Fallout 76's long-anticipated Wastelanders update has now arrived - introducing a whole new story arc, and finally, human NPCs!
The wasteland is in need of a saviour - a Scorched Plague is running rampant and its crumbled city streets are swarmed with mutated beasts and gun-toting bandits. After reuniting with Vault 76's Overseer you forge a plan to piece together the shattered remains of civilisation. Stashed with enough gold to form the basis of a new currency is Vault 79 - a secret government bunker armed to the teeth with turrets and lasers. Without the right supplies or expertise though, you are going to need some support, and luckily, two new groups, known as The Settlers and The Raiders, have moved into your area.
Both these opposing factions have their own skill sets and ideologies and we found it to be a tough call when deciding who to side with before the end. With strung up corpses and heads on pikes greeting us as we entered their compound, The Raiders instantly established themselves as a group of capable killers not to be crossed. The Settlers, by comparison, felt much more accommodating, but we had our doubts as to whether they would be up to the task what with them being a group of survivors led by former construction workers.
Linked to both of these groups is a reputation system where you can earn exclusive unlocks as your relationships deepen. Starting at 'Hostile', the reputation system has seven different levels with your standing improved as you complete both main and daily quests for each respective group. As they become more enticed by your charm, merchants at each base will offer more supplies - such as unique recipes for you to spend caps on. The reputation system is very much like what we saw in Fallout 4 and we are sure it will give players more mileage out of the story as they take their time to earn all unlockables.
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We found ourselves much more engrossed with the narrative this time around as it often felt as though we were playing a core entry in the Fallout series. Characters felt genuinely interesting and the upgraded dialogue system meant that conversations felt dynamic and we always had a slew of different options to select from. Returning from Fallout 3 are skill checks, where additional dialogue options will open up to you if you are to meet the right S.P.E.C.I.A.L stat criteria. These choices can influence the actions of NPCs and pushed us to think even more carefully about where we wanted to spend our points after levelling up.
The new story arc will take around 10 hours to complete and can be accessed immediately by both new and veteran players. The bulk of Wastelanders sees you prepare for the big heist and what is great is that you can play with both factions right up until the raid itself. We found the new quests to be a pretty mixed bag; the mid-portion mainly just boiled down to repetitive fetch quests to ensure each group was properly prepared. There were some standouts though, such as The Raiders quest 'Cheating Death', where we had to navigate cautiously through a trap-filled hideout to convince a suicidal runaway to join us.
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Before even reaching this stretch of the campaign though, we were met with an unexpected roadblock and had to grind to level 20 before we could advance. We then turned our attention to the vanilla quests to see how they had been revamped as part of the update. To Bethesda's credit, there have been some notable improvements here; human NPCs have been added to deliver additional lore and existing NPCs now have much more to say. The issue was that this little detour worked to shine a spotlight on how jarringly different the older quests were in quality to what this new update has to offer.
Wastelanders is a monumental update to Fallout 76, marking its single greatest step in quality since it launched almost eighteen months ago. The addition of human NPCs helped improve storytelling and we appreciate that an effort has been made to enhance some of the base game content. The vanilla quests do sour the experience and we found there were too many repetitive fetch quests in the new storyline. Still, if you already own Fallout 76, Wastelanders is well-worth your attention, as it arrives as a free update for players across all platforms.
7 / 10
Human NPCs make for much more organic storytelling, conversations feel dynamic, effort has been put into enhancing older quests.
Repetitive fetch quests soured the experience, the vanilla quests still feel tedious to play despite improvements, early game roadblock hurt the flow of the campaign.