It’s been a hell of a week. While video gaming had a bit of a dry spell over the last couple of years, the autumn of 2018 feels like a bit of my personal golden age of 2008-2013 returning in a really big way. After our first impression of Red Dead Redemption 2, it’s already time for the Fallout 76 B.E.T.A for the PS4 and PC. Unfortunately, no one at TehBen HQ currently owns an Xbox One, so we only got our first taste on Tuesday. In any event, there’s been a lot of buzz about the new online-only approach to Fallout, and many fans seem to be on the fence about whether they’re willing to adventure into West Virginian Appalachia with a bunch of electronic strangers.
In an attempt to be helpful and informative, I’ve included a large number of fast facts and feelings on my first BETA experience. Overall, I’m thinking I’ll be packing plenty of hours in 76, so let’s try to keep an open mind and maybe I’ll see you out there soon.
The following contains no story spoilers, but will dig into the mechanics and gameplay styles of Fallout 76.
- The “world” of Fallout 76 feels hauntingly empty. This isn’t a bad thing for everyone, but you’re clearly walking around in a space in which everyone that wasn’t in the Vault with you is either dead or mutated. The map isn’t packed with other gamers, and you can generally get away from anybody who becomes irritating.
- The pacifist options and PvP restrictions work well, and griefing was never an issue.
- Playing by yourself is possible and realistic. Enemies don’t seem to be bullet sponges, and you can successfully take them on without help from other players.
- The Radio is great. Plenty of old favorites from the previous Fallout radio stations and LARGE amount of new songs. Some western songs, somehow they found more songs from The Ink Spots…and even threw in a Beach Boys song (oddly enough).
- VATS doesn’t stop or slow time, but is still effective enough to help line up shots. This will take some getting used to.
- Cutscenes are replaced with Holotape conversations or exposition dumps. A backlog of tapes can really slow things down if you’re looking for plot or backstory.
- Quests, despite having no human interaction still feel like classic Fallout quests. I hope there is more variety later in the game, but it still feels like a Fallout experience.
- With all of your information coming from “found footage” type situations, the every piece of content you recover is extremely depressing, as clearly everyone in Appalachia has met an unfortunate end.
- Sleeping is a slow progression of health in real time that slooooooowly increases health. You can contract diseases from beds and water similar to hardcore survival in Fallout 4 (or weekends at Motel 6).
- At least some of the various diseases you can catch in Fallout 76 are only time-based. I slept on a dirty bed and received some kind of “swap itch” that went away without treatment after 15 minutes of Agility -2. Disease cures are available in the world, not sure what happened to all the doctors, though.
- Guns and weapons are plentiful, and are often the reward for quests. You’ll have a variety of options to craft to your play style within the first hour for sure. This game utilizes normal types of guns/ammo, and also includes energy weapons.
- Crafting is a main facet of the game, you can’t really avoid it. Ammo is easy to craft and probably more important of a skill to focus on as the game continues.
- Gun crafting and upgrading looks rewarding and won’t require too much of a grind to keep things functional.
- Weapon degradation is back. HOWEVER you can no longer fix your weapons with others of the same weapon, you need a workbench.
- The CAMP system works similar to settlement building, but it’s awesome that you can build one of these anywhere. There are some building restrictions and new concepts, but moving your CAMP around the map is easy and cheap.
- You can use other people’s CAMPs if they are logged onto your server. Someone better than me built a lovely cabin that I trespassed into to repair my weapons and have a meal of delicious creamed corn.
- You have to eat and drink to keep out of trouble, survival style. Food is plentiful, but you need to craft recipes to a true benefit. You’ll need the wood resource for EVERYTHING you do. Luckily, there are piles of irradiated firewood everywhere.
- You start with one 1 point in each of your SPECIAL stats and gain a point with each level up. You no longer have a batch of points to divide out at a time like in previous games
- Perk cards are an interesting way to handle this concept. Your card point totals have to be less than or equal to the number of points in your given S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Having the perks in card form instead of a perk-chart leaves limitless possibilities for future ideas, and you can change your play style more easily when in solo or team.
- Appalachia is beautiful, and the addictive photo mode will help you unwind if you need a break from fighting.
- The game by design will give you the best experience when you play with friends. Not random idiots that you begrudgingly team up with, but actual FRIENDS. Unfortunately, it looks like I’m going to need to make some.