Fallout 76 Review
Content8.5
Mechanics5
Gameplay3.5
Community2.5
Technical0.1
Strengths
  • Huge Detailed World
  • CAMP System
  • Scrapping & Crafting
Weaknesses
  • Most bugs I've seen in a AAA title
  • Weeks after release, bugs aren't fixed
  • Bethesda is proving to be a terrible company
3.9Final Rating

Fallout 76 Review Introduction

The Fallout Franchise is one of the most beloved gaming worlds in the industry. With a long-standing history starting with Fallout 1 released by Interplay in 1997, and evolving into the masterpiece that was Fallout 4 and the evolving DLC. Fallout is one of my personal favorite series of all time. I thought Fallout New Vegas and Fallout 4 were amazing, and when Fallout 76 was announced, I marked my calendar.

Fallout 76 Promised Got

That pretty much sums it up…

I want to preface this review by stating I have done pretty much all “leveling” and end-game content, including launching a nuke and getting to level 167 (at the time of writing this review). I am going to cover all aspects of the game in my review below, but because of what’s going on with FO76 right now, I want to talk about the elephant in the room.

Most people who are reading Fallout 76 reviews know what a complete mess the current state of the game is; much of the reviewer-given hate is warranted, and some of it is not. In many of the videos (and screenshots) it’s easy to see many of the reviewers really didn’t get beyond mid-game, and probably don’t even know what primals are or the importance of securing workbenches and building extractors. However, it is fair to say Fallout 76 is a royal mess, and the team at Bethesda released an unstable and buggy game that has so much potential. To be clear, saying “Fallout 76 will be good one day” does not excuse it from not being good at launch.

December 5th upate: After the December 4th patch, the game is even more of a mess than it was prior to the patch. Bethesda also made numerous “balance” changes they failed to include in the patch notes, and the game doesn’t play better than before the patch; it plays worse. Reddit is now full of players who were previously “hopeful” stating they have lost all faith in Bethesda, and are tired of dealing not only with a very broken game, but an incompetent company that can’t fix even the most basic of bugs while refusing to post “complete” patch notes. FO76 is truly in a sad state; the game now crashes for me regularly (it didn’t do that before the patch), desync and invisible monsters are out of control, and loading times are still “a special kind of stupid”, often lasting 2 minutes or longer. I’m lowering the technical score of FO76 to a 0 for now until these issues are addressed.

A Youtuber named Dreamcast shared some information about why the game is in the state it currently is. You can watch the video here. Apparently FO76 team members said: 1) There were no sales goals; 2) It didn’t matter how the game played; 3) The dev team never heard any feedback from the “player base”, and; 4) Todd Howard wasn’t even involved (this included him not even being in the game credits at launch). The main priority was to just get the product out the door by a specific date, regardless of quality. I have to say, this information does support the current state of the game.

Here’s another perspective of what people “don’t understand’ about Fallout 76. I agree FO76 is a type of “experiment”, and this individual does a good job of covering the difficulties in creating an online game and converting a single-player “universe” to a multi-player experience. I agree, this is Fallout 4 Online, not Fallout 5 single-player. But what I disagree with here is he doesn’t touch on the numerous technical and design problems that could have easily been addressed before release, and made the game so much better.

We also have the Metacritic user reviews, which currently shows a 2.8/10 score based on more than 4,100 reviews. This is a big problem, and rightly so. The majority of the bad reviews cite bugs as the #1 issue with the game. And they are correct.

Rhykker also posted a good video that covers most of the current FO76 issues. It’s probably the best “quick update” on the situation not only as to the state of the game, but how Bethesda has mishandled numerous problems.

But this is no surprise; the BETA process for FO76 was a complete farce. Sporadic 4-8 hour windows of “testing” just a few weeks before release? And to add insult to injury, the biggest problems (including the red flag issue of stash space) were completely ignored by Bethesda. The game released “as-is” even though the player base (we’re talking tens of thousands of people or more) warned Bethesda about the game’s key problems (many of which could and should have been fixed prior to launch). And it gets even better. The day before Thanksgiving (a 4-day holiday for most in the US), Bethesda decided to execute some sort of server patch (with no notes as to what they did) which actually broke the game even further for numerous players (including me). All in time for people who wanted to play over the long weekend to experience even worse issues than the game had at launch – while the Dev team was off eating turkey and pie. And then one week after launch, the game was available for 50% off. Talk about a nice “fuck you” to the player base. This was reaffirmed further by Bethesda shipping a low quality nylon bag as part of the $200 collectors edition, something that was not in the original marketing materials – and to make matters worse, a Bethesda rep said “we aren’t planning on doing anything about it”. But then they changed their mind and decided to award 500 Atoms ($5) to the $200 collectors edition supporters. This issue has even been taken up by a law firm who is looking into a Class Action Lawsuit. You can’t make this stuff up. Regardless, this sort of blatant mismanagement and stupidity is no joke; Bethesda has some serious problems and they not only let down the Fallout community at launch, they are failing to promptly hotfix and address key problems in the game. Respected game companies would have been burning the midnight oil, executing hot fixes, and been smart enough not to release such a buggy product right before the holiday; oh and they would have provided items in a $200 collectors edition that were actually advertised.

Bethesda did announce they are patching the game on December 4th (stash limit increase to 600lbs and big fixes) and again on December 11th (SPECIAL respec, FOV, Push to talk and CAMP placement issue fixes). This is a good start, but may be “too little, too late” for many players. After all, these things should have been resolved during BETA. And there have been no hotfixes issued to correct blatant cheating, which is directly impacting the economy. Even now, it looks as if Bethesda doesn’t have a clue as to what they are doing or how to properly handle this mess.

Regardless, I feel many reviewers are failing to cover the vision and potential of FO76 and how the game may be in the near future once the key bugs and issues are addressed.

It’s not all doom and gloom. I want to give readers a sliver of hope, and that is a reference to No Man’s Sky. Many people know what a complete and utter disaster that game was at launch. The company almost went under, and the gaming community was venomous against Hello Games. Well, guess what. NMS is now a great game. The company worked their asses off over the past two years and turned the concept and design (the “vision”) into something players are now embracing. This video is a great example of how a terrible game at release can evolve into what it was meant to be with time.

I believe FO76 has great potential, and that’s why players are so angry and upset. They expected this fantastic huge world to be far more stable, immersive and enjoyable. However, that’s not what was provided at launch – but I believe the foundation is there for the game to become what it was meant to be in the future. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t forgive Bethesda for this preventable tragedy. Hello Games was a small indie company publishing their first “Major” game while Bethesda is a multi-billion dollar powerhouse that has made numerous AAA titles. As such Bethesda should be held to a higher standard.

Let’s dive into what this game really is, which is much more than most reviewers are touching on. First, a few details:

Created by: Bethesda, Est. 1986
Release Dates: November 14, 2018 (PC, XBox One, PS4)
Release Reviewed: 1.0.1.14
My Character Level: 167

Fallout 76 is all about farming, leveling, scavenging, collecting gear and surviving. It’s a jack of all trades, yet master of none. Playing FO76 has been one of the most frustrating gaming experience I’ve ever had. That’s a bad thing. But I am writing this review because I believe there is a lot of potential for FO76 and more to the core game than people realize. That’s a good thing. But much of what it “could” be has been shrouded in a broken launch paired with an incomplete product. No real polish was given to this game at launch, but could there be a gem underneath? Let’s find out…

Let’s do this!

