A Fantastic Evolution.
Type: Singleplayer, Multiplayer
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Bethesda Release: 14 Nov 2018
Steam Release: 14 Apr, 2020
My experience with 76 goes way back since December 2018 – not exactly on release but pretty damn close so I’ve suffered more than some that bought the game when the Steam version dropped. I didn’t cover the game here originally but my friend genkipro did and I do agree with most of the review. You can read it here!
I always enjoyed my time with the game despite the clunky gameplay, odd design choices, terrible performance, copious amount of bugs and exploits and overall weak story design and endgame content.
Boy, it’s like the entire game was garbage, wasn’t it?
Not quite overall. I stayed for 2 huge reasons until about Summer 2019 when I decided to quit until Wastelanders dropped (had done all the content and events by then) and those were the remarkably phenomenal community (best online community I’ve ever, *EVER* encountered in my years of gaming, which warrants a section alone in this review) and the interesting and extremely detailed world of Appalachia, West Virginia.
But here we are… Wastelanders promised a lot: human NPC’s, dialogue (with speech checks), factions, companions, new gear and endgame content, new enemies and raid boss, new locations and just… a new experience, I suppose.
And it delivered… for the most part.
The old main questline was basically a series of activities that mixed both tutorials on cooking, crafting, building a base, etc. and also giving you the lore on the new enemy type, the Scorched. The main goal was really learning the game, inoculating yourself (basically vaccinating against the Scorched disease) and finally taking back Appalachia and eliminating the scorched threat with the rest of the Vault 76 Dwellers (aka the other players).
The old story is still present and is now essentially a huge side questline I still recommend everyone to do, despite having pacing issues and half of it being extremely BORING; the other half had interesting lore and activities, was well designed and had truly great moments (like the Glassed Cavern) that shine.
But now with NPC’s, the possibilities are endless and while the new DLC’s main questline feels like it’s a part of something much larger, it manages to be both compelling and well designed for the most part, focusing on giving the players the means to new end game content, which will be discussed in the Gameplay section.
The main questline starts with you leaving Vault 76 (assuming you’re a new player) and encountering a couple of folks looking for a treasure and trying to get in 76. After learning about the treasure and that there is a new bar close by where new information can be obtained, your new quest for treasure begins!
Alongside you’ll meet dozens of NPC’s and begin new side quests, including meeting the actual Overseer of 76, the one who basically helped guide the dwellers to save Appalachia before everyone joined back.
In between you’ll interact with the 2 new NPC factions: Settlers and Raiders, both with their main base (Foundation and Crater, respectively) and lots of random NPC’s roaming around the world with great detail (I encountered a raider pretending to be an old man in a golf course tricking people, I was able to make him spill the beans thanks to a decent Perception skill check). Both factions have their own reputation system which will unlock more rewards and shops for you to buy better gear – this reputation can be upgraded by doing quests for them and siding with them in choices (some daily quests or encounters can be neutral but you can shift the side to one of the factions for a quick reputation boost). The dialogue is great and well written and it’s absolutely impressive how many options of dialogue you have and how they managed to have an option exactly like (or close to) one I’d answer if I was in that world.
It feels like the old Fallout games interaction wise and that’s a MASSIVE plus for 76. After the terrible dialogue of Fallout 4 and complete absence of it in 76’s first year, this feels fresh and proves somewhat Bethesda still has the skill to make a great RPG (but please upgrade/change your engine).
Overall, the reputation system is a bit too grindy for my taste – you have to farm daily quests and events A LOT for the reputation bar to move considerably and the quests can get very repetitive after a while. The grind itself isn’t the issue – it’s the repetitive nature of the means to get that reputation. More events and different ways to grind the reputation would be a huge quality of life improvement.
As far as the main questline is concerned, it’s fairly simplistic but the core idea to grab a treasure is massively appealing and interesting as well as finding the lore behind it all. The treasure would then be great progress to rebuild Appalachia and America, start a new economy and try to rebuild society. It’s a small cog in a massive machine and while it feels a bit too short lengthwise, the end-game content and the new locations, companions and so on give it the content boost necessary to make the expansion feel massive and worth your time (and money).
