One year ago, Bethesda was promoting Wolfenstein II with the tagline "Save Single Player Gaming". Fast-forward past e3 and the Fo76 announcement, it would appear at the time that BGS was pulling a complete 180 to this philosophy, throwing one of their biggest single player franchises to the MMO/Games as a Service wolves and the backlash from long-time fans was almost immediate. With the odds already against them, Fallout 76 launched with numerous problems, as many online games do, as well as numerous X factors (nylon bags and Doxxing) that further drew review bombs and YouTube doomsayers profiting from a perspective of lulz about how one of the most demanded mainline sequels would be forgone for such a risky and poorly executed endeavor.
I pre-ordered Fallout 76 with an open mind, anticipating launch pains and growing pains, but eager to see how the concept of working together would translate, as well as to see how building would be improved and stories would be told with so many dramatic core changes. The BETA hits and my two friends and I embark on what would be the only period I ever intentionally played with others in the Appalachian sandbox. Together, we learned of the layout of the land, how and where to find what we needed to progress, and reflected on lore that we found. Over time, the teammates trickled away for one reason or another, and I found myself dropping nukes and farming legendaries on my own, nearly endlessly it felt, until ultimately deciding to take a break until new content were announced.
With everything against Fallout 76 at the time, its hard to imagine what the launch would have been like without so many problems. Would Fo76 still be the butt of memes and gaming news sites? Will they ever be able to overcome that stigma and bring those who left back, or attract those who never said they would play an online Fallout game at all? Would anyone ever believe the claim (that is absolutely true) that the game can truly be played like any other single player Fallout? How many fans of the series are unaware of the story line in fo76 and how important of a look it is into the early timeline of events after the bombs dropped and formation of the universe as we know it?
In my opinion, fo76 is truly a unique gaming experience. The immersion and role playing shine through when you have the constant knowledge that you're "just too late" to save this some-what organized group that has adapted to surviving in the new world and play by the new rules, and that anyone who is still alive could potentially be hostile, or likewise, friendly, and adjusting to the new way of life on the outside just like yourself. Imagine being a citizen who keeps up with the news of the war, prepares for the worst, hopes for the best, then later learns knowledge that would never be reported to the general public if things were still the way they used to be. Rather than being some sort of William J. Blaskowicz or Dragonborn who is fated to fight back and win, you are a nobody thrown into a world thats already too late to save, and all thats left is to sift through the pieces of what happened and begin anew.
The new content update is a huge step in the right direction for Bethesda. While all of us who are still playing since the beginning experienced a content draught, the fixes behind the scenes were slowly but surely improving the experience for others who had not run out of things to do, and the overhaul of CAMP, for me, has made the game much more attractive. I'm now obsessed with making a building I like with the perfect food, water, crafting and lodging setup with the perfect placement of hard-earned decor (I had to win 10 different events while drunk on 10 different alcohols and wearing a beer hat for this bear-skin rug!) while crafting a near-worthless moonshine just so I can take down a scorchbeast with a knife and blackout and wake up somewhere else!
This game is only as fun as you make it. Bethesda created a giant open world full of locations, off-kilter remnants of debauchery, and untold stories of murders, cults, suicide pacts, and evidence of a once thriving surviving population claimed by an even greater threat than nuclear bombs. The potential for updates and additional content is near endless. As we've seen with Wild Appalachia, one boarded up building could be hiding a dark secret: a get rich quick scheme with no regard for human health guarded by a charismatic drunken robot in a hidden speakeasy through a nuka cola machine in the back of a tattoo parlor that was used as a front. What other tales of human opportunism will reach an abrupt and catharic end alongside the rest of humanity? Perhaps we as a people deserved what we got.
For me, returning to Fallout after a one-month break has rid me of the monotony of chasing legendary items and farming nuked flora to wipe out vendors daily and completely reinvigorated the thrill of discovery I experienced way back with my BETA team finally reaching the ash heap for the first time. I can now be content modifying my CAMP structure without anxiety for so long that I have to stop to go hunting because I'm now dehydrated and starving. I can now revisit locations I may have only scratched the surface of because I was so concerned with becoming overpowered, when I never had any plans to engage in PvP in the first place. I can now focus on daily and weekly challenges because I know that I have the budget to have my farm, crafting, and turrets and still be able to display the trophies of my efforts, no matter how silly those efforts can seem. I feel what I imagine Thanos must feel like after his job is done and he settles into his farm and breathes a sigh of relief at the end of Avengers: Infinity War.
I'll conclude by saying that my absolute favorite play session of Fallout 76 so far was playing through the Wasted on Nukashine event and long CAMP building session that followed while influnced by the mixture of Virginia Moonshine, Monster energy drink, and Blue Curacao I made after seeing posts here on Reddit. Once again, this game is only as fun as you make it, and for many that may be better with friends; but its also just as enjoyable for any fan of single player RPGs, overalls, murder mysteries, former military, fans of Larry David, or farmers. I can only see the game getting better and better from here, and hopefully when the year's updates are out more folks will be inclined to agree.
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