Before reading, please understand that this article reflects MY opinion and MY thoughts alone.
It’s just a few days before E3 2018, Bethesda’s Twitch streams a teaser for a new game. What is it? Is it The Elder Scrolls VI? Starfield? And then . . . a Vault Boy appears on screen. A Vault Boy?? Fallout? After only three years? Speculation arose, some say “Is it Fallout 5?” while others question “Fallout 3 and New Vegas remasters?” After a day of waiting, which felt like the five year gap between Fallout New Vegas and Fallout 4, a trailer starts to play. A reimagined “Take Me Home, Country Roads” rings deep into your ear canal while panning across a vault living quarters. A man on a tv talks about a new vault opening, Vault 76. Fallout 76. People start to scour the internet, where in the world is Vault 76 located? It’s in the trailer, of course, West Virginia. Could this be New Vegas 2.0? Information starts to leak. It seems to be a multiplayer game, and that’s okay right? Certainly an online Fallout game would be cool. Maybe the leaks are fake. E3 comes around and Todd Howard, in all his glory, comes on stage to ease my mind. It IS a multiplayer game. Todd’s presentation was amazing, and so was the new trailer. In normal Bethesda fashion, the release date isn’t too far away, just a few months! In good faith, Bethesda announces a Break It Early Test, a beta. Good deal. Bethesda Game Studios isn’t known for multiplayer games, but I believe in them. Sadly, this is where the mistakes start to happen. The beta is only a week before the release in November. Oh well, I’m sure the game will be buggy, but playable nonetheless. How will not having NPCs work? I ponder on this, as well as how BGS is gonna deal with grief from other players. My excitement level is through the roof, though, because I’m getting more Fallout much earlier than I expected.
When the game finally releases, my predictions came true. The game is buggy, the frame rate is awful, and the AI is wonky. Oh well, I can forgive those things. In fact, I very much enjoyed the first five to six hours. The holotapes on dead bodies tell some great stories, the map is huge, and the survival elements are pretty cool. But, after I got my character up to about level 10, my enjoyment started to fade. What was a tasty soft brownie, quickly became a hard and stale brick. I can’t aim at anything, I can’t find any stimpacks, and all of the quests are the same. The game’s short comings are becoming more apparent the longer I play. Fallout 76 felt unfinished, but not unintentionally. It seemed like BGS knew this game was going to be incomplete. I remember the feeling in my gut and the thought that came into my mind, “This is one of the worst games I’ve ever played in my life.”
The game’s bugs were worse than any other BGS title to date. Characters were stuck in T-Pose, damage wouldn’t register until 5-10 seconds after the initial hit, and the game broke at least 3 times every 2 hours. There were bugs that were in Fallout 4 (that were patched in F4 too), people were finding ways into the dev room, and the list goes on. On top of all that, the game was Boring (capital b for emphasis), even with the well written holotape dialogue. Without NPCs to populate the world, the game felt like an actual barren wasteland, and not in the good way. The mission structure was bland and uninspired, and the timed events hardly rewarded you with anything of real value. I could go on for days about all of the things wrong with the gameplay of this “game”, but I want to focus on the things Bethesda did wrong with the release and promotion of the title. I bought the Tricentennial Edition of this game, as well as the Power Armor helmet. For one, $80 for about $5 of extra context is undeniably a mistake on Bethesda’s part; and the helmet was far too expensive for it to be cheaply made with a lie to boot. Bethesda advertised the helmet with a nice canvas bag, but instead sent out a cheap and easily damaged nylon replacement without announcing it to the public. Angry fans had to bombard them with questions before they responded with “sorry it was too expensive to make” and rewarded players with $5 worth of “atoms” (the in-game currency, more on that in a moment), which could barely buy you a sign for your settlement. It then took them six months to give out those canvas bags once the complaints were in abundance, and in the process, they made everyone’s replacement request public on their website. The Nuka-Cola Dark debacle, the $276 leather jacket, and the refusal to give people refunds all added to the downfall of the goodwill and trust Bethesda had with its fans. The in-game currency pricing is atrocious, they’re offering some cosmetic items for more than $15 and have inserted a pay-to-win mechanic with the repair kits. Items in the Atomic Shop are usually priced at just a bit more than what the Atom bundles cost, forcing you to spend more than you need to. Despite all of these awful business practices, Fallout 76 has accomplished something I thought impossible.
The Division, The Elder Scrolls Online, Destiny 1 and 2; all MMOs that had rocky starts, all games that got better. Fallout 76 is different, though; it’s a much less put together project. Somehow after all of the bad publicity, all the bugs, and all of the repetitive quests, Fallout 76 has a real chance to become something good, something better. The game is updated constantly, and the servers are becoming more and more stable. The community is real, it’s dedicated, and it’s surprisingly not a toxic environment at all. New modes have come along, like Survival and Nuclear Winter. Survival mode is what the base game should have been with features like having no invitations to fight, dropping health items on death, as well as previous food and water requirement mechanics. Nuclear Winter is Bethesda’s answer to the battle royale craze going on in modern video games. While BGS’s Creation Engine isn’t built for great gunplay, the mode is surprisingly fun. The story behind the game mode is pretty interesting as well, and the more you play the more you uncover. Future updates include the Wastelanders DLC, which will bring NPCs to the world and give players a more traditional RPG experience. With a more diverse roadmap ahead, Bethesda aims to bring the likes of private servers, mods, more high level raids, and much more to an ever-growing game as a service. This made me realize that Bethesda does love this game, that it isn’t just some plot to siphon money from Fallout fans (even with those outrageous microtransaction prices).
I gave up on Fallout 76 in December last year, but a part of me felt like I was missing something. I was missing the experience of playing my favorite game franchise. Then something surprising happened. . . E3 2019 happened. I saw the Fallout 76 presentation and thought, “I’m bored, I guess I’ll give it a try.” The game I’m playing now is very much the same game I played 8 months ago, but something is definitely different. It feels like a finished game now, and I couldn’t be more happy about it. It’s not the game I wanted, nor the game I needed. Of course I wanted Fallout 5, of course I wanted Bethesda to let Obsidian do another game in the franchise, but it was naïve of me to think I was going to get those things any time soon. I’ve come to terms with that, I’m no longer letting my disappointment get in the way of enjoying Fallout 76 for what it is; a post-apocalyptic survival MMORPG set in a vast open-world that’s getting better with each update. Bethesda Game Studios’ first real dud is slowly becoming a game all Fallout fans should want to play. Because of this, I can see the better parts of what the original release of this game were. For example, there were a pretty varied amount of enemy types, some cool new weapons and clothing options, as well as the previously mentioned dialogue from holotapes found on dead bodies. If you find yourself wanting to give Fallout 76 another chance, you should start to look at it the way I do, and I believe you’ll eventually enjoy the game too.