worth jumping into Appalachia right now, spend some time in your own personal Vault and emerge again when the radioactive dust has settled. I’ll be updating this review in a month to see how things have changed, and then again next year as Fallout 76 hopefully continues to grow and adapt, just like the Dwellers of Vault 76 running through its world will.
Which is the prevailing mood for Fallout 76, a game that comes bearing a lovely world, and the heft of a franchise on its back. The measures Bethesda has taken to get it online come with their own weight. Out with the NPCs but in comes a server full of people. Out with V.A.T.S. but in with survival elements. Out with the bugs – no, wait, they can stay. The rest has been jumbled around or replaced with something heavier. How funny that in a game built on cuts and compromise, you wind up wishing for even more to be scrapped. Life was lighter down in the vault.
Fallout 76’s setting is honestly beautiful, with its autumnal forests, irradiated bogs, ski lodges, folktales, and mountains hollowed by mining. It deserves to have a better game attached to it. There are some striking places to find, including a settlement built up from the stripped parts of a nearby crashed aeroplane. Following Vault 76’s overseer’s story is at times heartbreaking, even if it is told through tapes, and a mission that involves a veil, a mansion and a mysterious order was a highlight. But this potential is obscured by the game’s many problems. Previous Fallout games always had something to say about the post-apocalypse and the human factors that led to it; here, it’s reduced to shooting mutants and picking up rubbish. Even if, in the future, it mutates into something more stable, it will still feel eerily soulless.
In an effort to do everything, Fallout 76 fails to do any of it well enough to form an identity. Its multiplayer mindset robs its quests of all the moral decision making that makes the series great, and all that’s left is a buggy mess of systemic designs that never seems to work together and regularly contradicts itself. It all culminates in an aggravating endgame that’s more busywork than satisfying heroics. Bethesda missed the mark with Fallout 76, in part because it seems like it could never decide what it was aiming for.
Bethesda has stated it intends to continue supporting the game for a long time, but at launch, Fallout 76 is a poor experience. There are echoes of the series' admirable qualities, but look past that facade, past the cute Vault Boy animations, past the familiar radio tracks, and you'll find no heart--just an inconsequential wasteland doomed to be nuked over and over again.Last edited by celador - on 22 November 2018