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Fallout 76 Impressions - (Re)Entering the Wastelands

Damien Gula Posted:
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Rejoice, Vault Dwellers! Reclamation Day is finally here!

Fallout 76 is officially live and with it a host of issues that you might exception as you enter the post-apocalyptic world of West Virginia. The world is in shambles, the servers have experienced some stability issues, and, in spite of our best efforts to help, some people are stilling confused as to how to navigate a Bethesda title without legions of NPC quest givers. What we hope to achieve in this article is to share some thoughts on the Fallout 76 experience now that is officially live.

But first, let me give you some context for where my perspective will be coming from:

While I do not claim to be a chronicler with compendiums of lore and arcana pertaining to all things Fallout, I have had a fair share of experience with Fallout 76 before launch. This experience includes participating in Bethesda’s world premiere event, speaking with developers, and playing in the B.E.T.A. as well with all of these experiences spread across each platform Fallout 76 is available on. That being said, I have been able to hear and see it from its first public light to its live incarnation. All of that said, I’m not an expert, just a guy with some opinions of my own.

Fallout 76 is a slight departure from the Fallout franchise, but not as drastic as it might seem. Yes, it is a multiplayer, online experience and, no, you will not run into NPCs. Grounded in the same world of post-nuclear war, Fallout 76 tells its story through different vehicles than any of its predecessors. It requires - no, demands that players engage with the world, with each other, and, together, become active participants in restoring the world.

In order for this to become a reality, Bethesda had to make so sacrifices to reorient the dystopian design and single-player focus to a real-time format. In Fallout 76, VATs functions as a glorifies aim-assist which allows you to target enemies and choose when you apply a critical hit. That’s right: with VATs you can fill up a meter and choose when to attempt a critical hit.

The sacrifice with this system is that VATs still drains AP at a rate which does not keep pace with the real-time action taking place around you. Unfortunately, this means that you will often find yourself in situations where you are controlling real-time combat. That is not always a good thing.

Maybe it’s just me, but I have always struggled with combat in Bethesda games… that and weight - I mean, who ISN’T going to pick up that desk fan? Not this guy! While Bethesda’s Fallout games have always allowed players to use (or not use) VATs to assist with combat, opting out of that quality-of-life enhancer can be exceptionally frustrating. Between slow aiming speeds (specifically on the consoles) and the RPG-driven chance-of-miss on the table, I can’t tell you the number of bullets I have dumped into trying to kill pesky mole rats. Maybe that’s a personal problem and I just need to “git gud,” but if VATs is going to function well within a real-time world, AP costs need to be adjusted.

Going back to the topic of changes, the removal of NPCs from Fallout 76 has left people feeling like the game is empty, but I would challenge that notion by encouraging players to play the game, not the quests. What I mean by this is that Fallout 76 IS a role playing game. Role playing games lean heavily on players taking on a persona, a character, and living out that characters life within the context of the world the game is a part of.

In this scenario, you begin as a Vault-Dweller recently thrust into a world that is hostile to you. There are those who have gone on before you - the Overseer and other Vault-Dwellers (players) - who will show you the ropes and guide your steps- and those who choose to be hostile toward you. So what do you do?

You choose. Yes. You.

Bethesda has given players agency to do what they will. Do you want to open up a shop? Do it! Do you want to become the Wasteland’s top chef? Do it! Do you want to gather up nuclear codes to devastate the Whitesprings Resort for your last, poor golf game? Be our guest. Do you want to start a church? Go for it! Mine will be near Lewisburg. The lights are always on, you are always welcome, and there will always be warm food delivered by even warmer hearts for you there.

Even if this type of gameplay isn’t your speed, there are many, many quests that branch off from holotapes scattered across the countryside or terminal entries. There are also events that take place with rewards to match. Perhaps, you are searching for a blood sample from a mole rat that just happens to be near a nuclear plant approaching critical failure. Again, you have the agency to decide whether or not to participate in it. Fallout 76 emphasizes choice to explore the post-apocalyptic world your way.

As you explore, you will begin to observe to unspoken, unwritten stories of the people of West Virginia. It can be gut wrenching or beautiful. Whether it was living out their final moments as the bombs dropped or attempting to readjust after infrastructure crumbled, your imagination is encouraged to fill in the gaps.

Earlier in this article, I suggested that Fallout 76 was a “slight departure” from the franchise. It is different enough that it gives the Fallout series a fresh new experience, but it may not be the experience that seasoned Fallout players were looking for. However, it is a welcome addition to the series by introducing the opportunity to play alongside other people. It is one that I have been genuinely longing for since the release of Fallout 4 and on that, so far, it delivers - not perfectly, mind you. There have been some connectivity and grouping issues, but I am optimistic that Bethesda will take what they have learned from the B.E.T.A., their past experiences with bugs, and that they will continue to deliver a truly unique Fallout experience which will evolve as the game progresses.

Make sure you stick around here at MMORPG.com for more of our coverage on Fallout 76. We will be delivering more content over the next week with a full review to follow.

Until next time: stay hydrated and don’t eat that Radroach until you’ve cooked it.

Note: Our copy was previewed on Playstation 4 with a code provided by PR.


Damien Gula

Born in the heyday of mullets and the El Camino to a tech-foward family, Damien joined the MMORPG.com team back in 2017 to review hardware and games as well as provide coverage for press preview events. He has participated in a number of MMOs over the years, including World of Warcraft, RIFT, Guild Wars 2, and the Destiny series. When he isn't writing for MMORPG.com, Damien is a pastor by trade who loves talking with anyone interested about life, God, and video games (in no particular order). He also co-hosts a podcast dedicated to these conversation with fellow MMORPG writer Matt Keith called Roll The Level.