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    Fallout 76

    Game » consists of 9 releases. Released Nov 13, 2018

    A spin-off of the post-apocalyptic Fallout series, bringing the series' traditional role-playing shooter mechanics to an always-online multiplayer world in 22nd-century Appalachia.

    nateandrews's Fallout 76 (PC) review

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    Fallout 76 is a very imperfect game, but the world of Appalachia is compelling and offers a ton to the series lore

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    When Bethesda announced last year that Fallout 76 would receive a major update that would add human NPCs, it was as much a reinvention of the game's basic premise as it was a reminder that somehow a Fallout game was launched without them. Even if one had bought into the premise of an online Fallout game--I certainly did not--this was a rather shocking omission, rivaled only by the aforementioned announcement that Bethesda would not be sticking to their guns with that decision forever. Was this the plan all along? I couldn't say.

    What I can say is that now, in 2020, Fallout 76 is basically an okay Fallout game, at least within the context of how the series is defined post-Fallout 3. But this isn't really because of the newly added human NPCs. If anything, the interactions with other survivors is largely disappointing. Conversations with most characters are brisk, with limited dialogue options and very few important decisions to be made anywhere. There are two major settlements, but they are mostly devoid of life and consequences. There's no such thing as theft in Fallout 76, so you can rob these people blind and they won't bat an eye. Remember the Megaton decision in Fallout 3, or winning an argument about military strategy with a boss character in Fallout: New Vegas? Fallout 76 simply does not aspire to operate on that level.

    Well-placed skeletons all over the game tell fun little stories
    Well-placed skeletons all over the game tell fun little stories

    And maybe it couldn't, given the online nature of the game. Fallout 76 never was and never will be an MMO, and frankly you'd be forgiven for forgetting that it was even an online game to begin with. In the roughly 30 hours I've spent with the game, I've explored nearly the entire map but have encountered other players only a handful of times. The interactions with other players is largely nonexistent. We ignore each other, or one of us finishes off an enemy that the other was fighting and then runs off into the distance. The game doesn't present any reason to ever team up with anyone, unless you want to defeat one of the game's monstrous folklore creatures or build houses together.

    That feature carries over from Fallout 4, along with the game's extensive crafting mechanic. Together those two really define much of the experience of playing Fallout 76. Your gear breaks at an alarming rate, necessitating that you grab every bit of junk you find so you can break it down into components which are used to repair your items and install mods. It's a loop that probably only appeals to fans of survival games. I enjoy this, but that is the loop of this game.

    The devastation of the Ash Heap region is particularly striking
    The devastation of the Ash Heap region is particularly striking

    Where Fallout 76 is at its most compelling is actually in its world building and exploration. The region of Appalachia is huge, and Bethesda managed to cram a few different biomes within its confines. There are lush forests, urban ruins, and bubbling, toxic swamps. One of my favorite regions is where two competing pre-war mining companies engaged in a literal mine-off to settle a dispute about workforce automation. Together the two corporations fatally churned the land into mud and soot, giving it an appearance more akin to Passchendaele circa 1918 than the beautiful West Virginia countryside.

    While the game is utterly lacking in compelling face-to-face interactions, there's a lot of great pre-war material to be found throughout the game's terminals. Though it can get repetitive having most of the game's lore about pre-war West Virginia delivered through emails and typed journal entries, I've loved reading about the corporate tyranny and labor strikes that were happening right before the bombs dropped. There's a lot of compelling writing to be found about Vault-Tec Corporation, the Brotherhood of Steel, and other Fallout-isms too.

    No Captain MacMillan here
    No Captain MacMillan here

    This being an online-only game, Fallout 76 has exactly the kind of network lag and server disconnects you would expect. Surprisingly, the game is exceptionally good at autosaving, so that every time I've been kicked to the main menu (or had the game crash, for that matter) I've never really lost any progress. The most frustrating effect that the always-on connectivity has on the experience is making the combat feel sluggish. Enemies will frequently take a second or two to die after you've drained their health bar because the server hasn't caught up yet. It might also explain the often terrible hit detection, but I'm still trying to work that one out.

    Along with this is the mightily frustrating enemy scaling. It sounds like this is getting a rework later this year, but as of this writing the difficulty of combat swings way too wildly. A level 15 Super Mutant will go down in a few shots from my combat rifle, but a level 20 mosquito in the next town over will take 14 shots from my shotgun before it's even down to half health. I've stumbled into random pockets of level 68 ghouls that are virtually impossible to beat without finding a way to cheese the AI. In my last play session, I was chased a kilometer or two by some level 30 Radscorpions that I could barely put a dent in. But a level 30 mole rat that ambushes me through the ground will drop in a few seconds. Is the Radscorpion's carapace really so strong that my only option is to just run away? What about the raider I fought earlier who was wearing a full set of power armor but still went down in a few shots? These sorts of encounters happen in all areas of the map.

    Interiors are well-detailed and so, so full of junk to pick up
    Interiors are well-detailed and so, so full of junk to pick up

    I truly have no idea what I'm about to get into when I enter into combat. Will I breeze through without taking any damage, or will I exhaust all of my ammunition on a single enemy for reasons unknown? This never feels good. V.A.T.S., the ability that lets you target specific limbs and that occurs in real-time in Fallout 76, helps with some of these encounters, but trying to select the correct limb while an enemy is actively killing you is a real hassle. Plus, using it means draining AP, which is used to sprint away from these enemies when all hope is lost. It's hard to have it both ways.

    But I like Fallout 76, and I have a difficult time explaining why. Much like Fallout 4 the person-to-person interactions are severely lacking, and you're constantly showing up to interesting towns and settlements after they've been taken over by bandits or carnivorous creatures. Instead of finding a safe place full of people with stories and missions, it's another bandit haven or mutant camp. And yet I keep exploring, pushing past these issues and the occasional server disconnects. As with the rest of Bethesda's open-world catalog, there's an inherent joy I feel in walking across these game worlds and uncovering the map. The bits of story sprinkled throughout Fallout 76 have made much of this journey feel worthwhile, even as I continue to fight against the game's inconsistent combat and the ever-present feeling that this truly did not ever need to be an online game.

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    Other reviews for Fallout 76 (PC)

      Fallout 76 is trying to be a Fallout and a Survival game but fails to be either. 0

      Before I start I just wanted to get one thing straight first: Fallout 76 is not a Fallout game, at least not a traditional Fallout game. Sure it's got all the aesthetics of Fallout game with the Vault-Boy, Super Mutants, and Pipe Revolvers. It has much of the same mechanics as Bethesda era Fallout games with perks, SPECIAL stats, and VATS. But it is not a Fallout game, it is a survival game with a Fallout skin. It is a game very much in the vein of DayZ, H1Z1, Rust and so many others since the g...

      5 out of 5 found this review helpful.

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