Monday , June 14 2021

Fallout 76: Early verification

Well, the war has definitely changed. Fallout, a series of RPG games with a 20-year tradition, finds its latest entry, taking advantage of another chance to face the new direction: online multiplayer. Particular emphasis is placed on cooperation with other people in a world in which activities are constantly being undertaken, which aim at maintaining commitment to the infinite. It's a huge game and there's a lot to see. Because of its online nature, GameSpot employees have access to the full version of Fallout 76 on the day of release, so we played with you and everyone else.

At the time of writing, I spent three modest days with Fallout 76, rushing into the world without haste, breaking through the quests and working with both friends and strangers to perform tasks, participate in public events and get to know each other. I am a longtime Fallout fan who enjoyed every entry on the mainline and avoided the 76 beta test, with the aim of making sure that my first taste was introduced to the market. I am preparing my previous thoughts here and I will update my opinion with a finalized review whenever I devote enough time to dive deeper and see what Fallout 76 has to offer.

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Fallout 76 seems to be a game without a strong focus. It introduces changes to the time-tested structure visible in Fallout 4, thanks to which it can work both as a single player and multiplayer game. But in both cases both styles of the game are exposed to serious compromises that exist only to serve the other, and as a result none of them is exemplary.

You and everyone else are residents of Vault 76, an underground bunker filled with winning, competitive people whose job is to rebuild the world after the nuclear apocalypse. This time is now and after leaving you will also discover that the treasury supervisor undertook a personal mission. Finding it becomes your overarching pursuit when you enter the huge remains of a burnt world where unknown animals roam, and every other human being is a real person playing this game.

Fallout 76 has no artificial humanities to interact with. The rationale is that because Vault 76's are among the first to return to this devastated America, there are very few cohesive beings, and many of those who survived the nuclear annihilation died before you arrived. Without fixed characters to fill the world, the vibration of Fallout 76 is amazing, often reinforcing one of the strengths of the series: a sense of emptiness. There is curiosity about the environment, which makes you go down the beaten path, visit places that once were, try to imagine what life could be like before everything goes to hell and what happened there. Discovering the wasteland remains one of the most pleasant aspects.

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But the lack of inhabitants is also the biggest problem of Fallout 76 and limits the world to being something more than just an ecological showcase with things to kill. This means that the art of conversation, the basic function of the series, is disappointingly absent. But more critically, it means there are no strong emotional anchors to help you really invest in the world, a complication that reduces other basic game activities.

The biggest sacrifice is the quest system. Not having people with the needs and desires, initiating and performing tasks often requires the use of tools for talking about the environment – listening to audio records, reading notes and browsing computer terminals to obtain key information. Quest will often explore stories of certain characters, but they are characters that have long since passed, and all you get are long monologues and one-way directives from a person who no longer exists and you can not interact. Your actions will ultimately not affect anyone or the rest of the world – wherever you go, they will be regularly reset by items and enemies – and motivation will become a problem after a long period of time.

… there are no strong emotional anchors to help you really invest in the world …

Some of these stories are intriguing, and when you come across a story about a character that arouses your interest, you excite yourself to learn more about your last moments of life. But there is such an over-reliance on disembodied voices talking to you about every aspect of the game that it's easy to lose these exceptions. The lack of a more connected and personal connection between your actions, the world and its inhabitants means that the tasks can give the impression of meaningless chase of wild geese. It makes you go straight to another task – listening to more audio logs, running around the country, looking for more doohickeys, reading more entries in the journal – you feel exhausted.

Fallout 76 also has a smaller chance of completing tasks in its own unique way at this early stage, which worsens the feeling of no impact on the wasteland. The ability to open, hack and hide remains in 76, which provides a little skill to choose how to solve problems. But the missions we've played so far seem to have linear transitions to the goal. Discovering calmer and carefree songs in the world at your own pace is a more satisfying narrative experience.

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Relying on such things as sound logos and written notes turns out to be the biggest repulsive to play Fallout 76 in multiplayer mode. By joining, you can explore the world together, get help in overcoming difficult opponents and do any task, but some things are separate from the experience of each player. For example, containers containing items will have unique spoils for each person who opens them. But what is special is that the completion of the mission is not shared, and each member of your unit must activate things in person to count on their progress.

