Fallout 76 Review - Good To Play in 2020?

Fallout 76 Good to play in 2020?
Big changes are coming to Fallout 76

Fallout 76 has come a long way from its rocky debut and the various changes and updates to accompany its evolution. Whether you like a game or hate it, it’s important to understand that no game remains the same as it was on Day One in the modern age of gaming. 

A year after it’s release, does Fallout 76 hold up going into 2020 with all the changes made to it over the last year? To answer this, let’s explore what Fallout 76 is and has become up to now.

About Fallout 76

As has been synonymous with the series (with the exception of Fallout: New Vegas), you play a Vault Dweller, a resident of a specialized bunker created by the Vault-Tec Corporation. What gives it a fresh spin is its place in the timeline. While most of the games in the series take place a century or more after the destruction of America, Fallout 76 starts on the 25th anniversary, known as Reclamation Day. 

Released on November 14th, 2028 by Bethesda Softworks, the game was met with a critical reception from its fanbase. It was heavily criticized for a lack of human NPC’s to interact with, seeing as everyone human is very much dead by the time you come across them. The only NPC’s that you could interact with that weren’t enemy mobs trying to kill you where robots, often acting as quest givers or vendors for equipment and supplies. 

The reason behind the lack of human NPCs in the game might be placed on the desire by the developers to create a world solely populated by the players, making interacting with your fellow players necessary if not mandatory.

The games focus on voice chat for communication meant there was no in-game text chat function outside of a third-party mod. Once again we can point the finger at the developers wanting to create a certain vibe. 

When you can chat across a zone, you are never alone. When you are relegated to purely voice chat, you are very much alone in the wilderness unless you happen upon someone and engage them verbally. It creates a very isolated sense of being when you’re out on your own and makes those encounters with other players almost reassuring. Unless you’re paranoid, but there’s nothing to worry about...More on that later.

However, it should be noted that the game has seen substantial updates over its first year, in terms of content and balancing. The final tally mark on the current developer roadmap known as the Wastelanders update promises to bring NPCs back to the main game, however at the time of this review, the scope of Wastelander's impact on the game is an unknown.

A low-key but prominent feature is the games Screenshot function. Screenshots taken in the games Photo Mode or with the in-game camera item are stored in the games photo folder on your computer. It offers a nice selection of filters, and frames that can be unlocked by visiting certain locations or completing certain quests. Additionally, screenshots you have taken will appear as loading screen art. 

At current Fallout 76 enjoys around 25,062+ players daily.

Fallout 76’s Story
Let's leave 76, they said. It'll be fun, they said.

Fallout 76 doesn’t have much of a narrative. You are directed to leave the Vault and...you’re on your own pretty much. The lack of NPCs in the game world makes it hard to drive a story on the same scope as Fallout 4 and so on. 

Players have criticized the diminutive story focus, however, I have chosen to look at it like other Survival Games, like Conan Exiles or Ark: Survival Evolved, where you are tasked with making it in a harsh environment with little guidance or plot.

The Holotapes left behind by your Overseer near major locations begin to paint a larger picture pertaining to the game's primary antagonists, the Scorched and her desire to see them wiped from existence. The fate of the Overseer is yet unknown, however many in the fandom rumor mill believe she will appear in the upcoming Wastelanders update.

The Scorched are humans and animals that have been subjected to a virus emitted by mutated bats called Scorchbeasts. The Scorched is rampant, and the Scorchbeasts are bursting out of the ground and breathing their zombifying nonsense all over the place. If you take to heart the Overseers recordings, they must be stopped, and the only way to do that is to somehow get access to nuclear arsenals hidden deep in Appalachia and strike them at the source.

Ultimately the story didn’t set the world on fire when you’re just following audio recordings. Every voice you hear over a PA or from a Holotape was left by someone already dead (you may even stumble upon their corpse at some point). You are free to craft your own narrative, as the point of the game is not its story by any means. 

Fallout 76 is about the journey and your ability to stay alive in the wasteland, and exploring dangerous and usually pretty intriguing locations. That makes Fallout 76 less of an RPG and more of a playground with RPG elements. 