Fallout 76’s gameplay hasn’t truly changed from release, aside from the thousands of bugs Bethesda has fixed for the past year and a half. Guns feel pretty great, even the newer ones they’ve been adding over time with patches; the animation quality of some reloads are really weak in contrast (and I seriously hate the left-handed tendency of the guns, all bolts are cycled with your left hand and it feels extremely odd).
The game features a huge variety of mechanics and quirks to get used to, from the revamped perk system, to the crafting and C.A.M.P.
Firstly, the perk system – it’s a legitimately brilliant design. You still have your S.P.E.C.I.A.L (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck) from all the other Fallout games and you start the game with them all at level 1. After a level up until level 50 you can pick 1 trait to level up and pick one perk card from any trait (doesn’t have to be the one you decided to level up). Perk cards are just perks you can pick and upgrade if they allow it (Green Thumb is a perception perk that lets you harvest double the flora, be it veggies, fruits or flowers. Bloody Mess is a classic Fallout perk that gives you more damage and a chance to explode enemies into a red pulp when they die).
Some perks, like the above mentioned Green Thumb can’t be upgraded and others can one or more times (Bloody Mess can go up to level 3, for example).
The perks are then swappable in what is clearly a build-centric design to the perk system. The rule is that the summed levels of the perks you equip can’t surpass the level of the SPECIAL trait they belong to. So for example, if you have the Luck trait at 3, you can equip 3 Level 1 Luck Perks, 1 Level 3 Luck Perk or any combination of Level 2 Luck Perk and Level 1, and so on. SPECIALs are capped at level 15 and after level 50 you can’t upgrade further.
After level 50 you get 2 options: you can simply pick a perk card you wish, or swap 1 point between 2 traits (for example, take one point from Agility and put it into Strength). It’s a neat idea but it also forces you to pick what kind of playstyle and build you want to go for as soon as possible – I recommend melee Power Armor builds since you can tank and kill late-game enemies fast without concerning much about ammo and crafting, there are better builds but melee PA is a great balance of simplicity and reliability.
The only problem I have with this system is that it absolutely BEGS for a perk “loadout” system which hasn’t sadly been developed… yet. Thankfully it’s likely to come in the summer of this year as a roadmap of content is soon to be released.
Crafting works exactly like Fallout 4, with a few quality of life improvements to the UI. Guns and melee weapons have an insane amount of customization (guns more so due to magazine, stock, barrels and so on, melees usually are around increasing damage or adding energy damage) which change the look and add plenty of build possibilities – the same applies to armor pieces (arms, legs, chest). Scrapping weapons and armor always has a chance of unlocking a new mod so stack up on guns and armor while adventuring to scrap them and unlock more and more modifications!
Legendary items (which can be obtained from certain quests or dead legendary enemies) are scrapped in a specific vendor found at the train station – scrapping legendary gear destroys it and gives you a different currency: scrip. Scrip is only obtainable from scrapping legendary gear and completing a few quests (like ally/companion quests) and can then be used in a special vendor, the Purveyor, at the Rusty Pick. The Purveyor will take your scrip and give you legendary gear (with random modifiers) for you to use; the higher the legendary level, the higher the cost.
The C.A.M.P is a mobile camping system. By placing it anywhere in the world (except on top of other existing players C.A.M.Ps and named locations) you have a decently sized aura around you for you to build anything (if you have the plans for it). Appalachia is extremely varied so you can easily pick a place you’ll find perfect – near a lake to put some water purifiers and give it away to players or sell it, or build it in a forest and be lonely in the middle of nature. Appalachia has several regions that look entirely different – from the salt and toxic gas covered Savage Divide to the absolutely GORGEOUS thick-grass Mire. Some locations are very toxic so a gas mask is recommended to avoid airborne diseases.
