Final reviews on Fallout 76 have begun to drop, and reviewers and gamers alike have savaged the title for an astounding number of bugs, issues, bad gameplay decisions, and paper-thin mechanics. We’ve already discussed how the game’s decision to rely on data logs and holotapes to assign quests and create a sort-of story was a flawed mechanic, but the game’s problems clearly go far beyond this issue. The PC version is the only flavor to break a 50 percent score on Metacritic, and the average gamer review on that same site is somehow even worse, at 2.9. In this case, critics appear to like the game more than the player base, not less.
We’ve read reviews from IGN, PCGamer, PCGamesN, and Gamespot. While the particulars vary slightly depending on the individual tastes of the reviewer, the hits come thick and fast. IGN notes that “Fallout 76 isn’t a good-looking game except when viewed from the exact right angles,” with quests and tasks that feel like “chasing ghosts.” Every Bethesda game is known for being buggy, but all reports suggest Fallout 76 is simply stuffed with bugs. Bugs, everywhere. Many of these can be resolved by quitting and relaunching the game, but since there is no server browser, you can’t rejoin a server you just left. This means any actions you take that were server-specific are reset upon quitting and re-entering the game. It’s not uncommon for multiplayer games to struggle when it comes to making player actions feel meaningful, but FO76 has this issue worse than most. Every single review calls out the bugs, usually with a variant of the phrase “Even by Bethesda standards, this is bad.”
Multiple reviews mention the environmental storytelling as being strong — PCGamer is particularly enthused on this point, noting the vast number of interesting locations you can find, but notes that the endless chore of clearing locations and re-establishing camps turns parts of the game into a slog. PCGamer is the most positive review of the suite we compared, but even its score tops out at a 60/100.
PCGamesN highlights how the enemies you’ll encounter in the game have no routine at all, though that’s honestly a bit surprising — even in full-blown MMOs like World of Warcraft, enemies often have basic patrol routes to walk. According to that publication:
When Scorched and ghouls aren’t spawning out of thin air, I’ve sat hidden watching them to see how they spend their time and, well, they just stand there, fixed to the same spot.
They only come alive when you walk into their vision, and even then they either run straight at you or hide behind the nearest bit of wall, leaning out periodically to shoot in your direction. And that’s when they work as they’re supposed to. Sometimes they won’t even do that due to some bug hidden away in the code. Often an enemy will stand stock still, inanimate, waiting for you to kill them.
One of the problems in early Fallout 4 was not knowing which items were important to collect for scrap and which could be safely ignored. According to PCGamesN, FO76 has a similar issue, with a fundamentally unbalanced economy. The UI is universally loathed — every reviewer that mentions it brings up the fact that it’s explicitly designed for consoles. The menu clunkiness of FO3, FNV, and FO76 was offset by the fact that bringing up the Pipboy always stopped time. In FO76, that doesn’t happen. PCGamesN ends with:
In time, everything about Fallout 76 becomes tired, frustrating, and clunky. When I log in to play it feels like I’m about to do a chore. When I first stepped into the world I became invested in the quests, I was taken aback by some of the beautiful vistas, and I loved piecing together the story of the destroyed scenes I stumbled into. But the more I continue the harder it is to hold onto those memories, since the world loses more of its luster with every additional hour I spend in it. This is both because the limits of Fallout 76’s variety become more obvious – in quest design, set dressing, and enemy encounters – and because the systems I have to spend so much of time engaging with are so arduous to use.
The PvP system doesn’t actually create much tension in the game because, by default, it’s disabled. If someone attacks you and you don’t attack them back, you’ll remain nearly invulnerable. This mechanic isn’t much different from those used in games like WoW, but as reviewers note, it does remove much of the potential tension from multiplayer encounters. Cooperative multiplayer could yet emerge as a gem of the series. But right now, there’s not much incentive to actually cooperate and all reviews note that actual instances of collaboration are few and far between. Quest objective completion isn’t shared between characters and everyone needs to listen to their own audio logs, find their own items, and complete their own objectives, making it difficult to play with someone who isn’t on exactly the same stage of a quest as you are. Enemies are often derided as bullet sponges, particularly at higher difficulty levels.
The consensus of reviewers, taken as a whole, is not that Fallout 76 is completely devoid of fun. Each of the reviews above states that there are times when the game comes together, typically when cooperating with other people or exploring new areas for the first time. The problem with FO76, in aggregate, is that it’s far too difficult to actually have these experiences in the first place. Gamespot’s final paragraph states:
Bethesda has stated it intends to continue supporting the game for a long time, but at launch, Fallout 76 is a poor experience. There are echoes of the series’ admirable qualities, but look past that facade, past the cute Vault Boy animations, past the familiar radio tracks, and you’ll find no heart–just an inconsequential wasteland doomed to be nuked over and over again.
This seems to summarize most everyone’s opinion. Underneath the terrible UI, countless bugs, weak single-player plot, poor mechanics, and less-than-appealing graphics, yes, you can glimpse the bones of a better game. Maybe with a lot of polish, FO76 will one day achieve the lofty heights it aspires to. But according to both reviews and many players, it’s not there yet.
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