Written By: Anthony Bussing
Bethesda Game Studios’ initial 2018 release of “Fallout 76” has had a series of content updates and general improvements bringing the game to its current “Fallout Worlds” version of the live service title, retaining and recruiting the player base of nuclear post-apocalypse fans. The presentation of the newest update is in experimental modifiers that provide satirically exaggerated bonuses to the player’s capabilities, for example, unrestricted building requirements, death animation effects and unlimited ammunition as well as cycling through many more. The freedoms and creativity enabled by these modifiers right now provide the best window of experience to players, whether fans of Bethesda’s trademark game series or if you’re jumping into “Fallout 76’s” historically fictional, West Virginia, wasteland as your first post-nuclear dystopia.
Bethesda’s episodic approach to releasing “Fallout” titles maintaining the overarching setting of America catastrophically losing the war on communism yet exclusively preserving in fallout-shelter vaults scattered around nuclear impact sites, is incredibly refined in “Fallout 76’s” prequel entry to the series.
That the game is the first online-multiplayer oriented “Fallout” title brings additional genre conventions to the series, while not conflicting with the way we’ve come to expect navigating the wasteland and its denizens. In fact, I would argue that the online requirements of the game offer a unique experience in that players have to deliberate their character’s faction reputations and that you can consequently cooperate with other players to expand your arsenal and capabilities. You can’t rely on loading a previous save before you make a consequential decision anymore, however you can bring appropriate company to better prepare you to make those decisions.
The downside though, to sharing the West Virginia wasteland with up to 24 players instead of the independent approach from previous “Fallout” titles affects the severity of consequences of player choices. “Fallout 3’s” introductory settlement of Megaton was an immediate showcase of a severely consequential player choice in that you could tamper with or permanently disarm the undetonated nuclear bomb, located in the center of Megaton that the constituents have religiously idolized. “Fallout 76’s” only “Megaton events” are found in culminating faction quests, however they lack grandiose consequence, in that your actions have no impact on other players beyond yourself.
The survival difficulty of previous “Fallout” titles also makes an unavoidable appearance in “Fallout 76” requiring players to manage hunger and thirst in addition to health and artillery. Although the food and medicine mechanics haven’t been altered, their main function of survival paired with temporary skill benefits provides for an immersive lens to experience any post-apocalypse through. Mechanically, while “Fallout 76” is currently the best presentation of Bethesda’s role-playing games, the crafting system limitations are often realized in hard boundaries rather than soft hurdles. While I find the crafting systems heavily restrictive, whether intentional in development or not, its crude execution in tandem with other survival mechanics further support immersive realism. The crafting systems just seem subpar to the rest of the experience. Though, I’m extremely impressed with how “Fallout 76” simulates the world through narrative and appropriate mechanics to present the setting. Where “Fallout 76” shines is the environmental storytelling, incentivised by exploration experience and integrated photo-modes, which I was personally fond of the execution qualities of.
The comical yet realistic scenes you encounter as you manage the survivor factions, eradicate mutations of nuclear-radiated offsprings, and discover the lethal wonders of the wasteland are best pursued in a team. Players can interact together to barter supplies, provide static group skills, pool diverse skill sets together as well as hunt each other, though that has never purposely happened to me in all of my playtime.
As of writing this review I have 80 hours of gameplay experience, playing since the “Wastelanders” title update of the live service game. Ultimately, I rate the game 7 out of 10, for being an incredible presentation of the setting of “Fallout” Games, while not fully stacking up to the milestone mechanics of other developers’ entries in the genres ‘76 comprises, as well that it only seems to shine during seasonal updates.