♫♪Country roads… take me home… to the place… where I belong!♪♫
This week the Fallout 76 Beta opened for all players who pre-ordered the latest sure-to-be hit from Bethesda. It brings mixed results, but ultimately a great take on the Fallout universe.
The biggest change from Fallout 4 is that Fallout 76 is not a single player experience. Shortly after creating a new character, you are thrust into a world full of other players, all from Vault 76, looking to reclaim America following the nuclear apocalypse. Bethesda has been known for passable combat, interesting worlds and incredibly sharp writing, and some choices in Fallout 76 put those core tenants into question.
First off, every character in the game is controlled by another person. So this means there are no merchants to sell to, no crazy hermits handing out quests, and no mighty Brotherhood of Steel forcing you to confront questions about morality and ethics. The world truly feels empty, even with other players populating the Appalachian Wastes. Initially players were skeptical about bringing Fallout online because it is so rooted in single player experiences. Those worries practically evaporate the further you venture from the starting Vault. There’s always the option to team up with people, and having a helping hand during combat situations is great, but if you want to play the game alone, go right ahead.
Speaking of combat, another huge change from the previous entries in the series is the rework of the Vault-Tech Assisted Targeting System—VATS. In Fallout 4 (pictured above) VATS allows you to briefly slow time to pick the perfect shot against a horde of enemies. This is one of the reasons Fallout was able to make the transition from 2D in Fallout 2 to a 3D first-person world in Fallout 3. It very nearly functions as an optional turned-based combat system. In Fallout 76 everyone is playing together in really time, so VATS works a lot differently.
In Fallout 76 (pictured above) everything is still moving at 100% normal speed, and VATS works more like any sort of targeting system a third person game might have. You also can’t target specific limbs without a perk card from leveling up, and it is jarring to have this extra UI element thrown on top of the game in real time, especially given how shaky it makes the camera. While this new VATS was jarring at first, once you get used to it, it isn’t all that bad.
The other weird thing in the Fallout 76 Beta is its questing structure. Since there are no human NPCs to interact with, every quest is done through Holotapes read on your PipBoy, or through world events that pop up at various intervals. These world events are where Fallout 76 shines. Everyone in the area is given the same quest, and there is a mad rush towards objectives, leading players to help each other out to accomplish the same goal. Once these quests are done, you are left to your own devices. You can team up with your new friends or go your separate ways.
Ultimately, the Fallout 76 Beta shows that a multiplayer Fallout has potential, but the game won’t suffer if you want to go it alone. There was a slight snafu with the PC version deleting everyone’s pre-loaded beta, a major hiccup in some circles, but once you boot up the game it will be hard to put it down. There is always something to do, a new corner of the map to check out, and with others playing alongside you, new friends to be made. Who knew the apocalypse could be this fun?!