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Fallout 76 is quite Bethesda's biggest bomb

Published on 12/17/2018
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Fallout 76 sets itself strictly apart from earlier entries by being the first Fallout game without any human NPC’s. In Fallout 76’s setting of West Virginia, which takes place shortly after the bomb fell, the vault dwellers are the only humans that exist. Which means the only humans you’ll run into are other players. The game is still full of quests to do and unlike what people will tell you, it does actually have a story. Just not one that is straight up told to you, you will have to read a lot of emails and listen to a fair bit of holotapes left behind by the people who died.

Before the bombs fell, all the brightest and best in America were sent to a special underground Vault 76 in Appalachia, an alternate version of West Virginia. Built to withstand the nuclear onslaught that ravaged the land. Twenty-five years later, you play one of those vault dwellers, on what they term as ‘Reclamation Day’. Setting the stage for the great multi-player game where humanity ventures forth into this battered new world to reclaim it by building settlements together. Except you find the land taken over by a whole lot of mutated monstrosities.

A reasonable diagnosis is that the game was released before it was ready in order to join the Christmas rush.  And the symptoms are everywhere. Unique concepts and quirks of the game now appear as ad hoc fixes for a set of developers rushed into finishing such a massive game in clearly not enough time. The result is Fallout 76, a monster of a game: big, ugly and unloved by many who play it. Come to now, you can buy FO76 Caps with fast delivery and 100% safety.

Gamers were promised a bespoke online experience set in the heart of Fallout, a franchise most known for its sharp wit, post-apocalyptic flair, and RPG excellence. We were told the online-only game could be enjoyed alone or with friends. We were told this was the most ambitious, biggest game Bethesda has ever made, and that it was a grand undertaking. But Fallout 76 feels like the anti-Fallout game. There's so many things just torn out of it that it feels like a shell of its forebears, a husk that's built around busywork-driven online content in an effort to tap the rich vein of engagement monetization. Fallout 76's core problems aren't just technical; it's most damning misfires are mechanical, thematic, and conceptual.

I'm still somehow not very far into Fallout 76, despite having played it for a week; many of its most distinctive features seem reserved for high-level players. But it so far has that feeling of being a relaxing, unthreatening journey into an after-the-end scenario that's far less harrowing than it perhaps should be. Then again, maybe in 2018 the apocalypse has come to seem quaint, now that we've drowned in decades of breathless pop-culture depictions, and as reality becomes ever more dire in ways that might be irreversible.

Bethesda’s decision to demolish this key pillar of narrative and gameplay and put in its place a rickety online multiplayer component was a mistake. Human players will never provide the same narrative substance of written NPCs, and while multiplayer can be a lot of fun in certain contexts, eliminating NPCs makes the game feel empty, soulless, and disposable in the larger context of the franchise’s legacy.

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