How the mighty have fallen.
It’s been a pretty awesome year for Video Gamers (particularly on PS4) with hit games such as God of War, Detroit: Become Human, Spiderman and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. But even great gaming years have complete turkeys. Fallout 76 is this year’s – reviews have been universally critical (average rating’s are around 4/10 to 5/10) and the fans are mostly furious at how poor the finished product is.
Its rare for the big beasts in gaming to screw up so spectacularly. It happened with Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Mass Effect Andromeda last year, but both those games had redeeming features. Battlefront 2 had solid gameplay and was still quite a decent experience, despite the stupid loot box and microtransactions system. The DLC also helped make it a more complete experience. Mass Effect Andromeda was disappointing, but is still a reasonably fun game. The negative reaction was mainly due to it not living up to the VERY high standards of its predecessors, and some laughably bad character animations due to tech issues. But most of those issues were fixed pretty quickly, and a 2nd playthrough with lower expectations proved the game itself is decent if a bit forgettable. But Fallout 76 has even more problems that those games did.
Firstly, virtually none of the long-term fans wanted it. Fallout has always been a single-player experience, and no one was crying out for a multiplayer version. It smacked of being a simple cash-grab, not a fan-service extra. Secondly, the game is notoriously empty without NPC’s. While there’s still some fun to be had for co-op players, playing this solo is not an option. Finally, and most damningly, the game seems absolutely riddled with bugs. Not just bad animation bugs (which the fallout series is well known for) but game breaking bugs like stuck loading screens and endless crashes. Now, this may be fixed somewhat over the next few months, but frankly, its unacceptable for a game priced £59 at launch to be in such a poor state. No wonder the price got cut to £34 within a week after poor sales.
This is a real pity. Fallout has been an absolute gem of a series so far. While I never played the PC, turn-based RPGs the series began with, I came in at Fallout 3 on PS3 and loved it. It was up their with Elder Scrolls Oblivion as my favourite game for a long time. The DLC was very hit and miss, but the main game was flawless. Fallout New Vegas, while not as highly praised by critics is often regarded by true Fallout fans, including me, as equalling if not bettering Fallout 3. Its faction-driven story and more humourous atmosphere elevated it, and while the DLC was once again a mixed bag, it remains one of my all-time favourites. Fallout 4 may have strayed too far from the series’ formula, but its engaging plot, wonderful graphics and improved game engine still made it worth your time. The DLC was overpriced, but one bit of it, Far Harbor, was actually a huge improvement on the main game, and is the main reason I haven’t sold the game on yet. But now the series has stumbled badly, with a game few wanted, with obvious design flaws, a multitude of performance issues and which totally disregards what Fallout is really about. They’ve basically made it into a co-op shooter, with barely any RPG elements and a bland, lifeless server where interactions with other players are rather limited.
If you’re seeing a pattern here, think Elder Scrolls. Also made by Bethesda, it had critically acclaimed if now outdated games with Daggerfall and Morrowind, a great game in Oblivion, an even better game with a better engine and graphics in Skyrim, and then an online spin-off with ESO. But ESO, while not my thing, worked considerably better. Firstly, it was a much livelier world, with way more players on each server and quite a few NPC’s to interact with. Secondly, it was nowhere near as buggy at launch. Thirdly, Medieval Fantasy is much better suited to online MMORG’s than post-apocalyptic sci-fi. Thanks to stuff like World of Warcraft and Skyrim’s never-ending popularity, there was an obvious market for ESO. There really wasn’t an obvious market for Fallout 76. COD-gamers who love co-op shooters already have dozens of options which cost less or are more their thing. Long-term fallout fans weren’t happy with Fallout 4’s changes to the series formula, and multiplayer was yet another unwanted change. Single-player RPG fans won’t want to waste time in a world as empty as fallout 76’s. That just leaves fans of co-op shooters with rpg elements. But half of them will probably avoid it now because of the critical mauling its got and the bug-ridden nature of the game.
Bethesda really need to buck their ideas up. While Elder Scrolls VI will draw fans back, trust in Bethesda is going to be low for a while, which isn’t ideal with Starfield, a new property, likely to be their next release. As for Fallout, the series isn’t dead yet, but one more failed release would do it. Here’s my advice for Bethesda if it wants to win fans back:
- Ditch Multiplayer. Leave that to gaming companies who specialise in it. A sequel to ESO might be worthwhile, but aside from that, no one wants multiplayer RPG’s from you after this debacle.
- Listen to fans: Fallout 4 ignored what the fanbase loved about 3 and New Vegas. Sure it won over a lot of mainstream gamers who hadn’t played those games, but long term fans really weren’t happy with the changes to perks, skills and the absence of multiple settlements to interact with. Give the fans what they actually want for once!!!
- Stop overcharging!: £59 for Fallout 76 is ludicrous. The DLC for Fallout 4 was similarly overpriced (Far Harbor was brilliant, but I waited for a sale for a reason. Who’s playing £20 for 1 piece of DLC???). I know current-gen is expensive, but this smacks of trying to squeeze way too much money from customers.
- Scrap pointless quests and building mechanics: The biggest flaw with Fallout 4 was the amount of annoying, repetitive quests (particularly in the Minutemen story arc) and the construction mechanics. Building your own settlements was a cool idea, but like the Batmobile in Arkham Knight, it was a cool idea that was so overused it became an annoyance. Scavenging around for materials constantly to repair power armour or build items to advance quests was a real irritation, and should have been something that players could do if they wanted, not something that you HAVE to do constantly. This really needs to be scaled back for the next game, and the quality of the quests could really use a boost.