Best kept in the vault?
Fallout is obviously a beloved series, and an attempt to take it online met with some criticism when revealed at E3 this year. But with ESO going from strength to strength, surely Bethseda have what it takes to make a success of it?
Unfortunately, it quickly becomes clear that the move to an online-focus has necessitated some changes to the way that Bethseda deliver the story content. The main quest focusses on ‘the Overseer,’ the woman in charge of Vault 76, and her own mission orders once the vault doors were opened.
You’re the last one left, because of a cracking hangover, so you go off to find her. But you never actually do. Instead, you chase around the map, finding terminals and audio logs, rather than NPCs. And this is a consistent across the game – you’ll almost never see an NPC.
There are a few robots, but it’s mostly terminals. And the quality of the quests can be… questionable. Many of them involve either killing waves of enemies or basic fetch quests. There’s a number of public quests but these generally follow the same template, just harder and time-boxed.
Even if you liked shooting things in previous Fallout games, there are a number of key issues. Being online, VATs doesn’t pause the game anymore. Using it in real-time can be fiddly, especially if you want to target a limb. Then you have the fact there’s online jank added to the usual Bethseda open-world bugs. I had scorched and feral ghouls glitching across small areas of the map in front of my eyes, shots fail to land despite being dead on target – the list goes on. There can also be lag when you reload or aim, adding to the frustration. AI, never a strong point of the series, is simply appalling. Enemies are much more numerous than in Fallout 4, but generally easier to take down. Enemies regularly get trapped on geometry, get lost in indoor areas, and if melee focused, unable to do anything other than charge.
We waited to publish the review until after a massive 47GB patch, and whilst performance was mildly improved, and some critical bugs squashed (which I never encountered anyway), there’s still plenty to be fixed.
Shooting isn’t the only frustration. 76 lets you track multiple quests, but the implementation is a mess. The titles just scroll down the screen, and they all have a diamond marker, so tracking individual quests is almost impossible.
If you liked the base building in Fallout 4, then at least this is one area of vast improvement. The CAMP system is much more flexible (and portable), and given the game’s push towards crafting and mild survival elements, much more essential. There’s also some smart choice about perks and levelling, with a card-based system that also allows you to level perks.
Fallout 76 clearly has a number of issues, but if the usual elements of questing and exploration still do it for you, then there’s plenty of content to blast through – well over 50 hours.
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