Wastelanders also introduced NPC “Allies” which work kind of like companions: after doing their full questline (some don’t have those questlines and are just easier to “obtain”, mind you), they will stay in your home and be there to receive any players who visit your home (and even greet them! It’s a remarkable attention to detail) and give you repeatable quests to complete, as well as a nice conversation. I ended up romancing one and it’s just cool arriving and being greeted and getting to talk to my companion a bit before adventuring again back in the wasteland.
Speaking of diseases, they work like an effect that is cured after a certain time but due to their annoyance and negative effects, taking medicine is recommended. Over 20 diseases exist and can be obtained by entering in contact with toxic areas or water, or even diseased enemies.
After reaching level 50, having your sweet build with modified legendary weapons and armor and a pretty house, it’s time to tackle the endgame content!
Endgame is split into 3 main components for me: daily farming (quests and enemies) for reputation or currency – caps, scrip and the new Wastelanders gold bullion. Next is farming for legendary gear by going to high-level locations and kill legendary enemies. Finally, the “raids” – killing the huge bosses the game has and acquiring the exclusive gear and items they drop. Currently, the game has 3 massive bosses: the Scorchbeast Queen, the Imposter Sheepsquatch and the Wendigo Colossus (the new Wastelanders boss that looks beautifully disgusting – fantastic design). Basically, there’s a lot to do: even just exploring Appalachia and finding new locations, usually with their own lore, is extremely fun and rewarding – I honestly prefer the variety and depth of Appalachia over the rather repetitive look of the Commonwealth from Fallout 4 (the Glowing Sea was fantastic though).
Overall, the gameplay is extremely varied and there is a bit for everyone – build variety, exciting content and quests, a lot of mechanics and ways to enjoy the endgame content and even those who just want to build houses can do just that!
The only problems with the gameplay as a whole is the UI and the terrible performance, as well as the bugs you’ll encounter – while most functional bugs seem to have been fixed and they’re mostly visual now, there are still a few odd bugs you’ll find, some involving the challenges which can only be solved by re-doing them with a fresh character.
The UI in this game is a mix of “okay” and complete garbage. The latter being more frequent. In previous Fallouts it wasn’t that bad – the pipboy UI is annoying to navigate and scrolling through dozens of guns or aid is tiresome (and if you hoard holotapes and notes like I do then it’s even worse for you), but at the least, the game would pause during these section so you could handle your weapon pick, drug usage and so on with ease. In an online game like 76, the problems become far more evident. Not only are there dozens of different drugs to use, each appropriate for each build and situation, but also the fact that the binding wheel works for weapons, armor and aid so you can’t bind half of what you want there and forces you to use the pip-boy UI in real-time so, in a tough fight you want to pop a Med-X you didn’t bind, you better just hide for a few seconds will you click a few buttons and scroll for 5 minutes until you can find that damn syringe.
The C.A.M.P UI is also very similar to the way settlement building worked in Fallout 4, in other words – blatant console port and trash for PC. My time with the game is plentiful so I’ve very used to the UI and have mastered it quite well, but using the WASD to move in first person during building, using the arrow keys and Z/C to change between C.A.M.P items is just terrible, not to mention you need to use the mouse to rotate and place the item itself so you basically need an actual nuclear fallout and grow a third arm so you can use the UI properly. The crafting UI is solid, however and the dialogue system is extremely akin Fallout 3 and New Vegas and handles great with the mouse so kudos to the developers there.
Overall, 76 feels like a good improvement over Fallout 4 but still retains the exact same issues from the predecessor.
Nuclear Winter is Fallout 76’s battle royale.
Yes, a battle royale… in a Fallout game.
And it’s not that bad, actually! While the UI issues are even more evident here, the gameplay itself is quite fun, the player models and server responsiveness is solid and the gameplay of Fallout 4/76 translates quite well into a PvP Battle Royale experience. The map is well designed, with frequent changes of elevation and building placement allowing for combat to feel more tactical than I expected.
Nuclear Winter also has its own progression and perks with daily challenges. Levelling up is done by playing, getting kills (both players and PvE enemies like bloodbugs or vicious dogs) and getting a good placement. Once you level up, you get access to new perks and also cosmetics you can use in the standard adventure experience of Fallout 76. It’s a great piece of content to satisfy those with a PvP itch but there are better-designed battle royales (from a UI and gameplay flow perspective) to play for me so I’d rather play adventure mode.
