Fallout 76 did not launch to great fanfare. A fanbase that was already uneasy about the franchise transitioning to an online game did not react well to a game that was buggy and broken. Bethesda, clearly confident with their vision, kept working on the game, fixing bugs, adding content and making the game a worthy entry to the Fallout franchise. As we creep closer to the game’s 3rd anniversary since its release, how much has the game improved? Is Fallout 76 a good game in 2021?
Fallout 76 was never really a bad game at its core, it just had a LOT of bugs. Features that were incomplete, ineffective or just didn’t work correctly. As time has gone on, a huge amount of the game’s biggest flaws have been improved significantly, but not quite eradicated, unfortunately. In terms of stability though, Fallout 76 is no longer the buggy mess it once was.
The visual quality is rather underwhelming, but Fallout games have never been bleeding edge when it comes to looking good. For better or worse, this game feels like a Fallout game. It ticks all the aesthetic boxes to make it feel like you have jumped into the iconic 1930s swing-era apocalypse that the franchise is so well known for.
When compared to previous games, the map, while quite large, is a little short in interesting locations. Sure, the atom bombs are sure to have destroyed a lot but for your own enjoyment in exploration, Fallout 76 has a lot more empty space than previous games.
Surviving an apocalypse is unlikely to be a fun affair, but one of the most enjoyable aspects of past Fallout games is that you could and could do it in style. Who cares about those ghouls when you have Blue Moon blasting out of your pip boy speaker. This sense of carelessness is no longer present and you are forced to take part in a rather basic and ineffective survival system.
Food and water are the core elements of survival in this game. If you fail to eat and drink enough, you will start to lose health. Eating and drinking is fairly simple but the quantity you are required to consume is quite annoying. You find yourself gulping down gallons of water every few hours and stuffing your face full of steaks to keep things under control. Food and water are not scarce but having to consume multiple steaks in order to satisfy your hunger for a few hours is frustrating.
Storage space is always a challenge as you progress further in Fallout games. The dreaded over-encumbered message will bring a tear to your eye when you need to drop that 16-pound heavy weapon that you will probably never use anyway. Carry capacity is quite low in this game and will require you to dedicate quite a lot of this space to ammo, food and water. Your ferocious appetite requires you to bring an unrealistic amount of food on every expedition you set off on.
Carry capacity is less of an issue due to the stash. This is a big box at your CAMP that will allow you to dump all of your goods into it to collect later. The capacity of this stash has been a bigger issue for a while but recent updates have expanded the storage size of the stash to the point where you are hoarding if you are hitting limits. Your stash can be accessed from any player CAMP, several NPC locations and most useful, your tent.
The tent is the most valuable thing in this game and a rather controversial one as you will need to purchase a monthly Fallout 1st subscription to use it. A Fallout 1st Subscription is a must-have for anyone wanting to get stuck into this game and it feels like a kick in the nuts. Sure, the developers need to make money but nobody likes pay to win anymore and this is a feature that makes the game an epic grind if you do not have it. You can instantly teleport your tent to wherever you are. The tent has a stash crate allowing you to offload your junk whenever you need rather than having to walk, over-encumbered to the nearest railway station or player camp.
The difference between your level of enjoyment with and without Fallout 1st is huge. Fallout 1st cuts out all of the crappy elements of the game and lets you focus on the best parts of the game. We could talk for days about whether it is right or wrong that the game is only fun when you pay an additional monthly fee but it’s an endless debate amongst the community. What is true is the core game is a lot of fun when you eliminate the worst parts of the survival grind.
Fallout 76 has a two-prong approach to quests. You have story-related quests and then you will have repeatable quests which are sort of like the game’s equivalent of dungeons and raids. The story quests are what you would expect from a Fallout game. It is by no stretch the best story in a Fallout game but it serves a purpose to prepare you for the real fun. There are a series of dungeons for all player levels as you progress but the game will hit its stride when you reach level 50. This is when you can access the main boss raids of the game.
The game has two main bosses at the moment. The scorch beast queen, abbreviated as the SBQ and the wendigo colossus. There is always a regular stream of people putting in the effort to get nukes to trigger these bosses which make life easy if you are not up for the effort involved in doing it on your own. These bosses are a blast. Killing the SBQ is no longer the end and being able to kill the SBQ does not in any way guarantee you are gonna come close to killing the wendigo, this guy is tough!
The repeatable dungeons each day are a great way to grind XP and gear. Radiation rumble will be your best friend. With a boss in your sights, it gives you a purpose. This is a great thing, but also a problem. The moment the Wendigo colossus is killed, you suddenly find yourself wondering what is left, particularly if you are a solo player. The game relies on this far too heavily that when you get the job done, there isn’t much left and was the nail in the coffin for some.
Efforts have been made with the addition of the Daily Ops game mode which is a more classic dungeon experience that resets each day to provide a new set of challenges, location and rewards. Combined with daily challenges, this does give you a reason to return each day but not enough to keep the game interesting when you have been able to kill the two bosses of the game.
Any large online RPG like this is going to struggle with end-game content. It feels like Fallout 76, is struggling a little more than others with a lack of structured raids and boss fights. For the game to have only 2 boss events, 3 years after launch shows how bad a state the game was in at launch that the developers are only catching up now.
Fallout 76 is a much better game now than it was when it launched. If you had any reservations back then about playing it, you should push them aside and give this game a go now. Over the next year, we should see this game turn from the fun game into a content-rich experience with a lot more to do and new places to explore.