There is no destination or a real ending to reach. There are no slides at the end detailing what you’ve accomplished or ramifications of your actions. For many, this can prove unsatisfying for a Fallout game, but if were to dare to call Fallout 76 an MMO, it would be prudent to point out that no MMO has a definitive ending. The only ending to an online game is when the game shuts down for good. End of story, roll credits.

Fallout 76 Gameplay

Firstly, we enter into character creation, where we handcraft our Vault Resident. Despite being the supposed best minds and intellects Vault Tech could shove into a Vault, there is nothing stopping you from creating someone who looks like an absolute psychopath. You were down there for 25 years, maybe you went a bit stir crazy.

The Character creation from Fallout 4 returns, allowing you to tweak and adjust and layer to your heart's content until you’re ready to wake up in Vault 76 with a hangover from the night prior, and everyone else has already skedaddled and left you to lock up.

You develop your character's skill set as you progress through Appalachia, earning experience and completing objectives along the way, as well as building up an arsenal of weaponry to make Frank Castle sweat with envy. 

The special on the menu is survival, and you will have to contend with your health, your thirst and your hunger meter. This means you will be scrounging for food and water, as well as materials to build shelters with and repair your kit. If ammo can’t be found it can be crafted. A molerat wanted a piece of you? That’s lunch. 

Communing with the Wise Mothman is but one of the many fascinating activities.

On top of surviving the hostile wildlife, you will also need to survive horrid conditions of high radiation, as well as the risk of debilitating diseases, making Disease Cure items worth a mountain of caps if it means not having to suffer Dysentery when you’re low on foodstuffs to replenish. Getting stuck with low hunger and thirst and having to scrounge while suffering the statistical drawbacks makes for some tense situations. 

I semi-fondly remember trekking far from my base camp and being low on food and having to rely on wild blackberries. They offered next to nothing to replenish my hunger meter, but they were everywhere, so I was grabbing as many as I could and shoving them in my maw to stave off the Health Damage that being hungry warrants.

I said before that there are no NPCs to interact with or get to know, save for a few robots in the game world...since they are naturally immune to deadly radiation unlike yourself, who act as quest givers and the closest thing to NPC’s we have until Wastelanders shows us what it’s got. 

Examples that come to mind are the Raider minded Rose who’s quests comprise the bulk of what could pass as the main questline, and the Mayor of Grafton, who will regularly send you requests for aid anytime you are even within a mile of the Grafton area of the map. 

It should be noted that this time around, your Pipboy apparently comes equipped with a long-range radio so characters like Rose, the Grafton Mayor, or any conditional-based pre-recorded message can keep you updated or be in touch when you complete or qualify for an objective.

Beyond them, most of the quests involve you picking up where those who tried and died, left off and maybe make post-apocalyptic West Virginia a better place. It’s almost chilling to think about following the recorded objectives left behind by those who you know are no longer alive. They died, probably horribly. I suppose at the very least you can lend a hand, even if it was just for the quest rewards.

Ah but I am forgetting two genuine NPCs in the game at current. Grahm and Murmrgh.

Grahm is a Super Mutant, a friendly Super Mutant, and the host of a special event called Meat Week. Normally he is a traveling trader along with his pet Brahmin who often has rare building plans and materials for sale, and is generally a nice guy, and is ever so enthusiastic for a good barbecue.

Murmrgh is a Mole Miner who sets up shop in Berkley and is known as the Legendary Purveyor. While their gender is unknown, most usually identify Murmrgh as female, due to their colorful Babushka-like head wrap and attire. I call her Mimi myself. Her whole business is based on helping you get rid of unwanted Legendary grade weapons and armor in exchange for part of her stock of random Legendary grade weapons and armor. It’s never certain what you’ll get, and in fact, I don’t think she knows, but you cannot doubt her enthusiasm.

Fallout 76’s Combat

If you’ve played any Bethesda Fallout game in the past you should be immediately comfortable with how combat works in Fallout 76. Gunplay follows that near-universal style of free aiming or using the series infamous VATs system to auto-target enemies. Your damage output depends on the weapon you’re using at the time and the perk cards you’ve attained from leveling up.

Taking a keynote from Fallout 4, VATs does not stop time, allowing you to pick and choose your perfect shot. It’s an online game after all. Instead, enemies tagged in VATs move in real-time with the degree of your success in hitting changing depending on environmental factors. It adds a slightly more tactical approach to the system.