Content

The reality is FO76 is a single-character game. While you can create multiple characters (5 total), there isn’t any sharing between them at all. This means each character you create starts out from scratch with no benefit from previous play. The problem with this design is if you’re on your level 160 rifleman and the ultimate melee weapon drops, you have no way to get that to a new character without using a 3rd party or 2nd (mule) account. I hope Bethesda fixes this and at least adds a shared stash and the sharing of blueprints (which can often take the longest to acquire). The good news is there is so much content and so much to do, many players are perfectly fine with a single character or starting from scratch. It’s just unfortunate there is no enticement to try different builds and re-experience the game world using rewards you’ve acquired through playing. FO76 would be so much cooler if there was reward and benefit to building different characters to grow the overall “account”.

Fallout 76 is actually a difficult game. You will die. A lot. Starting out is quite rough, especially when you have no real armor and wander into an area with higher level monsters. But once you get a full set of armor (or Power Armor), your survival jumps way up. Then comes the process of repairing weapons and armor, managing food, drink, materials, weight and how to progress your character. New players need to be patient; the game has a tough learning curve, but once you hit mid-game and you’re annihilating your enemies with gory glee, the tough start fades away.

Character Creation is nearly identical to Fallout 4. One can select sex, and then craft the face to look normal, or crazy. It’s fun to sculpt your character, and I’ve seen some hideously wonky folks running around.

The World of FO76 is larger than Fallout 4 and Skyrim combined; it’s massive, detailed, beautiful, and I think is one key areas where the game really shines. It is a vibrant living world full of activity, danger and the unknown. Appalachia is a very nice change from the drab and faded colorless world of Fallout 4. A lot of love and refinement went into the game world and it entices players to explore and enjoy the environment of Appalachia. Towns, Outposts, Forests, Swamps, Mountains, Caves, Mines, Bunkers, Nuclear Power Plants, and so many other locations await exploration. Unfortunately, one of the most broken aspects of the game at this time is that of world hopping and load times. At launch, I could often get into the world after just 10 seconds. Now, it often takes up to 2 minutes (or longer), and I often have to “end task” the client, because it just ends in a never-ending load process. There are some serious issues here that never should have made it out the door.

Encountering other Players in the game is enjoyable; most everyone I meet is usually friendly and wants to team up and work together. Rarely have I encountered anyone who is straight out hostile. This emphasizes the concept of taking a Fallout game online to play with others as a good design idea. I also love how you can hear the sounds of battle (gunshots, explosions, etc.) off in the distance – and it’s from a real fight (often another character shooting it out). This entices players to “investigate” the combat they see/hear in distance, which often results in fighting by the side of a new friend to help them kill numerous enemies. This aspect of the game does bring people together, and it’s another area where the game shines. There are no other Humans in the world of Fallout 76 except for other players, and there can only be up to 24 players in each world world. This is a good number because it makes running into other people a rare and interesting event. However, it’s unfortunate there really is no central trading hub or city for players to hang out at together. Bethesda should have added one that supported free travel. I also discuss the lack of text messaging/speaking and the “push to talk” feature below, forcing players to either always play with their microphone on/off or use emotes to communicate. The FO76 “communication system” simply does not work, and is one of the dumbest (and broken) design concepts I’ve ever seen.

Many people have complained that FO76 doesn’t really have a Storyline. This isn’t true at all; while there is a main story following the Overseer of Vault 76 that drives the player through to the end-game (resulting in launching a nuke), the game instead focuses on numerous Stories spread throughout the world. There are a lot of them and they are very enjoyable. Just wait until you do the DMV quest. As to how many side stories the game has, I have no idea, but the world is so big and there is so much to explore, even at level 167, I’m constantly encountering new stories and quests to complete. People seem upset there aren’t other human NPCs in the world providing these quests; honestly, that doesn’t matter. The content is good, entertaining, sad, crazy, and weird. It’s exactly what I would expect (and want) from a post-apocalyptic world. There are four different types of Quests in the game: Main, Side, Daily and Event.  Main quests are designed to move the player through a number of core storylines while Side quests are “if you’re interested, go for it”. Daily quests can be completed once a day (and take place at static locations) and Events are pretty much random and spread throughout the world (and show on the world map). One nice thing is a player can fast travel (by paying Caps) to any Event on the map. This is a very useful way to get distant waypoints as long as the character can afford it. While a player makes more XP farming monsters, many Quests and Events reward items and blueprints, so they are  worth completing. For example, the only way to get a Fusion Generator Blueprint is to complete one of the two Nuclear Power Plant events.

Before I dive into the core mechanics, I want to talk about Builds. The game is so diverse, a player can pursue any type of build they want based on the play style they prefer. Want to be a sniper that executes 1-hit headshots? Want to be a carrion eating irradiated boxer? Check. Perhaps a hybrid shotgunner/melee (with bladed weapons)? How about a demolition expert that uses exploding weapons and lobs a ton of grenades? We got that. Want to be a support-based energy weapons power armor tank designed to help teammates? You can do all of this and more, which is very cool. Melee is currently the strongest damage build in the game, able to 1-shot scorchbeasts and other end-game bosses, but it can also be quite squishy and can’t touch flying enemies until they land. But don’t underestimate ranged builds; my hybrid Shotgun/Rifle build can kill a landed scorchbeast in less than 5 seconds, and also pick them off in the air with its Gauss Rifle. Heavy Gunner builds are also very popular, but the reality is so many different build variations just “work” based on the right combination of Perk Carks, Mutations, and Legendary Weapons (all covered below) that there is ultimately no “best build” because different people like to play and fight in different ways. The combinations are really endless. You can find a bunch of builds (applied and concept) on the Fallout 76 Builds Subreddit.

There is no Level cap in FO76, but a character only receives points to distribute into their stats for the first 50 levels. After that, each level allows the player to select a new Perk card. This means a player has to be careful as to how they build out their stats (covered below) since there is currently no respec, but the option to respec is going to be added on December 11. The cool thing about not having a level cap is you can keep playing and playing and level up (and get points to spend on perk cards). If you see a level 180 player, you know they’ve played a LOT vs. a level 50 player. It’s also nice to know there’s no ceiling to hit; if you invest years into this game, it will show on your level. A year from now, I won’t be surprised to see level 500+ characters.

S.P.E.C.I.A.L. is the root of a character’s statistics, and are: Strength, Personality, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck. Players are allowed a total of 50 points to distribute into their stats (as they level), but cannot put more than 15 in any given stat. There are inherit bonuses from each stat (for example, each point of strength provides additional carry weight and impacts melee damage). The way a character’s SPECIAL is built out allows a player to focus on a specific build, not only due to the stat values, but the cards that can be loaded into those values.

Perk Cards define the specific areas of focus for a character, and there are a lot to choose from; 191 in total. We have 24 Strength, 23 Perception, 32 Endurance, 28 Charisma, 27 Intelligence, 27 Agility and 30 Luck cards; and nearly all of them can be “combined” to a value of 3 (on average). This means there are more than 500 total card combinations for the player to pursue, one reason there is no level cap. A characters gets a new Perk Card pack every 5 levels; note these card packs are the same for every character. Bethesda changed this new Perk system from Fallout 4 to be more flexible, and to allow players to “swap” cards as they see fit. I really like this new Perk card design and think it’s one of the best features of the game; it allows a player to switch (for example) from Shotguns to Energy Weapons (if they have the SPECIAL points to support it). It also allows a player to swap cards out for specific circumstances, such as picking locks, crafting items, or engaging in PvP. You can see the complete list of Perk cards here.

