Last fortnight, Bethesda finally released one of the most speculated but highly anticipated releases of 2018 with quite the bang – a nuclear bang, to be more specific. This is Fallout 76, the new post-apocalyptic, vault-based and mutant-ridden action role-playing game that, for the first time in the Fallout series, features online multiplayer gameplay as opposed to prior single player questing that gamers saw back in 2015 with Fallout 4. Without further ado, let’s get our jumpsuits on and dive right into what Vault 76 has in store for players this winter.
The choice of playing individually or with friends online adds interesting elements of teamwork and multiplayer battles that have not really been seen much before in previous Fallout titles, however, this means that Bethesda have had to make plenty of other changes. There’s stunning additions to the universe, such as the mesmerizing open world environment of Appalachia, which is four times the size of any other of the Fallout settings. As a representation of how West Virginia would remain in the nuclear waste of Fallout’s America, players can explore twisted in-game versions of real life destinations like the West Virginia State Capitol, Camden Park and New River Gorge Bridge, soured by an expanded variety of enemies inspired by local folklore. If you fancy a tussle with the infamous Mothman, now you can, with Fallout 76!
With the gameplay situated within dedicated player servers of up to four people, this also means there’s some reductive features to the game, depending on your point of view. In an effort to counter griefing and other nasty aspects of player versus player mode gameplay, Todd Howard, the game director behind Fallout 76, let down expectations of there being public servers, as seen in other popular online open world role-playing titles such as World of Warcraft and Bethesda’s recent fantasy title Elder Scrolls Online. As a result of the multiplayer nature of the game, the developers also decided not to feature any human NPCs (non-player character), with the idea in mind that players will represent the only survivors in the area. So, from the moment you leave Vault 76 behind you, the rest of the map can become both enchanting and lonely as you explore it. The narrative is told through robots and holotapes if you’d like to pursue it, but otherwise, Appalachia is all yours to mess around in – which, in all honesty, seems to be what the game was made for.
Fallout 76, in a sense, enables you the ability to create your own story through reevaluated settlement features, which allows you to build structures wherever you’d like to on the map – however, they only temporarily appear when the player is online and are therefore not set in the server. Players also have the ability to fire nuclear weaponry into areas of the environment, irradiating them for a while and revealing rare items. This late-game feature presents the real horrors of Fallout 76 in that, once struck with a missile, areas attract the most powerful enemies in the game. Taking the game’s alternate history narrative of a war that destroyed Earth into these mechanics creates an intoxicating, semi-interactive action adventure like there hasn’t been seen often before.
Or at least, that is what it’s meant to do. Be wary before you consider purchasing the release, as over the last two weeks, many game reviewers – like The Guardian, Business Insider and Metacritic – have tended to describe this game as a bizarre and aimless post-apocalyptic tour, which lead to little less than an assembly of unveiling long-dead and unconnected narratives left behind in machines. This may still sound enjoyable to you if you’re a big fan of the franchise, like many – but for new players, Fallout 76 might seem like a pointless wander around a set of unfamiliar in-game references and a strange version of West Virginia. Reviewers of the game have slated it further, complaining of a lack in thought-through technical performance and near-consistent glitching. At the centre of all the criticism is the lack of NPCs and PVP (player versus player). Take away the-dog-eat-dog attitude of the post-apocalypse and the mistrust of everyone it brings with it, and you sort of take away the spirit of Fallout, as well as what could’ve been really fun about the game.