It's a great idea on paper because it ensures that everyone can see every part of the story. But by playing with both good friends and strangers, I discovered that the individual need of each person to perform tasks seriously hinders the flow of progress. Due to the need to wait for the team to catch up, each member should devote their time to listen to important tapes (which is impossible when voice chat is conducted) and search for terminals to obtain relevant information, and the task in multiplayer requires a lot of patience and courtesy . Add to that the fact that Fallout is already a game that encourages continuous, time-consuming management of equipment, which punishes the speed of movement, because it is overloaded, and the idea of ​​having another member of the team seems only an additional burden.

If you have a team that will be happy to skip the narrative content, things will go smoothly, but then you deny yourself the only vector that gives you the context of these tasks. A multiplayer game is more enjoyable when you and your team are happy about lazily exploring the world, looking for objects and falling into scratches. Questing solo also has its own obstacles – enemy packs will often have a handful of enemies that are 10 or 20 levels above you – but you do not have to wait, this is a big advantage.

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Fighting enemies also do not feel it in 76, which is a more morbid consequence of the lack of space characters. Appalachia is filled with a number of charmingly mutated creatures, both new and old, including humanoid enemies, such as Scorched and Mole Miners, who can wield firearms. But it's not so much fun taking enemies who have not hurt you or anyone you know. Without sadistic invaders and their wicked actions that can be frightened, gang gangs of interest to get on the wrong side, or be able to understand how this special brand of super mutants came into being, the enemies you meet in 76 just feel like cannon fodder.

Combat mechanics also can not cope with large amounts of cannon fodder. Appalachia is filled with dozens of public events that encourage everyone on the server to collect and participate in a unique task related to a specific location. For a dozen or so, which I have seen so far, these largely boil down to escort and defense missions that require stopping many waves of enemies. The Fallout 76 combat system is largely unchanged from Fallout 4 and is so effective to perform small skirmishes with firearms or white weapons. But the system is not so good that shooting hordes of enemies for 20 minutes during an event seems to be something other than an annoying task – the play of words and movement are not responsive enough or kinetic enough to make them enjoyable for long periods.

This is partly due to the VATS change. What once was a strategic pause skill that allows you to target in the body part and take time to assess the environment is now an automatic real-time aiming system that allows additional damage, which will probably change in the case of a multiplayer game. It serves this purpose to precisely hit the limbs when the action is manageable, but in more intense situations, VATS does little to make up for the limitations of the combat system in real time, as it used to be.

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Fallout 76 also falls victim to a series of "now characteristic of technical errors." Whether it's from the game engine or the nature of the game, I've come across a series of technical peculiarities in the PC version. Problems like clipping the world, frozen animations , unsuccessful loading of entire buildings, stuck enemies in the walls, no sound logs, enemies get out of the air, loss of control due to unstable connections to the server and inability to perform tasks due to inappropriate hints are just a few examples.

Some changes in Fallout 76, however, are completely positive. A simple but satisfying base component moves from Fallout 4 and plays a greater role in 76. A few smart decisions, such as the ability to move around the base camp for a small fee and the ability to save projects of entire structures for easy placement elsewhere, make building complex camps a pleasant one and satisfying activity. The unique approach to rivalry between players effectively stops attacks that are not provoked during the discovery of the world – a lot of work for a small reward if your goal is not retaliatory. The flexibility of the new profit system (which is now based on cards) allows you to freely change your skills, which encouraged me to use the amazing skills of Fallout, depending on my situation.

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Fallout 76 tries to bring out some new ideas for the series, but with few exceptions, it significantly reduces many aspects of the game. A multiplayer game is fun, but it is not an ideal way to enjoy the quest, and the mechanics of shooting are not strong enough to make heavy activities enjoyable for a long time. Things feel better as a solo experience, but the lack of characters in the universe makes you invest emotionally in the world and your goals are difficult.

I will keep playing with the intention of completing the campaign, a large part of side quests and engaging in the final game. This review will be updated and finalized when everything happens. But at this early stage, I feel that the only reason I enjoy the game as much as I am is the passion for the Fallout series, not for everything that can be clearly attributed to Fallout 76.

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