I’ve put together a quick snapshot of some of the most popular Perk cards I swap for crafting and building (and killing glowing mobs in nuke zones):

  1. Home Defense (A) – High level Turrets
  2. Power Patcher (I) – Lower Power Armor Repairs
  3. Weapon Artisan (I) – Repair weapons at 200%
  4. Super Duper (L) – Chance to craft 2x of an item – Always use when crafting!
  5. Glow Sight (P) – Deal more damage to Glowing – great for nuke zones!
  6. Fix it good (I) – Repair Power Armor at 200%
  7. Hard Bargain (C) – Better buy/sell prices (for vendors)
  8. Travel Agent (C) – Lower travel costs
  9. Ammosmith (A) – Produce more ammo when you craft!

Starting out with style!

The core Items in the game are Weapons, Armor, Apparel, Aid, Junk, Mods and Ammunition.  FO76 is very similar to Fallout 4 in this regard; it’s essentially the same system with the same types of items – but now you can wear an costume/outfit over your armor (as long as you’re not in Power Armor). There are also a lot more Aid-related items (food, water, drugs, etc.) and mods allow the player to customize their gear. It’s important to mention the static/spawn Items spread throughout the world (such as duct tape, canisters, clipboards and other junk farmed items) are on a timer, even if you server hop. For example, if you come across a reactor with a fusion core in it, you can only grab that item every 12-24 hours. There are other spawns for junk, aid, weapons and other things that seem to be on a different type of timer – it’s hard to tell exactly when things refresh and respawn because as you server hop you don’t know if another person has looted everything, or if it’s a static respawn that carries a time restraint regardless of server hopping.

The Weapons and Armor in FO76 are very similar to FO4. Weapons types include Pistols, Rifles, SMGs, Shotguns, Pipe Weapons, Heavy, Energy, Plasma, Explosives, Melee (Blades, Blunt, Unarmed) that cause Ballistic, Energy, Explosive, Poison, or Radiation damage. Armor can be Power (covered below), metal, leather, combat, and other variations, and protects from Physical, Energy, and Radiation. There are also Grenades (Frag, Plasma, etc.). Weapons and Armor can be adjusted based on the Modifiers that have been unlocked through scrapping. You can make guns shoot faster, penetrate armor, hit harder, aim better, and more. Armor doesn’t have as many modifiers, but can be adjusted to absorb more damage and increase carry weight. It’s important to mention Modifiers are different from Mods. Mods are upgrade items that can be added to an item, even if it’s been modified. Mods can be found in the world and also purchased from vendors. Mods cannot be crafted. Bethesda also made a mistake by failing to tell the player what a mod does prior to purchase. At this time, the only way to see what a mod does is to have it active in your inventory, so you can’t mouse over it from a vendor to see what effect it as. This ridiculous oversight is quite problematic for new and even experienced players.

Legendary Items and Unique Items (especially weapons) are the most sought-after items in the game, and part of the end-game focus. Legendary and Unique items can have up to 5 properties (but at this time, only 3 are attainable). At first, it’s not apparent because the general UI only shows one; in order to see the additional modifiers, you have to Inspect the item. But you can tell if an item has more than one modifier by how many “bullets” it has (which can be seen to the right of the item level). The more stars a legendary creature has, the higher chance a legendary item with that many stars will drop. So if you see a 3-star legendary creature, there’s a good chance it’ll drop an item with 3 properties. I think Legendary items should be harder to find, but have better stats. Right now the rolls are so random and obscure a good 95% of legendary drops are useless.

Power Armor is a key part of the game, and nearly all builds utilize it (or require it for surviving). While there are some builds that do not use power armor, the majority do. And the end-game power armor is very impressive looking (and functions very well). Bethesda did a good job with this system, even if it’s really a copy from FO4. All power armor requires a Chassis, and with the Chassis you can mix and match any individual pieces you want (arms, legs, helm, torso). Until a character acquires the full set of end-game Power Armor, they often have different pieces from different tiers, which can look rather silly. There are six tiers of Power Armor: 1) Raider at Level 15, 2) Excavator at level 25, 3) T-45 at Level 25, T-51 at Level 30, T-60 at Level 40 and X01 at level 50 (but you can craft L40 X01 if you want). There is also Ultracite at level 50 as well, but most people opt for X01 because the only way to get mods for Ultracite is through Scorchbeast Queen drops. X01 looks awesome, and while there are a few nice skins available for purchase from the Atom Store (covered below), the choices are rather limited. This means everyone in X01 looks pretty much the same. Why Bethesda launched without more Power Armor MTX (microtransactions) is beyond me – so many people would gladly pay real money to get a power armor suit that looks different from anyone else. Let’s just hope they expand the visual aspect of power armor as time goes by. Note when you wear Power Armor, any protection or benefits from the personal armor you’re wearing are negated, so those who only wear Power Armor generally wear no personal armor underneath (since it only takes up weight).

All equipable items (Weapons and Armor) have a Level Requirement, which also defines the power or protection of the item. At this time, the highest level items in the game are 50. Equipable items also have Durability; this is how long the item lasts before it breaks and must be repaired. Item Repair is a very big part of FO76, and a key consumer of scrapped junk. Early game it’s very easy to have your weapon or armor break and not have the materials to properly repair it. This system balances out a bit later; at end game (L80+) I almost never ran out of materials to repair my weapons or armor, and if I had to farm something before my weapon broke (like springs), it was very easy to do. There are also perk cards that help your weapons and armor last longer (cutting down on the time and cost of regular repairs). I do think weapons and armor break far too quickly in early and mid-game (mainly because most of the weapons and armor pieces you find have very little durability), and most players are forced to equip the necessary perk cards to extend durability (or repair on hit). Bethesda needs to adjust this system to make weapon and armor durability management less tedious for new players.

Crafting is a key mechanic of the game, required for making pretty much everything. Players can learn how to craft food, medicine, weapons, ammo, armor, CAMP and Workbench support structures (walls, traps, extractors, machine guns, etc). Items are crafted one of three ways. The first is at Workbenches, specific to the type of item a player is looking to craft, such as weapons or ammunition. The second is CAMP structure building (which I cover below), and the third is the Workshop structure buildings (which I also cover below). Scrapping is the fuel for crafting, and nearly all items in the game can be scrapped, but not ammo or legendary items. When it comes to Weapons and Armor, Scrapping is the method by which modifications are learned. As a player grows in the world of Appalachia and takes the weapon and armor pieces to workbenches and dismantles them, the character learns how to make those mods themselves for their own item. I actually like the crafting and scrapping aspect of the game. Love .44 pistols? Collect and scrap them to learn to build mods to improve damage and accuracy. This is much better than the RNG crafting that so many other games have. Actual CAMP or Workshop items (such as walls, floors, turrets or extractors) have no mods to learn and can only be scrapped for parts. Beyond weapons and armor, the world is packed full of critically important objects that can be collected for scrapping. Want Plastic? Visit the Watoga High School and raid the cafeteria where all the utensils are plastic. Want lead? Hit the Charleston Fire Department’s weight lifting room and scrap the weights. Adhesive? Duct tape! Springs? Clipboards and Globes! There are so many items in the game that can be searched for, and believe me, every player will go through the process of being low on or out of a specific crafting material, thus requiring them to farm for it. As such, Junk is the heart and soul of crafting, and the result of scrapping pretty much everything. The interface allows the player to switch to a “component” view, which shows the breakdown of components from the junk stack; from this interface, the player can “mark” a specific component (such as Aluminum or Springs), and when an item in the world (or inventory) meets that mark, a little magnifying glass will appear next to it. This is very useful to new players who are not familiar with exactly what components world-based items (such as a globe or a clipboard) break down into. There are, however, a few problems with the crafting system:

