For over a week now, Bethesda’s spin-off of the Fallout series, Fallout 76, has been available for immersion. After the beta disaster, where by clicking on “Play” all game files were deleted as if by magic, the servers were already online for everyone before 14 November. And we’re not talking about super mutants here (only).
Atomb bombs change you
Bethesda was already a bit away from the original series with Fallout 4. With short and intransigent dialogues, immortal companions or the focus on building and defending scrap fortresses, the game as a whole lacked a little depth. On the other hand, there was the outstandingly functioning spirit of discovery and a credible world with few survivors, who often united in factions. Every fan of the series knows their strengths and weaknesses well enough.
With Fallout 76 an attempt comes now on the market, in a scenario, which the series veterans probably did not expect themselves. While fans, similar to Skyrim, often wish for cooperative modes for such single-player blockbusters, the new offshoot wants to swim a little against the radioactively contaminated stream. And turns the solo series into a multiplayer exploration simulator without NPCs, in which killing other players should play an essential role. The question of “why” comes to mind. But the ones after the “why not” might be the same.
A friendly welcome
dead as dead
In the character editor, we can define the appearance of our character in the same way as in previous parts. After that we will be released as inhabitants of Vault 76 in the world destroyed after nuclear wars , and will repopulate it together with our former flatmates. But this does not happen at all, as in many humid-happy fantasies, with never-ending tenderness. In the beginning, we follow the trail of our Vault’s warden, who left us a trail of boxes of useful equipment – including audio logs – that are supposed to introduce the survivors to the game world.
In the previous part, these audio logs were additions to the universe, so-called “Environmental Storytelling. In Fallout 76, these audio logs are now almost the only source for the narrated story. Because apart from mutants, animals, robots and us players, there is no other living being in the world that could give a Schwank to the best. Almost everything we learn about audiologs and found letters, the environment itself. Apart from the fact that reading and listening for hours is not everyone’s cup of tea, it contradicts the multiplayer concept of the game a little. The request to cease fire, as our character is listening to a heartbreaking story, has only rarely been answered so far.
Gunshots and logged out
In general, PvP is artificial and not well thought-out. The intention of a duel is expressed by a Duelist inflicting damage on another player. The confirmation takes place by causing damage to the other party. That starts the argument. There’s only one big catch: shooting at players who don’t agree to a duel does extremely little damage to them. Probably to avoid annoying players who are not interested in hostile actions. So the challenger has an immense disadvantage. Because the opponent, as soon as we have expressed our intention, can throw in a drug cocktail of psycho, buffout and other drugs, comfortably pull his rocket launcher out of his trouser pocket and blow us out of our shoes with his consent. Bethesda urgently needs to make improvements here, for example by means of an invitation system or even a server separation. Private servers should appear around the end of 2019, on these the much demanded mods should also be allowed.
In addition, there is a hunting mode for which you can register via a radio station on the well-known forearm computer, the Pip Boy. As soon as enough players have been found, each player is assigned a target to be hunted down. Of course, our character also becomes a walking target for another player. The last survivor wins the hunt. While the mode sounds fun, I couldn’t find a group for it yet. Because if you don’t stumble across it by chance or research it, you won’t know anything about it. Bethesda leaves the players in the game in the dark. In general, Fallout 76 looks bleak with the usual genre features
Quality of life scarce goods
Of course, most of the existing functions from Fallout 4 were simply taken over. Sorting the inventory in the Pip Boy is still extremely cumbersome and confusing, so that due to the limited capacity a lot of time is spent in menus. It is not rare that we have cleaned an area and now want to take care of the prey in peace. With larger buildings this can take so long that enemies who have already been struck down appear again. After all, the Loot also reappears, but this can be annoying at times.
The maximum stock limit of 400 has caused outcry. Because without a blueprint for a Power Armor stand, which you don’t get until later in the game, these armor parts alone take up a lot of space. Together with weapons that can only be used at a higher level, food or scrap that is needed for building and repairing, the limit is quickly reached. Moreover, our hiker in the world rarely encounters traders in the form of robots, who have only over 200 crown corks per day . So if you want to sell, you have to be quick: Not only does a player block a dealer as soon as he interacts with him – the sellers also belong to different factions and share the crown caps among themselves. So if a merchant no longer has a crown cork, no merchant of that faction is liquid anymore. An absolute absurdity.
All you need after a hard day in the wasteland
Engine…Engine never changes
In addition, Fallout 76 proves that the engine simply doesn’t seem to be up to date. Even if the graphics are sometimes nice to look at and harmonious, even strong systems have to struggle with immense frame losses again and again. And we really can’t talk about high-end graphics here. In addition, there are no Field of View settings in the game, no Ultra-Wide support, and voice chat, which is activated by default, has often caused annoying frustrations. Especially at the beginning, as all survivors start in the Vault 76. From harmless chatting to the secretion of body fluids, everything was included in the sudden sound explosion. Muting all players at the push of a button is not possible, it is Fallout-typically through several menus with nonsensical hotkeys to be fumbled. In addition, players connect to servers that cannot be preselected. Even if you take the trouble to mute all players preventively at the beginning, you have to do it again at the next game session, because you don’t always play on the same server with the same people. Except, of course, when you go out with friends. For these things Bethesda has already announced improvements with upcoming patches.
