Review – Fallout 76 (2018)
Review – Fallout 76
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: Action Role-Playing
Director: Jeff Gardiner
Release Date: November 14th 2018
When I first wrote my review for Fallout 76 after the first time I played it, I called the game, “a grotesque atrocity of modern gaming and an abhorrent insult to its audience.” Three years and multiple updates on from when I first played it, I took a look back at the game to see if my thoughts had changed any since that time.
I remember when Fallout 76 was announced in summer 2017 and it initially intrigued me. Not knowing anything about it, I was surprised that we were getting another Fallout game before Starfield, (which wasn’t announced at the time but was already heavily rumoured,) or the next entry in the Elder Scrolls series. In hindsight this is hilarious since we are now into a new generation of gaming and still haven’t seen anything significant from either Starfield or The Elder Scrolls VI.
At the time, I naively hoped it would be on par with the Fallout series last fantastic interim game; New Vegas. Then at Bethesda’s E3 conference that year, we were given the bad news that this was going to be an always online experience with an open world online hub and some light PvP elements.
Fast forward to November 2018 and the game launches to hugely negative reviews. The majority of online reviewers are pounding the thing into the ground and criticising the barrage of issues present in the game. Connection issues, sub par graphics, a vast assortment of glitches, a distinct lack of human NPC’s, weird lighting and pop in and so on and so forth. I am quite happily playing through Red Dead Redemption 2 at this point and leaving Fallout 76 indefinitely on the backburner. The following week, the game is on sale for half of it’s RRP, then as the weeks go on the price continues to drop.
Then, at the start of February 2019, I am looking for a new game to sink my teeth into and I see a copy of Fallout 76 on sale for only 20 quid. I think to myself, what the hell and give it a go. I had heard that a few patches had been put out to fix various issues and so I thought how bad can it be?
I have been playing video games for the last 20 years and I don’t think that I have ever seen a more egregious assault on my principles as a consumer. There wasn’t even a game there.
If you have played any of the other Fallout games since 3, you will know that you suffer through the more grindy RPG elements of the game because the progression mechanics are married well enough with the game’s other systems that they aren’t too noticeable or invasive. The characters, the locations, the quests and the story elements make up for the lacking gameplay and overall the games are enjoyable enough that the dated gameplay systems usually aren’t penalised too hard in reviews.
Well imagine any of the other previous Fallout games, but with all of the reasons to play through it that I mentioned above stripped away, leaving only the annoying grindy nonsense that you normally put up with. Except here, there is simply no reason to put up with it.
I came to this realisation after putting about 7 hours into the game, after which I decided to switch it off and never picked it up again.
There is no plot, there are no characters, there is absolutely nothing to see that you haven’t already seen in previous Fallout games with more meat to them and therefore, there is simply no reason to play this game.
If past Fallout games are a big meaty, juicy leg of lamb, then this is nothing but the dry bone that is left after all of the good stuff has been ripped away.
In hindsight, it is abundantly clear that Fallout 76 was nothing but a quick cash grab. I’m not even talking specifically about the disgusting micro-transactions present in the game such as making players pay £10+ to change the colour of their power armour. No, I’m just talking about the game as a whole as there was absolutely no other merit to it or reason for it to exist or be played other than to make Bethesda some easy money.
This thing shouldn’t exist and the fact that it does is a huge slap on the face to the consumer and it pretty much encapsulates everything that is wrong with the mind-set of modern publishers.
At the time, I remember hearing a few industry experts saying that this was going to be the game that ends Bethesda, the final nail in the coffin after the let-downs of Fallout 4 and ESO. Although the Microsoft acquisition of Bethesda seems to have thrown them a lifeline.
In September 2020, in the midst of the launch hype for the two consoles, Microsoft made one of the most industry-shaking power moves of the past decade. This paradigm shift happened when MS announced that they were purchasing Zenimax Media and by extension all of the studios under that umbrella, including Bethesda Softworks, Arkane Studios, id Software, Machine Games and Tango Gameworks.
We have yet to see the true effects of this acquisition unfold, however, Microsoft did spend 7.5 billion dollars on the acquisition and you can bet on the fact they are going to want something for their money. If they can manage to claim the next Fallout game as a Microsoft exclusive, it could shift a lot of the market back to Xbox and could earn Bethesda some goodwill back due to some gamer’s brand loyalty to Microsoft.
It does somewhat feel like two companies that were on the backfoot in comparison to their competitors helping each other back to their feet. However, I did really appreciate Xbox making a big move like this as quite frankly they had to do something major in this vein to even be in with a chance of pulling ahead in the current generation. It was good to see that they were refusing to go down without a fight.
As a consumer and a fan of this franchise as well as the studio that produced it, I came away from Fallout 76 feeling betrayed on a personal level and it really is going to take something extraordinary at this point to put them back in my good graces and the good graces of their audience.
The Witcher 3 came out five years ago and it still looks and plays better than anything that Bethesda studios has ever developed, (and I’m not even a big fan of The Witcher.) Bethesda really needs to pull their finger out if they want to compete with their peers going forwards. Starfield better be running on a brank new slick engine and contain story and gameplay elements that are nothing short of spectacular if they are to redeem themselves from this disaster.
Upon revisiting Fallout 76 for review, I was initially hesitant to give it the lowest possible score, as it was not the worst game of the last generation. However, in the context of the rest of the series and the motive behind this particular sorry excuse for an entry in the series, it is such an insult that my conscience would not let me award it as anything more than the worst possible rating.
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