Prior to Fallout 76, I started playing the series at the cleverly titled Fallout 3. I was ill at the time and really didn’t think it would amount to much. Just a quick blast on a game in-between sleep, food and grumbling. It turned out to be one of the most addictive gaming experiences I’d ever had.
I had played nothing else for the two weeks I was ill. Fallout had suddenly catapulted from being something that wasn’t really my bag to an absolute genre changer for me. I fell in love with the franchise at that point and its stuck with me ever since.
I’ve played every Fallout title since then. The creativity, engaging worlds and character choices has turned me into a huge fan. Fallout 4 is amazing, engrossing and solidly took up a couple of months. Which brings us to Fallout 76 (Ignoring Fallout 4 VR which sits un-played in my library) .
The pre-launch and indeed the launch feedback on this game was terrible to say the least. Complaints over expensive launch-day pricing and post-launch bugs had me worried. None more so than whether Bethesda could bring online play to this bastion of single player heaven.
I wanted this title to do well, but the review bombing on steam and from critics, it wasn’t going well. Reports of serious bugs were common, but for me the biggest criticism, was how boring the game was. These people must surely be deluded, its a Fallout title for God’s sake! Sure, the graphics might not be pushing your rig to the limit. Nor would the textures and game-play features blow you away. My past experiences with the Fallout series would never have me believing it was “boring”.
I finally caved in and purchased it. All for less than the cost of an affordable pack of craft beer (£10 or less in my case).
Steam Controller Fallout 76
Continuing my quest to master this controller, I realised its not going to be straightforward. This is a game exclusively available on the Bethesda launcher. It therefore requires you to add a shortcut in steam to enable you to configure a profile.
Sadly, the game supports either keyboard & mouse or a gamepad, but not both at the same time. Anyone who knows the SC will know this mixed mode is where the controller really excels. You therefore have 2 options: go all out with a keyboard and mouse profile or gamepad mode. I’ll add another article shortly on my controller settings and how I arrived at my final tweaked profile.
I wasnt expecting jaw dropping visuals from the game. Fallout 4 visually was very much like its predecessor, but with better animations and better textures. Fallout 76 however, really surprised me in how good it looks. Lighting effects, depth of colour, high level of world detail and the overall immersion in your surroundings is much improved in this vast environment.
The visual appearance of Fallout 76 is stunning. Its the usual detailed world I’d expect from the series. The post nuclear war setting is captured excellently. The colours are vibrant without being overloaded and it looks amazing in 4k with very few frame drops.
It struck me how un-nerving I felt at night in the game. The sounds add to the atmosphere of the dark landscape. You can still make out the objects and a quick flash of your PipBoy torch reveals the world in an eerie light.
Running the game on NVidia hardware, the pre-defined profiles on the Geforce experience app are useful. For a 1080ti, it was surprising to see recommendations turning down some settings from high to medium. Although this is more likely due to running in 4k resolution. Do I want to run a game in 1080 on a 4k screen, nope, so I didnt check otherwise. It is crisp, punchy and rendered without issues. The card appeared to run relatively cool, even on high settings.
Set 25 years after the original nuclear war, you have been living in Fallout Shelter 76. The game title will sure panic those new to the series. There aren’t 75 prequels to play before this, its not Assassin’s Creed. The game kicks off with you leaving the Vault on Reclamation Day. A day to begin taking back this post-nuclear wastland. Given this premise, the surroundings look very well preserved. It’s clear that Fallout 76 looks a lot like Fallout 4, just newer.
Non Player Characters (NPC)
I can’t continue here without mentioning one of the biggest gripes of other gamers, the lack of any NPC’s. It surprised me to hear there were to be no NPC’s in the game. After all, it’s what makes the whole series so compelling. It did put me off purchasing the game initially as people called the game boring and dull with little interaction.
On my first 45 minutes of playing it, I felt the same way. It felt a little empty, like wandering around after everyone had left a party. All this vast space, beautiful landscapes and no real sense of purpose. It seemed such a waste of amazing wasteland and I spent lots of time taking selfies to pass the time.
I persevered, sulking along to the nearest town. Alone with my thoughts, mostly thinking about how sad I felt about this game. What a missed opportunity for the development studio. What should I play instead?
I found the usual interaction signs on items within Appalachia. Yeah, I’ll pick up that shot glass, might come in handy to throw when my boredom reaches excessive heights.
The Game Changer
Then something changed for me quite dramatically. I interacted with my surroundings, finding little quests in the church building. I began milking a brahman, looked at the mess left behind after the nuclear fallout.
It suddenly dawned on me, like the realisation when you remember there’s ice cold beers in the fridge. This is so close to the nuke being dropped, close to day zero. There would be limited people for me to speak with or casually bump into whilst they tell me their woes. Also whilst I try to pickpocket them at the same time, unsuccessfully.
The Fallout 76 story and indeed the game took on a whole new level for me. I think it helped that my epiphany was interrupted by a Scorched soul trying to shoot me. What, he’s got a gun? He’s dead isn’t he? Oh wait, I realise that most titles I’ve played recently involve zombies who lack proper thumb coordination. This thing was deadly!
I can honestly say, that during the following few hours of Fallout 76, I did not give a second thought to the lack of NPC’s. I was engrossed trying to survive, explore, stock up on shot glasses and more importantly, find that brahman again to give it a good milking.
