|Developer(s)||Bethesda Game Studios[a]|
|Release||November 14, 2018|
Fallout 76 is an online action role-playing game in the Fallout series developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. Released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on November 14, 2018, it is a prequel to previous series games.[b] Fallout 76 is Bethesda Game Studios's first multiplayer game; players explore the open world, which has been torn apart by nuclear war, with others. Bethesda developed the game using a modified version of its Creation Engine, which allowed the accommodation of multiplayer gameplay and a more detailed game world.
Fallout 76 was released to generally mixed reviews, with criticism for the game's numerous technical issues, overall design, lack of gameplay purpose, and initial absence of human non-playable characters. The game was the subject of several controversies, chiefly in regards to the quality of physical content. A number of Bethesda's responses and attempts to resolve issues related to Fallout 76 in the months following its launch were also met with player disgruntlement.
Fallout 76 is Bethesda Game Studios' first online multiplayer game.[c] Players may play individually or with a party of up to three others. The servers for the game are public dedicated servers, with the player automatically allocated to one of them. While the game was expected to launch with public servers only, game director Todd Howard revealed plans for private servers to be introduced some time after the game's launch. These private servers allow players to invite friends and to prevent undesirable aspects of player versus player gameplay such as griefing from affecting an individual player's experience of the game. Howard described the delay as being necessary to allow Bethesda time to assure the stability of public servers. Elements of previous Fallout games are present and are modified to work with the real-time game. The V.A.T.S. system—a mechanic first introduced in Fallout 3 that allows players to pause the game to target specific locations on an enemy's body to attack—is used in Fallout 76 as a real-time system, though it still allows players to specify targets on an enemy's body.
The game features an open world four times the size of that of Fallout 4. The game world is called "Appalachia" and is a representation of West Virginia. It features recreations of real locations in the region, including the West Virginia State Capitol, The Greenbrier, Woodburn Circle, New River Gorge Bridge, and Camden Park. The game features numerous new mutated monsters, several of which—such as the Mothman and the Flatwoods monster—were inspired by West Virginian folklore.
The game includes revisions to the SPECIAL progression system. Character attributes fall into one of seven categories: strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, agility and luck. As the player levels up, they are able to spend skill points to boost their attributes on a scale of one to fifteen. Players are able to choose perks, or passive abilities that offer gameplay bonuses. These perks fall into each of the SPECIAL categories and take the form of trading cards. Each card has a value and the player can adopt perks equal to their respective value; for example, if the player has a strength rating of five, then they may equip strength perks worth five points. The player can merge similar cards together to create more powerful—albeit more expensive—perks. The system is designed to encourage the player to recognise the situation they are in and choose perks that aid them rather than passively selecting them and having them for the duration of the game.
Fallout 76 does not feature any human non-player characters (NPCs) as all surviving humans are other players. This required Bethesda to change their approach to storytelling as previous games in the series relied on NPCs to assign quests, engage the player in dialog and advance the overall narrative. Fallout 76 instead uses a combination of NPCs in the form of robots, recordings such as collectible holotapes, terminals throughout the game world, and environmental storytelling where the player uncovers fragments of a narrative by exploring locations that they piece together themselves. Each of these elements had previously been used in the series, often to provide backstory for characters and the world of the game whilst remaining separate from the main narrative. According to Howard, this system allows Bethesda to tell a story whilst giving players a greater ability to create their own narratives. In June 2019, Bethesda announced the game's first major update, a feature of which introduces human NPCs.
The game expands on Fallout 4's settlements by allowing the player the ability to build bases at many locations of the map. These creations are assigned to the player's profile and are removed from the game world when the player is offline to prevent progress from being lost. While other players are able to attack player settlements while they are online, the game preserves player creations using "blueprints" to prevent players from having to start over if their creations and progress are destroyed.