Firearm combat gets the job done, however, I am willing to voice a lack of satisfaction with the punch and impact of weapons, at least from a visual standpoint. Guns don’t quite sound as they should, and grenade explosions are not nearly as impressive as watching derelict cars go up in a small mushroom cloud.

Gun goes off, the enemy takes damage, the enemy dies (hopefully). It just works.

Melee combat has been a sore point for me personally for many years in the Bethesda take on the series. Going into Melee feels like it was added as an afterthought, with you simply swinging your weapon with not much-varied animation. 

That is not to say melee character builds are not viable, in fact with the right build, being a sword-swinging, or power fist punching character can be extremely powerful. Some of the most powerful builds are melee-based. It could just stand to be a little deeper. It takes the fun out of taking perks that insinuate yourself as some sort of martial arts master when you still just flail around like a drunken bar brawler.

The current max level is 50, which is also the max level in the quality of armors and weapons you will find. After level 50 leveling changes. Allow me to explain. As you level up from your adventures from levels 1 to 50, you are granted a perk card, and a point to allocate into one of seven attribute points (referred to as your SPECIAL). These points affect various things like carrying weight, movement speed, your maximum health and so on, but also affect how many perk cards you can equip associated with that attribute. 

For example, if you have a 3 in Strength, and upgrade a perk to level 3 using duplicate cards you’ve acquired, that is all you will able to equip to Strength unless you put more points into Strength. It’s good to know you can switch out Perk Cards whenever you want, allowing you to come up with combinations best suited for certain situations...unless it’s an emergency like a Yao Guai is breathing down your neck, then you might not be able to take the time to re-equip since the game doesn’t pause when you pull up your Pipboy menu.

After level 50 it becomes a matter of picking and choosing. You no longer gain an ability point to allocate into your SPECIAL stats, but you can re-locate a point to another attribute. Alternatively, you can select a perk card. Either or, never both at the same time.

A year later, there still is no talk about raising the current level cap.

Teaming up with players, which is almost essential in the later parts of the game, you will be able to form groups of up to four players. Perks exist in the game that synergizes with teaming up. Some Legendary weapon effects like the Medics Shotgun offer boosts to team gameplay. 

If PVP is your thing, you have two options in Fallout 76. The first one is simply logging into Nuclear Winter, which you can partake in a Battle Royale style team-based contest of the last team standing. 

If you want to PVP while in Adventure Mode it gets a bit sticky. First, you have to attack your intended target. This will not register as a full hit. More like a love tap, and an invitation that you want to throw down. Then if the person is receiving your invitation for fisticuffs they will attack in return, and only then will full PVP become initiated.

 While some have scoffed at this as a dumbing down of the brutal nature of the dog-eat-dog wasteland, it has allowed the community in the game to be more welcoming of their fellow man. It’s easier to be polite and civil when you can’t blow away anyone you come across just for the sheer thrill of the kill.

Fallout 76 Quest/Mission system

You start the game with the basic breadcrumb trail the Overseer left you, but it’s up to you whether or not you want to follow it. Quests will present themselves as you stumble across them. You find a holotape with information, or you pick up a strange radio signal, or you simply wander into an area and you will receive a quest to go have a look around. 

As stated before, most quests are you picking up where others left off. It has a strangely organic feel if stumbling upon something, or following a signal or distress call. You find a terminal entry or a holotape or note, and tell yourself “Hey this feels worth my time investigating.”

Daily Quests are available that are repeatable for rewards, and events will spawn across the map featuring special objectives to fulfill, some of which are tied to the in-game factions for faction related loot. 

Some quests play out like detective mysteries, in which you have to piece together a situation that unfolded before the bombs dropped. One chilling quest involved you looking into the disappearance of two young girls, the trail of clues leading you to discover a dark outcome of a case of childhood rivalry. 

Another more obscure quest has you venturing deep into a mining company headquarters to aid a damaged and distressed mining drone from its expedition deep down below. It ended on an oddly chilling note with a near Lovecraftian sense of foreboding as to just what the drone saw deep beneath the earth.

