The idea of Fallout being an always online survival RPG was hard for me to comprehend at first, but there is hardly any place for personal feelings in the field of reviews. Hence I set aside my scepticisms and went in with an open mind into the Fallout 76 B.E.TA. Despite treating it as I would with any other game on the market, the B.E.T.A was not a very fun experience- something the Noob team pondered on heavily in our B.E.T.A impressions. But now the full game has been out for more than two weeks and I spent over 50 hours in the game, enough to give a detailed, well-rounded and most importantly, an unbiased review on Fallout 76. This is going to be a long one. So grab a cup of your favourite beverage, slip into something comfortable and bear with me.
Fallout 76 is an online action role-playing game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. Being Bethesda’s first-ever multiplayer game, Fallout 76 released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on November 14, 2018.
Story & Narrative
As you all might have heard, Fallout 76 is not your typical Fallout when it comes to the story. Gone are the choice and character-driven storylines and in are MMO style fetch and ‘go there kill’ X quests. The story is basically to find out what happened in the aftermath of the bombs coming down in New Virginia and make the Appalachia wasteland a hospitable place for everyone. You have some of the major Fallout factions here and there scattered throughout the map, trying to hold strategic points of importance, and as expected, there are quite a few loopholes in the lore of the New Virginian chapter of the factions (*cough* Brotherhood of Steel *cough*). The game basically gives quests where players go from some X location to Y location to find that the person whom they were supposed to find is long dead, and somehow have kept a pre-recorded log prior to dying, which sends you off on a wild goose chase to find another dead person till you die of boredom yourself.
Gameplay & Mechanics
Before getting into the meat of the game, let me make something clear. Fallout 76 is not a finished game. Not even close. It’s an early access game which is ironically not in an early access program. It’s a multiplayer reskin of Fallout 4 at best and an uninspired and bland attempt at a survival RPG at worst. So little has changed from the B.E.T.A that we run the risk of deja-vu in the review compared to the BETA impressions article. Now with that out of the way, let’s look at some of the specifics.
I’ll summarise my Fallout 76 experience in a few sentences:
Roam around an empty and lifeless area, follow up on some generic fetch quests, discover a location, shoot at enemies stuck in T-pose with their AI script turned off, kill the brain-dead enemies using guns that feel just ‘ok’ to use, loot their bodies, see the message ‘you are encumbered’ pop up, walk at snail’s pace to the next location, break down/craft items to remove encumbered status, get kicked out of a server, join another, watch the same stuff over again, press exit, computer locks up and forcefully log out of Windows to get it all back up.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in Fallout 76 as far as the issues are concerned. You’d be hard-pressed to play through the game without any issues for more than 10 minutes, at least that was the case with me. But if you happen to enjoy the game despite these issues, or haven’t encountered them (unlikely), I understand. In fact, the reason this review took so long to be completed is that I didn’t want to come off as overly negative and make it sound like I’m hating on the game. But Bethesda studios is making it so hard not to. In paper, the idea of a multiplayer Fallout looks good and dandy but the execution is by far, one of the worst I’ve seen all year.
Some Rain Must Fall
But let’s talk about some of the positives for a second. As per Bethesda tradition, the world of Fallout 76 is massive with tonnes to see. Even though gameplay loop for the entirety of the playthrough remains the same, if you’re a guy who loves to explore massive areas and collect loot, there’s hundred’s of hours of content to be had here. I’ll talk about the quality of the said content further down. The weapon and armor customization is back from Fallout 4 and thanks to it, hardly any weapon or armor feel truly ‘useless’. The new SPECIAL system with deck building is pretty nice, even though the focus on RNG is too high. The weapon and monster design are very well done even if you’ll be fighting the same type ghouls and mole rats for a large part of the game.
Too Much Has Fallen in Fallout 76
Fallout 76 compromises on a lot of stuff traditional to “Fallout” just to keep up with the multiplayer hype. The game keeps looping through the same ‘explore, kill, explore’ routine over and over again, and after an initial tutorial, you’re even bound to forget that you have some primitive sort of base building in the game. The quality of the quests have fallen too hard, and the game world feels barren even when there are a few people logged into the server. I even got into a server where I was literally the only person playing. The lack of NPCs really delivered a low-blow to the game. Without the presence of charming NPCs to ease your transition into the world and events, the Appalachia wasteland comes off as the most uninspired setting in a mainline Fallout game to date. Such a shame really since there are a couple of cool locations like the Mothman Museum and Wavy Willards waterpark.
