In December 2021 I started playing Fallout 76. While my previous experience with the franchise culminated in the exploration of the Fallout 4 world, and even making a series of let’s play videos, I was positively surprised by Fallout 76 and many new concepts this game offers.
To start with a full disclosure, I have not played all instalments in the Fallout series. I have very briefly checked Fallout 1 out and spent a few hundred hours in Fallout 4.
I’ve been playing Fallout 4 for a few years now, so I expected mostly a similar experience, with a strong focus on the exploration of the world and discovering little secrets of locations and people who were affected by the great war. I was aware that, rather obviously, Fallout 76 emphasises online aspect of the game, that is sharing the world, its resources and available place with other players, be it via fight or a cooperation. I must admit that I was not very keen on the idea of interacting with other players, especially since the immersion of single-player Fallout 4 was so amazing for me, but in the end Fallout 76 turned out to be much better than I expected.
One of the best aspects of multiplayer Fallout 76 in comparison to single-player Fallout 4 is the feeling that we are not alone in the wasteland, and that that world was not created for our use only, but we are merely one of many dwellers fighting for better future in the post-apocalyptic environment. We are not screaming into the void, but our actions and choices can affect other people and vice versa. The world of Fallout 76 does not feel empty. Yes, I know that NPCs in Fallout 4 populate the wasteland but it is a different feeling to see an NPC that it is to see a fellow player, a character that is being controlled by another human being, in the game. I am a sworn RPG lover and I would always choose a single-player game over an online one, but in this case the multiplayer experience is amazingly positive. I had no idea that I would like the online aspect of the game so much.
Speaking of the online aspect, I want to state it clearly that the community of Fallout 76 is the most awesome and friendly community I have ever encountered in an online game. Seriously. Before Fallout 76 I had been playing Escape from Tarkov for a year and a half and the difference could not be clearer. Of course that is largely due to different incentives of those games: in Escape from Tarkov you need to survive and extract from the map, and you are expected to treat everyone standing in your way as an enemy; in Fallout 76 all players share similar goal, and the success of your virtual neighbour does not mean your failure. It is also important that you can turn on the Pacifist mode in Fallout 76, making surprising attacks by rogue PvP players almost a non-issue. Before playing Fallout 76 I had browsed its reddit for some time and I was a bit puzzled by posts of people describing how a high level player saved them during a quest or dropped them some rare plans, or crafted them a weapon, etc. Until I got saved by a player 200 levels above me when a horde of ghouls downed me during a workshop defence event. He didn’t have to help me, there was nothing in it for him, but he not only revived my character, he made sure that I completed the event successfully. He departed shortly after, so I only managed to send him a heart emote as a thank-you. This is but one of many examples of how extremely helpful the community of Fallout 76 is.
What I also like about that game, is a huge variety of weapons, armour and special perks that can accommodate virtually any play style. Do you want to be a secret assassin, hiding in the shadows and waiting for your victims? No problem. Do you want to be a tank with a huge health pool, being able to withstand attacks from multiple enemies at a time? You can. Do you wish to be a trapper or a hunter, roaming the wilds of Appalachia with a worn out hunter rifle, looking for game? Fallout 76 has you covered. In some way it is very similar to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, since you can be almost anyone and do whatever brings you joy in the post-apocalyptic world, yet certain aspects of Fallout 76 mechanics are superior to Skyrim. For example, starting at level 25, you can re-spec your character, switching not only special perks that they use, but also changing number of points invested into various base attributes of your character like strength, perception or intelligence. This makes gameplay more enjoyable in the long run, because you can check out various archetypes and play styles to find what suits you best. In a way you evolve with your character in the wasteland, looking for the best way in which they can survive in this hostile and harsh environment.
Having said that, there are some certain drawbacks of Fallout 76. I deliberately do not want to talk about the lack of content – something often mentioned by senior players – since I have not completed the main quest line yet, nor did I finish a lot of side quests. I don’t feel like I have a right to talk about this issue just now, I may get back to it in a few weeks or months, once I reach the end of the storyline. There is another thing, though, that is a major flaw of Fallout 76: time gating. Certain aspects of the game have daily limits, like:
- amount of money you can earn by selling loot to NPC vendors
- number of legendary items that you can exchange for a currency called scrip1
- number of Treasury Notes you can exchange for gold bullion2
There are also some global limits regarding:
- maximum amount of money for a player character
- maximum amount of special currencies like gold bullion, scrip, etc.
