"War…war is constantly getting dumber."
I am a huge Fallout fan. I was brought into the series by Fallout 3 and mesmerized by its dark as well as haunting vision of a post-apocalypse Washington D.C. This led me to check out the original isometric games, which I also loved. Later, I would enjoy Fallout: New Vegas and it would become my 3rd favorite video game of all time after Skyrim and Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines. Unfortunately, my opinion of Fallout 4 was more mixed. I felt like the game was dumbed down with large story holes, too much focus on settlements, and a change to gunplay over a mix of it with skill use.
Despite this, I still enjoyed Fallout 4 and was looking forward to Fallout 76. I'm a resident of West Virginia and could recognize some of the locations which were in the game's trailer. I also liked the idea of reversing the timeline from 200 years after the war to 25 years after the war. Much of the complaining on No Mutants Allowed boils down to, "They should have rebuilt the United States after that time and everything from the Pre-War Era should have turned to dust." I don't necessarily agree with this but I don't disagree with it either.
So, how is the game? Well, it's terrible. It's extremely difficult to screw up a game that is already a tried and tested formula but they somehow managed to do it. I'm actually going to include some positives about the game because everyone else has gone into the negatives of the game. However, it needs to be spelled out this game is BROKEN. It is worse than Skyrim and Fallout 4 by far and I have encountered more bugs playing it (after 3 massive patches) than I have in the entirety of my gaming experience combined.
Here's a short list of the ones I've had through my first six hours of gaming:
- Quests not starting until reloads.
- Frozen indestructible enemies.
- Invisible enemies.
- Restarting in different places than I where I left the character in the game.
- The game not saving itself where I left it.
- Free-floating characters.
- Characters not uploading as they should (sometimes missing beards before they pop on).
- Characters not having any clothes or equipment.
- The highlight option for the main menu not working for half of the commands.
It's ironic that this isn't the worst mess of a game I've played this week because at least Fallout 76 plays. My Assassins Creed: Odyssey DLC was purchased, uploaded, and bought but doesn't ever show the option to play it. I'm disgusted with the gaming industry whenever they turn out something that hasn't been properly playtested or (in this game's case) I dare say not even finished. I mean Skyrim and Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines were both buggy but this is a whole new level.
The game also has other major flaws in the fact there's nothing really to do in the game but kill and do a LITTLE exploring. They've wholesale imported the settlement system from Fallout 4, despite most people hating it, but that doesn't work for a multiplayer game. You can't permanently keep your settlements and other players can dismantle them.
So, really an entire portion of this game is completely pointless and hard as hell to do. PVP is also not well-designed since you have to challenge them to a duel by shooting them and have them shoot you back (with minimal damage) like you're slapping gloves. So all PVP is one-on-one duels and have no option for ambushes or battles. That doesn't even get into the biggest flaws of the game which are the lack of NPCs and the combat.
The lack of NPCs is the craziest element of this game and I wonder who drank the Rad-infested water to come up with this idea. For whatever reason, there's only robot and terminal quest-givers in the game. It massively cuts down on the enjoyment of the game since I'm not sure who I'm supposed to be rebuilding the United States FOR given there's no people inhabiting this Wasteland. Quests lose whatever urgency they might have had without people depending on you even in a fictional context.
The game is also weirdly depressing as it has all the world-building of previous Fallout games with a Brotherhood of Steel faction, the Responders faction, a new branch of the Enclave, and the Order of Mysteries. However, all of these orders have been wiped out by the Scorched weeks beforehand. It's depressing that not only do you not get to interact with any of these interesting factions but the mostly-empty world is full of endless tragedy with no triumph.
Combat is iffy as due to being a multiplayer always online game, you can't pause it for V.A.T.S that more or less means that shooting is completely different for people like myself. It's more like auto-aiming now and not nearly as effective. This has led me to do something I've never done before and pursue a melee build. My Resident has been moving across the Wasteland, slaughtering Scorched with a multi-purpose ax like Jason Voorhees rather than using guns. I'm not sure if that's a feature or not given it's because I didn't trust the gunplay.
The enemy variety is a mixed bag. On one hand, there's too many Scorched in the game and they're a poor substitute for Raiders. Scorched are basically Feral Ghouls who use guns and melee weapons so they're not anything new to the franchise. The fact they're zombies created by radiation dragons (due to reusing Skyrim assets) gives them a awesome origin, though. The fact is I'd much prefer actual Raider clans to the group. Zombies are the most overused enemy in fiction and giving them guns doesn't make them less overused since we already had the undead in Fallout. On the plus side, we do have a lot more animals that included things like giant toads as well as the Molemen. The thing is, when there's no other humans alive, I'm confused why I'm shooting at the industrial miners.
There's some of the old Fallout magic in the game that is still fun as hell when you're wandering around West Virginia, listening to old tunes, and exploring ruins of the Pre-War World. One of the best moments of the game for me was, ironically, just traveling across the New River Gorge Bridge. The crumbling massive creation was an environmental puzzle that I loved soaking up. Poking around the ruins of the Old World and figuring out what went on reminded me of Fallout 3 at times, which remains my favorite of the games. West Virginia is absolutely beautiful and feels more "realistic" (authentic?) at 25 years after the apocalypse versus 200+. Chernobyl is overgrown with forests and there's more than a few nods in that direction.
The main quest is decent, if underdeveloped, and the fact I wanted to complete it and devote the hours to it means that they must have been doing something right. The Radiation Dragons and their zombie plague have to be wiped out. Fine, that makes sense. The fact the Overseer is directing you to do it is also a decent-enough quest even if you never meet with her directly. I like the dramatic irony of the Overseer, who never gets a name, being fanatically devoted to Vault-Tec while being fundamentally a good person (as well as blind to how evil they are).
The biggest positives I can say about the game is the long-popular modded-in survival elements work really well with the game. Caps are extremely rare in the game (even more so with Fast Travel eating them up), food spoils if left in your backpack, you need to regularly eat and drink, plus there's a shortage of ammunition as well. It really is important to boil your water, cook your food, and have recipes to survive. You have to work for your gear in this game and I find that to be a very interesting way of playing even if it is something PC gamers have been experimenting with for years.
In conclusion, I am torn about my rating for this game because I keep wanting to play it and have a lot of fun with it but feel like it has removed so very much about what I do love about the game. The game is doubly frustrating because if they had just put NPCs in the game and copied the elements of other mutliplayer games then it'd probably be one of my favorites this year. As such, it doesn't feel like a good Fallout hame or a good Destiny clone (which it was clearly trying to be). This game is salvagable, though, and I hope Bethesda doesn't just abandon it. Give it The Taken King treatment and make it the game it deserves to be.
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