A new twist on an old favorite, Fallout 76 has finally arrived after being announced just five months ago during Bethesda’s E3 conference. Many were excited, even more were skeptical, but I think it’s fair to say the vast majority of folks were intrigued to see just how an online-only Fallout game would work. Boasting a map that is four times larger than Fallout 4, I have barely sunk my teeth into a fraction of what 76 has to offer, but I’ve seen enough to be able to share some first impressions.
Right off the bat, I noticed that Fallout 76 doesn’t look quite as beautiful as Fallout 4 did. Sure, some things must be sacrificed to bring in the online aspect, and that can be the case with many strictly online games, but Fallout 76 looks washed out and muddy. Granted, I’ve only played on a launch model Xbox One and a PS4 Slim, so it could look much better on the Xbox One X, PS4 Pro, or PC. On the audio side, I have nothing to complain about; weapon, enemy, and ambiance sounds are masterfully done, as I would expect from Bethesda. Also, I must give a tip of the hat to Fallout 76’s score. There are some really great pieces in this game that set the tone perfectly while exploring, and others that get the blood pumping when stumbling into a pack of bad guys.
When I first loaded the game up on launch night, I played solo for a few hours, and my thoughts weren’t very positive; I immediately thought it felt like “Fallout light.” As most who had been following along with news on the game before launch know, there are no NPCs. Instead of having a world populated (well, as populated as possible in a Fallout title) with people to talk to, trade with, and get quests from, you’re left to get story beats from “holotapes,” notes, and other items of the sort. I definitely understand that this is tied to the fact that players are the first humans to leave the vault and head out into the wasteland, but it really makes me miss the standard approach to questing and such as it makes the world feel incredibly empty. That’s a weird feeling to have when speaking on a post-apocalyptic game this early in the Fallout series’ timeline, but I can’t help but think they could have brought that ambiance about differently. This ultimately made me feel bored with the game, and I ended up turning it off for the night, left with a sour taste.
I decided to give the game another go with some friends on subsequent evenings, and my experience was day and night compared to my time spent alone with Fallout 76; I found myself enjoying the game for what it was simply because I was playing with friends. Sure, I was mostly ignoring the story, but I didn’t care; I had irradiated monsters to kill and weapons to loot and craft. My biggest complaint when playing solo (the lack of story elements) became the thing I ignored most when playing with others; I simply didn’t care, I just wanted to partake in the next event or quest-line. So, clearly, the best way to experience Fallout 76 is with friends. It is definitely a departure from what you know in the Fallout series, but at the end of the day, the world still looks and feels like Fallout to me, and it’s a ton of fun to play.
I’ll be diving in much more over the coming days to deliver a more in-depth review on the game, so stay tuned!