How could Fallout 76 be better

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As shortly before E3 2018 with "Fallout 76"an online offshoot of the post-apocalyptic role-playing game series was announced, the reactions were rather mixed. On the one hand, many fans have long wanted cooperative adventures in Bethesda's game worlds, on the other hand, Games as a Service have a rather mixed reputation. Stimulus words such as loot boxes, microtransactions and battle royale were quickly passed around and the once again functional graphics were criticized. The Fallout MMO has now appeared and the moment of truth strikes for the fans: full-fledged Fallout or cheap imitations?

Fallout 4.5

The surprise already comes at the beginning of the beta phase: when Bethesda invited players for the first time just a week before the official release to leave the eponymous Vault 76 and explore the Appalachian wasteland around the city of Charleston, it quickly became clear that the game was over different from what I expected. While The Elder Scrolls Online has at most a distant relationship with the main series, Fallout's multiplayer spin-off is not a reinterpretation of the series, but actually Fallout 4.5.

This first impression is confirmed in the release version: As in the offline model, you search hospitals for stimpacks, flee trigger-happy military robots or smoke out the nests of mutated giant insects. The well-known mini-games can be used to hack computer terminals or pick locks, even Pipboy made it into the game, including a radio, inventory and flashlight. The look and feel also correspond to the model:"Fallout 76" is visibly based on the well-known Creation Engine, which was also the engine for Fallout 4. At first you don't notice that the game is an MMO, it would also go through as an extensive DLC for the predecessor or as a half-step, like Fallout: New Vegas once did. Even if my patience is being tested again and again in the coming hours, I find myself liking the game despite my skepticism in the run-up to its release.

Where is everyone?!

Said rehearsals are often related to the main difference to their predecessors: In post-apocalyptic West Virginia there are no non-player characters. Your own pawn belongs in"Fallout 76"to the first survivors who dare to venture outside again twenty-five years after the great war. The earth is literally desolate and empty, waiting to be retaken. Still there are quests. They can be obtained from terminals, from received radio transmissions or from found holotapes. You don't have to do without human voices.

Nevertheless, the lack of NPCs is noticeable. In particular, the complete absence of cities is a loss for the dramaturgy of the game, because the return to Megaton or Diamond City after a long excursion into the wasteland was always accompanied by a feeling of homecoming. It was the much-needed breather from the action, in which you could do purchases and sales, submit quests or chat with characters you have come to love. How important such retreat points are has been proven by other MMOs for years: World of Warcraft would not be the same game without Ironforge and Orgrimmar.

The fact that Fallout's online offshoot does not use civilian regions is therefore a real flaw. Because the game is so fundamentally based on Fallout 4 in every other aspect, this decision seems even more nonsensical. Of course, Bethesda has thought of something: Instead of visiting existing settlements, the player should build them himself. Unfortunately, the plan doesn't work out, but more on that later. First of all, the missing characters affect the storytelling.

In the absence of alternatives, scavenger hunts are often arranged in the quests, in which one follows the records of dead people. Audio diaries and notes distributed throughout the game world have long been a trope in video games, in"Fallout 76" but it seems particularly unnatural because it is extended to the entire game world. The pure mockery, however, is that it is often played with the prospect of meeting survivors after all. This creates a real lose-lose situation: informed players feel confused, while those who do not know are disappointed by the expectations that have been built up.

The reconstruction is canceled

Instead of settlements and interaction with NPCs "Fallout 76" Housing and survival. Unfortunately, the game only stages the survival aspect as an eternal struggle against sinking bars. That is as discouraged as it is predictable, because there is no need to fear serious consequences for prolonged starvation or thirst. In nominal terms, the action points that you need for sprinting or for automatic aiming in the V.A.T.S. system decrease, but I hardly felt restricted by it. Besides that, there isn't even anything to lose. Death has next to no consequence, except that you then have to pick up your crafting materials from the place of death. This is survival for Jochen Schweizer voucher buyers.

Friends of the construction mode will also be very disappointed. Unlike in Fallout 4, you cannot take over, expand or secure existing buildings. It is also not possible to erect larger building complexes; a building site can only be specified far away from other buildings, which allows amateur architects to run around ten meters in radius. Although there are many familiar elements such as generators, lights and turrets, the housing feels considerably more restricted than in the predecessor, although "Fallout 76" is explicitly advertised with the idea of ​​reconstruction. In addition, the buildings are only semi-permanent. You are not tied to the server, but to the player. Therefore, they disappear as soon as the builder logs out and reappear when logging in. In addition, there are no fixed servers, at the start of the game you are randomly assigned to a game. For this reason, player cities and permanent communities are impossible.

The idea of ​​housing in a destroyed world and the struggle for survival could be exciting. Instead of just looking after yourself, you could get supervision of your own settlement. You could recruit NPCs who fill your own village with life and from whom you would be sent on procurement missions so that the settlement could flourish. But Bethesda has unfortunately opted for a strange middle ground between sandbox and theme park, which will not satisfy one or the other target group. Instead of the alleged reconstruction of America, you only find two dozen hermits in makeshift huts on the servers, which have disappeared the next time you log in. Working together or against one another does not take place in this context, the multiplayer is characterized by mutual ignoring.

