"Fallout 76's many survival elements require considerable amounts of time and effort away from its more engaging aspects."
Considerable time and effort? You find it time-consuming and challenging to click the button a dozen times over some crops and water, both of which are readily available at the Wayward and numerous other locations in Appalachia? Nevermind the pre-made food that can be found just about everywhere. I can get enough corn soup to last hours of gameplay by spending 5 minutes at the start of a session, even at low level.
"weapon condition meters will routinely run their course and leave you without your favorite rifle in combat"
Repair them before you head out? Just about everything you do in the game gives junk, and there are workbenches everywhere, and perks to reduce the need to repair if you so desire.
"Wastelanders forces you to reach level 20 before you're able to continue its story. This requires you to plunge back into Fallout 76's original main questline"
Factually incorrect, you are not required to play the main story to level to 20.
"When robotic quest-givers attempt to poke fun at how you had to travel so far across the map just to end up having to make the return trip, it isn't funny"
You know you can fast travel back, right? It's a fundamental part of the game, there's no need to run.
"I was too fixated on hunting down junk to truly appreciate the stories they tell"
If you're so preoccupied with junk, which again is easy to get and comes from doing almost anything, then that's more about you than the game. It's very easy to get the junk to repair gear, not much is required. So basically you missed out on some of the best parts of vanilla 76's world building because of non-existent problems leading you to prioritize finding repair materials…
"A lot of my time in Fallout 76 revolved around its convoluted in-game menus, shuffling around from one tab to the next to administer healing items or diving into separate menus entirely to repair my gear"
This man has no idea how to use the favourites feature and I find that very sad. I get it, the menus can be tedious, though the same can be said about every modern Fallout game. But I can easily play 30-60+ minutes without opening a menu unless it's to fast travel. You don't need to menu surf to heal, remove rads, eat food, drink, change weapons, or check the basic direction of quests, and as a reviewer I would expect you to figure this out because it's definitely not hard (especially if you've played any other Fallout game).
"You can purchase repair and salvage kits with real money from Fallout 76's store (I only found two in-game in 30 hours), and it does alleviate the tedium to an extent. But it's hard not to wonder, then, how much of the survival frustrations are designed intentionally to push you in the direction of spending even more money on microtransactions."
Again, the tedium you experienced is largely because of your own inability to figure out the favourites system. And it's not "hard not to wonder" about the survival aspects' relationship with the cash shop. The relationship is clear if you take a minute to think about it and understand the game. Yes, they would like you to spend money for QOL, but the reality is that there are only two items on the shop that affect that (repair kits and fridge), and neither are required or even very useful if you're a competent player. So basically you're throwing shade at a cash shop practice that is fair game for criticism, especially in other games where the pains are real, but for the wrong reasons in context of 76.
"Weapons still feel cumbersome to use, especially if you go the route of specializing in melee combat"
How are the weapons cumbersome? Why especially melee? What does this even mean? As a reviewer you should qualify your criticisms with explanations because this truly makes no sense to me. I found melee to be very basic and easy and this criticism baffles me (it's repeated as a major point at the end of the review).
"VATS, the tactical body-part aiming mechanic from past Fallout games, still feels out of place since the world around you still can't be paused, serving more as an aim-assist that loses all semblance of its strategic roots."
VATS has been largely an aim-assist for the last several FO games. And I'm not sure how it's "out of place" in 76– what they did is pretty much the best way they could have implemented it. This criticism sounds like you're just not appreciative of the multiplayer side of 76 and therefore MP VATS = bad for you.
"And the balance of combat is still incredibly confusing, with main quests presenting you with trivial encounters only to then thrust you into a scenario where enemies are almost immediately killing you."
Incredibly confusing? I have no idea what this is about. A few specific examples would have been nice, enough to indicate if this is truly a widespread problem that justifies the use of describing it as "the balance of combat", because I've never experienced it as an issue.
Overall, I think this review is a turd. I agree with a few points– the game still needs more polish, though I haven't experienced anything like "routine" freezes or crashes– and I'd agree that the design for playing quest content with friends is bafflingly poor in Wastelanders. But it seems like many of the reviewer's key points for giving the update a 5/10 are just based on his own inability to understand or figure out some of the pretty obvious aspects of the game, and he's basically blaming the game for his personal faults at that point.
So overall I give this review two thumbs down. Please Gamespot, get someone who understands the basics of the game to review next time. I think if Alessandro was more understanding of the game (and no, it's not too opaque to figure these systems out), then he would have likely given a score closer to 7 with less misleading fluff.
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