Fallout 76: Where did the fun go?

When Fallout 76 was unveiled, many consumers were rightly worried about how Bethesda would translate this beloved series into the multiplayer genre. Todd Howard stood on stage and assured everyone that this new game would be just as enjoyable, whether you played in a group or on your own. Now that the game has been out for a while, do any of his promises of Fallout with friends hold up?

Before launch, feelings were mixed about whether Bethesda could keep the magic and fun of Fallout when translating it to an online RPG survival game.

The first hour of the game was, I have to admit, pretty thrilling. The character creator was very similar to the one in Fallout 4, but making your avatar is enjoyable. It’s intuitive and fun to make a haggard or monstrous creation with all the scars, dirt, and distressed hair styles. The beginning vault sequence does well to get you excited for the adventure to come. Handing you supplies and giving you the most in-depth overarching quest, finding the overseer. It wasn’t long into the game that the magic started to wear off. While the scenery is pretty (although it does look quite last gen), the quests have absolutely no weight. Every quest is given by either a dead body, a computer terminal, or some sort of robot. Doing them doesn’t change anything. Unlike in other Fallout games, you aren’t helping the locals or shaping the world. It’s all just busywork.

One line of quests involves you running around a town doing work to “help” the town. It’s quite obvious these actions are not helping anyone because you are stepping over the townsfolk’s bodies in order to finish it. At the end, your given the choice to join the faction. In Fallout 4, factions meant something. Fallout 4 changed companions’ opinions of you, and felt like choosing what direction you wanted the Boston wasteland. In Fallout 76, it gives you an outfit and not much else.

Alone, this game quickly starts feeling shallow and lifeless, with friends it feels like a grind. There are highlights of course. Finding one of the handful of interesting or unique areas, or a tense fight with one of the more interesting creatures spread through the wasteland. The nukes can provide some excitement, although the area it affects is quite small and requires a higher level to survive exploring the aftermath. The nukes aren’t a danger or a game-changer.

Here’s how I started having fun

Fallout 76 managed to keep me and my friends entertained for hours, but only when we made our own fun. The good times started when a higher level player gifted my friend a horrible mask, the Faschnacht man mask. A mask equally horrific and hilarious, it scared away the boredom we had been feeling. Later we got lucky enough to stumble across a distressed clown outfit, and the look was complete. And thus, “Nose man” as we affectionately named him, was born.

The Faschnacht man mask

This ridiculous mask lead to hours of fun, as we played photographer to his creepy adventures. He fought deathclaws, went abseiling without a rope, and had a pensive moment outside the vault. We captured every misadventure.

But were we having fun because of the choices Bethesda made, or in spite of them? When looking back at my time with Fallout 76, it’s the things Bethesda stole from the real West Virginia that stay with me. The Greenbrier estatemothman and the legends that surround him, and the area based on Prabhupada’s Palace of GoldEven the mask itself is based on something real. Faschnacht is celebrated the Saturday before ash Wednesday. While originally from Switzerland and Germany, some pockets of West Virginia celebrate it as well. This holiday is meant to scare off harsh winters – and has pastry, wine, dancing, and a parade at night – wearing scary handmade masks.

It’s disappointing in a game series known for its interesting lore and the strong aesthetic of it’s world building, that all the most memorable things this time around are stolen out of our world. The majority of the Fallout specific parts are unmemorable and cannot hold a candle to either the previous Fallout lore or West Virginia itself. The game itself is much like the scorched that litter the world. A pale imitation of what has come before and not different enough to be engaging.

Is Fallout 76 worth playing?

Bethesda stripped out most of what made the single-player Fallout games great in order to fit the multiplayer in. If you are looking for more Fallout, this isn’t the game for you. I wouldn’t recommend this game for anyone looking to just play single-player.

There is some gold buried in Fallout 76, and with the price it is now in many countries, it’s not a bad price for a game to mess around in with some friends. You will have to make your own fun, but there’s enough here if you know how to find it. If you want a game with the fun built in, Fallout 76 is dead in the water.

Written by Chloe Rollason