It’s safe to say that Fallout 76 hasn’t had a great run. Following the incredibly troubled initial release at the end of 2018, Bethesda have put in a staggering amount of work to try and turn this sinking ship around, not just with new content, but also in terms of how it runs and plays. The changes found in the free Fallout 76: Wastelanders update are kind of astonishing. I mean, I can actually consistently load it up now, and don’t have to worry about having my game crash just because I had the audacity to try and pause. It’s definitely better than it once was, and the Wastelanders update definitely means that it’s the best it has ever been. Does that mean it’s actually good now, though?
The biggest difference in Wastelanders is the company. No longer does the apocalypse feel completely lonely, and you’ll now occasionally come across NPCs who help to give the dead world a bit more life. It’s refreshing, and it marks what I hope to be the beginning of a new ascent for Fallout 76. This could well be the point at which we all note the beginning of a new era of Fallout 76 – I really hope it is. The addition of loads of new quests, factions, allies, and lots of other small bits and bobs add up to make for a game that almost feels new.
It’s still not actually new though. While things are definitely heading in the right direction, it’s still, if you’ll forgive me continuing with the sinking ship analogy, as though the ship has already taken on water and there’s not enough buckets helping to get rid of it. The world is still quite bland, the quests are still a buffet of chores for you to undertake, and it’s still kind of hard to feel like it’s worth doing anything. The feedback loop that so many live online thrive on just isn’t there, or at least it’s still not strong enough.
Sure, the guns can be fairly fun, and superhero landing in a set of Power Armour is one of the most satisfying things about the game, but those fleeting moments say a lot about what else there is to do in the world. The new bits are all appreciated, and new weapons and blueprints help to keep you gobbling up the crumbs of progress that are thrown your way, but the core of the game is still kind of boring. It’s hard to enjoy any of it, really.
Ironically, the new Wastelanders content can occasionally feel at odds with the feel of the base game. If you choose to start a new character you can easily tell the difference between the old and the new by whether or not you’re talking to a person or just following some more audio logs. The quests themselves will still just be “go here, shoot things, come back” missions, but you’ll be talking to someone if it’s new, and listening to someone if it’s not.
My original review of Fallout 76 talked a lot about the flaws found in the world and the gameplay, but a lot of my issues with the game came from the incredible amount of bugs and how poorly it ran. It’s been a year and a half since that fateful article, and while some things have changed for the better, the game is still dragging the weight of its problems behind it.