Fallout 76: Beaten with an ugly uranium rod

While my excitement over Fallout 76’s launch couldn’t have been any greater, the game’s timing was absolutely lousy. How was I to know, back in October, that LOTRO would abruptly throw progression servers our way and absolutely captivate me? A handful of days wasn’t enough to get LOTRO out of my system, so when Fallout 76 went live, I started to chew my hair off as my attention was pulled two ways.

So I decided to take it slow, especially considering all of the rumored Day One launch bugs and typical Bethesda wonkiness. Also, the client I had downloaded during beta didn’t work for launch, so I found out on the 14th that I would have to re-download everything.

Finally, I got in, and a brand-new Fallout adventure began — only this time, online and with other people. Other really, really ugly people. I presume this because Bethesda seems completely incapable of fashioning a character creator where players don’t end up looking like some sort of deformed nightmare beast. Someone needs to take the keys away to the studio’s sliders and make them take Remedial Character Creation all over again.

This is my roundabout way of saying that I got incredibly frustrated at my inability to make a character that didn’t freak me out to behold. If anything, the characters looked even worse than Fallout 4, which I didn’t think possible. I finally fashioned some sort of punk with purple hair who had her weird face slathered by radioactive dust. It would have to do.

The whole multiplayer aspect of Fallout 76 lends a strange feeling to this game. You know there is going to be a lot of other people, yet when you start out, you’re all alone in a vault after everyone left you (I guess I partied too hard and nobody bothered to wake me?). Still, I knew I had a mission. I had a purpose. I had…

…to ACTIVATE THAT TOILET. fluuuuuush

It was far less dark and gloomy than some other Fallout game intros that I could mention, and it only took a minute or two before I was outside in West Virginia without any weapons or clear guidance about the changes to character growth and building. But hey, it’s Fallout, I’ll kill everything, loot everything, and explore everything.

Gotta say, I do love the setting. An autumnal West Virginia is a strikingly strange yet attractive place for a Fallout game, although it doesn’t seem like the bombs have really dropped anywhere. Just a lot of deserted and rundown buildings (although not too much so, since it has only been 25 years) and robots running wild.

The lack of human NPCs and the presence of actual players changes up the feel of this quite a bit. I don’t quite agree with Bethesda that it was necessary to take NPCs out of the mix, but it is pretty interesting to look at the map and see actual people running around. I didn’t go out of my way to find any on the first day, but knowing that they were there made me both anxious and elated.

As an MMO player, probably my first complaint was that there was no apparent long-distance communication with others. No text chat and no radio chat. That would have made sense, right? Use your Pip-Boy to talk to others across the map and coordinate efforts? But maybe that’s something I’ll discover another time.

Instead of making a beeline for my first objective, I spent time exploring around, reading notes, and gearing up a little bit. I do miss the single-player VATS system for combat, although I may be able to work with the auto-assist of this game’s VATS. I’m just a poor twitch player these days when it comes to shooting moving targets, and I don’t want to waste ammo.

We’ll see how it goes from here! The whole UI and menu interface is weird (why do I have to hit M for menu and then Z for menu just to get out of the game?) and I wasn’t too pleased with the server hiccuped and lost the last 20 minutes of my questing, but the Fallout charm and gameplay loop is definitely there.

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