Review: Fallout 76
Ever since I played Fallout 3 around launch, on the Xbox 360, I've been in love with Bethesda's Fallout games. Something about the concept of roaming a post-apocalyptic wasteland made me the huge Fallout fan that I am, today. In 2018, about 10 years after the release of Fallout 3, a new Fallout game has seen the light of day, in the form of Fallout 76. This time, however, it's a different tale, as in it now being a multiplayer Fallout game. I received a review code for the game from Bethesda and I've spent a ton of hours in it. As always, I have a lot of things to talk about. Let's go!
Platform: Xbox One S. Introduction The introduction sequence is pretty cool and it started with a cut-scene explaining the back-story of Fallout 76, with me later on getting to customize my character, like in the other Fallout games. If I wanted to play as a female character, the option was there and S.P.E.C.I.A.L. is of course featured, too. The customization is very deep, just like in Fallout 4 and there's honestly not much to complain about regarding it, at all.
I like how you're able to morph and sculpture your character to extreme shapes, it really gives players their own unique character rather than everyone looking alike. Once I was through with the customization, I was ready to leave Vault 76 to start my journey in West Virginia. Leaving Vault 76 is done by participating in a celebration party where I was guided by robots, helping me understand what I need in order to survive the wasteland of post-apocalyptic West Virginia. Once guided, I left the vault and began my journey. I liked the introduction and I think it couldn't have been done better. Visuals/performance Oh, Fallout games, when will you ever be free from bugs? It's a well-known fact that the Fallout (and Elder Scrolls) games tend to be pretty buggy, and Fallout 76 is not a different tale.
A part of me senses that it might be due to the game being a strictly online only experience, which can probably heat things up a bit but a part of me senses that it otherwise can be something else? Perhaps the game was released a bit too early? If I move over to what the game is like in terms of visuals, it's sort of exactly like Fallout 4 but with a slight change in visual fidelity. With that said, it's clear that it's still a great looking game since Fallout 4 was a huge upgrade from the title before it, especially with the amazing work on god rays.
Speaking of them, they're definitely back and looks just as gorgeous like they do in Fallout 4. Generally, the game looks amazing, and wandering the wasteland sees me taking screenshots very often. Some of the outdoor places look mindblowing, with huge and beautiful backdrops (that I was able to go to, of course). One thing is certain, Fallout 76 is one great looking game. However, there is one odd thing featured, the draw distance and its horrible looking quality.
It's downright weird seeing it alter itself when moving towards it, almost to the point of it looking like Bethesda put a filter on the draw distance. It's not attractive but can be overlooked. It might be better now than on launch but sometimes it tends to remind me of its past. Resolution now has a dynamic scaler in place, ranging from around 900p-1080p, I think, which for me is another odd thing as Xbox One S should easily hit native 1080p in Fallout 76, just like in Fallout 4. I honestly can't tell when the resolution drops, though so it is not a big deal at all. Bethesda always optimize for Xbox incredibly well with their games but with Fallout 76 it's not a similar case, at least when talking about resolution.
Textures look like high resolution textures, and audio design is as good as it's always been in the Fallout games, firing a weapon or just walking around in the wasteland sounds great. Voice acting is exactly like in Fallout 4, and it's superb, I really felt a sense of immersion when listening to the many tapes scattered around. Now, Bethesda are long overdue with creating a new game engine and that's clear as day in Fallout 76, if they would just focus on creating a new engine, the game probably wouldn't have as many bugs and issues that it has (at least on launch). They clearly need a new one and I hope, for their sake, that their upcoming games doesn't fall victim like Fallout 76.