Some are more light-hearted but no less unsettling, like escorting a Mr. Handy on its way to deliver a way a late invitation to a Halloween party to a long-deceased recipient. (If you’re playing the game and wondering what’s up with all the Halloween decorations, it’s because the bombs dropped during the Halloween season, a little bit of lore for you)

Other missions are more involved, sending you from one side of the map to the other, and across anything and everything that can and will get in your way, leading you down a rabbit hole of intrigue and danger and pre-recorded messages. Or Rose threatening to use a Buzzsaw on your face because she feels like it.

Finally, we have factions. I say factions but again it’s like joining a club where everyone’s already cashed out. An exception is the Enclave and its robotic staff. 

You have the Brotherhood of Steel, the Order of Mysteries, the Responders, the Enclave, the Raiders, and the Free States. There are also Cultists dedicated to the worship of the Mothman but there are no quests really associated with them.

However it should be noted, the Cultists have some of the best unmarked, un-trackable material in the game, leading to the possibility of otherworldly doom that Bethesda has peppered into their take on the series since Fallout 3.

You weasel your way into factions, usually by finishing off what they failed to do, or via some automated recruitment system. There’s no one to tell you otherwise that you are not who you say you are so long as you hold the widget that proves your membership. Again the Enclave is the exception. The players become the faction at the end of the day. For roleplayers, this is a good thing.

Fallout 76 Graphics

If you were to put Fallout 4 and 76 next to each other and ask me which I thought looked better, I would have to go with 76 and it’s persistent eternal Autumn versus the devastated wasteland of Fallout 4. 

For a setting in a Nuclear Apocalypse, Appalachia did pretty well for itself, and the setting invokes more of a zombie apocalypse vibe rather than nuclear...Unless you travel north to Toxic Valley where the effects are a little more evident. Maybe that was closer to where a nuke went off. 

Other games in the series have captured the feel of the setting better, but 76 pulls off both a disarming calm and an unsettling uncertainty depending where you tread. Colors are vibrant and eye-catching, the lighting from day to night creates a good atmosphere. 

A year later and still the prettiest dang Wasteland in video games.

Apples to oranges, it is still Fallout 4’s graphics engine at play, albeit with a couple of new models and a more impressive lighting system in place. The lighting makes all the difference when it comes to presenting the world, ask anyone who’s downloaded a really good ENB mod for Skyrim or Fallout 4. 

Character models offer nothing new from Fallout 4. With the exception of the new enemies in the game, all the monsters and player models appear to be direct imports from Fallout 4. Combat animations for shooting are done well, however, I have spoken with other players who have indicated that at some times, the reloading animations on some weapons are done wrong.

 I’ve already spoken about my feelings about the animations for melee combat. It’s sloppy, and at times you can find yourself in trouble when you get a little overzealous spamming the attack button and need to heal because if you are still in the attack animation, the Use Stimpack hotkey won’t register until after the animation has been completed. Those players who utilize slow, heavier melee weapons will know the pain I’m talking about.

Fallout 76 Developer

The game was made by Bethesda Softworks, the masterminds behind the Elder Scrolls series. For many gamers out there, this means bugs. Bethesda is near legendary for it’s hilarious and frustrating graphical glitches and hiccups. 

Many of these are addressed, some remain after years in development. Fallout 76 is not immune to the so-called Bethesda Curse, however, the devs do openly address bug fixes in their regular From the Vault newsletter.

 One of the more prominent bugs involved an event that involved putting a quest item into a chute, in which it would also consume a certain type of ammo from the player's inventory. Another was glitch while exiting Power Armor, in which the player exiting would become invisible to their teammates, but the endoskeleton of the Power Armor would remain frozen in place.

An example of what is collectively known as the Slenderman Glitch

 Oftentimes these glitches can be hilarious, like the infamous Slenderman Power Armor Glitch, in which upon entering Power Armor, everyone around you sees your character model stretch to exaggerated proportions. Sometimes clothes, sometimes in their underwear.

The game also struggles to this day when too many players are in one place, especially during what constitutes the final boss battle of the game, the Event called Scorched Earth, in which players are invited to bring the big bad Scorched Queen down in the middle of a Nuclear Missile strike zone. 

The number of players that usually arrive and the number of enemies that tend to join the party can cause the game to crawl for most players, cause their Pipboys to cease to function, among other graphical snafus. 

At the time of this writing, Scorched Earth remains the best example of a live game stress test to see how much it can handle at one time.

