I have played a bit of Fallout 76. Let’s call it two-and-a-half hours on the night the beta launched. Fallout 76 is supposedly like 100-some hours long. I have probably only scratched the surface. It’s not enough for proper impressions. It’s more like impressions of impressions. Whatever we’re labeling them, let’s get into it.
- There’s little fanfare before getting into the open world. Fallout 3 had a fantastic on-boarding section with backstory and an escape from Vault 101. Fallout 4 forced you to experience the panic of the nukes dropping. Fallout 76 just kind of has you walk past a few robots before stepping outside. The whole purpose of Vault 76 is for its residents to leave and rebuild America, so it makes sense, but that doesn’t mean it’s not underwhelming.
- It’s really weird starting with no points to allocate across the SPECIAL categories. Vault 76 is home to America’s best and brightest. Beginning with a base of one point in all the traits means I’m literally the weakest, dumbest, least likable, and least lucky that a person could possibly be.
- Some people are reporting difficulties finding other players, but I had the opposite happen. There were people nearby at all times. I tried partnering up with the first guy I saw, someone with an Xbox Gamertag that was a l337-speak take on “Triggered Feminist.” I waved and invited him to my team. He declined. Then we walked down the street and killed wild mongrels and molerats together. We were a team even if he didn’t want to make it official.
- It’s genuinely unsettling to explore the West Virginia Wasteland and hear other players engaging in combat. You’re just safely looting everything in an abandoned house, and then there are suddenly gunshots nearby. We’ve spent so many years with Fallout as a single-player series, it makes the presence of other people startling at times.
- Fallout 76 isn’t a technical mess, but it’s not a marvel either. My Xbox One X had plenty of hiccups, particularly when the screen was dense with other players. It’s far from a deal-breaker, but this isn’t the game where Fallout finally runs like a dream. Good thing no-one expected that in the first place.
- There are a lot of limited-time public missions that reminded me of the staged multiplayer events in Destiny. My first mission was substantial enough. We had to kill some farmhand robots and then reprogram them. The second mission was far more trivial. We slowly escorted a robot guy to safety. Like, six players huddled around him and quickly dispatched low-level bots. It was overkill, but at least we got some supplies as a reward.
- Once I hit level five, another player immediately tried to kill me. Okay, here’s a chance to check out the PvP side of Fallout 76. I assessed the situation — I had more health than him, I had enough ammo, and he didn’t seem to have a particularly good weapon. I shot back and easily murdered him. Then, like, four players came out of nowhere to kill me. Apparently it’s open season on me, even though I wasn’t exactly an aggressive asshole in engaging that other guy. Self-defense isn’t a good enough excuse in Fallout 76.
- You know how Bethesda has said other players can shoot at you but it’ll do minimal damage unless you shoot back? It’s still kind of a pain in the ass! They plink away at you and it’s enough to affect your health bar. Then you have to use healing supplies that you could’ve saved. You can’t idly ignore it either or else all that damage can quickly add up.
- Progress is sort of slow-going, at least at first. I have hardly any armor or weapons. I’ve been carrying around the same underpowered pistol for a while now, and it’s going to eventually break. It seems like Fallout 76 wants me to craft these things rather than simply finding them around West Virginia. There’s a big emphasis on crafting stations, as they’re used for basically every necessity in the game. (Also, it sucks when another player is seated at a station and you have to wait for them to leave before you can take your turn.)
- The presence of other players has a wild effect on Fallout 76‘s pacing. When you’re around other people, you want to keep moving and push the missions forward. You want to pull your weight. It cuts down on dawdling and meticulously checking every corner of every room. I’m not convinced this is a good thing, but it’s certainly different. At least solo play is definitely still an option.
- Nothing particularly interesting has happened with the narrative yet, but I didn’t expect it to. Fallout 76 is still trying to establish what’s happening in this section of the world. It’ll take some time, especially considering the new design. It’s a slow-burner for sure. That being said, I’m still fascinated by Fallout 76. I’m not yet sure if I like it, but I know I don’t hate it. And, because beta progress carries over to the full game, I know I’m not wasting my time by helping Bethesda test Fallout 76.