It sure is a great and fun experience, though! What the game lacks in optimization, it makes up for in the form of amount of fun had. Speaking of bugs and issues, at launch the game had many of them, and the majority of them were fairly severe. There has been a few patches since then, however and the game now performs a lot better. The amount of bugs is decreased, too. It's still far from perfect and needs even more work done, though. So, in terms of performance and visuals, it's not perfect but it's shaping up to be very stable as well as good looking, thanks to the recent patches. Gameplay Fallout 76 is basically like an online version of Fallout 4, minus the NPCs. It's the exact same great gameplay that we're used to but there are a few differences. For example, each time I leveled up I got to choose a perk card for any of the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. slots for my character, with two (even three) perk cards of the same creating an even better version of that card. Every other time I leveled up, I also got a perk pack to open.
I think this system is perfect for an online Fallout game, and the feeling of building your own collection of usable perk cards is awesome, especially when you're able to upgrade cards. Now, as I mentioned earlier, NPCs are nearly completely gone from the world of Fallout 76 (there are robots that do compensate a slight bit but that's all), which might feel weird and lonely but in Bethesda's defence, that's the way it was supposed to be. NPCs are absent because they've either traveled away from West Virginia or because they've been killed by the atom bombs (well, they're actually not dead, they've become scorchers). The fact that there are no NPCs makes the game feel more lonely than the other Fallout games but I learned to cope with it and appreciate what's actually in the game, for once: online players. Online play works rather well, especially with the recent patches.
It feels very weird to be able to play a Fallout game with friends but it's a welcome change, even though I'd obviously rather play a traditional offline Fallout game. Multiplayer makes the game more fun, in my opinion, though. With an online version of a Fallout game, there's bound to be events or something similar to get players to find other wastelanders that they can work together with, or to kill. They're called events and from time to time, they show up in different places in the form of quests that everyone can join in on. One of the very first things I did in the game was to complete an event that saw me killing robots that had gone berserk in a nearby village. Completing events rewards me with caps and useful items. Something that isn't new but that's even better now is the ability to build your camp, going as far as being able to build it wherever you want to. It's definitely one of the more cool parts of the game and it's very deep, with a huge selection of parts/items to choose from.
I'm able to basically build a gigantic mansion if I want to BUT I obviously need materials to be able to do that, which is done by scrapping items that you find in your travels, or by gathering wood from nearby trees laying around, for example. It kind of reminds of Minecraft for some reason but don't worry, this isn't Minecraft 76, the ability to build stuff is just a bonus (and vital part, essentially) of the game. Just like in Fallout 4, you can light up your building by crafting a generator and a lamp, for example. There's also defence like turrets and such like. It's just as good as in Fallout 4. PVP is in the game but shooting at a random player to kill it took some time as I only dealt minimal damage to it. The focus when it comes to PVP, obviously, is via PVP events that are designed for it. They show up from time to time, and some even have themes like fighting in a war between robots, and similar themes. It really gives the PVP part more variety, which is important.
I've had nothing but fun during PVP and I can't wait to see how Bethesda will evolve it in the future. A bit through the game, I suddenly notice that an icon I haven't seen before, shows up on the map. It's a troublesome player that has a price on its head, which occurs when someone disturbs or kills too many other players, killing that player results in giving the victims a form of justice, and the player(s) that kills the troublesome one, rewards. It's a well balanced system designed to maintain fair play during sessions, and it does its job. Fallout 76 has a HUGE amount of creatures/enemies, and some of them are boss that rewards players with valuable rewards, as well as XP, of course. Every kill rewarded me with XP, just like in the previous games, which kept me motivated to play more.
These boss enemies can be very hard to kill but with the right amount of companions by my side, it wasn't that hard. Like I mentioned before, there's a huge amount of enemies, and while I mostly stumbled upon rats and scorchers, I never got a feeling of killing the same enemies over and over due to the sheer amount of all kinds of enemies that show up from time to time. There's more enemies than in Fallout 4, and some of them look rather creepy. Especially the Mothman which is a creature that stalks players, while looking extremely scary. My encounter with it was so intense, mostly because the Mothman was bugged, rendering it unable to move. Moving over to map size, it's definitely the biggest map they've made, and believe me when I say that it's massive!