  1. It’s too easy to accidentally scrap an item you want (or even a favorite item). Once it’s scrapped, there’s no way to get it back. Bethesda needs to add an “undo” option to the game as many players have accidentally scrapped their favorite legendary item because the interface is rather clunky (and can cause pauses/delays in action).
  2. The game won’t let you craft in power armor, so you’re constantly getting out of your power armor just to use workstations; I wish they would fix this.
  3. Bethesda added “Bulking” to junk, allowing us to (for example) bulk together Aluminum, Steel, Lead, etc. But at this time, the only two that actually save stash space are Aluminum and Lead. No other bulking saves space!
  4. It would be nice to see how much ammunition you have as you are crafting it.

Below is a quick list of the best places I’ve found to be for farming specific types of junk:

  1. Screws & Springs: Sugar Grove.
  2. Aluminum, Screws, Nuclear Material: Morgantown High School.
  3. Plastic: Watoga High school (plastic utensils in cafeteria).
  4. Plastic 2: Crazy Cat Lady.
  5. Springs:  Mountainside Bed & Breakfast – jump down towards the power tower, always two Yao Guai.
  6. Lead: Charleston Fire Dept – Weight Room.
  7. Adhesive: Middle mountain cabin (Honeybeasts).
  8. Aluminum: Top of the World Ski Resort (Sky Poles).
  9. Gunpowder: West Tek Research (Supermutants).

There is a strategic standard to maximizing scrapping and junk; players will discover where the workbenches are in the world and what areas they can run (and become over-encumbered with items in) and then waddle to the closest workbench. For example, I like to set my camp up just outside of Big Bend Tunnel East, run into the tunnel, kill everything inside (and loot all drops), come out the west side, then port back to my camp and change servers, then do it all again. Within the tunnel and on both ends are numerous workbenches, so I can scrap everything I find.

Super Mutant Slaughter Incoming!

One can also find Ore Deposits in the mountains, which can be smelted at Chemistry stations, but the reality is it’s easier (and more fun) to farm enemies and their regions to acquire the resulting materials.

Blueprints can be found throughout the world, and are required to craft not only weapons and armor, but food & drink (Recipes), structures and support objects for your camp and workbench areas. The most common method of acquiring a blueprint is through events. Blueprints can also be purchased from vendors and found on bodies as well. In my opinion, Workshop events are the best way to acquire blueprints because the player can hop servers, jump from unclaimed workshop to shop, and complete the missions (note I cover Workshops in detail below, under Gameplay). High level recipes can be found in the high-level areas; for example, the Workshop event in Cranberry Bog can give a Gauss Rifle blueprint. Also, the only way to acquire the Fusion Reactor blueprint is to complete one of the two nuclear power plant events (Powering Poseidon or Thunder Mountain Power Plant). One big problem with blueprints/recipes is the game doesn’t register which ones you’ve already learned, so when you go to a vendor that sells blueprints/recipes, you can’t tell if you already have it. Once you have a blueprint/recipe, you can build as many of an item as you would like, which allows you to scrap that item (weapons/armor) and obtain the modifiers for it.

And now we have the Stash, which is the unified storage system for your character; but note it’s only for each single character, and is not shared with other characters, making the passing of items between multiple characters unnecessarily difficult (you would have to use a 3rd party, which is ridiculous). The stash is currently the center of many problems relative to playing Fallout 76There’s simply not enough space (at 400lbs) and managing the Stash is a full-time, tedious and irritating task. Bethesda is upping the limit to 600 on December 11, but even that won’t be enough, and the lack of sharing between characters is just another issue. Even with a limit of 600, it prohibits players from collecting different legendary weapons to try different builds and making sure they have ample resources to craft/repair weapons and armor. The limit was placed to force players to constantly have to scrounge and pursue acquisition of items on an “as needed” basis, but they took the concept too far. Once you factor in CAMP resources, Workshop Resources (for building), weapon and armor repair, modification and crafting, Aid storage (stimpacks, etc), and other necessities, it’s easy to see 400lb (and even 600lbs) doesn’t work – and it’s so obvious it doesn’t work that one must ask if the QA team at Bethesda really played this game like a “normal” player at all. This was the #1 complaint by the community weeks prior to the game, and while Bethesda finally said (after launch) they will increase the limit, it took too long and it’s too little. The only good thing is all Stashes are linked, so once you capture a Workshop and place a stash, or go to a railway station and access a stash, you can grab and manage your items as you see fit. It is possible to store an unlimited number of fusion cores in the Stash with no weight; just put them in a Power Armor Chassis and put that Chassis in the stash and pull it out when you need cores. It will always only take 10 lbs.

While Fallout 4 allowed players to build “bases” throughout the world on established static locations, FO76 has a new system called a C.A.M.P., which is a dynamic and movable base that a player can use for their center of operations. The concept is solid, and I really like CAMPs when they work. A player can build out any type of “structure” they desire complete with workstations, stash, beds, posters, and other miscellaneous items, and the types of items you can craft for your CAMP are based on the blueprints you’ve found. You can also fast travel to your CAMP for free, so many players place their camps strategically to allow for less costly exploration. The system is a lot of fun, and can be seen (and even used) by others players that stumble across it in the world. It’s actually very cool to be adventuring in an area and see a player-built structure that wasn’t there before. You can also move your camp for a price, but at this time the price is incorrect; it may say (for example) 23 caps, but it could cost 75. Now for the problem. If you join a gaming world and another player who is already in the world has a CAMP in the same “area” as yours, your camp simply disappears from the world and goes into storage. You just lost your fast travel. And, even though the concept of storage is sound, in many instances, you cannot replace your prebuilt camp again due to collision and floating errors (even though the camp shows as green and placeable). Next to the stash space issue, this is probably the biggest complaint by players. Luckily, Bethesda has stated they will fix this issue with the December 11th patch, also ensuring a player can “choose” to skip a server if another player’s camp is in their area. Another factor is it is very easy for another player to blast away your camp. Granted they get flagged as Wanted (covered below), it’s far too easy for them to destroy your hard work (if they desire). This needs to be addressed as well. It would be very cool to “publicize” your camp so other people could see it and travel to it on the map.

One thing that is missing from FO76 are Companions. It would have been really nice to tame creatures or buy a pet that followed you around. I’d kill to have a giant megasloth as a pack mule pet. Let’s hope Bethesda adds companions in the near future. That’s something I’d gladly spend real money for (as long as it was cosmetic).

Just like Fallout 4, FO76 has Radio stations. This includes the traditional 50’s style music (Appalachia), Classical music, and the new Hunter/Hunted station, which registers 4 players to engage in PvP. Of course “Take me Home, Country Roads” is the most loved song (and appropriately so), however I am disappointed they removed Skeeter Davis’ “The End of the World”, which for me was the best song from FO4.