Players are able to use nuclear weapons to temporarily change the areas of game world. After acquiring launch codes, the player can access missile silos and fire a missile at almost any point on the map. This irradiates the area, which the player can explore to find rare weapons, gear and items. However, it also attracts powerful enemies and the player needs to be sufficiently strong to survive. The game also includes a photo mode. The player has the ability to pose their character and choose from a variety of facial expressions and filters.
Fallout 76, is the first game in the Fallout series to release a gamemode based around the battle royale genre. This new gamemode, also known as Nuclear Winter, uses many base features of the game, but expands upon them following the modes genre. Players start off in Vault 51, which is set on a timer or until the maximum player count is achieved, which will then prompt an on-screen map to appear where teams can choose where they spawn. Nuclear Winter features parts from the base game such as building using collected blueprints and the ability to launch nuclear payloads via collecting multiple launch codes and a briefcase.
Fallout 76 is a narrative prequel to previous Fallout games. It is set in an alternate history, and takes place in 2102, twenty-five years after a nuclear war that devastated the Earth. The player character is a resident of Vault 76, a fallout shelter that was built in West Virginia to house America's best and brightest minds. The player character exits the Vault on "Reclamation Day" as part of a plan to re-colonize the Wasteland.
Twenty-five years after the Great War, Vault 76 is opened up and its residents given the task of repopulating the wasteland. Shortly after they emerge from the Vault, the player character is contacted by the Vault Overseer. She reveals that Vault 76 was given a secret mandate to secure an arsenal of nuclear weapons deployed throughout Appalachia. The player character is directed to contact the First Responders, a faction of emergency services personnel who tried to aid the residents of Appalachia during the war; however, they discover that the First Responders evacuated after they came under attack from the Scorched. Further investigation reveals that the Scorched are ghouls infected by the breath of a Scorchbeast, a creature that was awoken after the Great War.
As the Scorched represent a threat to the wasteland beyond Appalachia, the player character decides to secure a nuclear weapon and use it to destroy a Scorchbeast nest. In order to achieve this, they start searching the bunkers of survivalists calling themselves the Free States who were working on the means to detect the Scorched until the Scorched overran them. The player character is able to build a radar system that detects the viral signature of the Scorched, but its limited range makes it ineffective. They hack into a government network and draw the attention of the Enclave, the remnants of the United States government. The Enclave are led by MODUS, a centralised artificial intelligence system. MODUS asks the player character to help connect them to a series of isolated computer networks across Appalachia, and in return offers to connect to the radar system to detect Scorched across the region.
Once MODUS is connected, they are quickly able to identify the Scorchbeast nest. The player character is directed to a nuclear weapons silo and they launch a missile at the nest. Venturing into the irradiated area, they uncover a laboratory at the centre of the nest, implying that the Scorchbeasts were man-made. The explosion awakens a Scorchbeast Queen, and the player is forced to fight her. With the Queen defeated, the Scorchbeasts' hive mind is broken, and the threat to the wasteland beyond Appalachia is halted. The player character rejoins the other residents of Vault 76 in rebuilding the wasteland.
Fallout 76 uses a modified version of Bethesda's Creation Engine designed to accommodate multiplayer gameplay. Work on modifying the engine was carried out by Bethesda Game Studios Austin. The modified engine also allowed the development team to incorporate new lighting models, rendering processes and more accurate terrain mapping. These allowed the development team to create a world with sixteen times more detail than was possible with previous iterations of the Creation Engine. The game also includes a dynamic weather system that allows for localized climatic conditions and greater draw distances mean that these weather events can be observed by the player from far away. As with many previous games in the series, its musical score was composed by Inon Zur.
The game was announced on May 30, 2018; the announcement was preceded by a twenty-four hour live stream on Twitch showing a Vault Boy bobblehead toy in front of a monitor with a "Please Stand By" test pattern screen, a signature image of the series. This stream was watched by a total of over two million people, with more than one hundred thousand people watching at any time.
Details of the game were announced by Howard during Bethesda's press conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo on June 10, 2018, including its anticipated release date of November 14, 2018. As it is Bethesda Game Studio's first experience with a fully online game, Howard confirmed that there would be an open beta phase, beginning on October 23, 2018 for Xbox One, and October 30, 2018 for PlayStation 4 and PC.
