Bethesda's latest installment in the Fallout series is here, but if you are a die hard fan of the previous versions of the game, this may be the Fallout you'll want to pass on. Although everyone will have their own in my personal opinion, Fallout 76 could be considered the worst in series or a sellout of the worst kind. Heads-up, you guessed it, this is an op-ed view of Bethesda's new game.
Before we dive into some of the problems that currently plague Fallout 76, in the interest of fairness I should point out that part of my dislike for this game comes from watching another one of my long term favorite series turn into an MMORPG. I've never been a person that enjoys gaming online. I predominantly look for games that are story driven. Fun gaming mechanics are important to me, as is a certain amount of challenge, but if the story is bad or impaired by other factors I don't consider a game worth playing.
Over the years, I've watched some of my favorite series such as Warcraft and Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic turn into MMORPGs, and it pains me to see that happening to Fallout. All of the previous games in the Fallout series have been heavily story driven, grabbing you attention early on and giving you incentives to pursue the story through to its end.
MMORPGs often struggle to drive gameplay with a strong story, in part due to the swarm of other people. It's hard to be the main character in a story when several others are standing beside you. Fallout 76 also suffers from this, and you barely get ten minutes into the game before you see dozens of other people following the path laid out by the main story. The situation worsens any time you need to access a specific piece of equipment. Workbenches, fireplaces, and terminals allow just one person to access them at a time. If you need to access any of these items, you will be stuck waiting in a virtual line. Finally, a game with all the fun of visiting your local DMV!
Having to wait to use equipment slows down the story and can be annoying, but it isn't the only thing that kills the story. You may want to carefully work through an area, but that's hard to do when some dork standing beside you is jumping up and down or running in circles. Enemies in Fallout 76 will attack anyone they see, and players can lure a swarm of monsters to you. Then there is also the notable lack of NPCs. There are some robots, but the story is mostly driven by audio recordings and text documents. There aren't any characters for you to get used to or to help drive the story along, and it sort of saps any real motivation you have to complete the story.
In short, after playing Fallout 76 for a short time, the main story becomes dull and uninteresting. It also doesn't help that the main story starts off by just telling you to go from one place to the next. As exploring the wasteland has always been a key part of any Fallout game, you won't get very far before you decide to just go exploring. This is also somewhat hampered by the changes made to convert the game into an MMORPG though.
As you explore the wasteland, you will once again be surrounded by people. Outside, this can be somewhat problematic, as Bethesda turned up the respawn rate to cope with the increased number of players and prevent the wasteland from becoming a dead zone. This is one feature that actually gets worse when less people aren't around, as you may encounter new enemies every time you turn around if you are go off exploring on your own.
Step into a building, and you may find your path physically blocked by other players. Players can't pass through each other, so if someone leaves their character standing in a door way or similarly cramped area, you will be stuck waiting for them to move out of the way. You will also have to deal with a second or two of load time every time you search containers, as the system checks with the online server to see what to put in the box.
After you finish exploring and have an inventory full of loot, you will also have the joy of either paying to fast travel back to your base or walking. If you don't have enough caps, you won't have a choice. As fast traveling has been something you can just do in other other Fallout games, this is a rather strange decision, and it doesn't really make sense. Fast travel is just supposed to be a way to make your character walk from your current location to somewhere else without you having to manually control everything. In a large open-world game, it's incredibly useful as a time saver. But being forced to bring enough caps to pay for it is just silly.
Other than these changes, the overall gameplay experience is highly reminiscent of Fallout 4, which begs the question why buy Fallout 76? If Fallout 4 has the same graphics, the same gameplay experience, and a better story, then what reason is there to play Fallout 76?
If you are tired of Fallout 4 and really want to spend more time exploring the wasteland, then dig into some of the older games in the series. Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics differ significantly from Fallout 4, but they are all interesting and enjoyable titles to explore. Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas are somewhat similar to Fallout 4, but are well-built with a lot of variety to enjoy. Fallout New Vegas is actually my favorite game in the series to date, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone that hasn't already tried it.
As a long time fan of the Fallout series, I really wanted to like this game. I've played every Fallout game released on PC, and I actually live close to some of the locations shown in Fallout 76. The amusement park featured in the game, Camden Park, is a short 10 minute drive from my house. But I can't help but feel they ruined it with the focus on taking the game online, and I seriously hope this is the first and last Fallout game to mandate playing in an MMORPG environment.
If you are a fan of MMORPGs, then you may love Fallout 76, but for those of us that don't, it's a nightmare come true.