It looks mostly like Fallout 4 as a whole. The graphics weren’t upgraded much overall but I still argue Fallout 4 isn’t a bad looking game and 76 is just cut from the same cloth. What made the Fallout games truly impressive was always the attention to detail and the amount of interactivity with the environment and Fallout 76 is no exception. The game does seem a bit better than Fallout 4 – entering the Mire for the first time is astonishingly beautiful with a fantastic mix of vegetation, lighting and god rays. The game can look absolutely fantastic at times, fog effects are another massive praise from me. Some textures can look a bit weak and some map areas aren’t nearly as pretty as others, especially since the game abuses a bit of HDR and Bloom effects to hide some drab sections – the Savage Divide suffers a bit from this while the Mire benefits massively (I seriously believe the Mire is one of the most beautiful sections in a Fallout game or any RPG I’ve played recently).
The biggest problem with the graphics is the abysmal performance (on top of the UI issues I already discussed). The game will have a hard time running constantly at 60FPS, no matter the setting from my experience (and my friends’). In busy sections like fighting a huge boss where lots of players are and effects are happening you’ll certainly drop. I’ve dropped to 10FPS at times so it may happen should those areas get massively crowded.
Weapon and gameplay effects, in general, are great – most of them are the same as the ones seen in Fallout 4, aside from the new weapons. New enemies have their own quirks and sounds and all wildlife sounds great. Navigating Appalachia sounds fantastic and immersive thanks to these wildlife sound on top of the absolutely phenomenal ambient music. The radio soundtrack is mostly repeated songs from Fallout 3 and 4 and feel repetitive after a while – not even all of the previous games’ songs are in the game and only a handful. Thankfully the newer additions are fantastic and fit the atmosphere perfectly.
Finally, the new big component – the voice acting. The voice acting is pretty great overall, from the starting folk at the Wayward (Duchess especially) to the raiders and settlers and even your companion allies. The Overseer is the only one who felt really weak which is a pity since she’s a big part of the first half of the Wastelanders main questline so you’ll talk to her frequently. The dialogue is really fun to listen to as a whole and the Appalachia radio even has a radio host which gives it a nice reason to turn it on more often – I still wish for more songs, though.
The Atomic Shop
A heated discussion I see frequently is how 76 is filled with microtransactions and P2W (Pay-to-win) elements.
Which is partially true because of the microtransaction amounts. It is 100% not Pay to Win in any way.
95% of the atomic shop is purely cosmetic items which involve skins for certain guns, apparel and some (Power) Armor paint jobs and skins. The other half of the cosmetics is for your C.A.M.P, from a deathclaw rug to a nice fireplace or even a Brotherhood of Steel statue, among dozens of more items. Due to 76 giving all content for free and all the monetization focusing on cosmetics, this is perfectly fine in my opinion as the game already has hundreds of cosmetics for your character or your house that don’t require money.
Another plus is how the premium currency (Atoms) work: you can either buy them… or play the game and get them for free – I have spent over 5000 atoms (the equivalent of 50 euros or dollars) on cosmetics in the shop by simply… playing the game. By completing challenges, you get free atoms (from 10 to 80 for each completed challenge, some are even staged so can give 150+ in total) you can then spend and while most challenges are a one-time thing (you can’t complete them again, not even with a new character), the game also has daily and weekly challenges that all give free atoms and are not that grindy – from scrapping some stuff to killing a legendary enemy or taking a photo in a specific place, atoms are everywhere – it’s hard to claim Bethesda’s greediness when so much free currency is thrown around every day and week.
Next is the non-cosmetic items:
– Repair kits which let you repair items on the fly without needing to go to a workshop; they simply are there for lazy folks who don’t want to travel back home and repair their weapons or armor.