In response to the announcement that Fallout 76 would feature only multiplayer, a petition was created by fans of the series which called for the game to include a single-player mode. The petition received thousands of signatures within a day. Following the game's announcement, there was a burst of interest in tourism in West Virginia. The website "West Virginia Explorer" reported an increase of fifteen times the visitors to the site in the days after the announcement, while management of the Camden Park amusement park said there was an increase in people looking to purchase park merchandise.
The teaser trailer shown at E3 2018 featured a cover version of John Denver's song "Take Me Home, Country Roads". Fans of the series expressed interest in the song, prompting Bethesda to announce plans to release the song on digital musical services, with all proceeds from it being donated to Habitat for Humanity, assuring a minimum US$100,000 donation. In Australia, a free Fallout 76 vinyl containing the cover of "Take Me Home, Country Roads" was included as a promotion with the December 2018 issue of Stack magazine, available at retailer JB Hi-Fi.
According to review aggregator Metacritic, the PC and PlayStation 4 versions received "mixed or average" reviews, while the Xbox One version received "generally unfavorable" reviews. The numerous negative reviews from critics led Forbes to describe the release of Fallout 76 as a "historically bad launch" and to question if Bethesda would consider the property "worth saving" moving forward.
The Guardian called the game "a pointless walk in the post-apocalypse" featuring "half-baked conflict and witless quests to unearth the dead". According to Forbes, Fallout 76 was a "huge, rare, total miss" by Bethesda. Eurogamer described the game as a "bizarre, boring, broken mess", adding that, shortly after its launch, it should be considered as a "failed experiment". Business Insider described Fallout 76 as "a jumble of disparate video game elements set loose in an online world, held together by a string of pointless fetch quests and experience points". Newsweek said that moments of the enjoyment during their review were "outweighed by the near-constant performance issues and poorly executed game systems", adding that they were disappointed in the game despite being fans of the series.
PCWorld ended their review early due to their frustration with the game's technical performance, and said that it still would not be a great game to them even if it "functioned properly". GameSpot said that the game "can look and feel like its illustrious predecessors at times, but it's a soulless husk of an experience." According to IGN, "The rich wasteland map of Fallout 76 is wasted on a mess of bugs, conflicting ideas, and monotony." Giant Bomb has said they will not publish a full review due to lack of interest of the staff to play it enough to reach a final verdict. Editor and co-founder Jeff Gerstmann stated on their podcast "No one on staff wants to play anymore of this video game."
The game was also criticized for the complete absence of interactive human NPCs. GameSpot said that "without having any of those people present to tell their stories personally, [Fallout 76]'s world is limited to being little more than just an environmental exhibit with things to kill", and that "there are no strong emotional anchors to help you become truly invested...". They also wrote that quests simply exist of "long monologues and one-way directives from a person who no longer exists and you can't interact with ... your actions ultimately won't affect anyone, or the rest of the world for that matter". PC World similarly took issue, writing "robots aren't really NPCs as much as quest dispensers ... they don't talk with you, they talk at you". Additionally, they disliked the readable terminals and holotapes: "none of it feels important or even particularly interesting" as they were "no substitute for an actual conversation".
Many reviewers noted a large number of bugs and glitches present in Fallout 76, affecting numerous aspects of the game, as well as stability, performance and graphical issues. In response, Bethesda issued several patches, the size of the first being 50GB, which nearly eclipsed the size of the game itself. However, some of the attempted fixes garnered player disgruntlement for failing to resolve some of the more notable technical issues, while removing features previously thought intentional. The fifth patch, issued on January 29, 2019, caused frustration due to it inadvertently restoring several bugs that had been fixed previously, including a lockpick item becoming 100 times heavier and quickly limiting the size of a player's inventory; Bethesda subsequently took to fixing this issue the following day by releasing a sixth patch. The eleventh patch released on July 16, 2019 similarly caused a number of issues for players, such as armor pieces disappearing and higher-level enemies failing to drop higher-level items, with fans expressing their desire for Bethesda to use a public test server for new patches before their release.
