It’s the wasteland, Jim, but not as we know it!
I have never approached a first play with as much trepidation as I have with this one. I adore Fallout games, with their massive expansive worlds, oddball characters and my own character’s struggle to survive. This particular entry in the series rips up the rulebook. The people you’d normally meet in the game have all been removed. And in their place – other people… human players!
Fallout has always been a solo experience, the game sets the tone, and you play through in whichever style you please. Flooding the game with other players puts that tone in their hands. You could run into a stand-up bunch who will help you survive a horrendous ambush from the various creepy-crawlies that live in the wasteland…. or you could be surrounded by players armed to the teeth, gunned down for fun and watch as they rob your gear and do stupid emotes over your dead body.
I’ve only experienced the former so far, but it’s early days yet!
Let’s start at the start. For those who don’t know, the fallout games are all about the world after the nukes have destroyed society. You usually wake up in a vault, a vast bomb shelter that’s been sealed until it’s deemed safe to venture outside. Previously we’ve seen irradiated versions of Las Vegas, Boston and Washington D.C. This time? We’re in West Virginia. And now you’re all singing that song. I know you are 🙂
So, you wake up in Vault 76, and you’re the last one in there. You pick up your supplies (I was amazed there was anything left!) The giant door slides open, and your bleary eyes see the sun for the first time in years! You see a talking robot on your way out, who hands you your first “quest” and gives you a rough destination to head in, and then? It’s down to you!
You have total freedom to do whatever you want, which is what’s so great about Fallout. Follow the quest, or go off exploring. As a veteran of the series I immediately went rummaging in nearby houses and buildings. You need to arm yourself with something (I found a lead pipe) and you’ll need food and water to survive (as well as your health bar your thirst and hunger are now measured)
76’s mechanics are exactly the same as the earlier games – you can play in first or third person modes, you have a pip boy on your arm where you can see everything from maps to weapons to limb damage. You can sprint, sneak, sleep, build settlements and use all manner of weapons. Exploring, completing quests and killing baddies levels you up and you can choose from a multitude of perks to help your character along. You can communicate with other players in the world this time, chatting through a headset when you’re close enough. Your friends can meet up with you to take on the wastleand, even strangers can work together, form teams, alliances, even real friendships. 76 is bringing people together and it’s definitely commendable!
Two massive differences this time around though: The VATS targeting system that used to pause or slow down play while you picked your perfect shot seems pretty much redundant now (you can’t pause or slow down anything in an online world) and secondly, with no NPC’s around to talk to there’s no story driven conversations. No dialog options to charm, persuade or manipulate people. Just targets to shoot and machines that tell you what to do next. The world is so familiar, yet strange. Packed with REAL people to interact with, yet West Virginia feels a bit deserted!
I’m playing on despite these glaring omissions. It’s nice to have a new world to explore, with plenty of new critters to deal with, quests to complete, and once I’ve gathered enough resources, new settlements to build! Fallout 4’s building mode has returned and it’s better than ever. You can now set up camp wherever you like, create your new pad down to the smallest detail, and you can up and move whenever you like.
The game plays just like it should, it’s fairly solid as a shooting game, if not the most polished. The engine seems to lag and stutter at times, and Bethesda warned us there would be bugs and small issues from the get-go. Is this good enough from a triple-A game and a major development studio? That’s up to you to decide!
Overall I’ve enjoyed my first foray into Fallout 76. It’s definitely rough around the edges, and I would have much preferred a normal sequel, but it’s a brave idea, and it’s one I hope to enjoy with friends. Would I recommend it to everyone else? The answer is maybe. Read up on it, watch people playing it. Make sure you’re sure before buying it. The older games tell better stories, and you feel like the choices you make really matter, but if you live for shared experiences, this could just be right for you!