It might even be too big sometimes and big enough for me to feel like its size doesn't make up for what the map contains in terms of things to do. It can get very lonely at times but at least online players makes up for it to some extent. I really do love the map of West Virginia, though and it's clear that Bethesda has done a great job at capturing it, and that they've put a TON of love into the game's development. The map features a ton of villages, places to visit, beautiful landscapes and buildings to enter. Right now, I still have a lot more to explore and each time I find something that looks worthy of exploring, I can spend a lot of time at that place reading notes and similar things, which is a great way of getting to know West Virginia and its past, as well as the people that lived there before. Basically getting to know more about the lore.
Another thing that has made its way from Fallout 4 to Fallout 76, is crafting (food, drinks & weapons) and it's basically the same, but implenting nothing new to a feature or mechanic in a game doesn't have to be something bad if it's already as good as it can get from the start. That's the thing with the crafting in Fallout 4 and Fallout 76, it's already amazing and deep. The possibilities are vast, and the way I was able to modify my weapon was insane. One new thing that I loved with Fallout 76 was the photo-mode, it gave me a way to share my adventures with people over the Internet in a beautiful and awesome way, as well as gather memories from my time in the wasteland. I'm able to alter the camera's settings, choose a border, pose in front of the camera, and much more. Taking a group photo is very cool, too! When talking about poses, it's a new feature and it was expected to be in the game, of course due to it being an online game now. They work well and they can be a quick way of expressing yourself in the wasteland to other players.
The general gameplay is the same as before, third-person or first-person is something I was able to switch between instantly, and I love that it's still a thing. The ability to be able to choose is important! The Pip-Boy is back and yes, I was able to play mini-games on it. I was also actually able to customize it by changing its look (color), which is awesome! It might not be the most important thing but it's there and I love it. Nothing has really changed about putting on clothes or how you navigate when using the Pip-Boy, and honestly, it shouldn't change at all. If I ever wanted to suit up by putting on a power armor, that's in the game, too and it's just as badass as before. It gave me great protection and the options regarding customizing it were really cool! I found a power armor pretty early on but I still needed to repair the parts on it, while also having to put on new ones.
A Fallout game wouldn't be a Fallout game without the VATS system, which helps the player pinpoint exactly where to shoot by locking in on a part of the body, while also seeing how big of a chance it got at hitting that particular part of the enemie's body. For instance, the torso might have better odds of getting shot at, while the head may have worse odds. However, in Fallout 76, the system works differently due to the game being an online game. This results in the VATS system not having the traditional slow-motion effect like in previous games, which was a vital part of the systems. If I have to be honest, I haven't used the system in Fallout 76 much at all and the reason why is basically because it lacks its previous charm.
Taking away the slow-motion effect (I fully understand that it needed to happen) tranforms the system into one that tries its best to behave like before but falls short due to the speed of it now being like I never entered the system at all. I am happy that they didn't remove it completely, though and I can see myself learning to cope with it in future sessions. It's still a great system but I miss the slow-motion part of it, that's all. One of the more awesome things about Fallout 76 is that you're now able to launch nukes, and anyone can do it at any time if you meet the requirements for doing so. It can change the sessions quite a bit since that whole nuked area is now full of deadly radiation. Each time a nuke is about to be launched by another player, or me, everyone is warned about it, in order to safely move away from the impact zone. Not doing so will be fatal to the player.
I think this is a cool new feature and it adds fear into the game cause of the constant possibility of a nuclear exploding nearby, especially since the explosion is huge. Really, it's visible from very far away and it looks super awesome. Multiplayer works very well and I can't say I've had this much fun in a Fallout game before, even though the lag can get a bit extreme in some situations. Just roaming the wasteland with friends is a lot of fun and working together through quests as well exploring is a great experience. The experience might be a bit harder due to there now being drinking and eating meters that has to be maintained in order to now die.
This is something that many people wanted and I'm liking, it gives the game's survival aspect more meaning. It's not like I have to check it all the time but often enough for it to become an important part of the gameplay. Another thing that's new is the Atomic Shop, a place where players can spend their Atoms (the reward for completing challenges within the game) to get cosmetic items like a new skin for a weapon or power armor, apparel, items for your house, and more. There's no conpetitive advantage in sight and the option to buy with real world money is there. I haven't used it yet even though I have over 1000 atoms since I'm saving, but I think the Atomic Shop is great, mainly because there are some really nice items being purchasable within it.
There's a lot of quests to complete in the game, and some of them are actually pretty long, while some other quests are sort of short. Looking at the map shows where I am supposed to go, as well as where to go to start some quests. Some of them are started by listening to radio stations, and some will be found by just traveling around the wasteland. Most of them are pretty interesting and have a pretty entertaining backstory. Each one definitely made me want more and more! Trading is of course in the game, and is pretty simple: walk up to a random player (or not random) and request a trade. From there, it's a all a matter of choosing who receives what. A great and expected feature! Story Fallout 76 takes place before every Fallout game that came before it, with the story being based around Vault 76, which is a control vault. The control vaults were designed to contain volunteers that are supposed to re-colonize West Virginia after the surface is safe. That's who I am playing as, one of the volunteers. The story obviously isn't as good as in Fallout 4 due to there being no NPCs featured but some quests still gave some sort of impact on me while playing through them. With Fallout 76, it almost feels like the game doesn't need NPCs cause of how well made the quests are.
Obviously, since this Fallout game takes place way before the other games, some things aren't like they used to be in earlier games. For example, the Raider faction isn't present at all anymore, while the Scorchers has replaced them. The bombs fell around 20 years ago, I think and that's long enough for the volunteers to be able to wander out of the vault and begin their mission. There's not really much to be said about the story since there's not much to actually talk about but reading notes, logs and similar written things gave me some insight into what the world was like after the bombs fell, before the volunteers wandered out. I'm the kind of person that doesn't mind reading notes and such like to gain knowledge about a game's world/story instead of watching a cut-scene, so it's very enjoyable finding notes left off by people in the wasteland.
People tried to survive as much as possible, making use of the things that are left in the world to try and at least somewhat re-build the world. I really felt the people's fear and struggle by reading them, but also their will to keep on going, which is very cool. The bombs have done a LOT of damage to West Virginia and this time, like in Fallout 3, I was able to actually trigger a nuke to explode but the main difference is that I can pretty much nuke any part of the wasteland. This is fatal for the players that are within or nearby the nuke's impact zone. However, the now radiated zone is a place full of valuable items, giving the player a choice: risk getting killed by entering the zone, or guarantee your safety by staying put? All in all Fallout 76 is a worthy Fallout game that does its own thing and in this case, that own thing isn't bad at all. It hasn't been that long since we had a Fallout game in our hands but with Fallout 76, it's clear that it's a Fallout game for the long run due to the ability to play it with friends. Performance has seen its ups and downs but for the most part it runs rather well, while looking like a copy of Fallout 4 in terms of visuals. There's a decent amount of content and the map is huge but its tendency to be too big for what it contains is not a good sign. The fun factor is huge, though and will last a very long time, especially with people to play with. The game is basically an online version of Fallout 4 and I'm okay with that, not only because I've always wanted to play a Fallout game with friends but also because it does what it is supposed to be doing, correctly. I've enjoyed every single second spent in the game and I see myself coming back to it very often. While NPCs aren't really present anymore, there is some sort of story to it even though most of it will be discovered by exploring and reading. I fully recommend Fallout 76 and trust me when I say that it's NOT as bad as the Internet says it is, not even close.
Fallout 76 is available both digitally and physically, with a price tag of $60, followed by a Tricentennial Edition priced at $80. If you feel like buying the game, that can be done by clicking here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/fallout-76/bs6wj2l56b10 A review copy was provided for review purposes. This review is written by Jesper Ingemansson and is based on his honest opinion about the game.