As a PS4 user, I was a week late to the Fallout 76 Beta but I made sure I played all the hours available to me. I’ve been a devoted Fallout fan since a friend introduced me to Fallout 3 and even though I was hesitant about the differences between the Fallout we know and love and this most recent addition, I love the series too much to abandon it now. Off the back of the Beta, I have lots of thoughts and concerns and, ahead of its release on the 14th, I wanted to make sure I shared all of that with you.
I had the chance to play the Beta both alone and with friends. I completely understand why Bethesda seem to be encouraging players to team up with friends to explore Appalachia, but the game is also built to support people who choose to tackle the wasteland alone. The new perk system is built around perk cards that you can place into each of the SPECIAL categories. There are cards to support teams as well as lone wanderers. This new perk system was really strange to begin with but, the more I played around with it, the more it started to grow on me. The cards you get in perk card packs are completely random, which is my biggest issue with the system. However, the ability to remove all of my cards and start again to help build a completely new character is such a fascinating addition. It means you can shuffle cards around to prepare yourself for different situations rather than having a permanent perk decision that you might come to regret later down the line. Most of the perks on the cards are things that old fans of the series will recognise, with a few new additions to support team play. Each time you level up you will be able to put a point into one of your SPECIAL categories, the number each category has will determine how many cards you can place in it. You can also level up your cards to improve them, but this does mean they’ll take up more than one of your SPECIAL points but that’s what makes the mix and match element so appealing. You can use lots of lower level park cards, or a few higher level ones. It all depends on how you like to play and where you are in the game. This new system is completely different than anything Fallout has ever done before but, for the style of game they have gone for this time around, it works.
One of the newest additions to Fallout 76 is your C.A.M.P. You receive it as you leave the vault and it’s essentially a portable settlement. Expanding on the settlement building we came to know all too well in Fallout 4, it’s similar but with a new look and a huge expansion. You start off with a small selection of things you can build and to flesh out your catalogue you need to find plans. Once you’ve built a settlement you’re happy with you can blueprint it as well. This means that, should you decide to move your C.A.M.P, you can just plonk it down in its new home exactly as it was before. Your C.A.M.P will become a familiar sight to you as you play the game since it’s usually the easiest place to stash your items and use your workbenches. You will find both of these things in certain places throughout the wasteland, but you’ll end up needing them far more than you think. The stash box will become your best friend as you explore, each one you find holds everything you’ve put in it, regardless of the stash box you used, and it’s essential for offloading your junk. Unfortunately, there is a limit to how much your stash can hold but Bethesda released a statement that mentioned a future update that will expand it.
Fallout 76 feels more like a survival game than any other Fallout game before it. The stash box becomes so essential because all of the important things that were weightless in previous games now have weight. Your bullets and chems add to your total weight as well as things such as recipes and plans. Prioritising what you’re carrying has never been more important than it is here. The game also now includes a hunger and thirst meter and it’s important to keep on top of it. The cooking station, once abandoned and unimportant, is now one of the most important crafting stations. You can find food and drink in the wastes but, now that the game has added diseases, these consumables come with a risk of catching one. I often found myself forgetting to check my hunger and thirst and, luckily, the game does give you a little nudge when they’re getting low. But now, opening your pip-boy to quickly consume an ungodly amount of food or inject a couple of stimpaks isn’t as easy at it was before. The pip-boy doesn’t pause the game like it used to and, if you’re in the middle of a fight, they will keep attacking you while you fiddle through your menus. However, the favourites system supports this change and a wheel attached to the d-pad holds everything you’ve favourited and allows you to access and use it quickly without too much interruption to your combat. V.A.T.S has also had a bit of an overhaul and only slightly slows down the action for you. The percentage, which used to be a pre-determined number now changes depending on how you or the enemy moves once you’re in V.A.T.S. It’s a change that I’m not quite used to and I’ve found myself avoiding V.A.T.S more often than not.
Crafting mechanics that were introduced in Fallout 4 are back and more important than ever. Each workbench includes more options than they ever have and as well as crafting and improving your guns and armour, you will also spend a lot of time at cooking stations and building your own personal C.A.M.P. This time around, everything works on plans and recipes which you will find while you roam the wastes. Guns and armour that you find in the wasteland and don’t want to use can be scrapped and they often give you plans for crafting. The workbenches become essential parts of your experience and the ability to craft ammo has returned but with an improved interface and crafting system, which will prove really useful as you find new weapons. In my own personal experience, higher level weapons have been harder to come by so I’ve found myself continually modding lower level weapons that I found earlier in the game. The great thing is, with the multitude of options available to you, you can play the game however you want to. There are times when I’ve felt irritated by the reliance on the workbenches, and the need to constantly repair my weapons, but being able to change and improve my weapons and armour has been essential to progressing and taking on harder fights.
Appalachia is absolutely huge and, even with all the hours available to me in the beta, I only managed to explore a tiny section of the map. It’s one of the main reasons I’m so excited for the game to finally arrive. I wish I’d had the chance to explore more and I can’t wait to see all the areas I’ve missed so far. There’s also a long list of enemies across the wasteland. There are some familiar ones but even more brand new ones and it’s really refreshing to have so many new enemies available to us. The main problem I have with the world is how empty it feels. Bethesda decided not to include NPCs in Fallout 76, a decision that might eventually backfire. All quests are handed to you by holotapes, or robots that can only spew a few lines of dialogue. Not having a hub to go to, like Megaton or Diamond City is so bizarre to people who have played the previous games and I think it’s something I’ve personally missed as I’ve been playing. It feels like your character has no effect on the world around you. In Fallout 3, the option to blow up Megaton was a huge decision that changed the course of the rest of the game. Without NPCs to talk to and only the voices of dead people on holotapes giving us information, there is nothing for us to change or decide, just stories to listen to and explore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying doing that so far but the lack of NPCs didn’t go unnoticed. The lack of characters to speak to does make the game feel like a real survival game but it still feels pretty lonely at times.
I don’t think I’ve put in anywhere near enough hours to be able to fully review Fallout 76. There is so much I haven’t seen and I’ve barely even touched the quests. So far, I have a short list of issues with the games but a slightly longer list of things I’m enjoying. However, the problems I do have are things that I might change my opinion on once I’m given the chance to play more of it. I don’t want to make any snap judgements about some of their changes or new additions until I’ve finished the game. What I feel like I can say with a great deal of conviction is that, if you’re a fan of the Fallout franchise, you need to give this game a go. Don’t let what you’re reading make your decision for you, make it yourself. Appalachia is a vast and endless wasteland that not only reminds us of the Fallout we know and love, but also brings with it beautiful landscapes, great places to explore and so many new additions that you’ll want to keep playing until you’ve seen it all.