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The Pros & Cons of Fallout 76

By Michael Bitton on July 05, 2018 | Columns | Comments

The Pros & Cons of Fallout 76

Initially, my feelings on Fallout 76 could be best described as cautiously optimistic. The basic premise of the game appealed to me and I didn’t find too many issues with the E3 announcement or what I learned from the Noclip documentary, but since then, things have gotten a bit more complicated. The messaging has been kind of all over the place from Bethesda and the more time I have to think about things, the more I wonder how it will all pan out.

I’m going to try and organize my thoughts this week and a simple and straight forward pros and cons list seemed like a good way to do just that.

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PROS

The Fallout setting is a natural fit.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to grasp how any particular Fallout game would work as a survival game. The post-apocalyptic setting emphasizes the harshness of the world and the struggle to survive. You already have to worry about things like radiation, sickness, damaged limbs, encumbrance, scarce resources, and even eating and drinking if you play Fallout: New Vegas or Fallout 4 in certain modes. Throw all of this into an online game where you’ve got other players to work with (or against) and you’ve got a natural fit for a survival game.

Settlements are more meaningful.

Truth be told, I’m not really a builder type, so I didn’t bother much with settlements in Fallout 4. But this entire system makes a whole lot more sense when you’re considering working cooperatively with other players in an online game. Getting together with friends and slowly building up and upgrading your base is a key aspect of most survival games.

People have been clamoring for co-op Fallout/Elder Scrolls for years now.

Despite the allure of being able to play in a harsh world where worrying about other players adds another layer of survival element, it’s hard to argue with how compelling it would be to just try and tackle a PvE Fallout world with friends. Fallout 76 isn’t going to allow for this purely cooperative experience at launch, but Bethesda has expressed the desire to let players set things up to facilitate this as a longer term goal. They’ve even expressed the desire to include mods.

Perk cards sound neat.

Perks are kind of similar to what you would expect for a Fallout game in Fallout 76, but there are some key differences. The most important of which is that you essentially build a deck of perks that support your desired playstyle. Perk cards can be leveled up for additional bonuses and they can also be shared with your party members. Focusing on Charisma seems to lend itself towards a more supportive play style where you can share even more benefits with your party, which I hope ends up being worth it as I like to do what I can to support my group.

CONS

I worry about balance.

Balance is a concern in any game, particularly online ones, but I have a lot of questions about how the translation of Fallout’s gameplay elements will actually play out in an online game where you may have to fight other players. I often play a stealth sniper of sorts in Fallout games, but I also like to play characters that focus on melee or on Power Armor. I’m not really sure how any of these playstyles work together in an online Fallout. If everyone can use guns, how will melee be viable vs. other players? Power Armor has to be potential to be a disappointing occasional “power up” type of piece of gear or so strong it ends up being ubiquitous, with all players rolling around in Power Armor at all times. These are just some of the immediate surface level questions I have about balance. If I dig down deeper, I’m sure I’d think up plenty more.

PvP sounds kind of pointless.

One of my longest frustrations with survival games going all the way back to DayZ has been the fact that they all basically boil down to becoming kill-on-sight clown fiestas. The premise has always been that the world is dangerous enough that you should be naturally suspicious of other players, but there should also be the allure of teaming up against the world with other players. This never really happens, unfortunately. The “PvE” of these survival games often just ends up being a nuisance and players just kill each other constantly. Fallout 76 is doing a number of things to discourage this behavior, such as making the death penalty forgiving and not allowing players to destroy bases, but with so little in the way of stakes, why PvP at all? If you’re going to do PvP, there should be a compelling risk vs. reward consideration to it. I hope Bethesda has some sort of plans along these lines.

No true Fallout story.

In Fallout 76, all of the human characters are other players. There’s going to be a “story” of sorts, but this isn’t a game where you’ll be meeting interesting NPCs and working for or against them, developing relationships (romantic or otherwise) with companions, and so on. One of the most compelling aspects of Fallout is its characters, so even when Bethesda does eventually allow for players to play fully solo or with just a few friends, it’ll mostly be a game of pure survival against the environment. This is something I look forward to, of course, but I’m really jonesing for another true Fallout experience and 76 feels like a missed opportunity here. For all the merits of a pure survival game, I feel I would’ve preferred a more co-op adventure.

When you think about Fallout 76, what would you say are your pros and cons so far? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager.
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