There are two Factions the player can join, the Enclave and the Brotherhood. Both are run by robots and provide access to the best power armor (and other purchasable items) in the game. They are not mutually exclusive; you can join and receive benefits from both at the same time.

Similar to FO4, there are Bobbleheads and Magazines spread throughout the world, except this time, Bobblehead buffs only last an hour. Magazines are similar. Some players utilize Bobbleheads (since you can store them and use them when ready), but I don’t really know anyone who uses magazines.

Ghoul problem SOLVED!

Gameplay

World Jumping is an important part of the game, and often necessary. It allows the player to re-run the same content (by going to the same region) again and again, but in a different state than the one they just experienced. So a player could be on Server #9281 (which is transparent), clear out the West Tek Supermutants, and then leave the world and re-enter the game, and get assigned to Server #5129, where the Supermutants were never killed and are awaiting their demise. The concept also works for general item spawns (for collectible junk, etc.). This method (and system) is great for farming, and I think is a good design. However, as I mentioned at the beginning of the review, the load times can be atrocious, sometimes taking more than 2 minutes. There is definitely something wrong with the FO76 client/server code/communication base as it relates to handling “busy” areas (Whitesprings is hands down the worst). Monsters will Respawn on their own, but it’s easier to just server hop if you want to run the same area again and again. Some players have put together a “farming loop” that doesn’t require any server hopping; instead they ensure the loop takes enough time to cause a complete respawn before they clear the loop, so they can start it over again. This is necessary when running a team since server hopping isn’t a “team friendly” activity.

Level Scaling is another big part of FO76. This can be a problem for low-level characters who are trying to play with their high level friends, but it does allow a player to revisit areas later on to experience tougher monsters and better drops. I think the system does need some tweaking, but the core mechanic is solid and works well. So a new level 8 character can venture into an area to fight level 6-10 scorched, and then come back 50 levels later (in power armor) and find level 62 scorched waiting for them. I like this, and it works.

Appalachia is a very dangerous place, and there’s always something trying to kill you. As such, the entire game revolves around Combat. Whether or not you want to bash targets in the face with your guitar sword, or snipe them with headshots from a distance, the core fighting system is solid and similar to Fallout 4, it’s just a bit buggy and clunky with the current state of the game. Once it’s refined, I think it’ll be good (for a Fallout game). In addition to direct attacks, the player can block with melee weapons, shoot cars to explode a train of enemies, or lead poor souls to higher level monsters that engage them. Be wary of high level robots though (especially Legendaries); they explode as a final act of revenge! I love how I can exit an area and walk into a full-fledged battle between Scorched and Molemen, or Supermutants and Mirelurks. This is another aspect of the game that I haven’t seen any other reviewers touch on, and it’s such an important part; it’s great. There are a few reloading issues, for example if you have 4/5 rounds in your hunting rifle and reload, it puts all 5 rounds back in instead of 1. While an issue like this is small in comparison to other issues, things like this add up and complicate combat. The Ragdoll mechanics can be fun during combat when a grenade explodes and bodies go flying, or you shoot a ghoul in the head and it tumbles out a window and splats on the pavement below. When other players are around, all you need to do is hit a monster once to get credit for the experience and ability to loot, even if somebody else kills it. Make sure you tag monsters in big groups! And note, Loot drops are specific for each character; there is no ninja looting!

I actually think the new real-time V.A.T.S. system is very well done. Using this system, I can often dispatch targets more than twice as fast as I would using free form combat. The crit aspect of VATS is also very powerful, and when properly managed, allows the quick dispatching of (for example) Scorchbeasts (I can take one down in under 5 seconds using VATS). However, one thing I don’t like is you can’t switch weapons while VATS is enabled. This causes the player to get “stuck” in dangerous combat situations. They should also make VATS responsive to player movement so it’s disabled if one spins their mouse way off target. Another issue is VATS targeting friendly targets right next to an enemy target.

Stealth is also a critical part of the game for those who want to execute sneak attacks. It’s very easy to loudly trounce through a region only to aggro 20 or more enemies that quickly run a train of death on you. As such, sneaking is often required when soloing dangerous areas, also allowing for attacks that do 2x or more damage. My personal favorite is sneak attacks with my suppressed gauss rifle. It’s delightfully enjoyable to watch the heads of your enemies explode with 1-shot kills.

Monster AI is a bit of a problem, but it’s hard to tell what is an AI issue vs. server instability (due to latency, lag, loading issues, etc.). My guess is the AI will improve with server stability, but right now, it’s mediocre at best. I’m not too concerned about the AI just now because issues like this take time to resolve; it works fine for the current state of the game, but I’m confident 6 months from now it will be much better.

If you’re going to kill Ghouls, pile them up and do it in style!

Bethesda introduced Hunger and Thirst with FO76, a system that requires the player to regularly eat and drink to maintain their AP (which impacts movement, combat, etc.). As such, it’s important to gather meat, cook it, and obtain boiled or purified water. This entices players to utilize consumables that buff them (such as specific meats that can be cooked to provide a bonus). Want some extra melee damage? Hunt down, kill, and cook a Yao Guai. Want some bonus experience? Make some cranberry juice! Overall, I like the food/drink system, however I do not like Hunger/Thirst hitting you in the middle of battle. Bethesda needs to add a system that warns you of impending hunger/thirst rather than just popping up in the middle of combat with lowered AP. They also need to add a better warning (perhaps a glowing icon) for weapons that are near their breaking point. Another issue is you can’t go AFK while playing FO76 or you’ll starve and go thirsty. While it won’t kill you, it’s frustrating to walk away from the game for 15 minutes and come back to see you’re in bad shape. The only way to avoid this is to sleep in a bed while you go AFK.

Disease is new to FO76 and is very annoying. They can be contracted through being hit by a diseased monster, the environment (swamp, etc.), consuming contaminated food or water, or resting in an unclean mattress/bed/sleeping bag. There are quite a few of them including Dysentery, Parasites, Shell Shock, Snot Ear and others which can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. The only way to get rid of them is to use a Disease Cure or let the disease run its course. I personally think diseases were an unnecessary addition to the game. Disease cures are hard to find, and it just makes the play experience unenjoyable, because when you’re out of Disease Cure, you’re often screwed. Playing with Shell Shock for an hour is just plain stupid. Bethesda needs to either remove or refine the Disease system since there’s no challenge to it, just irritation.

Fast Travel is a key part of the game, allowing the player to instantly move from one region to another. A player can fast travel to any place they have discovered, another team member, or their camp. The only time it costs caps is when the destination is a discovered place; going to team members or the camp is free. One cannot fast travel if there are enemies nearby. This can be annoying when just a single radroach out of sight can prevent travel. This happens even if the player is Hidden.

Mutations are a new type of character buff and debuff combination that are acquired randomly through radiation damage, the ultra rare recipe drop from the Scorchbeast Queen, or through purchase from the Enclave science lab for 4400 caps (each). Mutations are cured with Radaway unless the player has the Starched Genes perk (which prevents Radaway from removing mutations). Another Perk called Class Freak lowers the negative impacts of a Mutation by 75%. Players can technically acquire all mutations in the game at once, but it’s random as to which mutation is gained unless it’s purchased. One method people use to gain a mutation is to stand on top of the Waste Barrels at the Black Bear Lodge. Dying does not remove a mutation. But one has to be cautious because even if a character obtains multiple mutations, the negative effects can be quite destructive depending on the build, one reason those with a ton of caps opt to purchase just a couple specific mutations. There’s no question the current set of available mutations favors Melee builds. I hope Bethesda adds and adjusts the Mutations to address this issue. For example, here are a few of the popular mutations:

  1. Healing Factor provides 300% health regeneration with -55% chem effects.
  2. Marsupial allows +20 carry weight and increased jump height.
  3. Scaly Skin provides +50 damage and energy resistance, but has -25 AP.
  4. Speed Demon provides +20 movement speed and faster reload but has increased hunger and thirst while moving.
  5. Talons provides 25% damage with punching and adds bleed, but has -4 agility.
  6. Twisted Muscles provides 25% better chance for melee attacks to cripple, but has -50% gun accuracy.

