Bethesda has taken a lot of flack from fans over Fallout 76 ever since it was announced, but personally, I’ve been cautiously optimistic about the game. It’s true, I’d much prefer Fallout 76 to be a more narrative-driven co-op PvE experience than the multiplayer survival sandbox we’re getting, but let’s be fair, the IP fits the genre like a glove. And best of all? It looks fun!
I’ve been playing the Bethesda (and Obsidian) Fallout games with survival mods or Hardcore mode in Fallout: New Vegas, so I’m right at home with a lot of the basic survival changes to gameplay that Fallout 76 features by default. These survival elements appeal to me, so I’m a huge fan of that move. And without the ability to save scum in FO76, I won’t even have the opportunity to resist the urge to reload after something inevitably goes awry.
That said, I mostly disliked Fallout 4, but the things I did like about it are why I expect to enjoy FO76. I often like to say Fallout 4 is a great game, but a terrible RPG. The combat is light years ahead of games like Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, so much so that I have a hard time going back to FNV (my favorite game in the series). Power Armor is really neat in Fallout 4, and I did love the Brotherhood storyline, but F4 fails spectacularly in terms of giving players the ability to roleplay their characters along the lines of the older games. So when I heard that Bethesda was essentially spinning off the gameplay of 4 into a multiplayer game, I was actually pretty excited. The solid gameplay of 4 in a Fallout-themed survival sandbox sounds like a great fit to me.
But would it actually be any good? Even Bethesda itself put out a note recently to curb players’ expectations, with warnings of “spectacular” bugs in the beta. I’ve seen some footage here and there where the game looked pretty rough, so I’ve been a little apprehensive. But yesterday, Bethesda kicked off its first beta for FO76 on Xbox One. I spent some time watching streams, as I’m sure many of you did. While things seem to start out slow, I found myself coming away mostly reassured by what I saw.
First off, the game appeared to run pretty smoothly for the most part. Given this was on console, it bodes well for PC, where I plan to play. I mention this because this particular genre is well known for its poor performance. The beta didn’t run perfectly by any means, but it went a lot smoother than I was expecting, especially after the press footage we saw recently. That’s not to say there wasn’t some typical Bethesda jank to go around, but that’s all pretty typical Fallout (and Elder Scrolls) stuff, so it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
FO76 also looked a bit emptier than I was expecting. Obviously, I’ve only seen a small snapshot of the world (through streamers’ eyes, no less) but I did get the feeling there weren’t as many interior locations to explore.
76 also seems to take a bit of time to ramp up. I was a bit bored watching players who just got out of the vault. Maybe it was just their particular ways of playing the game, but things started off a lot slower than I would have anticipated. Fortunately, about halfway through the four-hour test, things really seemed to gel together.
The gameplay of Fallout 4 is all there, and from the gunplay and melee mechanics to the crafting, things looked solid. Well, crafting looks mostly solid. Having to wait for other people to finish using work benches is going to be annoying. VATS is also still as terrible looking as we last saw it, but I’m honestly not sure what to expect of functional VATS in a multiplayer game. Personally, I was surprised to see Bethesda implement it at all.
The story bits were a bit more prevalent than I expected. I’ve pretty much disabused myself of the notion that I’d be getting anything interesting in terms of story from FO76, so maybe it’s just the low expectations talking here, but I feel like the extra emphasis on telling the story through the game world may work for FO76 along the lines of how it worked for The Division. I found the main plot of The Division to be fairly boring, but I was surprised and impressed with how the world told its story through things like phone calls. I feel it will still be a bit jarring to wander a Fallout world without it being full of colorful NPCs, but at least so far, I think this could maybe work out OK.
It’s going to be a while before I have a chance to play FO76 for myself, but I’m a lot more hopeful about the game after yesterday’s test session.
Did you have a chance to play or watch any of the FO76 beta yesterday? What are your impressions? Share ‘em with us in the comments below!