Colored forests, bland tasks
The handling of the weapons generally feels very cumbersome because, for example, the horizontal zoom does not offer the same speed as the vertical zoom. Likewise, the game doesn’t seem to save the progress between quests every time the game ends. Rather, a time value for “automatic saving” was found in a file. This is why it has happened from time to time that Progress was lost if you logged out at the wrong moment and outside the storage interval. How such a function made it into the release version of a multiplayer title is not easy to explain. Nevertheless, there are of course positive, entertaining situations in the game. For example, when a gang of stray ghouls, called “burned” ghouls, surprised us at night in the forest. On the run, we landed straight in a bus full of super mutants. Luckily our new “friends” took each other out.
The quests themselves are very generic and usually consist only of putting an involuntary end to other characters. There are some very funny exceptions, such as a Parkour-like fire brigade exam or an event in which animals have to be shot at with special ammunition in order to make them speak. All in all, however, there are too few strange or interesting protagonists, who were quite common in the series. In addition it gives a feeling of senselessness to take entrance examinations from various factions, although no living member of the faction exists anymore.
One of the inedible fungi in Fallout 76
Card game in modular system
Our wanderer can put a point into the well-known “S.P.E.C.I.A.L.”-system to increase a desired attribute with each level ascent. A card with various bonuses can then be selected for this attribute. These bonuses are usually aimed at improving the quality of life, which makes the game more difficult from the outset. In most cases, this concerns the weight reduction of objects or the need to eat and drink less. There are also fixed level packages with mostly randomly generated cards. So if you want to build on the basis of a plan you have to be lucky or at least use a planner. This is especially annoying when players want to quickly improve their ability to crack locks or hack systems, but can’t get the right cards until they reach a certain level. A rather awkward element.
Was it fun to assemble the cards, but the random component is still annoying. This is probably to prevent level three players from cracking locks of the highest level. But why the abilities tree from Fallout 4 was not used is unclear. So it just seems like an additional artificial limitation that prevents the game from playing the way the player wants it to. In addition, there are upgrades that affect our endurance regeneration, sprint speed or the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (V.A.T.S. for short). In Fallout 76, V.A.T.S. acts as a kind of target help, since the passage of time cannot be slowed down in a multiplayer game. But this element is unfortunately just as badly implemented. Since enemies move in real time, the percentage chance of hitting changes every second, especially with more agile opponents, and can sometimes be as low as 20 percent.
End play in the end time
At higher levels it is certainly possible to pursue employment, even if the selection is currently very limited. You can try to find and decipher nuclear codes, for example. This more complex process makes it possible to launch atomic bombs which, after the explosion, will reveal new minerals or cause special bosses in certain parts of the game world. These may then be fought, preferably in groups. Should a nuclear missile destroy our camp, it can be rebuilt relatively quickly. In addition, you receive a warning two minutes before impact, giving everyone time to quickly relocate their warehouse.
As not only friendly-minded players exist in the post-apocalyptic world, you should take care of your own camp, because as long as the player who built it is online, it can be destroyed. If you go offline, the camp disappears too. In the meantime, if another player has built too close to our camp until the next login, or if we find ourselves on a server where another player has already occupied this seat, we will have to move ours. After all, this is possible with a few clicks.
Peace, at last
CONCLUSION: Not mutant fish, not mutant meat
Fallout 76 must be seen as an experiment. Innovation and the dismantling of old structures are generally welcome, but in this case questionable decisions have sometimes been taken. Why do you suddenly shift an atmospheric single-player classic into a player versus player focus? And then there is the quality, which does not seem appropriate to the current zeitgeist or the price to be paid for the title. Wouldn’t the Fallout series be predestined for a multiplayer title where you roam the world together and the main focus is on the world and the atmosphere itself? With a focus on competing against NPCs together and experiencing exciting quests? Of course the player battle can also work, but at the moment there is simply a lack of concept and implementation.
However, not everything is bad, exploring the world is fun and the atmosphere is great again. In this area, however, there are few or no innovations. Fallout 76 is currently a title full of unanswered, contradictory questions. It’s supposed to be PvP, but the mechanics and the implementation aren’t really good for it. It’s supposed to be cooperative, but the permanent audio logs and log entries disturb the game flow too much. The players have to collect and build, but the space is strictly limited. It seems as if Bethesda herself doesn’t know where the journey is going. An atomic shop for cosmetic objects already exists, so is it about microtransactions? Is it the prelude to a real Fallout MMO? Of course, everyone who invests in the first generation of an innovation bears a certain risk. And the game can still be fun, because the proven basic structure works quite falloutesque. Nevertheless one remains with many question marks over the head behind. Perhaps the path will become clearer once it has been walked a little. When the technical problems have been fixed, the game has been given urgently needed comfort features, and the artificial limits have been given more polish. The title can still be entertaining for many players. But everyone should find out exactly what they are getting into here. The apocalypse is just not a walk in the park.What is Fallout 76? Multiplayer Experiment of the well-known Wasteland Apocalypse Series.
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Tested: On PC Intel Core i5-4590, 8GB RAM, GeForce GTX 960
Developer / Publisher: Bethesda Game Studios / Bethesda Softworkts
Release: November 14, 2018