Stuck in One Too Many Roads
Generally speaking, Fallout 76 had a lot of promise when it was first advertised, though people would have preferred a singleplayer game with some coop done right so that the classic Fallout balance and essence could be sustained. What we got instead, is a monstrosity no one really wants. The game was advertised as a survival RPG, and even during E3 2018, seemed to be that way. I must admit, Rust raids back in the day were pretty fun with the squad. Bethesda’s attempt at playing the populist card by making Fallout 76 have features of many games at once ended in it inventing a good-for-no-one genre of its own. The game fails to play like an MMO, though somehow resembling the quests of an MMO, with the sole reason that the world is an undivided wasteland without any NPCs (except the occasional surviving robots and the traders).
The game fails spectacularly at being the survival game it was advertised to be, as there’s no real focus on killing other players, raiding them, collecting materials for base building, and preventing other players from raiding you. The PvP is unrewarding and unbalanced. There is no real incentive in attacking or killing players, thus discouraging any form of organized raiding. Hardly anyone I met in my travels was willing to take part in PvP and just wanted to be left alone. Makes you wonder why it’s in the game in the first place. The end-game content is a joke as the novelty of launching nukes wears off pretty fast and you get tired of facing off against enemies with easily exploitable AI. Hell, forget end-game content. Fallout 76 fails at implementing even the basic of necessities like Push to Talk. Needless to say, the lifeless story and the repetitive fetch quests make it an extremely poor RPG and the lack of emphasis on base building and PvP makes it an even worse survival game.
Visuals & Performace
Visually, Fallout 76 doesn’t look or feel any different from its predecessor to a point where it’s easy to accuse the developers of asset flipping. There are some improvements here and there like enhanced lighting and texture quality. But you’d be hard pressed to notice such improvements while playing the game. Some parts of the game do look good from a purely aesthetic point of view thanks to the vibrant colors and godrays, while some look absolutely atrocious with low-resolution textures terrible pop-ins. There’s also a terrible depth of field and motion blur effect that you can’t turn off, making the distant objects look blurrier than usual.
The game was tested on the following specs:
- Intel Core i5 7500 3.40Ghz
- GTX 1070 8 GB
- 8×2 GB 2400Mhz DDR4 Ram
- Windows 10 Pro 64 Bit
- Kingston 256 Gigs SSD
Fallout 76 ran at a locked 63 fps before unlocking it through ini files and between 60-90 fps after the unlock. Yet, there are constant fps drops and hiccups to the 40s due to the game loading areas and streaming textures right as you’re walking around. The number of object pop-ups are the absolute worst I’ve seen since Risen 2: Dark Waters. The low FOV doesn’t help either. Even on an SSD, the game takes just too long to load. There are also a plethora of bugs and glitches like elongated character models, missing shadows, textures and lighting, hits failing to register, clipping issues, enemies appearing and disappearing five foot around you, crashes, server instability and everything else from Oblivion all the way to Fallout 4.
The Creation Engine has been mocked and memed so much so that I feel awkward just to mention the name here again. It’s an absolute fossil of an engine and is the reason for half the issues plaguing Fallout 76.
Sound and Music
Thankfully, Fallout 76 delivers when it comes to music and sound. The creepy and melancholic ambient music composed by Inon Zur is just amazing and so are the licensed soundtracks. There are some familiar as well as new 40s and 50s blues and jazz music that makes you want to go ‘set the world on fire’. Weapon and enemy sounds are also well done with sufficient bass and beefiness to it (when they don’t glitch out that is). Since there are no NPCs in the game, Bethesda can save themselves from criticisms for using the same five voice actors over and over. The voice actors did an ok job voicing the holotapes and robots and since they’re so boring, to begin with, I doubt nobody will focus on them to criticize how bland the dialogue delivery is.
Fallout 76 stumbles on its feet and falls flat as both a Fallout game and a multiplayer survival RPG. The game is a technical mess with bland quests, disappointing open world, underwhelming survival mechanics and brain-dead AI. It should have been an early access title, or at the very least, should have spent another 6 months in the polishing room. There are lots of things to spend that hard-earned $60 in right now and Fallout 76 isn’t one of them.