Surprise! This is actually the Disaster Report ('review-of-sorts') from Wireframe issue 4, thus bringing this diary series to an end.
There’s just so much that’s difficult to understand here. Why Bethesda chose to use its single player-focused engine for a massively multiplayer online game. Why it opted for bizarre instanced worlds of about 100 players max per session. Why there’s such a reliance on crafting in a game that doesn’t actually handle the act of crafting very well.
But the biggest question surrounding Fallout 76 is: why does it even exist? There are plenty of theories, some verging on libellous, but the general theme is the same – nobody really understands it.
On paper, a multiplayer Fallout makes sense – bands of survivors coming together after the bombs have dropped, trying to make their way, survive, and even thrive in the wasteland the Earth has become. That’s a captivating scenario.
Fallout 76 has you collecting rubbish. Not only does it tacitly encourage the collection of garbage from the moment you emerge into the world, with the crafting system relying as it does on junk being converted to useful materials, but at one point you are literally tasked with going to pick up ten beer bottles. That is, putting a finer point on it, not fun.
And all of this ignores the technical issues consistently rearing their many heads. The most egregious faults were patched out soon enough post-launch – though they did launch with them – but still there are issues, glitches, bugs, hangs and problems of a more design-based aspect (enemy mobs respawning way too quickly, for example). As well as being bored and underwhelmed, you’re also consistently annoyed by Fallout 76’s myriad mechanical faults… but mainly you will be bored and underwhelmed.
You’ll note there’s no score here. This isn’t a review in a traditional sense, as I’m of the firm belief it’s nigh-on impossible to offer any kind of definitive opinion on an MMO – they by their very nature change, sometimes fundamentally, from one month to the next. Fallout 76 could very well be a different game by this time next month (unlikely), and it definitely will be very different in a year’s time.
Maybe I’ll keep half an eye on it and come back to it when things have changed. Maybe I’ll give it another go if the tweaks and changes are made – as they were with The Elder Scrolls Online – to make it more of a fun experience and less of an exercise in mind-numbing futility. But for the here and now, this is not a good game, it’s not a good experience, and it’s utterly bewildering why and how it exists in this state. Fallout 76 is, in short, a nuclear disaster.
Wandering into a new settlement and getting your bearings – before rooting through every single dresser table you can find – is always a fun voyage of discovery in any Fallout, and it’s no different here. Bethesda still knows how to do some solid environmental storytelling, too, so there are times when you don’t even miss the human non-player characters.
This empty, soulless husk of a non-game will make you want to set the world on fire.
Format: XBO / PS4 / PC
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release: Out now