It all comes to severely limiting certain aspects of the gameplay in order to bind players to return to game on a daily basis. If you want to do a lot of crafting, or decide to scrip a few dozens of legendary weapons acquired in a seasonal event (i.e. Fasnacht), or want to sell a pile of stuff to a trader on a railway station you are going to hit one of many limits of Fallout 76 sooner rather than later. Those artificially imposed limits will either hold you back, force you to drastically change your gameplay in order to circumvent them or to painstakingly grind resources or crafting for days or weeks. People who only play Fallout 76 occasionally might not even be aware of all the limitations of its mechanics, but anyone who wants to get some high quality, valuable items or to advance their character in a certain way will eventually bang their head against a metaphorical time-gating wall.
At this moment I can’t say that daily limits have ruined my fun from playing Fallout 76 in a substantial way. Thanks to some guides and tips available online I am able to manage my game time efficiently in order to maximise the use of daily limits. They also have one surprising advantage: prevent you from focusing only on a single aspect of the game. They force you to think about other activities you can do in the wasteland, other endeavours your character can undertake. It makes the gameplay more diverse and prevents boredom.
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room, that is a paid subscription called Fallout 1st, which is designed to enhance your in-game experience. It is a controversial topic, and there is as many people advocating for it as there is opposing the idea. Fallout 1st gives you certain benefits like:
- ability to set up a mobile fast travel point with an access to your stash, place to sleep and cook food
- private worlds where progress is shared with public servers
- custom worlds where progress is not shared with other instances
- special paid items in the in-game store
- monthly allowance of the store currency (atoms)
However, the most important feature of Fallout 1st is undoubtedly the scrapbox. The scrapbox is a special type of container that, in contrary to player’s regular stash, has an unlimited capacity but can accept only junk items used for crafting. Without the scrapbox if a player wants to collect some junk to build new objects in their camp or craft/repair their armour, etc., they have to put junk in their regular stash, reducing the amount of space (or weight, to be precise), available for other items like food, medicine, weapons, ammo, etc. And if someone wants to craft a full set of matching armour, or to build a big camp, or to produce a lot of ammo, it means that they need to allocate a substantial part of their stash space to ingredients. Basically, without Fallout 1st subscription Fallout 76 becomes, to a certain degree, an inventory management game rather than an MMO RPG. It does not mean that you cannot play Fallout 76 without the paid subscription. I have seen many players who decided to not buy Fallout 1st and who overcome difficulties by knowing precisely what they were looking for and only looting/storing items that they actually needed in the short or medium term.
Fallout 1st is expensive if one buys it on a monthly basis, but if you decide that subscription is your thing, you can pay for the whole year in advance with a substantial (ca. 30% IIRC) discount. I do not recommend buying a year of Fallout 1st outright. You should first buy a one-month subscription to see if it is worth your money. For me Fallout 1st does enhance the enjoyment from the game itself, but I only buy Fallout 1st every couple of months. From what I’ve read it is a pretty popular strategy – to buy a month of Fallout 1st and then use that 30 days to gather as many resources as possible and store them in the scrapbox before the subscription runs out. Because once your Fallout 1st membership expires you cannot put new items into the scrapbox, but you still have access to all the items you have already stored. You can also keep all Fallout 1st items you crafted during the period of subscription.
From one point of view I understand why Bethesda hid an impactful enhancement behind a subscription. Since there is no monthly fee to play Fallout 76, Fallout 1st subscription is probably one of the most important sources of revenue. I have seen items sold in the Atomic Shop and I do not believe that many people actually pay for them from their own wallet, they rather use their monthly atoms allowance included in the subscription. We can discuss whether the Fallout 1st price tag is sensible, but we should remember that none of Fallout 1st benefits directly translates to some players being overpowered. Unlimited junk storage and some cosmetic items from Atomic Shop are nice, but they do not determine who is on top of the Appalachian food chain, metaphorically speaking.
Fallout 76 is an amazing game, but not without its quirks. At this point of my journey through Appalachia I can admit that I am pretty satisfied with what it has to offer, although I am fully aware that not everyone will enjoy Fallout 76 for the same reasons (or at all, for that matter). While storyline might not be as well-defined as in Fallout 4, the multiplayer aspect of the game makes it a really unique and interesting thing, and I recommend you to check it out yourself if you haven’t already.
See you in Appalachia, fellow dweller!
- huge variety of playstyles
- interesting mechanics
- vivid (yet terribly dangerous) world
- a lot of timegating
- one of the most essential features hidden behind a paywall…
- … that is way too expensive
Overall summary in three words
controversial, enjoyable, post-apocalyptic