It’s very important to mention that repairing costs are extremely cheap on anything except power armor and that the repair kits you buy on the atomic shop are absolute garbage – you can obtain Improved Repair Kits in the game FOR FREE by killing the Scorchbeast Queen – these Improved Repair Kits can only be obtained by playing the game, unlike the standard ones.
– Scrap kits which let you scrap items on the fly without needing to go to a workshop; they simply are there for lazy folks who don’t want to travel back home and scrap their junk which takes… 2 button presses. Notice how similar these two kit sentences are and how useless they sound for anyone with a microscopic amount of patience.
– Junk Collector Protectron which is essentially a robot you place in your camp and overtime you get junk you can pick up. The junk collect rate seems to be the exact same you get from a Junk Producer, which you can place (for free) on any workshop or C.A.M.P with a junk pile nearby (the junk pile never disappears so it’s technically a limitless supply of junk).
– And a refrigerator. I haven’t seen it in the shop ever, but from the information I gathered, it just reduces the spoil (decay) rate of food. This sounds like the most useless item of the bunch since with proper management you never need to protect the food from spoil, just cook and eat it. The game introduced in a DLC last year, titled Wild Appalachia, a full questline that provided the player with backpacks and modifications for it. One of those modifications is exactly a refrigeration backpack which does exactly the same and for free!
So overall, I’m going to claim the game has zero P2W elements (for now) and the way to obtain free atoms is extremely player-friendly so that buying any cosmetics you desire is easily obtainable by simply playing the game without the need to swipe your credit card.
Fallout 1st is 76’s subscription model which works pretty much like Elder Scrolls Online’s ESO+. What you get by subscribing is a few exclusive skins and emotes, 1650 atoms (about 16 dollars or euros worth of atoms) and access to private worlds – you can play it alone or with up to 7 more friends! The final addition is probably the best one – infinite stash capacity. All for 14,99€/$.
I’ll be honest – not a fan of this subscription model and I think it should be tiered. I don’t care about atoms or skins or even the private server since the community is part of the fun. But the unlimited stash would be a great addition. We haven’t had a stash size upgrade in approximately a year and 800 is a bit too short with all the added guns and content so giving a tiered system would be great so people could pay for what they wanted. Want a single-player/co-op Fallout game? Buy private server access for 5 bucks, infinite stash another 5 bucks, etc.
That being said… Bethesda promised Private Servers and locking it behind a paywall was really infuriating for a promised feature sometime after release.
The player base/community is the absolute best and nicest I’ve ever encountered in an online game. Player trading is in the game where players can put their own hard-earned items for sale but it’s so wholesome to see high-level players just giving these items to new players or teaching them the game (the tutorial is boring and extensive and doesn’t even explain some stuff so this is especially great from the high-level community). Players visit each other to check their house and roleplay, I’ve had my house surrounded with players and we ended up just playing music by the campfire (yes, you can do that and it even gives an effect/temporary perk). People join each other in events to help out and there’s a lot of positive interaction.
I haven’t seen griefers in this game in months, everyone just plays like a PvE experience and not a PvP “fight for survival” like Bethesda originally thought/hoped. Most “Wanted” players (those who made a wrongful act against another player) just do it by accident and immediately beg to be killed so they can lose their Wanted status.
The community is one of the biggest reasons I still play (and wholeheartedly recommend) this game to this day.
It’s beyond me how much Fallout 76 has evolved over time, from a fun (in my opinion) yet rightfully bashed mediocre of an experience, to a pretty fantastic online game/experience. From the amazing community to the great player-friendly community managers from Bethesda that constantly flood the subreddit listening to player feedback (which seems far more constructive and grounded than the steam forums, so I recommend going there instead of the steam forums, link here), to the actual game itself, now feeling like a proper Fallout Online experience we wished we had from the get-go. The amount of stuff you can do alone or with friends is astonishing and the constant updates Bethesda releases even after the major failure the game originally was, shows how much they want the game to succeed.
The evolution Fallout 76 suffered is truly phenomenal. The game’s state right now is really good (and most of all, very FUN) despite the problems it still has and thus, I can recommend it fully at the asking €39,99 pricetag.