As you emerge from Vault 76 you’ll start in a relatively peaceful forest and venture out into more dangerous pockets of the irradiated wasteland. My favourite is travelling the lengths of the Cranberry Bog, where the pinkish-red fields are seemingly inviting from afar but turn out to be full of a snaking system of trenches and alien forests that hide the worst horrors of the wasteland, but there are many more. Fallout 76 couldn’t have failed, at least not from Bethesda’s point of view. With The Elder Scrolls 6 and Starfield both in production, It’s unlikely we’re going to see another full-size Fallout video game until Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6 are launched. That means Fallout 76 is going to be the face of Fallout for the foreseeable future. It’s dark and spooky, with cheery music still faintly echoing through the grimy, decaying halls. It’s my first time here and this place scares the crap out of me. I immediately drop into a crouch and ready my rifle, terrified of what unknown horrors I might find inside.
This included everything from connection problems to glitches caused by the server being overworked. We were thankful for some of these glitches, like having the items in your inventory no longer register weight because you rapidly equipped and unequipped them, but a lot of them caused rage-inducing errors that would kick you from a server or have mobs instantly die for no reason. You’re not alone in this endeavour: online, you can team up with, or attack, your fellow former vault-dwellers – or you can ignore them completely, treating the game as a solo experience (that nonetheless requires a constant internet connection). As you awaken in the depths of Vault 76 surrounded by the leftovers of what looks like an epic party, there’s no one about to share your hangover. Beyond this are five other regions: The Savage Divide; The Mire; Toxic Valley; Ash Heap; and the deceivingly safe-sounding Cranberry Bog.Vaults are the franchise’s many underground shelters constructed in the event of a possible nuclear war. You emerge from your vault 25 years after the bombs dropped and you’re tasked with reclaiming the area of West Virginia. Along the way you’ll discover what happened to the world around you, hunt for your fellow vault dwellers, and take down hordes of enemies in a hostile, irradiated environment.
Other than 20-something other players spread so thinly over a massive map that chance encounters are rare outside of quest locations, just about the only voices you’ll hear are recordings of long-dead quest givers, robots, and AI constructs who simply deliver information at you. Where past Fallout games have more than made up for some of their frustrations with brow-furrowing questions like whether to destroy the town of Megaton or what should become of the New Vegas Strip, there’s no opportunity for the morally tricky decision-making in Fallout 76 because no one talking to you can hear you.Grand Theft Auto Online may be the best example of this (although the constant gameplay additions to Fortnite come close): I start out as a humble criminal stealing my first car in Grand Theft Auto Online; now I have a flying DeLorean-style car that shoots rockets; now I can play Hot Wheels with friends in the sky, engage in an asymmetrical horror game, or run a variety of businesses. The atmosphere of horror lifted when I discovered the mall was filled with Scorched, Fallout 76’s less-interesting version of raiders, the same enemy type I’ve been killing since I first stepped out of the vault 50 hours ago. The video above shows a combination of both the environment taking entirely too long to load as well as visually dead mobs still being very much alive, causing damage, and not taking damage. Furthermore, this video was not edited in any way. Each time it looks like there’s a jump in the video, or something randomly just appears, that’s what actually happened during gameplay.
Real people usually run around erratically and babble into their headsets. Instead of using characters and dialogue, the meagre story is told almost entirely through written logs and audiotapes left behind after the bombs fell, which although well written and voice-acted are overused to the point of absurdity. Every time you are sent on a quest to find someone (and this happens a lot), you already know that either: they’re dead, they’re not there, or they will turn out to be a robot or a computer. Sure, it’s a nuclear wasteland inhabited by fierce mutated creatures, which should make NPCs in short supply anyway, but that logic should have held true for past Fallout entries as well, which were filled to the brim with memorable characters and missions. Discovering a goofy teddy bear playing pots-and-pans drums in a shack in the middle of nowhere tells me someone was here for a time, and so very bored. A skeleton holding flowers, a bottle of wine, and a stuffed animal reveals that someone was about to take the plunge and profess their admiration when the world burst into flame.Virtual reality, robot infiltrators, cyrogenically frozen libertarians, and even a utopian settlement created by an out-of-her-mind super mutant and her ghoul mechanic prisoner have shown up in previous Fallout titles. It’s all grist for Fallout 76, now that the floodgates seem to be open.You’re not alone: the other two-dozen players on the server represent the only living humans in what’s left of Appalachia. The rest of the population are dead, or robots, or have been monsterified, meaning your quests and the story exclusively come from notes, diaries, a few extremely talkative bots, and holotapes. I’m not a fan of most of the voice acting in Fallout 76, in particular, one raider robot who will dominate your headphones for a large portion of your mid-level questing—the most irritating robot in a videogame since Claptrap.
The Verdict –
I really wish PvP had more at stake than lost junk (or at least more willing participants) but the world retains a lot of what I love about Bethesda’s previous RPGs with finely crafted environments, enjoyable weapons and crafting, and surprising little scraps of story to uncover and investigate.This mode is full of PVP (Player vs Player), tougher mobs, better loot, and a 20% increase in experience gained. Playing in this mode creates a real fear of living in the apocalypse by pinning you against other players to see who can survive the longest in these treacherous wastelands!