Fallout 76 Analysis

avatar-user Ava Reynolds 2024-05-20
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While it may not be the most popular game in the franchise, Fallout 76 has picked up some steam since the premiere of Prime Video's Fallout series. The game has certainly improved since a problematic launch, but it still pales in comparison to other entries. While there is some fun to be had, specifically for those who enjoy multiplayer, there are some mechanics that undeniably weigh the game down.

Bethesda has produced some of the most acclaimed RPGs of all time between the Fallout and Elder Scrolls franchises, and even recently with Starfield. Fallout 76 was a clear deviation from a successful pattern that resulted in the lowest review scores and fewest sales of any modern Fallout installment by a considerable margin. Loading into Fallout 76 for the first time can be fun at first, especially with the expansive world, but it doesn't take long to realize several painfully distracting flaws.

Fallout 76 Lacks A Compelling Story

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For those who weren't rigorously following the development of Fallout 76 up to release, this was arguably the biggest shock. Every Fallout game before 76 features a rich narrative with compelling characters to explore the world with. However, this was not the case with Bethesda's 2018 MMORPG, which many players quickly realized upon loading up the game for the first time.

While there are a few quests in Fallout 76, most of them are designed to show the player around the world and introduce them to some new mechanics. There's no discernible narrative with rich NPC characters to help further an overarching story. This is one of the choices that, while by design and not able to be fixed with patches and updates, will always hold back Fallout 76 from achieving the status of its predecessors.

Fallout 76 Recycles Bosses

Good boss battles are one of the most integral mechanics to making a truly great game. Elden Ring is a perfect example of diversifying difficult enemies, and while some are reused, most have different move sets and character models. Players who explore a dungeon in Elden Ring never know whether they're going to face off against a giant stone troll, blade-wielding demon, or any other variation of enemy.

Unfortunately, this could not be further from the case in Fallout 76. There are only several cataloged bosses in the game, and one of which is a dragon that was clearly recycled from Bethesda's Skyrim archives. This comes off as exceptionally lazy, especially in an era where other games put such clear determination into making every boss fight feel unique and challenging.

Fallout 76's Graphics Still Feel Outdated

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One of the harshest realities of playing Fallout 76 in 2024 is the graphics just haven't held up as well as other games from that era. When compared to Red Dead Redemption 2, which came out the same year, Fallout 76's graphics appear to be from a different era. While Red Dead Redemption 2 did set a new gold standard for RPG games in many ways, this big discrepancy in visual quality is undeniably distracting.

The graphics in Fallout 76 hold up well to other games in the franchise, but that metric doesn't suffice when the most recent game (besides 76) is nearly 10 years old. With modern triple-A games investing so much on delivering the highest quality resolution and textures, Fallout 76 belongs in a much lower tier. Poor graphics are one of those things that are easy to overlook in the early stages of a game, but impossible to get over after fully noticing them.

Quests Are Too Repetitive

Although most of Bethesda's RPGs have been well-received over the years, this has been a problem that exists in more than just Fallout 76. However, the issue is perhaps more glaring in the MMO iteration of Fallout than any other Bethesda game. Fallout 76 relies on side quests to show the player around the world, but they're not fleshed out enough to enjoy or diverse enough to be excited about.

Where Fallout 76's quests become even more of a concern is the endgame, which can be reached fairly quickly as the story isn't very long. It's here that players start earning rewards they've seen countless times over, searching for similar items, and visiting similar locations. Completing the same quests and fighting the same bosses to earn the same rewards is the antithesis of fun.

Fallout 76 Lacks A Reason To Keep Playing

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There are few things worse than a game that draws the player in and fails to keep them invested for long periods. Unfortunately, this is the case with Fallout 76, as most of the game's excitement wears off quickly after the first few hours. There is some fun to be had leveling up and building out a specific character archetype, but the joy is capped out by frustrating mechanics.

