Fallout 76

Fallout 76

After years of solo adventures, the vault doors have opened on an online wasteland.

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Fallout 76 marks the second venture into MMO territory for a beloved Bethesda property. It takes a side step from the core series and allows players to build bases, embark on quests, and explore the nuclear dust storm of West Virginia with other fellow survivors in what is the series' first strictly online outing. The beta may have proven divisive with the excessive bugs and the general loneliness of the world being at the forefront of the complaints, but we decided to go in with an open mind as we stepped out of the vault and made our journey across this new world.

76 takes place two decades after the bombs fell and is a prequel to all other Fallout titles that came before it, with the story unfolding in the year 2102. Your journey starts on Reclamation day and you play as one of the very first humans to have emerged from the vault and entered the wasteland (a privilege which we can't see being valued by many). After suiting yourself up with the appropriate gear (a blue and yellow party hat) you set out to fulfill the requests of the overseer and work to restore humanity with what remains of civilisation.

There may be some major changes here and there but 76 still plays like your typical Fallout game (well, Fallout 3 onwards anyway). The snappy combat you'll remember from previous instalments is still intact and you'll be doing the usual scavenging for loot and completing quests to advance the story further along. In addition to this, everything can just be played completely on your own and you can approach everything as you would when playing Fallout 4, for example. This is something we thought we'd stress before delving into the nitty-gritty, as from the promotional materials it can be easy to view 76 as a different beast entirely.

Fallout 76 has a dazzling scope, with the ruins of West Virginia being four times the size of Fallout 4, making it easily the largest region we've had the chance to explore thus far. The southern state looks downright gorgeous here despite 76's ageing engine, and it looks wonderfully cosy with its golden shades of autumn. Exploring this gaping sandbox with our friends journeying alongside was the most fun we had in 76 as its rich environmental design made us want to comb every inch. The engine's wrinkles do show though, with some crude-looking character models and shabby textures, even if it is easily the best-looking Fallout to date.

Fallout 76
Fallout 76Fallout 76Fallout 76

Perhaps the most controversial change 76 has ushered in is the removal of all human NPCs, meaning only robots, documents, and holotapes provide you with snippets of story. Due to the lack of a human connection we found ourselves less invested in the quests we were handed, and West Virginia felt like a vast post-apocalyptic ghost town as a result. Areas in the past such as Fallout 4's Diamond City Market felt well-populated and alive, but this time a sense of eternal loneliness has been implemented, which is kind of fitting but also pretty dull. We understand that Bethesda opted to do this to make every human encounter feel momentous, but it's ultimately come at the cost of some of the studio's usual storytelling magic.

As alluded to, the quests in Fallout 76 don't quite work as we've come to expect from the series. Instead of talking to NPCs, we get missions via computers, robots, and audio logs, which are then added to an ever-growing list (each with their own objectives). The main story will see you try to track down the overseer of the vault, but before long you'll be researching and cooking and heading out on fetch quests. It's not a million miles away from the previous formula, but what's new is the random events that pop up, giving you and your mates a chance to head on over and fulfill a task to get rewards. These work a little like they do in Destiny, and you'll regularly see them pop up and demand your attention during your time in the wasteland.

Playing with friends can elevate the experience tenfold as you fight mutated beasts and build bases side by side, but those playing alone can also find fun in the added connectivity. There are 22 players on each server and you can view their locations on the map if you are hoping to find someone to trade with, team up with, or fight in PvP. The PvP for us is where Fallout's online potential really shines though, as it features fun mechanics such bounties being placed on the heads of players who have slain those not willing to fight.

The move to online has conjured up more than a few problems though. During an earlier tutorial quest, we had to purify water by boiling it at cooking station, however, the one we needed to use was occupied by another player. It remains unclear whether they were mocking us or had simply gone for a quick coffee break but the player wouldn't move and we were unable to progress until we quit the game and joined another server. This is just one small example but it shows how some aspects of the experience have become flawed in the transition to fully online. Having to wait around while someone uses a workbench or stove is hardly ideal, after all.

Fallout 76Fallout 76
Fallout 76Fallout 76

As we mentioned before, combat is pretty much faithful to its predecessors, but VATS of course had to be reworked to be functional online. Instead of manipulating the course of time VATS in 76 is more of an auto-targeting system which proves handy when you are being swarmed by a group of rabid mole rats, for example. It's perfectly functional but we do miss those cinematic moments, such as watching a ghoul's head explode in slow motion after executing the perfect headshot. It might not be a surprise then to hear that we found ourselves not using it as much as before.

Perk cards come as a replacement for the chart seen in Fallout 4, and they mix in just a dash of the series' quirky humour. You can collect a variety of cards that fall under the banners of the seven SPECIAL attributes (strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, agility, and luck) and you're handed a new one each time you level after selecting the skill line you want to invest in. An example is the Gladiator card which falls under the strength category and gives you a 20% boost in damage when using one-handed melee weapons. These cards made leveling up fun and we loved how each pack of cards that you receive for hitting a certain level milestone included a stick of gum and cringe-inducing joke.

Fallout 76Fallout 76Fallout 76
Fallout 76

The C.A.M.P. system has also been expanded upon, and it was a real highlight to build our very own shelter from the horrors of the wasteland. You can create your base on any flat surface and you can build together with friends by placing your C.A.M.P. modules together. Those collected dog bowls, clipboards, and telephones all have a purpose here as they can be scrapped at workbenches for materials for new decorations, workstations, and structures. We did experience some minor issues though as blades of grass protruded through the floor and we were unable to build on some visibly empty spaces.

Radroaches and cave crickets weren't the only bugs we had to grapple with during our time with 76 either. The frame-rate would often take a hit during combat and an abundance of graphical glitches saw enemies clipping through the floor and sloppily darting back and forth during fights. The loading times were also unbearably long and that, rather than the expense of our precious caps, was often the reason why we chose not to fast travel. Bethesda titles are often slated for their performance woes but they feel especially pronounced with Fallout's transition into a fully online experience.

When pausing to reflect on our experience with Fallout 76 we couldn't help but be reminded of Rare's efforts with Sea of Thieves. The concept of a fully online Fallout title seemed so very sweet in theory but Bethesda has made more than a few stumbles along the way resulting in a botched execution. Some elements struggle to transition well online, West Virginia feels desolate and empty at times, and there's an abundance of bugs plaguing the experience. With some TLC we can see Fallout 76 blossoming into what we initially hoped for. Alas, it's not quite there yet, although it fills us with hope that Bethesda has pledged to support the title right until the very end.

06 Gamereactor UK
6 / 10
The world is full of rich detail and is just begging to be explored, Combat is still fun (including PvP) and is aided by the perk cards.
Buggy at launch, Frame-rate drops, Long loading times, NPC characters are a big miss in terms of storytelling.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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