(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
For a game that gets as much hate as it does – Fallout 76 has survived a very rocky first year.
Fallout 76 has become a punchline. It’s become shorthand for game developer’s hubris – pushing out a half finished game for $60 and charging the playerbase for insignificant cosmetic items that modders had previously made and distributed for free. And most of that criticism is fair. I won’t argue that Fallout 76 deploys some pretty sketchy monetization tactics.
Despite that – I’ve spent more time playing Fallout 76 than any other game in 2019. Why? Allow me to explain.
When Fallout 76 Works – It’s Beautiful
And I don’t just mean visually – though it is a good looking game! A few improvements were made to the visuals between Fallout 4 and Fallout 76. Some of the lighting and shading is better, and at least on my machine I get a higher FPS on 76 than I do 4. Being set is West Virginia there’s a lot more trees and hills than the Capital Wasteland or The Commonwealth.
What I mean is – Fallout 76 is a thing of beauty in the online gaming world. The map is huge (larger than Fallout 4) and takes some serious time to explore, plus there are as many as 20 other players on the same server as you, and combat is real time hit-scan gun play. Oh, and you can build structures nearly anywhere on the map. That’s a hell of a technical achievement! I sometimes think we take stuff like that for granted. Allow me to sound old for a moment – but I remember a day where a game like that was actually impossible. And many failed experiments have lined the road that gives us a game like Fallout 76 – just as anyone whose player Tabula Rasa.
Now, I bet you noticed that qualifying statement: “when it works”. Many notable problems and bugs have plagued Fallout 76 since launch and it can be frustrating to run into some of those same bugs a year later – like the Tesla Rifle bug that makes enemies invincible unless you log out. C’mon Bethesda.
Character Builds Have Depth And Purpose
How long has it been since you played an online game where you felt like anything mattered beyond your role and gear? Your individual character build matters quite a bit in Fallout 76.
There’s several layers of customization – first is your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. perk cards. These are a lot of the character bonuses that fans of the Fallout series will be familiar with – Nerd Rage, Bloody Mess, Aqua Boy to name a few. The cool part about Fallout 76 is that you can hot swap these perk cards at a moments notice.
The second layer of customization is mutations. This is new to the Fallout franchise. If your character hang out is radiation too long your character may develop a mutation. Mutations come with a bonus to a trait but also a debuff on another trait. So, for example, Eagle Eyes gives you +4 Perception and +25% Critical damage but takes away 4 points of Strength. So while that mutation might be great for a rifle build, you can’t carry as much stuff with you. The thing is that mutations can be augmented by S.P.E.C.I.A.L. cards making mutations a much more viable for character builds.
The final layer is gear. Weapons and armor have some of the largest impact on character builds. Certain armor combinations can offset negative effects mutations and certain weapons with the right player build can take down a Scorchbest Queen in minutes.
The People Who Play Fallout 76 Are Awesome!
I nearly almost said the Fallout 76 community are awesome – which is wrong. The Fallout 76 community on Reddit, Twitter and YouTube are mostly toxic sludge piles filled with liars and charlatans looking to get clicks or take Bethesda down another peg (looking at you YongYea). But the people who actually play Fallout 76, who you interact with in game are some of the coolest people I’ve ever met in an online game!
Most of the people who inhabit Fallout 76 are nice and helpful (especially if you’re a new player) and will gladly team up with you for nuke bunkers, Scorchbeat Queens, Impostor Speepsquatches, Vault Raids or whatever else you find yourself doing. Even back when Fallout 1st came out and there were all kinds of reports of 76 players engaging in class warfare – I’ve been unable to substantiate a single actual occurrence of this actually happening.
Even with major gaming publications maligning Fallout 76 the players still find awesome and creative ways to express their love for the West Virginian Wasteland.
Take this project which I actually had participated in where fans recreated famous album covers in Fallout 76’s photo mode
For our final nod to the Fallout community’s involvement on the #F76AlbumCovers project our very own @Pantagruelia made this incredible collage of all 100 submissions as a tribute and a thank you for your amazing work! 🤩🙌 pic.twitter.com/kCIQH8o3pz— F76ArtProjects 🛫 (@ArtF76) November 9, 2019
You also have groups out there like the Wasteland HOA (Home Owners Association) who go around and do MTV’s Cribs but for people’s Fallout house.
The players of Fallout 76 are probably its high point.
Wastelanders Seems Huge!
Fallout 76’s first two injections of DLC got a mixed receptions. Wild Appalachia added some new quests and events which were cool, and Nuclear Winter added a Battle Royale mode that’s mostly flopped and Vault raids which also had some technical problems early on. But many people have high hopes for Wastelanders – the third piece of DLC for Fallout 76 which was recently delayed to 2020.
One of the major criticisms of Fallout 76 from die-hard Fallout fans was that the lack of NPC’s made the word feel empty. I thought Bethesda did a remarkable job telling a story without using NPC’s. Either way – NPC’s are coming to Fallout 76 with Wastelanders along with new weapons, new enemies, a new vault and a host of other changes that will evolve Fallout 76 into its next incarnation.
Will I like that incarnation as much as I’ve like the current Fallout 76? Only time will tell – but I know this, it’s a double XP weekend and my second character could use some leveling.
See you in the Wasteland!