The wasteland in Fallout 76 is a beautiful place. Very detailed and expertly put together. The vast open spaces to roam and the towns, settlements and other strewn items post nuclear fallout set the tone and provide a stunning backdrop.
The playable map is huge and inline with previous Fallout titles, is all explorable on foot. Once places are discovered, you can fast travel at the cost of a few caps. Yes, caps are still there as the staple currency of any post-nuclear society.
You can pick up almost everything in the game and that is exactly how I started out. Partly because I’ve always been brought up to not waste things. I don’t like litter and possibly have the same genes as hoarders. You soon get past this once you’ve picked up your 5th pipe pistol and can no longer run or jump. Nor indeed can you remember your thought process when you picked up the other 4 identical items.
Crafting & Surviving
My initial thoughts when I have to craft are always fairly negative, mostly born out of frustration that I dont immediately have some rare item I need for the most advanced builds. Its fairly short-lived and personally, I tend to only ever build the stuff that is practical or amusing. As in life, its about priorities, so campfire, bed, stashbox and preferably 4 walls and a door to protect me tends to sort out my needs. If I ever end up in this situation in real-life, I’d like to think I’m pretty well trained to survive.
I would never class myself as a huge online gamer. I dabble depending on the title, but this is a purely online title. That said, you can go for some considerable time without bumping into or interacting with anyone which can appease your hermit-genes like me if needed.
We’re institutionalised these days to immediately kill, steal items, or heck, kill and steal at the same time in most games. I’ve played my share of PUBG, ARK and Rust to know to trust no-one. I’m blown away by the gaming community for this exact reason in Fallout 76.
My first encounter with a real-life player was unreal. I encountered SgtKillSwitch who showed me the ropes, introduced me around town (although we were killing Scorched together). In an act of generousity and kindness, they drop a ton of items for me to kick start my journey in the world.
Everything from health packs, ammo, food, water, even weapons that dwarfed my feeble level 1 rating. This level of friendliness in online gaming was new to me and I merely used the emotes to give a thumbs up, but its left a big mark in terms of how I will approach online gaming.
Kindness breeds kindness as they say and I will certainly be replicating the generosity that I experienced on day one. I cant see it working in all games for me, trying to hand someone a frying pan or other weapon in PUBG whilst they try and kill me with some lesser tool doesnt seem right, but maybe I can talk them down during the process.
The Dark Side
There is always the option of using violence rather than kindness upon meeting other players, but honestly, given my introduction, it just doesnt seem right. You can go all out to kill other players, but if they do not fight back, your damage is insignificant to them unless they choose to fight back. Its a rare concept, but a good one and seems to keep grief-ers at bay.
I’ve still not killed another player yet, but as they’ve just released the PVP beta this week, I’ve now a channel to use that anger, but constructively. For now, I’m more than happy to explore, meet and ocassionally drop items that I feel would be useful. Heres hoping someone needs a big collection of shot glasses.
The game has a number of timed events which by design, bring players together. You fight together, walk around towns wearing odd masks together, or in some cases just meet up and say “What do we do now?”. Its a great concept and reminds me of primary school football, where 20 people all run after the same thing, screaming: “aaaarrrrghh!”… silence… “aaaarrrrghh!”…
I’ve attended a couple of events and they are entertaining. Mostly from viewing the other players, I found myself interested in what kit they have; is that guy actually stuck in the river in his power armour? Where do I get one of those owl masks from?
Who Are You, Friend or Foe?
As with all Fallout games, the nuclear fallout has caused some nasty mutations in pretty much everything except furniture. Animals, bugs and even some plants have undergone changes and in most cases, its not for the better. If you’ve been following so far, you’ll know I’ve developed a soft spot for the Brahmin. A form of mutated cow, (did I mention it can be milked) it is harmless most of the time and has two heads.
I’ve had numerous encounters with other people and its been genuinely fun. The initial moment of meeting, you both have some weapon out (You’ve both played Rust before, trust no-one), you circle each other, brace for the battle, then one of you waves or gives the thumbs up and you become five minute friends, wandering around looking for ammo or weapons.
The Scorched are the main battles you’ll come up against, ignoring the Mole-Rats or Rad-Roaches. Whilst they’re annoying insects / rodents, they havent mastered the art of carrying guns, only diseases.
Scorched characters have some intelligence with the ability to move and fire as well as taking cover. Their real power comes when in numbers. I found myself running backwards more often than not and just letting loose at point blank range. I can categorically say, this is not a tactic you should employ. It doesnt bode well for your health, ammo nor your self-esteem, although I have managed to scrape through nearly all my encounters so far, I’d say this is due to sneaking with a shotgun.
As I’ve covered the NPC’s, its important to mention the quests. These are in abundance in the game and I found they easily make up for the lack of NPC’s. The same quest structure exists as it did in Fallout 4 with you able to track main quests, side quests or even to ignore ones you’re just not interested in.
The quests are very detailed and engaging. They paint the backstory of post decimation up to recent events and add much needed structure to the game. Theres only so many hours you can spend collecting shot glasses. From holotape narratives, clue finding quests and disguised gameplay tutorials, they have been developed very well. Testing you more each time with an increasing difficulty level.