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Is Fallout 76 worth playing both as single player and multiplayer? Early review

Is Fallout 76 worth playing both as single player and multiplayer? Early review

By Denis Marasanov ☆ 18.11.2018

Just in case you don’t know, Fallout 76 is an MMO spinoff of Fallout series that can be played as both single player and multiplayer game. You are going to play for the Vault 76 dweller, leaving the shelter 25 years after the nuclear war.

The game scored poorly at the start, almost 75% of all user reviews at Metacritic were negative. Old Fallout fans were obviously not particularly satisfied with the game, and I’ll try to explain below why. I also going to draw parallels between Fallout 4 (hereinafter F4 for simplicity) and Fallout 76, coz that’s the game you probably all played.


Brave dead world

In Fallout 76 we start following the Overseer quest, which happened to leave the shelter before the protagonist, cos he (or she) was drunk and felt sick after the celebration of Reclamation Day. And by the time you woke up, everyone had already gone! And your quest is to catch up.

I understand why the fulfillment of the main quest in F4 was so important. The protagonist was seeking for his kidnapped infant son, which is a strong reason. But I just don’t understand why should I follow the Overseer, or, generally speaking, any other quest chain? What are my operative motives as a game character? The only motive I found for myself as a player was goodies the Overseer left behind. So don’t ignore this quest chain, at least it’s profitable.

The world itself feels dead or rather abandoned. You’ll never encounter a single human NPC (non-player character), coz there is none. All quests and interactions are made by robots, terminals, radio transmissions, etc.

And do you know, what is the ugliest thing about that, apart for the world feeling abandoned? It’s that you constantly encounter dead humans: NPCs, settlers, raiders, etc. If there’re dead bodies, there should be live humans. Coz dead humans are made of live ones. But again, there’re none.

I understand the developers were planning to inhabit the game by real people instead of NPCs, but there’s a problem with that. Players don’t inhabit the game the way NPCs do. They look and act like players, non-indigenous life forms. That’s why such an approach ruins the immersion, at least for me. Fallout 76 is inhabited by real people, but still, it feels dead in comparison to F4 or any other Fallout game. NPCs act and feel more realistic than real players, and that’s the problem. Getting rid of human NPCs was a grave mistake, and leaving fresh human bodied all around was a stupid one.

 

First impressions

It’s the most important thing in the game, btw. The hook. It defines whether a player will play the game further, or abandon it.

Again, let’s refresh the memory of good old days in F4 and how it starts. After you leave the shelter you meet your old-new robot butler from pre-war days, visit the nearest town meeting some raiders and those funny guys with laser muskets, find your first power armor and go into combat with the first boss – the mighty Deathclaw. That was amazing!

The first several hours in Fallout 76 you are looking for a new site the Overseer used as a camp just to find out she’d already gone and you’ve got to go for the next one. The first few camping sites are of no interest at all, e.g. I’ve found one of the Overseer’s audio logs at the abandoned plant and there was not a single monster out there! Just try remembering a similar empty location in F4, draw a blank.

Another problem is that the player is way overpowered and the monsters pose no real threat. And that’s in the survival game, btw. Just as an unsolicited advice for new players – take a machete near the entrance to Fallout 76, go in the direction of Overseer camp, find ruined buildings inhabited by a gang of Scorched and kill’em all single-handedly. Coz that’s going to be a cakewalk. This way you’ll get some goodies including hunter rifles and ammo, by using which you can kill most creatures with a single shot. Except for Protectrons that are real ammo eaters.

The latter issue could be solved by simply introducing the difficulty level into the game. Some may say that this is impossible, coz the game is an MMO. But the trick is that the game is a cooperative PvE (player vs. environment) experience. Therefore there’s no intelligent reason to restrict a player by only one and only true difficulty level. Coz if something feels true to one person it doesn’t necessarily feel true to another.

In sub-total, the combination of an abandoned world, not compelling quests and overpowered protagonist might make your stay in the game feel boring. And all those players running back and forth ruining an immersion, but that was at least predictable after The Elder Scrolls Online (hereinafter TESO).

 

Rant on fights

Good interesting battles are another major reason why Fallout games are so popular. Are battles in Fallout 76 good enough? Let’s face it – making battles just as good as in F4 was easy. So let’s be tough here.

