I posted this exact same thing on the Fallout 76 subreddit but got downvoted to oblivion as a result. Figured I'd try it on a more neutral board, so bringing it over here in search of some opinions on the matter:
I think when people say the story isn't that great, they're more referring to the storytelling than the story itself. Lets face it, Fallout games have never had blockbuster stories. It's all about making your own way from point A to B with thousands of variables in between that make everyone's journey different.
So then the issue comes down to storytelling, which I have to say is lacking. If you enjoy having the story told through audio logs and notes, that's fine! Like, I'm glad you enjoy it. It some cases it can work incredibly well. For instance, the first two Bioshock games did a fantastic job of telling the atmosphere through audio logs and with minimal interaction with other characters. Infinite had a lot more NPCs, which is why I didn't include it (my favorite though).
But yeah, all the 3D Fallout games tend to revolve around one main story: Vault dweller leaves vault in search of someone. In that regard, it is all about the journey. Bethesda games are known for giving players dozens of ways to reach the end of their games, and that's assuming you're one of the players that cares about getting to the end. The story itself is no worse than past Fallout games. But as mentioned above, storytelling is where the game falls short for a lot of people.
Fallout 4 is easily one of my top 5 games of the generation. That puts it up there with the likes of Breath of the Wild, Bloodborne, Nier Automata, and The Witcher 3. We all have unique taste in games, but in my eyes that puts Fallout 4 in some AMAZING company. What made Fallout 4 special to me was the way in which the story was told. Meeting some awesome characters really contributed to the overall experience. I really wanted to see Piper avenge her father by using her reporter skills to open up the eyes of those around her to the truth. I liked Preston and so I wanted to see the Minutemen succeed. I didn't agree with Danse's ideals and therefore did the Brotherhood of Steel quests fully planning to betray them at some point. The colorful cast of characters around me contributed to my journey in a meaningful way. I wasn't worried about power leveling and rushing to make my perfect build. I was immersed in the world just wanted to experience the journey in my own way.
That's where storytelling comes in. Fallout 4's story is "Go find your son." That's it. The way it plays out is completely up to you, and the options are near-endless. It's just just the interesting human NPCs though. It's the fact that I can shape the world around me through my actions. That is what keeps me immersed. It's fantastic storytelling because there are consequences to all your actions, and literally everyone that plays Fallout 4 will have their own unique experience.
I can't say the same for Fallout 76. Look, I still love the game. My friends all gave up on it early, but I'm still going strong. Currently sitting at level 82, in fact. But it's just different. Unlike Fallout 4, I feel like I'm playing to power through the levels and gain new perk cards. The world of Appalachia is stunning and varied, but I feel no connection to it or anyone in it. Despite it being the first online Fallout, it also manages to feel by far the most lonely. I had no connection to the Overseer, who I already knew wouldn't be found anyway. I just felt like I was chasing quest markers the whole time knowing full well that another terminal was waiting for me, as opposed to shaping my own world and not knowing what the future held or how my decisions would eventually play out. That's a problem with Fallout being an online game. You don't get to shape the world in your own unique way because you're sharing it with other players. This results in me feeling like my decisions don't matter. It's especially apparent when you consider the lack of dialogue options. Not like the robot NPCs offer much in the way of real conversation anyway.
I don't like that I have to learn about the story through reading terminals and notes, or listening to pre-recorded audio. But even looking past the story being told through audio logs and notes, it's the lack of influence I have on the world that results in some not-so-great storytelling. Even if Bethesda didn't reveal that there would be no human NPCs and I thought that the Overseer would be waiting for me at the end of my journey, I would have wanted to structure my own story by influencing the world around me. Instead, I go through the same exact steps as anyone else, in the same exact way. One might grind experience more than another, but the linear questline is the same for everyone. The end result is a game that I play for different reasons than Fallout 4. Instead of wanting to feel immersed in a world, my goal is to level up fast and collect everything. Still an entertaining game that I'm addicted to, but I feel no real connection to Appalachia.
tldr: The story itself is fine, but the lack of ability to influence the world around you in a meaningful way hurts the overall storytelling experience.
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