I have only ever regretted buying a game once before in my life which just so happened to be No Man’s Sky at it’s original launch. Now I suppose this is the second instance of a game purchase that has let me down. I had high hopes for this title and I believed in Bethesda’s stellar track record to keep this afloat however it seems as though we must all face reality at some point. Let’s see just how Fallout 76 has let down such a brilliant franchise.
The story being told here is actually directly tied to a gameplay mechanic and while this should normally be a good thing here it serves to detriment the experience. You are a member of Vault 76 who is emerging into post-apocalyptic America many years after the bombs have fallen. As one of the first people allowed back into this irradiated wasteland it’s up to you to survive, work out the mystery of the lack of survivors and rebuild society once more. On the surface this does seem like an interesting plot and the game guides you along the path of following your Overseer’s journey in order to figure out what is happening in this new world which helps to push you along. However the big problem this attributes to is the fact that there are indeed no human survivors. There is a story reason behind this but it still doesn’t help the fact that this contributes to making the world feel a lot more empty. Alongside this the only characters you really meet are robots and mutants and while some are interesting to talk to most of them feel rather generic and unlikeable which makes going through the main story a chore. Not only that but with most of the pre-disaster story being told through the medium of holo-tapes and notes which is not an engaging way to base your entire story around, rather they should act as ways of explaining extra lore or adding context onto a good tale instead of being the crutch that holds it up. I do like the environmental storytelling that Bethesda are known for in several locations however these stories are few and far between with the boring and tedious main plot taking up more of the space. I found more enjoyment simply ignoring my quest and simply go off in a random direction and explore which if you do play this I highly encourage you to do the same.
The presentation of the game actually looks fairly nice when it is working properly. The lighting system is much better than previous Fallout games and makes walking through certain parts of the world absolutely gorgeous. I especially like the larger amount of colours and brighter areas, especially the forest. While it might not make too much sense for an irradiated wasteland at times it does make the game more enjoyable to explore. I also liked the various locations in the world that had interesting structures and unique visuals that looked great such as the Top of the World Spire and the Water Park. The enemies too are incredibly varied with some of the creatures based on cryptids having some great designs and intriguing behaviour. Indeed some of the most fun I had in this game was hunting down and finding out more about the various mutated creatures in this world such as the elusive Mothman. The music too I enjoyed as while the ambient music wasn’t too interesting the various radio stations and song choices they had all suited the world and I particularly enjoyed walking around with the Classic music station playing in the background. However the voice acting in this game I found to be dreadfully boring. A lot of the audio logs you hear are not interesting and the few intriguing characters you do meet have voiced bordering on irritating. Again however the technical issues plague the visuals of this game from god-rays that appear through the ground or building not loading in this is what dampened the experience for me. However when the game is running perfectly then it can certainly look pretty.
The gameplay then, well to get the biggest thing out of the way this is an online Fallout game which means you will be walking around the wasteland and every so often another player will cross your path. There aren’t too many players per server and so running into others is a fairly rare occurrence which is fine for me as I prefer to play solo anyway. However one of the main selling points of this game was the fact that you could either help other players or become a villain and fight them instead which should work both ways however PVP doesn’t actually start unless both players shoot at each other which leads to those wanting a PVP experience aimlessly shooting at others with no damage being done. It means players who want a solo experience are at times pestered by other people which can dampen their experience and those who want a multiplayer combat experience will be left dissapointed. Fallout 76 is built upon the systems of Fallout 4 which means you can play either in first or third person and your main focus is gunning down enemies with a variety of weapons and building using your portable camp system. The gameplay has hardly changed from the previous entry which leads to it feeling a bit clunky at times however one of the biggest changes is that the tactical V.A.T.S system is now real-time which leads to it just becoming a type of aimbot. I do appreciate the swiftness of the system now however it doesn’t feel interesting or fun anymore, especially with input and server lag. Melee in particular feels terrible as there is a huge distinction between when you swing your weapon and when it actually hits. The combat too is far too easy with hardly any enemies posing much of a threat to you and if you do happen to die you can in most cases simply spawn right next to where you died with no consequences. This combined with the survival aspects of the game such as eating and drinking lead to death feeling trivial and resources being plentiful which is a big problem when you are making a post-apocalyptic survival game. The quest system too is far too clunky as while I liked there was a lot of things to do many of them simply felt like busywork and the massive amounts of quest markers on my map clogged it up very quickly.
This game’s biggest detriment however is the horrible state it has been released in. Bugs are absolutely everywhere and while some are funny or minor others can cause massive game-breaking glitches that ruin the experience for many. The servers too are simply not prepared to handle this player-load as they go down so many times that I counted in a four hour session I played of the game it went down almost on the hour four seperate times. This is unacceptable, especially for this being a full priced game. I would have expected this kind of shoddy network maintenance from a free independently produced game not from a fully priced triple AAA game. With it being an online environment too there are plenty of exploits, item duplication glitches, weird interactions between player clients and many other problems that lead to a horrible gameplay experience for many. It’s clearly evident that the Fallout 4 game engine is simply not capable of handling an online experience and while this would have been fine if there had been an offline mode no such option exists. Aside from the empty feeling this world produces I feel as though this game would have actually been much better if it had been an offline single-player experience, especially considering the interesting world of West Virginia and the clear amount of hard work that went into the creature design. Also the launcher this game runs on, the Bethesda Launcher, can burn in a hole for all I care as not only did it delete my whole game twice over but it won’t even let me move game files into it’s own folder on my PC. These huge issues could have been solved if it had simply been released on Steam as all previous Bethesda games have been.
Overall then this game is in quite the bad state. I have no doubts that as months go on and patches are added into this game it will end up becoming more playable and fun. In the current state Fallout 76 is in now however I encourage you to stay away from it as it’s a disgrace from a most beloved game company and has led to nothing but troubles and anger from those who have tried to play it. There is some merit in how the environment and enemies look and as such some work did clearly go into it but until all these issues are fixed I cannot recommend this game to anyone. Almost heaven this game is most certainly not.