The game has bugs. Game-breaking bugs. We’ve all seen the endless stream of articles outlining all of the game’s faults, the litany of posts on Reddit outlining how they are quitting Fallout forever, and the multitudes of righteous diatribes describing in excruciating detail how Bethesda has now fully evolved into its final soulless emotionless corporate form. While that may be true, what I’m here to tell you is that the game can actually be quite fun, nay even enjoyable and actually worth picking up over other games, especially when you have only an hour or two each day to devote to gaming. There are redeeming qualities. Some may be surprised to hear that, but Fallout 76 more than makes up for its flaws when you consider its story, environment, and potential. All that’s required of you is a slower pace and a calmer state of mind.
Take my character for example. He’s level ten. He sports a pair of rimmed glasses, a ranger hat, a paramedic jumpsuit, and his weapon of choice is a sharp hatchet.
What I’m trying to say is he looks like a serial killer, but a good intentioned, well-mannered one who’s also a responder-in-training. He’s seen a number of things in his day, and he’s not afraid to charge head-first into a group of scorched or mole men and start hacking away.
He’s also a lone wolf who doesn’t care to spend much time with others. Post-apocalyptic wastelands tend to do that to a person. Instead, he enjoys exploring the vast backwoods of Appalachia and carefully working on his camp in his free time. His most recent adjustment was installing a generator, providing some much needed electric lighting to his camp.
All together I’ve probably spend ten hours on this character and it’s been a blast. There’s been no rush to max out my gear or progress in the story. I can take my time exploring this expansive world, picking bits and pieces of what life was like in Appalachia, when most other people were still living.
Also, interactions with other players rarely occur. Whether that has to do with low population levels or intentional sparseness, a lot of the time it feels like you’re the last human left. It lends an unexpected authenticity to the game, as you wander around the wilderness doing what you want, and whether that’s tracking down the latest recipe to further your cooking skills or ever so finely tweaking your camp, there’s a lot packed into this game. With a little effort, I’ve seen pictures of camps converted into bars, restaurants, and even whore houses.
The game isn’t only for the introverted though. If interaction is your thing, player groups have formed, posting ads on Reddit offering everything from wares, food, recipes, mods, mercenary services, recorded holographs, journals, and even a farmer’s market with a legit schedule of events that includes a scavenger hunt.
It’s honestly remarkable.
The test though is going to be how Bethesda improves on this game. They’ve been all but forced to issue several major patches to Fallout 76 in its first few months, mainly to fix exploits and other annoying bugs, but if this game is going to have serious legs, Bethesda needs to focus on what makes the game fun, simply letting players loose in the rich world that they’ve created. Right now though, there’s no concrete way for players to affect the world that Bethesda has created. Your mark on the world disappears as soon as you log off, as even the effects of launching a nuclear bomb fade quickly.
If Bethesda is smart in their execution, I could see this game progressing in to a world similar to EVE Online. Bethesda could enable a proper economy to develop in-game. A skeleton is there, but so much more could be done. Altering the camp setup to let players build functioning brick-and-mortar stores in-game would be cool. Bethesda could employ controls on the cost of creating a store and the amount of player-run stores available in-game. Having players vie for control of the levers of monetary power is an interesting thought.
Also allowing some sort of persistence of player camps no matter what the server would go a long way in keeping players tuned in to the game. Long-term, this could allow for player-made cities, governing-bodies, production hubs for items, etc. Anything is possible. Isn’t the point of Fallout to explore how humanity would rebuild after a worldwide crisis? Bethesda needs to lean into that.
In the meantime though, Fallout 76 is still fun. I’ve embraced the slow burn, and I’ve found enjoyment because of it. One-shotting everything in the game is the wrong reason to jump into Appalachia. The point is not to finish, nor is it to win. Keep that in mind, and Fallout 76 might just surprise you in how fun it can be.