Battles are not good enough. There’s a whole bunch of reasons why, but the most obvious reason is that, as I’ve already mentioned above, the difficulty level for the first several hours of gameplay is babish. And that’s when you play solo. When playing with a friend the monsters die twice as fast. That wasn’t a problem in F4 guess why? Coz there was a difficulty level selection!

The other reason there are no human enemies in Fallout 76. Killing humans provide much more fun than all those sci-fi creatures, though some of them, like Scorched and Gouls, resemble humans. Though if you don’t like challenging games or you don’t care whether your enemy is human, Scorched or Radroach, these are not going to be problems in your particular case.

Jerky movement of monsters because of teleportation and poor optimization are different beasts. Because Fallout 76 is an MMO game the world should run identically on different game clients, playing in the same world. This means that enemy movements are calculated on the server and then transmitted to your client. Mistiming leads to monster teleportation and such a behavior spoils the experience, meaning that first-person shooting becomes less exciting.

The developers of respectable first-person MMO shooters, such as Team Fortress 2 or Overwatch, successfully fight this problem, so maybe the developers of Fallout 76 will resolve it in the future, or maybe not. Only time will tell.

And last but not least – VATS. Hope you’ve said goodbye to the good old VATS, coz now you’ve got an all-new real-time VATS. It’s great for killing those teleporting monsters, especially flying insects, but it provides a different experience. And the old VATS is definitely not coming back coz Fallout 76 runs in real time and the old VATS is not.

 

Disguised as survival

Surviving is always about struggling against the odds. Availability of foodstuffs, cooking, hunger and thirst meters in a game don’t automatically turn a game into surviving. Lack of these things does.

Tons of ammo, monsters inflicting homeopathic damage and plenty of foodstuffs ruins the survival fantasy. Those hunger and thirst meters just tire you out coz you’ve got to spend time not for “surviving”, but for grinding. So those meters are actually the grinding meters, coz they remind you of going out grinding for foodstuff.

Another feature that suffered changes because the game switched from single-player experience with turn-based mechanics to real-time is sleeping. You can still sleep (and restore health for free), but now you are sleeping in real time, though it’s speeded up significantly. This means you’re now playing a waiting game. In my opinion, it’s not a big issue, but still waiting isn’t playing, so objectively it’s still an issue.

Taking into consideration the above, survival in Fallout 76 is vanilla. I mean you can’t make a survival game giving the player so much power, ammo, and foodstuffs.

Therefore the biggest problem the player faces in Fallout 76 is petty carrying capacity, which means the player should choose wisely which weapon to take, armor to put on and junk to collect. Though is it an element of survival or a problem of inconvenience is questionable and depends on your attitude.

 

Summary

Making a great MMO game out of Fallout game series is easy. All you have to do is adding cooperative multiplayer to a generic Bethesda-made Fallout game. So why the developers had failed?

I think the main reason was that they just frightened making a classic Fallout game with cooperative multiplayer, opting to a generic survival MMO game, themed as Fallout. Like they did earlier with TESO. Unfortunately for Bethesda, this doesn’t work with MMO games, cos an MMO game is a perpetual experience with no time constraints, as opposed to single player games having a rather short lifespan.

Another possible reason is time constraints. The idea of getting rid of human NPCs looked good on paper but turned out being terrible in the game. The difficulty level is cheerless and the whole survival thing is broken. It looks like the developers didn’t have enough time to complete the game. But they still can make changes in future updates, if they will.

But still, players wanting power fantasy and a semblance of survival instead of true hardcore survival, Fallout theming and cooperative multiplayer may like Fallout 76.

 

Good (+)

  • An MMO game set in the Fallout universe with a new world to explore
  • The possibility of playing both solos and with friends
  • New stuff (story, enemies, weapon, etc.) and game mechanics (e.g. survival)

 

Evil (-)

  • Has technical issues at the start, e.g. fighting doesn't feel good enough
  • If following the Overseer chain of quests the game is too easy for an experienced FPS and Fallout player, therefore it has a tendency to gravitate towards boredom
  • Lacks human characters (NPCs and enemies), both as cannon fodder and for awaking compassion, the protagonist motivation is unobvious

 

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