fall­out 76

Fall­out’s first on­line mul­ti­player foray is bold but of­ten bor­ing

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START -

Chris Burke

When we first heard about a per­sis­tently on­line mul­ti­player ver­sion of Fall­out, we were ex­cited. There were some con­cerns, but we had faith if only be­cause the MMO ver­sion of the pub­lish­ers’ fan­tasy coun­ter­part, The Elder Scrolls, is so good. Surely, we rea­soned, Bethesda would in­vest its apoc­a­lypse with at the very least the things that work so well in Tam­riel? We were wrong, and as huge Fall­out fans, that makes us par­tic­u­larly sad.

The con­ceit of Fall­out 76 is that you and the 23 other play­ers in your in­stance are the first hu­mans out of the Vaults, 25 years af­ter nu­clear ar­maged­don – so you won’t find any other hu­man NPCs to in­ter­act with. The idea be­ing that this ramps up the drama and sur­vival im­per­a­tive, as well as mak­ing you play with other real hu­mans to re­build the world and make your own per­sonal sto­ries.

At best, this is in­con­sis­tent, at worst, Bethesda is kind of cheat­ing. So there are none of the fa­mil­iar raider gangs that used to pro­vide ready tar­get prac­tice, caps and gear in

Fall­outs 3-4. But there are some­thing called The Scorched – ghouls that can use guns. So, the dif­fer­ence from Raiders is only that they don’t talk as much. There are no hu­man NPC ven­dors to trade with. But there are ro­bots who have shops. So the dif­fer­ence from hu­man NPC traders is… they don’t talk as much. Ditto, quest givers – ro­bots, not hu­mans. Still NPCs, but now lack­ing back sto­ries and per­son­al­ity.

And there were hu­man sur­vivors out­side the Vaults, be­cause there are quests gleaned from let­ters and holotapes that will lead you to corpses. There’s ev­i­dence of raider gangs, and peo­ple sur­viv­ing for years af­ter the apoc­a­lypse. What hap­pened to them? Why is there no­body left? All that this odd con­straint the de­vel­op­ers have put on them­selves does, is to make Ap­palachia the most lonely, soul­less place ever cre­ated for a videogame. Okay, so we get that the post-apoc­a­lypse wouldn’t be much fun. But by tak­ing away all of the se­ries’ rich char­ac­ter – from the hu­man sur­vivors in Me­ga­ton to the sen­tient ghouls of Good­neigh­bour – the Fall­out uni­verse is left hol­low.

Alone to­gether

If Bethesda be­lieves that play­ers would band to­gether and cre­ate their own hu­man sto­ries, it is over­es­ti­mat­ing its au­di­ence. Or

un­der­es­ti­mat­ing them. By cre­at­ing in­stances of only 24 play­ers with a map the size of Ap­palachia, they’ve cre­ated a world that’s emp­tier than a politi­cian’s prom­ises. Most play­ers seem to want to just play the game like they would the pre­vi­ous sin­gle­player en­tries in the se­ries, and be left alone to ex­plore and dis­cover the world at their own pace, un­trou­bled

by ran­doms. And since the map is mas­sive, you could play for hours and never see a soul.

While you can def­i­nitely play solo, it’s also re­ally dif­fi­cult to play alone. Caps are hard to come by, ammo is su­per-scarce, and most en­e­mies are hard to kill – ghouls and Scorched at­tack in num­bers, which can make it tough. Other wan­der­ing crea­tures like Rad­scor­pi­ons, Charred Feral Ghouls or Glow­ing Ones are im­pos­si­ble to face alone, at a low level at least, with­out enough ammo or ar­mour.

Fall­out’s VATS tar­get­ing sys­tem can­not, by the na­ture of this game be­ing a per­sis­tently on­line real-time ex­pe­ri­ence, work in the same slow-mo or time-freez­ing way as the pre­vi­ous games. So all that hap­pens is you ‘tar­get’ in real time, which is only any good for ir­ri­tat­ingly small crea­tures. At point blank range, your bul­lets of­ten don’t even hit – and feral ghouls run straight at you the minute they see you. With­out VATS, com­bat in Fall­out games is sim­ply not all that great.

Most of the time you’ll be walk­ing, and walk­ing, and walk­ing, and read­ing let­ters from dead peo­ple. With­out a sense of any timely mis­sion im­per­a­tive, it can feel… bor­ing.

Worst of all though is the con­stant, mis­er­able drain on your char­ac­ter. You’re for­ever de­hy­drated and you need to chug a bot­tle of wa­ter roughly ev­ery two min­utes of game time. Even af­ter go­ing to the trou­ble of boil­ing the wa­ter, you still get ra­di­a­tion poi­son­ing, but if you don’t drink, you lose all your ac­tion points. You need to eat con­stantly too. You need to cook the food be­fore it spoils, which it does very quickly, and it gives you dis­eases. It’s all a part of the ‘sur­vival’ el­e­ment of the game, but we’re find­ing it a drain not just on our char­ac­ter’s AP and health, but of our en­joy­ment. So te­dious does this ‘re­al­ity’ be­come that it’s a won­der the game doesn’t make you reg­u­larly defe­cate, or have to fill in tax forms, or watch the paint dry on your camp struc­tures.

Hope springs eter­nal

It’s not all bad, though. Ap­palachia looks great, the map is im­pres­sively huge, and the world is rich with de­tail for you to find, and quests to fol­low that will lead you to un­cover snip­pets of Fall­out lore. There are sto­ries told through let­ters, ter­mi­nals and holotapes that, with a bit of pa­tience and per­sis­tence (and quite a lot of read­ing), can turn into re­ward­ing quests. At its bright­est mo­ments, find­ing and fol­low­ing threads of story that re­veal in­ter­est­ing if failed hu­man en­deav­ours to sur­vive the post-apoc­a­lypse, the game is still recog­nis­ably Fall­out. The se­ries has al­ways been ex­cel­lent at

world-build­ing and en­vi­ron­men­tal sto­ry­telling, and Ap­palachia is no ex­cep­tion. Even play­ing solo, it’s en­gag­ing – but then ev­ery time we start to get into the game, we re­alise we’re des­per­ately want­ing this game to be Fall­out 5, or a meaty ex­pan­sion to Fall­out 4 – but it’s not.

The game still feels like a work in progress, though. And al­ready, we get a sense that the afore­men­tioned lack of char­ac­ters may be be­ing ad­dressed. Since we started play­ing, we’ve met a wan­der­ing trader, a friendly su­per­mu­tant called Grahm – a talk­ing, non-ro­bot NPC. Ad­di­tion­ally some of the hu­man corpses we’re start­ing to find are… fresher. We would not be sur­prised to find some liv­ing hu­man NPCs start­ing to crop up in Ap­palachia. Ac­tu­ally, please make it so, Bethesda.

As with Sea Of Thieves, the game is best played mul­ti­player with friends, even one friend. Work­ing to­gether to ex­plore, trade, craft and take on some of the Events (nec­es­sary to level up and get caps and other re­wards) and more hos­tile ar­eas of the map, brings a whole other, less lonely, di­men­sion to the game. It’s not so good team­ing up with strangers, though. While ev­ery­one’s big­gest fear be­fore launch seems to have been grief­ing, it’s work­ing out quite the op­po­site. So ef­fec­tive is the game’s puni­tive anti- grief­ing mea­sures, that it would seem play­ers are ac­tively avoid­ing each other, just in case.

Don’t shoot!

To give it its due, the ‘mur­der’ idea is a great one. To stop play­ers be­ing dicks in PVP and ru­in­ing the game, if you keep shoot­ing a player who doesn’t re­tal­i­ate, un­til you kill them, you be­come a wanted mur­derer, vis­i­ble as such and avail­able for other play­ers to kill and claim the bounty. When we spot­ted a nearby mur­derer, it did pro­vide a lit­tle ex­cite­ment. Shoot­ing the mis­cre­ant dead gave us a re­ward, an achieve­ment and a lit­tle bit of mo­men­tary schaden­freude. But for the most part, it seems that play­ers are so afraid of PvP in­ter­ac­tions that ev­ery­one is avoid­ing other play­ers like they’re dis­eased. Which they may be.

Fall­out 76 uses the same Cre­ation en­gine as Fall­out 4 – it plays the same, it looks the same (maybe a lit­tle more pol­ished), as that three-year-old game. But for what Fall­out 76 lacks by com­par­i­son, if you haven’t yet played, or com­pleted, Fall­out 4 and all of its won­der­ful DLC, we’d rec­om­mend that over 76. For now, at least.

The score we give below should al­most be our usual ‘B’ re­served for games that are still in Beta – Fall­out

76, to be as kind as we can to it, is on­go­ing. The game and its world de­serves more, and so do we. Those solid ideas that have al­ready been put in the game are a de­cent foun­da­tion – there just needs to be more to the waste­land. We’re hold­ing out a lot of hope for things like com­mu­nity-made mods, as we saw in Fall­out 4, and fixes, patches and im­prove­ments over time. In a year’s time, this may even be the best Fall­out game ever.

In the mean­time though, we’re go­ing back to Fall­out 4, be­cause frankly it’s just more hu­man.

“The game is best played mul­ti­player with friends, even one friend”

above Find­ing a Power Ar­mor shell is a big deal, but you still have to craft the in­di­vid­ual ar­mour pieces to go on it.

Left Your por­ta­ble C.A.M.P. lets you set up a base with craft­ing work­benches.

left There are ro­bots in the world still who will sell you stuff and give you quests.far left You can team up with, trade with or fight the other hu­mans you meet.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.