Fallout 76- B.E.T.A. Impressions: A Lonely World With Lots to Explore

Posted November 8, 2018 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developers: Bethesda Games Studios, Bethesda Games Studios Austin

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Available on: PC, PS4 (played), Xbox One

Release date: November 14, 2018

Fallout 76 marks the first time Bethesda’s long running apocalyptic RPG franchise isn’t just a solo experience. They’ve changed the formula up and headed into MMO territory. While you can still play solo (outside of community events), you now have the option of wandering the wasteland with up to three friends. You can also hook up with strangers, inviting them to either join your party or to trade with you. As with all MMOs, not every player will be there to play nice, as some will simply attack you (you need to hit level 5 for player combat to activate). Bethesda first tested these waters with The Elder Scrolls Online, and while that game felt a little lacking at launch, it’s grown into a respectable entry into the long running fantasy series.

So, with that in mind, how does Fallout 76 compare?

In short, there is plenty to do for players, but without a party, it’s a lonely world to explore. Unlike The Elder Scrolls Online, Fallout 76 has no NPCs, replacing them with live flesh and blood players. You’ll still encounter evidence of the world’s inhabitants, through found letters, audio logs, and survivor diaries. Plus, you’re going to run afoul the assortment of mutated creatures, irradiated ghouls, and murderous robots that roam through the forests and shattered cities. The game is set in Appalachia, a representation of the state of West Virginia, and serves as a prequel to the Fallout series. You begin in the fabled Vault 76, and from the journey out, following the path of Overseer Maria Chavez.

Story wise, from my time with the B.E.T.A., things are on the thin side. While Bethesda did make the entire game available for the B.E.T.A., the publisher curiously decided to run it in limited time segments, rather than over an uninterrupted weekend. I’m not for as to the reasoning for this, and some time periods were odd enough to keep very many players from joining in. The last session was the most populated for me in terms of other players, but even then I only ran into about a half dozen or so. Even though the game has multiplayer capabilities, it ended up retaining the same basic solo experience players have long had with the franchise. The big thing missing was the NPCs, and as it turns out, that was a very big thing indeed.

One of the joys of previous Fallout games was meeting the assortment of characters populating towns and settlements across the apocalyptic landscape. With them gone, the world feels very empty. Even with the mutated wildlife, the world doesn’t feel like a living, breathing place. One can argue that’s the point, since it is set after a massive nuclear war decimated the planet, but in light of the vibrant game worlds in current releases like Spider-Man, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and the recently released Red Dead Redemption II, Fallout 76 just feels lacking. Thankfully, if you can get past that particular issue, the game does offer plenty to keep you occupied.

The map itself is nearly four times that of the map in Fallout 4, with plenty to go check out once you leave the Vault. The game opens with you creating your character with a fairly robust character creator, and a walkthrough of robot vendors introduces you to a tutorial of basic gameplay mechanics, and well as giving you basic supplies for your journey. You carry with you a CAMP, which you can build to be as elaborate as you wish once you find the necessary plans and have the needed resources to build it.Your CAMP not only can include a place to sleep and a storage unit for things you find but don’t want to carry around, but it can have multiple crafting stations, walls, floors, and even defenses. All you need to do is find an area without any occupying structures, and you can set up house. You can choose to move your CAMP to new locations, or you can search for other established stations to rest at.

Controls will be familiar to those who have played the previous entries, and you can switch between first and third person view. Your Pip-boy’s screen can be adjusted to occupying a smaller square on your screen instead of filling up the whole screen. This can be useful, as using your Pip-boy or your item/weapon wheel where you can assign your favorites doe snot pause the game. More than once I was attacked from behind while in the Pip-boy, and swapping weapons and healing items while under attack can be a little tricky and even lead to some cheap feeling deaths. Controls for the most part work well enough, and most of my time on the PS4 went smoothly, though there were times when I encountered framerate slowdown. This seemed very prevalent during public events when you had a larger amount of enemies onscreen. Moving about in third person could give you some minor camera issues in tighter spaces such as staircases. Melee weapons seemed to work better than firearms with fast moving enemies, as reloading often felt slow. This may be due to my time being early in the game, bu it was still a little frustrating.

Leveling up is done through a tweaked SPECIAL (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck) system, where you unlock cards to be equipped as perks. Cards can be stacked up to three per attribute, and on occasion you could find random packs to open. Each task not only gives you experience but atoms that you can use to purchase items with in the Atomic Store. Not sure if there were any microtransactions involved, such as having the option to purchase atoms using real money, but it seems you can earn enough in the game without resorting to buy something outside of the game.

The game map itself is easy enough to access and is colorful, looking a lot like those maps you find in diners as place-mats. Visually, Fallout 76 is a pretty looking game, with plenty f nicely detailed environments and bright colors. The game comes with a Photo Mode, which is pretty decent, giving you a fair amount of filters, frames, etc to play around with. Photo Mode does not pause the game, so set up those action pics at your own peril. Speaking of peril, dying in the game gives you the option of calling for help, or giving up to respawn quicker. Places closer to where you died are free to respawn at, but places farther away will cost caps, the game’s currency. So you’ll want to keep caps aside for that instead of using them up at vendors.

Overall, my experience with Fallout 76 was a relatively positive one, complete with the typical issues that have always plagued Bethesda’s large open world games. There is plenty to see and explore, and the survivor diaries add some semblance of humanity to the game’s sparse story. Quests haven’t been very memorable, but they haven’t been horrible either. It’s just the story doesn’t feel strong enough, at least in the early going, to propel you along. Exploring and finding new places helps, but without NPCs the world feels lacking and lonely. Playing with strangers can be a gamble, as with any online game, so make sure your friends will also be buying the title on a system compatible to yours. Die-hard Fallout fans may be more eager for this at launch, but for other players it may be more advisable to hold off until after launch so bugs can be worked out or you can pick the game up on sale. It can be fun to play, and it’s a nice way to indulge your inner explorer, but there are too many other, better open world games in competition for your time and dollar available right now. It’s definitely worth playing. I just wouldn’t necessarily rush to add it to my collection.

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus