In the Limelight

“When the fighting has stopped, and the fallout has settled, you must rebuild,” the Fallout 76 trailer told us earlier this year. And now, having experienced the beta for the game over the course of several sessions, I’ve been able to tell that the rebuilding of America is quite the arduous task.

So far, I’ve enjoyed the beta – or, B.E.T.A., standing for “Break-it Early Test Application” – and I wanted to break down my first impressions of what is sure to be one of the biggest games of the holiday season.

What I liked: While Fallout 76 is a very different experience for a number of reasons, it’s still, at its core, a Fallout title (at least in the Bethesda sense of the series). The controls are essentially the same as they were in Fallout 4, and the general post-apocalyptic vibe is the same, if a little more wild due to its setting in West Virginia.

Speaking of that setting, I enjoy it a whole lot. I wasn’t sure what to really expect from a game set in a far less urban environment than previous titles (with such previous entries having been set in D.C., Las Vegas, and Boston). There isn’t really a huge city to explore in the same sense – instead, we get the rolling mountains of Appalachia, which are full of all sorts of other dangers. Local wildlife has been mutated into awful monstrosities, the absolute worst of which has got to be the Scorchbeast, which is a nasty, massive, ugly bat creature that can and will absolutely destroy you if you’re unprepared for it.

Gameplay-wise, I actually enjoyed the leveling system far more than I expected to. When you level up, you get to pick a part of your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. statistics (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, Luck) to increase, and pick a new Perk along with it. Perks are distributed via cards, which you get by opening blind packs. It means that there is unlikely to be one single overpowered build for players, and will likely have players picking perks for their character in a multiplayer environment that they might not have done in a single-player mode.

I’ve also really enjoyed the whole multiplayer thing a lot more than I thought I would. I’ve been able to team up with my husband on missions and whatnot, which is neat, but my interactions with random strangers on the server have also been positive. I’m usually not much one to play multiplayer games, because I don’t generally enjoy having to deal with jerks on the internet. But with Fallout 76, at least so far, it seems like everyone just wants to watch each other’s back in this wild, dangerous, unexplored new atomic world. At one point I was very nearly overwhelmed by a swarm of feral ghouls, only for someone I didn’t know to show up out of nowhere and help pick them off. I also teamed up with someone I’d never met and helped finish some quests off together. I didn’t even want to participate in PVP – the rewards for cooperating are far greater than those received from conflict.

What I was neutral on: Fallout 76 doesn’t feature any other human characters, which is kind of a bummer. You come across corpses in towns and whatnot, and many of them will have holotapes either on them or nearby that explain their story and what they were up to after the bombs fell. But it’d be nice to actually have wandering non-player characters that were human; the ones that I’ve run into have all been robots, and one super mutant. Much as I like Mister Handy and Mister Gutsy, I need some more varied personalities in my NPCs. It’s obvious that not all humans have perished in West Virginia, so why can’t I find any?

What I didn’t like: Like any good multiplayer game, there’s a bunch of events that can start throughout the map. Unfortunately, rather than giving players the option of joining in on an event, it simply forces you into one after a few seconds, regardless of whatever else you might have going on in that area. I’m not a fan of this at all – I want the choice of participating in an event. I’ve already had to avoid going into certain areas of the map that I know have events on them and find longer ways around to reach my next objective. Just give me the choice, Bethesda.

Also, while I wouldn’t say it’s unexpected from a Bethesda product at this point, the game is not without its share of bugs. Of course, therein lies the entire point of the beta – to catch those and get them fixed as soon as possible before the game goes live to the public. But it’s made for some frustrating moments during my time with the beta – broken quests, glitchy enemies, et cetera.

Overall, I’m a fan of Fallout 76 so far, and I can’t wait to explore more of it. I’ve sunk quite a few hours into the game and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. While it is a far from perfect experience, Fallout 76 is an interesting foray into the multiplayer experience for a company that seems to excel best in lengthy single-player campaigns.

Fallout 76 arrives on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC on November 14, 2018.

-Carrie Wood