Since its release on November 14, Bethesda’s latest offering in its popular post-apocalyptic franchise — Fallout 76 — has been met with a frothing internet hate that hasn’t been seen since the troubled release of 2016’s No Man’s Sky, or, to a lesser extent, 2014’s the Elder Scrolls Online. No Man’s Sky was jokingly referred to by many gamers on reddit, and other social media platforms, as “No Man’s Lie” — a reference to the fact that the trailer heavily oversold the game and its features to the point of deception. The Elder Scrolls Online was less contentious, but still drew a marked division between fans who either loved, or hated, the MMORPG for its differences from what had come before.
With the Xbox One version of Fallout 76 garnering a dismal 49 percent rating on popular ratings aggregator Metacritic — and the PS4 and PC versions faring only marginally better — it seems the critics and internet commentators are united in bashing the game. With sites such as Destructoid claiming that “Fallout 76 is the Chinese Democracy of video games. It’s subpar in most ways, but it’ll forever carry the burden of being egregiously offensive to anyone who claimed to adore Fallout in the first place,” and users such as the aptly named RagingKeira writing that the game has a “braindead story with literally NO npc-s. [sic],” it seems as if there truly is a great deal of anger and bitter disappointment being levied at the latest foray into Bethesda’s wasteland.
Is it warranted? To my mind, not at all.
'Fallout 76' is here to teach you this lesson one more timehttps://t.co/zqBS14gM9M
— Mashable (@mashable) November 30, 2018
While there are certainly valid criticisms of the game to be made — the prominent accusation of the game being bug-ridden is true, but any gamer worth their salt will recognize that Bethesda is famous for this particular QA quirk — a lot of the hate seems to come from a place of viral bandwagon-hopping than from those who actually spent more than a few hours in an irradiated West Virginia.
As evidenced by RagingKeira’s claim that there are no NPCs in the game, a claim that is often repeated in many memes related to Fallout 76, many of those who are criticizing the game are doing so based on secondhand understandings — understandings which are flatly incorrect. Fallout 76 features many NPCs, although all of them are nonhuman, and most are artificial life forms. NPC, or non-player character, simply refers to quest-givers or other neutral characters — and these exist in the game, though in a bare-bones fashion.
The makers of 'Fallout 76' have been caught in a cyclone of scandals since the game's release –– here's why fans are outraged https://t.co/OKupMQPpt2
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) November 29, 2018
The launch of Fallout 76, in many ways, emulates the launch of another Bethesda property in the Elder Scrolls Online. Both games had a great deal of hype — produced organically as well as by marketing mechanisms — and both titles had a large and rabid fanbase of existing players, many of whom had never played an MMORPG before, and were likely anticipating a Utopian scenario in which single-player role-playing game elements could be perfectly transposed into an instanced online multiplayer experience. While the Elder Scrolls Online focused on larger servers with more persistent social clan hierarchies — a la World of Warcraft — Fallout 76 focused on smaller, more intimate multiplayer experiences with friends.
Neither game was well received at release, and to my line of thinking, a large part of this is due to heightened expectations, almost unrealistic in their scope, as to how the simple mechanics of each genre work. Expecting a multi-player focused game to deliver a cogent single player experience is rarely achieved — as it demands sacrifices of both sides. Only one prominent example stands out from the crowd, Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and that title has mostly faded away into obscurity in the modern gaming landscape.
Fallout 76 review – a pointless walk in the post-apocalypse https://t.co/LPAWFncYkb
— The Guardian (@guardian) November 19, 2018
Some errors made by the developers are worth investigating — the substitution of promised collector’s items and pre-order bonuses is unacceptable and requires redress. But the game itself is fun enough. Traipsing through a nuked-out Appalachia in search of scrap, plans, and new victims can be extremely satisfying. The gunplay is good, the crafting system is fairly deep and comprehensive for a game this close to launch, and playing with friends is simple and rewarding.
Side quests are commonplace and expansive, and the primary quest is nothing to write home about — but hardly the stuff of nightmares, either. The reused assets are somewhat bothersome, but the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” could be said to apply here.
All in all, Fallout 76 shows a lot of room for growth, and needs to be rid of some serious bugs before it can be considered an equal to the games that came before it. Gamers should remember, though, that just because the gaming media and a few subreddits stand united in a singular opinion, this doesn’t mean that individual players should necessarily follow suit.
I’m having a lot of fun with Fallout 76, and I’m sure many others are, too. There’s one positive review, or at least one trending in that direction, for the pile.