Bethesda concluded their beta period for Fallout 76, which started first on the Xbox One and then later expanded to PC and PS4. I was able to participate in both sessions, not only getting a glimpse at how both versions look and play, but I experienced what it’s like to play the game solo and with a group.
Since Bethesda had the servers go live in spurts rather than a continuous time period, that meant that I had quite the limited time to check the game out, and honestly not nearly enough to get a good sense of whether the game is going to be fun 20 to 50 hours in. With that said though, the game was certainly promising in the early hours and I found a lot to like about this online-focused Fallout game.
Upon starting and creating your character, you immediately see other players with you in the vault, other survivors on the brink of emerging into the wilderness of West Virginia. Historically, coming out of the Vault is a solo affair, so this was already an early signal that this was going to be quite the unique experience. The Vault itself serves as a very brief tutorial course in everything from eating and drinking to survive, to introducing you to the C.A.M.P system, and is nowhere nearly as long as previous games were. Fallout 76 wants you out and about as soon as possible, and I certainly appreciated that.
My Xbox One beta period was spent playing solo, which meant I mostly focused on the narrative as well as the emergent sidequests and events that popped up regularly. Even though Fallout 76 is devoid of any NPCs, that doesn’t mean there isn’t story thread to follow. While I will admit that robots and audio tapes aren’t nearly as engaging as actual NPCs, I’m still happy that there is a narrative thread that players can choose to follow right from the beginning.
The missions themselves, at least in the beginning portion of the game, were pretty rudimentary, and just like the Vault itself, were there to basically introduce you to the various more in-depth mechanics of the game, such as preparing food or boiling water so you can keep yourself in tip-top shape.
I also took part in a few events that certainly seemed like they were designed for more than one player, but alas, there was no one who joined me on them. One of the events required me to follow one of the robots through a town as ghouls were trying to attack it. Sadly, I never finished it because he got destroyed.
My PS4 session was admittedly a lot more fun since I was able to play it with two others in a group. Everything is more fun with friends, and that saying certainly applies to Fallout 76 as well. In this session, we focused less on the narrative quests that teach how to play the game, and we instead opted to explore, partake in more event quests and even venture into some base building.
Event quests, as suspected, are far more doable with a group, and, even though we failed one, we were able to escort a robot to its location without it being destroyed. The base building is where we easily had the most fun and thanks to its intuitive mechanics, it was pretty easy to make a pretty cozy cottage. Players in a group can all help build a settlement together and don’t all have to take out their own C.A.M.P. That meant all of us could contribute our materials to build walls, doors, and even defense turrets!
The one thing I really like about base building in Fallout 76 as opposed to other survival games, such as Conan Exiles, is that you’re able to blueprint your entire base, tear it down, and then rebuild it in another location. The Conan Exiles map was extremely large, and it was always pretty discouraging to explore since we’d also have to trek all the way back to our base. This is pretty much negated in Fallout 76. Once you’re done with an area and want to go venture somewhere far, just blueprint your base and you’re set.
Gunplay is about what you’d expect from a Fallout game, which is to say, it’s not really all that great. The shooting itself feels rather clunky, and while you could chalk it up to the makeshift weapons you use for a majority of the game, that still doesn’t mean they ‘feel’ good when shot. To somewhat combat this, the VATS system basically turns an aimbot on and then calculates a percentage chance of you hitting an enemy. It’s an interesting take on VATS that makes sense in an online setting, but, for me personally, doesn’t replace the much more fun and tactical VATS present in the mainline games.
Like I stated before, I haven’t played nearly enough of Fallout 76 to get a good sense whether the fun I was having with others will persist over the course of 10, 30 or even 50 hours. For all I know, I could have seen the full breadth of content in this very limited beta, but something tells me there are more than a few surprises in store. I’m certainly intrigued by the idea, even as someone who isn’t a die-hard Fallout fan.
Make sure to stay tuned for continued coverage of Fallout 76, and to get our final verdict once the game comes out. Fallout 76 releases on November 14th for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.