You can find the complete list of Mutations here.

Death is trivial in FO76. You just drop your junk, and that’s it. There is no XP loss, item loss, or durability hit. If you are encumbered when you die, you can only spawn at the FO76 starting vault. I’m not sure if this was intentional or a bug, but not being able to respawn in your camp when encumbered is a pain. Luckily they are fixing the respawn selection issue with the December 4th patch.

There are numerous Enemies found throughout Appalachia, and none of them are friendly. The diversity is “ok” but not great as it is very similar to FO4. Scorched, Supermutants, Yao Guai, Giant Sloths, Molerats, Mirelurks, Hounds, Radstags, Deathclaws, Gulpers, Radscorpions, Bloatflies, Honey beasts, Radroaches, Snallygasters, Windigos, and the new creepy Molemen are just a few. Enemies come in three core flavors: Normal, Elite, and Legendary; and Legendary enemies can have up to 3 stars. Enemies have a scaling system tied to the region and the player’s level. One of the coolest things I saw in the game was a large full-sized bus deep in the high level forest, and as I approached the bus, it came to life and was a giant hermit crab (it literally used the bus as its shell). I ran, but it was awesome. Scorchbeasts are a problem though; they can attack you through walls, floors, and even when you’re deep in a house trying to hide. If a low level character with no power armor aggros a Scorchbeast, they are dead. There is no escape. So there are definitely some issues with enemies and the way they fight that need to be resolved.

The world of Appalachia is packed full of Rewards in the form of items, materials and objects, and loot from fallen prey. There is so much to loot and pick up throughout the world, it’s quite overwhelming. Want Aluminum? Hit Top of the World and grab all the ski poles you can find. Need Plastic? Visit the Watoga High School cafeteria and grab all the plastic utensils. Lead? The weight room in the Charleston Fire Department. While the game does have its issues, a lot of work went into placing and generating the world-based lootable items, which can also include weapons, food, drink, drugs, aid and ammunition. This is a good thing. Unfortunately, there are a lot of complaints about the rewards provided by Scorchbeasts; the difficulty in killing them just isn’t worth what their loot provides (and I agree). We also have the final Scorchbeast Queen fight – it can be worth it, but it is very difficult. In addition to 3-star legendary items, she also drops some of the end-game blueprints for Ultracite armor and Prime Receivers (for weapons). Prime Receiver weapons can only use Ultracite ammunition; blueprints for which are acquired through the Enclave quests.

Lockpicking and Hacking are similar to how they were in FO4 with the only difference being you can swap perk cards out as you need them. Some quests require lockpicking and hacking to continue, so as a player levels beyond 50 it’s very common for them to get the respective perk cards so they can swap them in on an as needed basis.

As mentioned above, Events are a common occurrence and one of the best ways to get blueprints and support items. They are also fun and can be quite diverse. Horde events always spawn at least one legendary monster, and common events like Uranium Fever, Grafton Day, and Leader of the Pack (great for new characters) are excellent for farming targets and legendary gear. Events are also excellent for leveling up; if you see a close event as you’re leveling, definitely go. What’s the current best end-game Event farming location? Monster Mash in Watonga High School. Tons of legendaries and you can do the event nonstop.

Many of the environments are quite stunning with the lighting and fog.

Taking Drugs is a big part of FO76. Want extra damage or resists? Pop a pill! But only one drug can be active at a time. However, to make things even more interesting, we also have Alcohol and Perk cards that allow players to be “luckier” while under the influence. So you can have a drugged out drunk heavy gunner running around in power armor. Let’s be honest. This is awesome.

Workshops are spread throughout the world and actually play an important part in the game. They are static areas that provide resources through extractors that must be built, powered, protected and maintained. A player can “claim” a workshop, or even steal a workshop from another player. Areas with workshops have numerous resource gathering nodes that can extract valuable materials such as minerals, purified water, nuclear waste, and even create fusion cores. Once a workshop has been claimed, the player must build the proper resource gathering units on top of the respective nodes (which show in green on the screen based on the selected resource extractor). This system is confusing at first, but once a player captures and builds out a few workshop areas, they get the hang of it. Unfortunately, the built structures/objects for a Workshop area stay in the world once the player leaves, but the advantage to this is the next world a character joins could already have a great built out workshop area that is unclaimed. Players can also build nearly all CAMP structures/objects at a workshop, so if a player wants, they can set up generators, gun turrets, and even build structures to protect the Workshop area. Workshops are great for passive resource acquisition, and since it’s free to travel to them, a player can run off and adventure for 15 minutes, then jump (for free) to their claimed workshop, grab the loot from all the extractors, and then get back to adventuring. You’ll be notified if your workshop comes under attack by a player or a mob-led event. These events are very good to do since they award blueprints and items.

Treasure Maps are unique drops from fallen enemies that show a drawn photo-like 3D image of a location with an X. If you are able to find this location and go to the X, you can dig up the treasure, which can include some good CAMP blueprints and materials. It’s fun for those who like to explore, and the rewards can be quite lucrative, especially early on. Here’s a link to all Treasure Map locations.

Challenges are the FO76 equivalent of Achievements. They are shared for the account (not character specific) and include the following categories: Daily, Weekly, Character, Survival, Combat, Social and World. Completing each Challenge awards Atom points, and with daily challenges, a player can technically continue to earn Atom points just by playing every day. Once the store starts getting items that are actually cool, this is a nice system that rewards players with points to spend on MTX. I cover the Atom/MTX system below.

Nukes are end-game events where a player can launch a missile by selecting a “location” on the map and turning that location into a high-level irradiated zone with regenerating tough monsters that lasts for 90 minutes. It is one of the coolest events in the game; the warning can be heard and the mushroom cloud and rumble can be seen from all corners of the game (Bethesda did a great job with the visuals). If a player launches a nuke on the Fissure Prime site (in Cranberry Bog), the Scorchbeast Queen is guaranteed to spawn. 3 nukes can be launched per week per character. Nuke zones are great team leveling areas since they spawn tougher than usual monsters (which reward more experience) as well as more triple-star legendary monsters. An efficient team of players can farm a nuke zone (Whitesprings is the most popular) and level up like crazy all while getting great legendary drops. At this time, Nuke Codes are the same for all characters and change on a weekly basis. This means a player can acquire the codes online when others have deciphered them (they are generally posted within an hour or two of a new code being generated). But even if a character has the code from an online site (such as reddit), they still must have the Nuclear Card Key to proceed in the bunker, which can only be acquired by shooting down a Cargo Bot. Once a player has the Nuclear Card Key, they can visit one of the many “launch sites” spread throughout the game (Alpha, Bravo, etc.). Running the bunker to launch a nuke often requires a group of players as the enemies are tough, but it can be done solo (and each team member must have the Nuclear Card Key to gain access). For those who want the challenge of figuring out the code on their own, the player must hunt down the code pieces and decrypt the code using a number of steps, which are outlined here.