After acquiring the items needed to complete a desired build, there's little incentive to keep going short of abandoning that build and trying another one. Even the daily quests feel repetitive after doing them more than a few times. Sadly, Fallout 76 lacks the depth and reason to invest countless hours into the game like its predecessors in the franchise.

Fallout 76 Isn't Fun To Play Alone

As with most MMORPGs, playing Fallout 76 alone doesn't compare to playing with friends. Loading up and playing Fallout 76 alone for the first time is reminiscent of trying to play The Elder Scrolls Online in its early stages; it always feels like something is missing. There aren't many MMORPGs that are enjoyable to tackle solo, but it's still a fair comparison given every other Fallout game has hours of single-player fun.

Because Fallout 76 is so repetitive, the fun in the game lies in completing tasks and taking down enemies with friends. Doing the same thing over and over again has more longevity if the player is tackling it with companions and taking a different approach each time. This is both a gameplay flaw and an approachability issue – a good Fallout game shouldn't need to be experienced with other people to be fun.

The Grind Of Fallout 76 Isn't Worth It

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Building a good character in Fallout 76 requires a lot of patience. It takes days, if not weeks, of going on missions, getting lucky with the right loot drops, and getting the skills needed to have an effective build. The mountain of work required to achieve what seems like reasonable goals ends up feeling like a colossal waste of time once it's finished.

It's one of the hardest truths about Fallout 76 that doesn't ring true about any other game in the franchise; the game just isn't worth the time needed to make it even somewhat fun. It's compounded by the fact that the path isn't even straightforward, it's blurred and indirect. By the time players complete the build they want, they've been using it for so long that most are ready to switch to a new one, which is one of the many reasons Fallout 76 is the biggest lapse in the franchise.

Fallout 76 Players Are Always Waiting For Updates

Fallout 76 was released six years ago, and players are still awaiting updates to this day. Constant updates are part of every live-service game, but they shouldn't be completely dependent on them or leave players waiting to have a good time. Even now, Fallout 76 players are waiting for a map expansion update that promises to make the game worth revisiting.

A good example of a live-service game that utilizes updates to its advantage but doesn't rely on them completely is Fortnite. While each update adds a new feature to the game or changes something that may or may not be brought back later, the game is still worth playing between updates. Fallout 76 would've had a better chance of success at launch if players didn't load up and immediately wonder when the next update would fix all the problems.

Fallout 76 Is Missing Great Characters

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Over the years, the Fallout series has achieved remarkable success, thanks to unforgettable characters such as Nick Valentine and Dogmeat. Story-driven games can only go so far with a strong narrative – the best ones are bolstered by iconic characters. It's immediately apparent to be missing in Fallout 76, which somehow becomes even more glaring as the game goes along.

Although some protagonists in the Fallout series are more layered than others, they even add depth to the story that's missing in Fallout 76. Without compelling NPCs to visit and engage in conversation with, Fallout 76 feels as if it's lacking the part of its soul that's so present in other Fallout games. There are some NPCs present in the game now, added in a 2021 update, but they all pale in comparison to other great Fallout characters.

Fallout 76 Is Still Buggy

In addition to the frustrating gameplay choices of Fallout 76 that were immediately obvious at launch, the game was also full of bugs and glitches. Despite being in development for several years, the game launched with people being able to phase through walls. Others remarked and posted videos of players moving around the map frozen in the same position.

Sadly, the bugs didn't stop there, as other players experienced glitches where putting on certain pieces of clothing would permanently deform and contort their character's body. While Fallout 76 has improved since its launch by getting rid of many of these bugs and glitches via patches, it's still a problem for the game. It's almost impossible to turn around such an unstable launch (aside from Cyberpunk 2077, which has completed what many feel is the gaming comeback of the century).

While Fallout 76 has come far since its troubled launch, the game still doesn't hold a candle to other Fallout games. There are hard truths to realize while playing Fallout 4, New Vegas, and earlier installments, but the drawbacks don't hold them back as much as 76. With more updates planned in the future and a team at Bethesda committed to improving the game, perhaps Fallout 76 will continue to find a second life years after release.

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