Unlike its predecessors, Fallout 76 is intended as a fully multiplayer game and not a lonely solo experience. While this has led to plenty of speculation and bitterness over how it’s the end of the series and the ultimate betrayal of the nuclear apocalypse, it’s nice to actually have a chance to dive into the game and see what’s what.
The game opens in Vault 76 and begins with a hangover. Thankfully you’re pretty resilient and today is the day you leave the vault. As you make your exit you get to pick up a few handy items for your journey outside, the most useful of which is the Pip-Boy. The Pip-Boy functions as it always has, as a multitool to manage your character and inventory, listen to audio tapes, and it even has a handy torch.
Stepping outside gives you a feel for the kind of world you are in. Where as you might expect a world completely devoid of life; it turns that that life, uh, finds a way. The foliage is predominately what you are used to, though the things you can harvest are all lumpy or glowing versions of the things you would find in a world that hasn’t been nuked. It’s the same kitschy style of mutation that all these games have.
The first enemies I encountered were actually a couple of little robots though, these little spider-like things that love nothing more than being hit by a newly freed vault dweller’s melee weapon, the newly released vault-dweller. The melee combat feels a little clunky; it’s functional, but it doesn’t feel good in the same way that other games do. The melee combat itself feels a little unresponsive at times, but it does the job well enough. Once you’ve found a gun of some sort, you’ll find that the gunplay is better, but again lacks the finesse and feedback of a dedicated shooter.
You aren’t here to just to fight though, you also have to explore and survive. The game will lead you to missions which will reward you with loot, level-ups, and also serve as your tutorial at times. To really get into the nitty-gritty elements you must be ready to read. There is a lot of information in the text logs you can find littered about, while the rest of what you need to know is stored in audio tapes that seem to go on forever. Each one is well voiced, but far longer than is reasonable in a game filled with shooting and multiplayer chaos. It just isn’t realistic to get through an entire tape uninterrupted unless you are hiding in an attic somewhere.
The missions themselves are pretty uninvolved – don’t expect any great narrative twists in the first few hours – and since everyone is dead there isn’t much that can really happen without other players involved. In fact, all of the missions so far feel like your chasing ghosts. You know that the nukes killed or mutated everyone, so you are just going through the motions because you are being told to.
During this little excursion you may have noticed that you start to get hungry, thirsty too, and that’s because this is very much a survival game. You’ll have to heat food and water in order to make it more digestible, though you can expect to pick up some radiation along the way anyway. Radiation lowers your maximum health and can be picked up pretty much everywhere. These are the three things you have to manage to survive this harsh world. Thankfully these aren’t all that hard to keep on top of; it is a survival game, but not one that beats you into the ground if you forget.
Perhaps the most interesting thing I’ve found so far is that you can mutate if you get too irradiated. These can be beneficial or detrimental but are very much keeping an eye on. The only one I’ve had so far was beneficial, it gave my character an electric charge which shocked enemies who attacked me at close range. These can be cured and lost by taking a rad-away, so you have to weigh up how much you want to be clean, and how much you want to be awesome.
You can build a camp to have as your home base, and which also serves as a fast travel point. The placement of this feels a little arbitrary at times, with you running around until the holograhic outline of your CAMP turns green and you can plonk it down. Anything you have built previously is available for free if you decide to move things to a new area, which is a nice touch. Your camp is where you will do a lot of your cooking, and also the best place to keep your crafting materials. Keeping the materials safe is important, as if you die, they will be left in a bag on your body that you then need to go and retrieve.
For a multiplayer game, I’ve spent very little time talking about it. Teaming up with other people is easy to do – just walking up to them gives you the option to join with them and lay waste to all who oppose you – but so far I’ve only joined up with one other person, who started shooting me for no reason twenty minutes later. Despite this being in a team is highly encouraged. Where in a normal Fallout game you might come across one or two enemies at a time, in 76 you can expect hordes. Even while accessing a terminal, everything carries on in real time, so you can expect to be harassed if you haven’t cleared out the area completely.
The new SPECIAL perk system can be used to compliment your chosen style of play. As you complete challenges you get new perk packs which contain a few perk cards which you can equip based on how many points you have in any given stat. A first level skill costs one to equip, a second level costs two and so on. If you end up with two of the same skill at the same level, then they combine to give you the next level.
There is a lot to unpack in this game, and a ridiculously large map to explore. There are plenty of building to scour through and caves to spelunk in, and you get the feeling that there may well be no end to what you can do here. All of this is just in the first six hours. I think I’m enjoying my time in West Virginia, but I wish I was playing with a dedicated team of friends. Everything feels a little lonely without any interactive NPCs around giving orders.
On how the game runs on PS4; there are a plethora of bugs I have encountered so far, including enemies sliding on the floor, or simply not existing but still being highlighted by gun. So, ya know, it’s definitely a stereotypical Bethesda game. The frame rate occasionally chugs like a monster too, not to mention the occasional feeling that the controls aren’t listening as well as they should. This hampers things, but will hopefully be patched out.
This is still a Fallout game, the combat and look of the game make that clear, but this is also something completely new. It is hard to say exactly who this is for, but the chances are if you and your friends like survival games, then you will like this. I am looking forward to continuing on with it, but it’ll definitely be better with company.