Technical difficulties

Unfortunately, the bad news doesn't end there. It is true that Todd Howard's team has never been accused of making their games particularly bug-free on the market, but they do "Fallout 76" is an extreme case even with the closed eye. The amount of small and big bugs is staggering. Armor that is not worn gives bonuses. Quests disappear from the journal until the next login. Hanging audio tracks produce unbearably loud popping noises. The same opponents are sometimes named in German, sometimes in English. Particularly annoying: If you move objects in or out of your personal chest, the frame rate drops into the single-digit range until you close the chest again.

In general, the refresh rate is anything but stable. Why the performance is so bad is also difficult to understand because it is a feast for the eyes "Fallout 76" Not. Allegedly, the engine has been further developed since 2015, but you can hardly see any of it. The game also looks like the twin of the then old-fashioned Fallout 4.

Fallout as a Service

The famous elephant in the room of every service game is monetization. In addition to crown caps as conventional game currency, there are so-called Atoms as premium currency, which can also be earned through smaller achievements. You get them when you complete events for the first time or when you complete changing daily and weekly challenges. The palette ranges from relatively easy-to-play tasks such as “climb a level” to the unusual requirement of taking a selfie naked, only wearing a party hat. The irony of the matter: Like healing potions, I will probably never dispense the laboriously earned atoms - after all, I could use them again later.

But the main reference point for Atoms is your own wallet. Bethesda seems to have learned from the PR disaster for affordable mods and has helped "Fallout 76"a more target group-compatible approach was chosen. So far, you can only purchase items without game-relevant advantages for real money, for example unique clothing or decorative items for your own four walls. At this point in time, there is nothing particularly negative to be said about microtransactions - nobody needs the stuff that is currently on offer. It's questionable how long it will stay that way: The crafting of the game is the ideal basis for expanding the shop's range at will.

Failed…

"Fallout 76" is an unusual game in many respects, because in the modern AAA market such clumsily produced titles do not actually appear any more. The list of misconduct is long. It could almost have been an ordinary Fallout, only with multiplayer mode - but for no apparent reason Bethesda takes a lot out of the game that actually belongs to it. The restrictions imposed by the removed non-player characters are massive. The game does not benefit from this at any point. At the same time, the developers lack the courage to go all the way to the end and turn the single-player theme park into a real online survival sandbox. Therefore, the game mainly suffers from its attempt not to scare anyone off.

It also fails "Fallout 76" on your own demands to stage a social togetherness. The multiplayer is irrelevant and the badly limited housing does not replace the missing cities. Most of the time you stroll lonely through West Virginia. The fact that, despite the lack of NPCs, of all things, the main quest, the studios' popular horse-footer, saves itself into the online apocalypse is also not without a particular tragedy. I never found Bethesda's storytelling as bad as it likes to be done, but here I can no longer close my eyes to it: It was nothing at all.

The technology is also a horror: Graphics from the day before yesterday, jerky even on consoles and faulty in many places. The older ones will remember: In the early 2000s, MMOs regularly came on the market in this state. However, it's now 2018 and we're used to better things. Although not unplayable, Bethesda still has to put a lot of effort into the title before it will also meet its own standards.

... but not completely

No, "Fallout 76"is not a great online survival game. If you take this declared goal of Bethesda as a yardstick, they have failed in their project. But the author is dead, his intentions don't matter, and what's left of the game is still Fallout 4.5. Like Washington D.C. and Boston, the more rural region of West Virginia, is now nothing more than a wasteland. This is where the old creation engine can play to its well-known strengths: Valuable artifacts are hidden everywhere, waiting to be recovered. A lot is useful: in addition to weapons and ammunition, inconspicuous things are also a treasure in a world in which all machines are at a standstill.

At the same time, the events in the last days of the historic mining region are revealed. In contrast to the overarching main quest, the local quest series are often well done. These are usually closely linked to the history of certain buildings and the region: For example, there are numerous references to revolts by workers and trade unions that are directed against increasing automation in the mining industry. Elsewhere, under a mansion, one discovers the headquarters of a secret society. The level designers are also proficient in environmental storytelling: Often the special arrangement of objects is enough to tell a story.

This will "Fallout 76" About the road movie: You wander from house to house, across abandoned fields, destroyed farms, through secret laboratories and military bases into the heart of Charleston and into deep mine shafts. The character of the game also grows along this journey: With the help of the recovered valuables, more and more powerful equipment can be assembled and weapons and armor can be individually adapted to suit one's own preferences. The flexible skill system also deserves praise, which I even like a lot better than the rigid skill tree of Fallout 4: Instead of being determined once, the orientation of the character is based on a pool of skill cards that is continuously expanded in the course of the game and from which one can enter Put together a deck of cards that you can adjust at any time.

So poses "Fallout 76" like its predecessors, the stage is available for a hunter-gatherer fantasy in which one rummages through the rubble of civilization and in which the next urgently needed component, the next upgrade, the next discovery is always just a ruin away . "Fallout 76" is the distillate of what I always liked best about the series: walking around, poking around, shooting mutants. Despite all the problems and avoidable shortcomings, Bethesda has managed to maintain these qualities and thus created the basis for a live fallout that the series can do justice to. Nevertheless, the necessary rework will still take many months. Thankfully, Bethesda has already proven that they have the necessary stamina: The Elder Scrolls Online was anything but a success at the beginning. Fallout fans who want to watch the game grow can still grab it.

Disclosure: The game was provided by Bethesda.

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