Well, this is an atypical article for me. Instead of writing a review for Fallout 76, here I am putting into words exactly why I won’t be reviewing the game, or at least not yet.
People who know me are aware that I usually beat my games 100% or in any case I try to get as close as possible in a single playthrough before I start writing a review. This means I don’t have them out on release day*, but you do have my solemn promise that I’ve turned over every aspect of a game when I do. Recent examples of meticulously reviewed games: Assassin’s Creed Origins and Far Cry 5 (with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey under way)
*How some other reviewers succeed in getting a review done for massive RPGs only days after getting their review copy is beyond me, in Fallout 76’s case especially, as there were no early review copies sent out because of its online requirements. But that’s a debate for another time…
For some games, this means hours upon hours of time sunk into playing every possible side-mission, optional content or minigame. Now my standpoint here, is that you need to at least somehow be able to enjoy those hours of gameplay.
To properly review a game, I feel you need to at least have been able to experience the full story campaign and gotten your hands on all the different gameplay mechanics. While playing Fallout 76 I encountered enough issues and things that worry me about its current state, that I found it hard to press on just to see more of it. I’m an adult with a full-time job and a family to take care of so what little time I have left to spend on games should at the bare minimum provide me some return of investment.
Now, there are some people who would just slap a low score on the game and call it quits. But I also don’t think you can walk out of a movie after the first 10 minutes and tell the world that it was weak.
I can however, share with you some impressions of my 7-8 hours of playtime and perhaps one day I’ll return to the game when all the issues have been resolved. Because there ARE a lot of issues that plague it. Worst of all, is that it’s now an MMORPG. If you lose connection to the server, you will be kicked out of the game. My internet was stable throughout my playsessions, but the servers were anything but.
Now, I do have to commend it for its savefile system as being kicked out of the game doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lose a lot of progress. Maybe you won’t spawn in exactly the same location as you were before, but from what I could tell you get to keep all your gear and experience. Loading times on the Xbox One X also weren’t terrible (I have no idea if the hardware is the only factor since it does have to get some info from the online components) but it was often a test of endurance just being able to get back into the game.
After a few failed attempts I would just decide to wait for some time to pass but I’d have also forgotten what exactly it was that I was supposed to be doing. Sure, I could open the quest log and check the details, but because I was given the mission through a terminal interface I found it hard to put a visual memory que on it. Usually when I play an RPG, the questgiver is of a big importance to my emotional investment in seeing it through, especially so for the main story. In Fallout 76, you exit your vault years after the others have opened and only corpses remain of your predecessors. That’s right: in 8 hours of gametime I didn’t encounter a single human NPC, only holodecks (audio recordings, which luckily were pretty interesting) and text you had to delve through on old terminals.
Only having real life players present somehow made the world feel more empty. Most of them were just minding their own business and weren’t looking for any kind of interaction. This however is something that I could perhaps resolve by getting a group of friends to play with me so we can build our own adventures. I’ve never truly liked that in games though, which is why Sea of Thieves never appealed to me either.
This leaves you only the world’s enemies to interact with. unfortunately, in my time with the game I haven’t encountered a single one that wouldn’t die in one or two hits. I hardly ever had to even use the VATS system as you could accurately keep them at distance with even the most basic of guns. That is of course, when the game would LET me shoot at them.
Besides being kicked out of games completely, I also had enemies freeze on me, my character stand still for some seconds or just have the entire screen immobilized by server issues.
Does that mean there wasn’t anything good about the game? Well no, I think there is probably plenty to enjoy here, but it just required too much effort on my part to get to that point. I enjoyed the CAMP system, that lets you set up a base anywhere you want. There was a photo mode I could probably enjoy for hours (if going to my pictures on the Xbox One dashboard to share them wasn’t such a surefire way to get disconnected). The world looked interesting to explore as there were holodecks spread across it and I always love listening to those while continuing to explore.
There also seemed to have been a lot of fun character customisation options. It’s just a shame that most of the interesting outfits required a lot of time investment to get enough of the required currency (handed out to you by completing quests and reaching certain goals.)
I’m sure fans of the series will find the willpower required to power through the many issues, but this vaultdweller decided to return underground until those kinks have been ironed out. Who knows, I might return to an enjoyable expierence at some point, but I prefer my games to be finished when they release. The BETA had plenty of issues just like this and Bethesda should have decided to postpone the release until the product was without issues.