Fallout 76 is a brand new entry in the series first revealed at E3 2018, but once confirmation about the online multiplayer nature of the game hit, fans were quick to react negatively to it. Fallout has always been about offering single-player open-world gaming at the best, but with this online spin-off, there was always room to experiment and see if this was a viable idea. It isn’t and not just because of the online factor; there are just so many things broken in the game that online is just a tiny issue in the grand scheme of things.
Fallout 76 features locations set in West Virginia and offers an open world referred to as Appalachia. Your character wakes up in Vault 76 on reclamation day but locates it empty and has to set out on a journey to find the overseer of the Vault. You are also tasked with rebuilding Appalachia while making sure to survive its deadly wastelands. The issue with the story is there is just no style or substance to it. The lack of NPCs means that most of the story and lore has to settle on audio logs, diary entries, and notes that you will find in the wasteland. Even then, it never feels interesting enough to draw your attention.
Fallout 76 as a game lacks in providing engaging gameplay elements. In many ways, it feels like a good amount of content is simply borrowed from Fallout 4, but made worse with the new changes. Combat is still terrible even though you can use both first and third person camera mode. There is just no fun in shooting with the weapons as they lack feedback. The melee combat feels like an iterative upgrade from Skyrim, or in other words, there is nothing remarkable about it. The aiming is horrible and often times you miss out on perfectly timed shots.
The combat feels worse with the erratic behavior of the enemy AI. Most of the common enemies that you will find during exploration can often get hit with bugs that make them useless or act as bullet sponges. It is easy to exploit their behavior and this becomes clear early on as you are able to take on enemies several times higher than your character level. The multiplayer aspect also plays a role here because you can party together with someone who has a higher level to make short work of enemies during early story missions.
Trust me, it is almost impossible to have a flawless experience in Fallout 76 because the game is just a buggy mess. There are so many bugs that keep popping over during the main campaign, and they keep stopping your progress or making it a frustrating experience. Quests get broken because a certain checkpoint fails to trigger, or because you can’t find the required item as it disappears. The bugs extend to the combat and visuals as well, with the enemies simply stopping in their tracks, or bullets failing to register as damage for them. I suspect this is mostly due to the game being online leading to the server failing to respond to player actions correctly. It can also kick you out of the server randomly which feels annoying, to say the least.
Base building was also presented as a new way to claim a territory in Fallout 76, but it feels severely limited here. You can make a base but the stash limit makes it tricky, and if you sometimes log out of the server, your base can disappear forcing you to relocate. Yes, this is actually one of the new additions in Fallout 76 that lets you carry over a base to a different location. It can also trigger if a player decides to build a base at the same location as yours, and in this case, you will be forced to move to a different place. If you were hoping to craft a base that looks stylish and impress other players, you will have to either do it every time you log into a server or settle on a bare minimum base with the essential crafting stations so you don’t have to worry about wasting time after creating and losing a base.
Fallout 76 as a spin-off sounds great in theory. It just has to offer everything that made Fallout 4 great but tries to innovate and spin it all for a multiplayer-oriented game. This isn’t the case here though, because the idea is simply executed badly. The multiplayer part of the game is just a huge open world that feels empty. It is full of the robot NPCs that act as vendors or points of interest between the quests. The lack of real human NPCs that offer their own stories are side-stepped by the players acting as one, but they just appear as a random blip on the world map. You can trade with them or partner together to defeat powerful enemies, but there is no easy way to forge friendship due to the dynamically changing servers each time you log into the game.
The world map in Fallout 76 is pretty huge and one thing that does deserve some credit here is that Bethesda has handled environmental story-telling rather efficiently. Sadly, it doesn’t solve the issue with the story progression or quests, which are mostly fetch quests sending you to collect items or discover locations. The disappointing campaign can only be made somewhat fun with multiplayer if you have friends or a partner to play it through, and it is the only redeeming factor for Fallout 76.
I have already talked about the bugs, now what about the visuals and performance? As I had an Xbox One X, naturally my expectations were quite high since Fallout 4 was decent on the Xbox One X. Fallout 76 is a step back though, not just in performance but in visual quality. It doesn’t offer anything new, or interesting over its predecessor and the performance is horrible all around. Going into a firefight with a gun that has post-processing effects like fire can easily tank the frame rate. The performance can also stutter randomly for no reason, which I felt like was quite distracting. Visually, it looks like a Frankenstein monster with some good-looking areas mixed in locations that just look poor under any condition.
Fallout 76 Review (Xbox One)
Game Reviewed on: Xbox One
Game description: Fallout 76 is an online multiplayer action role-playing video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. It is the ninth game in the Fallout series and serves as a narrative prequel to the series. It was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on November 14, 2018.
Final Score - 5.5/105.5/10
If I had to describe Fallout 76, I will say it is a flawed idea that never works well. It is simply broken and feels boring but offers a redeeming factor with the open world exploration in some well-crafted environments. The buggy nature of the game is its biggest hurdle and some quality of life changes will go a long way in molding it into something enjoyable in the future.