Friends forever!

The PvP system in FO76 is pretty much an afterthought. It is very unbalanced (easy 1-shots of people 50+ levels higher than you in power armor with the right weapon), and really not a focal point of the game. This is reaffirmed by the fact PvP can only be initiated by attacking a player and having them attack you back. Granted you can continue to attack a player without them going hostile, and you can kill them (if you do massive damage or just keep attacking), but there’s really no point to it. You can also destroy another player’s CAMP, and that will mark you as Wanted. When you go Wanted, a bounty is placed on your head and you show in red on the map (often causing other players to hunt you down for fun). The more people you kill or bases you attack, the higher your bounty goes. There is no way to remove the bounty except by dying. One PvP issue is if somebody tries to claim your Workshop and is in a party with another player, they can use the other player to block you from capturing the Workshop back while you are under attack. Issues like this reaffirm very little thought went into the PvP system. What Bethesda should have done was allowed people to play on PvE or PvP servers. That would solve the participation issue. There is also a Pacifist setting in the game options. Turning this on ensures you can never damage another player; this is useful when you have AoE damage and there are a lot of people around during a big fight.

Photomode (the ability to take in-game pictures) is actually very well done and a great feature. Selfies with poses (although limited), filters, FoV adjustment (they put it here, but not in the game settings – go figure), and even frames allow the player to take some great shots, which randomly display during the loading screens. Ah, the memories!

Economy

Caps are the primary currency in FO76 and can be acquired by looting monsters (Supermutants are currently the best), finding Caps Stashes (rare), trading with other players, or trading with Vendors. At this time, Vendors can only buy 200 caps worth of gear from the player once per day and there are 7 vendor “groups” which means a player (without subtracting fast travel costs) could gross only 1400 per day selling to each vendor group. This limit is a bit ridiculous because it forces players to simply dump sellable items. For those who are interested, here is a Vendor Selling Guide.

We also have the newly added Atom Store where players can buy MTX (micro transactions) for their characters. Choices include emotes, CAMP objects, clothing and power armor skins, but the reality is the MTX selection is a bad joke. And on top of that, the prices are ridiculous; for example, a simple virtual dress can cost $10 in Atom points (real money). You can buy a real dress on Amazon for $8. Think about that for a bit. Absolutely no thought went into the MTX store for launch, and it’s supposed to be one of the most important financial/supportive aspects of the game (to generate additional and recurring revenue). This lends even more evidence as to the sheer stupidity and incompetence of the FO76 team. Everyone in X01 power armor pretty much looks the same with only 4 variations (each of which are full skins with no mix and match). These “skins” are purchased with Atom Points, which can be earned by completing Challenges or purchasing with real money. Note FO76 is NOT Pay to Win. All MTX purchases are cosmetic only. This is a good thing. I just want to be able to make my character really look unique, and the game doesn’t currently offer a selection that’s worth mentioning. It’s quite sad.

Trading is cumbersome and such a pain that very few players use it. Bethesda put no thought in the practical application of player trading for this game, and the reality is it needs some sort of trading hub or vendor system (perhaps at a player’s CAMP) with a separate stash specifically for selling items. Right now, most players trade just by dropping items on the ground so their friends can pick it up.

You can actually make some very cool looking CAMPs.

Technical

FO76 is a shard-based multi-world online gaming system. The Server Hosting allows players to transparently hop from world to world or collaborate with friends. A total of 24 people can be in any given world at a time. The hosting is quite abysmal; I’ve had wait times up to 4 minutes trying to get into a game world, and I regularly get server disconnection notifications. For an online experience with only 24 people, this is probably the worst online coding job I’ve ever seen. It has sometimes taken me more than 10 minutes just to get into a world that is “stable”. There are also occasional server disconnects, the worst being right after you launch a nuke! The problem with a server disconnect is you cannot get back to the world you were in unless a friend/teammate was (and still is) in the same world. Invisible monsters also regularly attack you due to desync, which can mean certain death for low level characters.

There are numerous Exploits in the game, which in some regards are ruining the underlying game experience. Item duping, power leveling (not legit), and even gaining the ability to carry infinite weight by unequipping and reequipping a piece of pocketed gear. What’s sad isn’t the fact these exploits exist; what’s sad is Bethesda hasn’t done anything about the exploits in weeks. Exploiting ruins the game and economy for other players and should be a top priority to address, especially in a persistent online virtual world. The fact Bethesda has done nothing about these issues (and obviously knows about them) is just another indication of the overall incompetence and disconnection of the FO76 team and their lack of interest (and skill) in supporting (and creating) a quality product.

I’ve gotten Stuck a few times, but it’s quite rare. Logging out and back in solves the issue.

Despite the public outcry, I think the Graphics of FO76 are just fine. While it’s obvious the 3D engine is a bit dated, running with Ultra settings renders well for this post-apocalyptic world. Explosions look great (and render well in the distance), and some of the volumetric fog rendering paired with light from time of day and other environmental factors can result in some beautiful screenshots. And as mentioned previously, the Nukes are gorgeous. It all comes down to time of day, color, lighting, and such; however there’s no question this isn’t an “amazing new engine”. Sadly, Bethesda didn’t include a FoV slider and forces Distance Blur on everyone (which I do not like). Windowed and Windowed Fullscreen also don’t work with my multi-monitor system (not sure why; both run around 3fps), and tabbing away while in a loading screen resets the full-screen resolution to a wonky compressed size that force me to restart the game to correct. I can only run in full-screen mode, which prohibits me from multi-tasking while FO76 is running.

The User Interface is pretty much a complete carry-over from Fallout 4. That’s good for core gamplay, but bad for the new systems supporting Multiplayer. As such, the Social interface is pretty abysmal; you can’t tell what level somebody is, what character they are on (since it only shows the account name), and you can’t make any notes associated with friends (which would be really helpful to remember who is who). It’s as if Bethesda simply ported the FO4 UI and then threw together a rudimentary interface in for the new features just a few weeks before BETA.

The Music is actually quite good. It blends well with the environment, and the shift in music between combat states is well-done.

As mentioned, FO76 is chocked full of Bugs, crashes, load time issues, exploits and server disconnects. I’ve found the best way to shut the game down is with end-task because alt-F4 can often cause a near 30-second delay to completely shut down (which shows terrible code). I’ve also spent more time staring at “loading” screens with this game than any other game I’ve played over the past decade. FO76 is actually one of the buggiest “AAA” titles I’ve ever seen. Bethesda should be ashamed for releasing the game in this state.

Early morning at a local train stop…

Community

While it’s a ton of fun playing with your friends, the general Multiplayer (Social) aspect of the game is actually quite abysmal. The idiots at Bethesda thought Voice Chat and Emotes would be the only necessary means of communication in the game. Half of the time, Voice Chat doesn’t even work, and when it does work, it’s either always on or always off. There is no push to talk (which they are addressing in a future patch). This results in numerous noisy and awkward situations. As such, the majority of players simply turn their mic off, so all players are left communicating solely through limited emotes. FO76 does not support sending text messages or typing chat messages. These community and communication-based design decisions are a special kind of stupid the likes I have never seen. Even once Push to Talk is patched into the game, Bethesda has ensured players cannot properly communicate with each other unless they are in proximity or a team. This is sure to be an ongoing issue for all players, and the fact Bethesda hasn’t talked about addressing the core communication issues (which also came up during BETA) ensures they have killed a good part of this game’s community potential. There is also a known bug (since Beta) where the Friends list simply “bugs out”, and it doesn’t show or allow you to team up with your friends. That and you can’t see what character your friends are running or what level they are. It’s quite sad. Regardless, as I’ve mentioned previously, most players you encounter in the game are friendly and people seem to enjoy helping each other out. This is reaffirmed by the fact higher level players often drop weapons, ammunition and plans right outside the Vault 76 starter area for new players, which is very cool.