Fallout 76’s Price

Right now the game costs around 39.99$ but regularly goes on sale for the standard edition or you can chip in more for the Tricentennial Edition which comes with some cosmetic perks. 

Recently with the advent of Fallout 1st, players can subscribe at the cost of 12.99$ a month for access to an additional camp tent, a scrappers box (much like the crafting bag from Elder Scrolls Online) and the ability to host private worlds for you and your friends, which can hold about 8 or so players at one time versus the 30 players of a standard world. 

Fallout 1st once again created some contention in the player base, some feel that they were not getting their money's worth for the subscription. In my opinion, it’s all in how you look at it and whether or not you feel the perks of Fallout 1st are worth your money. 

Personally, I’ve been tempted just for the Scrappers Box, because materials to craft and maintain armor and weapons and build your camps can take up a lot of space after a while.

Additionally, you have the Atom Shop, where you can spend Atoms earned by completing certain challenges in the game or purchased directly, on cosmetic outfits, icons, paint jobs, and Camp items...and Repair kits. 

This was a hot debate when Repair Kits made their way into the Atom Shop, some seeing it as a Pay to Win feature, seeing as how at a minimal cost of atoms, pennies on the dime really, you could get an item to fully restore your weapons and armor, rather than scrounging and scavenging for the parts you need to maintain your gear. 

Again, this depends upon your point of view of cash shop conveniences. Considering how PVP and PVE work, there is no competitive edge to using repair kits, and in this humble journalist's opinion, it is a matter of gameplay purists turning their noses up. 

-The Final Verdict: 8/10

A year later and having seen it go through updates and changes and patches, I enjoy Fallout 76. Please note I say I enjoy it. Love it? Please, it’s not perfect. But the developers continue to add new and interesting things to the game, and small quality of life updates. You never know what’s going to come next. 

While it pales in scope to the single-player games of the franchise, it’s best to look at Fallout 76 as an amusement park rather than a crowning achievement of game design to surpass the games that came before it. It’s fun, and at the end of the day, that’s what gamers want a game to be.

Pros:

  • The prettiest post-apocalyptic wasteland you ever did travel.
  • Complete freedom of character creation and how you wish to play the game.
  • You can build your own camps from humble campgrounds to a full-on fortress. You can go as realistic as you want, or as insane as you want. It’s your plot of land, do what you want with it.
  • Events come in many flavors, from seasonal events that bring everyone running in from the hills, to get a power plant running to supply power to the nearby workshops for optimal efficiency.
  • The radio selection offers some real toe-tappers, including an amazing rendition of Ring of Fire performed by the group Spank as well as the always-an-earworm Take Me Home, Country Roads.
  • Seasonal Events that bring players together like Meat Week are actually an amazing amount of fun as everyone scrambles around to complete the set objectives.

Cons:

  • Respeccing a character after level 50 can become a nightmare having to grind levels to move your SPECIAL points around.
  • Higher-level enemies can sneeze off conventional weapon damage, making the obtaining those high-end Legendary weapons all the more necessary.
  • Your inventory and stash can quickly turn into a nightmare of inventory management and you wondering what is eating up all your carry weight.
  • Songs on Appalachia Radio like A Good Man is Hard to Find by Sonny Burke, in the modern age of gender roles debate, makes you raise your eyebrow a bit. Then again it was a song of the times.
  • The game suffers some bugs that force you to have to restart the game, like attempting to trade items to other players sticking you in a frozen menu screen.
  • Foraged plants and materials can rot, and they rot very fast without certain perks or items on hand. It makes it really hard to craft certain potables and medicines when they’ve rotted out by the time you found enough and headed back to camp.
  • After a couple of tours of the game world, visiting the same places, the game does start to feel a little stale when you feel you’ve seen everything the game has to offer until the next major patch.

You may also be interested in:

Fallout 76 Player Count Report (2020)

[Top 10] Fallout 76 Best Camp Locations

[Top 10] Fallout 76 Best Legendary Effects

Fallout 76 Best Builds (Top 10)

Fallout 76 Best Power Armors (And How To Get Them)

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Jimmy is like some sort of strange Cenobite, an explorer of the further reaches of experience...Except replace the blood and horror with Video Games and Dr Pepper.
Gamer Since: 1988
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Final Fantasy XIV
Top 3 Favorite Games:Fallout 4, Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
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