What’s unfortunate is playing in a Team always outperforms playing solo. The key reason for this is due to the team-based perk cards that enhance experience and provide other great benefits. All solo players really get is Lone Wanderer. Also, providing more experience when in a group makes no sense because a player already gets more experience in a group; so the game doubly rewards for group play, which is a form of punishment for solo play. This is a bad design.

There are no guilds (or any type of player organization) ,which is unfortunate. But it also makes sense given the terrible design forbidding any type of text messaging between players. A player-based faction system would have been a great idea, and this could lead to player-built towns and guilds/organizations having their own servers. There’s a lot of potential here.

And finally, we have the Fallout 76 Subreddit and Fallout 76 Forums. I personally prefer the subreddit, because players get responses to their questions much quicker (and with easy instant notification) than the Bethesda forums.

My buddy who helped me get the final materials to craft my X01 Power Armor suit.

End Game

The end-game of FO76 is all about Grinding. This includes server hopping to grind legendary mobs, Nuke Zones and the Scorchbeast Queen. The content is actually quite limited for those who want to push end-game, but for those who want to explore the entire map, there is always something to do, even if it’s a bit repetitive. I actually think end-game is more enjoyable for those who play solo, because the content is more challenging. When you’re in a big group, it’s easy to wipe all of the content quickly and efficiently. Ultimately, the game has some great future potential if Bethesda decides to expand the end-game content and methods by which a player can run and re-run dungeon-like instances and events, but with a focus on more specific rewards rather than pure RNG. Instances that also bring together random groups could be very cool as well; this would allow traditional loaners to quickly team up with others to do the equivalent of dungeon runs.

The Scorchbeast Queen (the highest level end-game boss) fight is actually tough, can be a lot of fun, and is quite involved;. But it’s not just the Queen, it’s all of the adds that come to her aid. As it is with other legendary targets, once she reaches 1/2 health, she regenerates back to full health (just once). There is also a time limit to defeat her of 20 minutes. Players who are planning for the fight can build bases (which will be destroyed by the nuke, but easily repaired) with missile launchers, which do make a difference in the fight. It’s also important to enable Pacifist Mode for such a battle so you don’t damage other players during the fight. Team Perk Cards (like sharing Stimpack) also help during the fight. The loot can vary; some people can kill her a few times in a single day and get nothing of value while others get Ultracite Armor Recipes and other end-game top tier legendary drops. It’s all random, but the potential is there!

Leveling is a key part of end-game because it allows the player to build out multiple Perk Card setups, and with the upcoming SPECIAL respec (due Dec 11), we will be able to spend unspent points on respecing our core SPECIAL abilities, which is pretty important. We also have Blueprint Hunting, which is a key part of the game because there are an absolute ton of blueprints (mainly for CAMP building). But as mentioned, they really should share Blueprints across an account because there are so many and some are very difficult to find/acquire. Once a player has all the core equipment they are looking for, it’s just a matter of repairing/maintaining that equipment. As such, Resource farming for repairs is always necessary, either through Workshop acquisition, or farming specific locations/monsters. World Exploration paired with Questing is also part of the end-game; the world is so huge and there is so much content and so many quests that it takes a long time to explore every single point of interest and complete every side story/mission. Modifying gear is also required for end-game; when you find that new legendary item, you’ll need to mod it to make it better, and you can only do that if you’ve scrapped enough of the item type to unlock the mod(s) you want. Caps Farming is also something players do when they want to buy Mutations and such. Note I’ve included a number of links at the end of this review that can help with different types of farming.

Players can also work to complete Challenges to obtain Atom points. This is one of the few mechanics that actually supports leveling up multiple new characters, so if you’re worn out playing your Heavy Gunner, start a new character that eats flesh to restore health and slices enemies with a Machete!

Conclusion

The reality is Fallout 76 is still in BETA. It is a mess, but the potential is definitely there; I do love the huge, vibrant and immersive world, but I’m guessing it’ll be 3-6 months before the game becomes what it should have been at launch. I believe it’s important to point out the level of incompetence and laziness from Bethesda; it’s quite unprecedented and brings a lot of concern about the quality of Bethesda’s future products. Am I hopeful about the future of FO76? Yes, because I think the core of the game has great potential, but in order to realize that potential, the team designing, developing and evolving Fallout 76 needs a wake up call (and possible replacement of key individuals). If the same team and people that handled the launch of FO76 are in control of the game’s future, we’re all in big trouble. But if the company shakes things up and restructures the process, procedure and overall design and development policies relative to the game, I think we could have a great product in the near future. I for one want to see Fallout 76 succeed. Let’s hope Bethesda learned from their mistakes and prioritizes fixing what has the potential to be a great game.

He just wouldn’t leave me alone!

Reference Materials

Below are some great reference materials to help support both new and experienced players:

  1. Important tips for new players.
  2. Fallout 76 Interactive World Map.
  3. Fallout 76 Vendor Stations Map.
  4. All Treasure Map Locations.
  5. SPECIAL Perk Card Complete List.
  6. Perk Card Tier Guide.
  7. X01 Prototype Armor Crafting Guide.
  8. Resource Deposit Map.
  9. How to get Nuka Cola Armor Skin.
  10. X01 Power Armor Guide.
  11. Farming Power Armor and Fusion Cores.
  12. How to level up fast from L30 onward.
  13. Top Legendary Weapons and Farming Locations.
  14. Ultracite Armor Guide.
  15. Rare weapon spawn locations.
  16. Farming materials guide.
  17. Ultimate JUNK guide.
  18. All Power Armor stats.
  19. Cap Farming Guide.
  20. Step by Step guide to Decrypting Nuke Launch Codes.
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About The Author

Mr. Allen has an extensive background in technology spanning 20 years including software architecture, design and development, project management and leadership. He specializes in corporate planning, productivity and collaboration, and is the creator of the games Mordor, Demise, Horizons, and Alganon.

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2 Responses

  1. Anon

    What an in depth review. I really like the bold, green, and red emphasis used. I’m probably going to stay far away from Fallout 76 for now. Are you planning on doing more reviews like this?

    By the way, for the final rating, I had a brain fart and thought that you had given it a 3.9/5 score. Might help to add /10 so that it reads 3.9/10 for clarity.

    Reply
    • David Allen

      Thanks! Yah it’s so unfortunate the management at Bethesda did what they did – no question it’s costing them (big time). I just hope they’re able to recover from what they did here. Perhaps in 3-6 months it will be the game everyone wanted. It all depends if they make serious internal changes and adjust the way they communicate with the player base. I’m going to update the theme for my site this weekend and will review the potential of adding the /10 (which I agree would be useful). I write reviews like this for the games I love. The next big one will probably be for the Grim Dawn expansion. Thanks again for the feedback!

      Reply

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