The price of Fallout 76's in-game cosmetics also received negative attention from players for being too expensive, particularly in regards to items added to the game's "Atom Shop" for the 2018 holiday season. Eurogamer noted how a set of Santa Claus outfits and a large sign cost $20 and $14 worth of in-game currency (called Atoms), respectively, with players arguing similar pricing was enough to buy Fallout 4's season pass with all add-ons. In the spring and summer of 2019, the game also introduced items that managed a player's surplus inventory and improved the quality of their weapons, both of which could be acquired through spending Atoms. However, the implementation drew criticism from players, who felt that it favored those that paid for Atoms with real money instead of gaining them through hours of playtime.
On December 22, 2018, as a way of apology for the criticism surrounding Fallout 76, Bethesda announced that they would give all players of Fallout 76 a free copy of the Fallout Classic Collection, available on PC, which consists of Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel.
In the weeks following release, Bethesda banned numerous players from the game for using mods and exploiting technical issues for various purposes, such as duplicating in-game items and gaining access to the game's developer room (an off-limits area created for testing purposes which contained copies of every item). Many of these players found that their accounts had been closed without warning, and were then emailed by Bethesda asking them to write an essay explaining why cheating and using mod software was damaging to online video games. Bethesda's reaction received backlash from users from being condescending and presumptuous as many also felt they had been unfairly targeted since they had merely used mods to fix graphical or technical issues with the game, rather than with the intention to gain unfair advantages.
Upon launch, Fallout 76 debuted at third place in the UK's all-format sales charts, behind Spyro Reignited Trilogy and Red Dead Redemption 2. According to the NPD Group, the game had lower launch sales than either Fallout 4 or Fallout: New Vegas. The game saw a price drop in North America less than one week after its initial release, with some pundits listing poor sales as a reason for the cut in price. In their respective opening months, the game's physical sales were less than one fifth of Fallout 4 (down 82%), while its digital sales were about half of Fallout 4 (down 48%).
SuperData estimated that, as of the end of 2018, the game had sold 1.4 million digital copies.
Despite the poor reviews, the game was nominated for "Fan Favorite Fall Release" at the Gamers' Choice Awards, for "Game of the Year" at the Australian Games Awards, and for the Tin Pan Alley Award for Best Music in a Game at the New York Game Awards.
Fallout 76's Power Armor special edition drew controversy upon release. Bethesda advertised that the edition would include a canvas duffel bag, but a nylon one was included instead. Responding to customer complaints, Bethesda claimed that the bag had to be changed due to unavailability of materials, and initially stated the intention to take no action. The publisher received criticism for not making the change known beforehand, with Eurogamer pointing out that the bag's description on Bethesda's website had only changed to read "nylon" after complaints had been submitted. Bethesda later offered affected customers free in-game currency of 500 atoms as compensation, equivalent to $5.00. Critics pointed out this amount of currency was not enough to purchase the game's postman uniform (700 atoms), which comes with a canvas bag. Additionally, it was discovered that Bethesda had given a different canvas bag to online influencers, further adding to the fan outrage. Bethesda announced on December 3, 2018, that they would be producing canvas bags for all owners of the Power Armor special edition, which were ultimately said to be shipping "in four to six months." In June 2019, the bags were delivered to customers.
A data breach occurred on December 5, 2018, when a glitch in Bethesda's support system revealed personal information of approximately sixty-five Fallout 76 customers, who had submitted a support ticket to receive the canvas bag. Users were able to open and close tickets of other customers and view personal information, including names, addresses, emails and partial credit card information. In a statement given to Ars Technica, Bethesda said that the breach occurred via "an error with our customer support website" and that they are "investigating the incident and will provide additional updates as we learn more". The publisher clarified that the only information leaked were details that the support site would have requested, rather than credit card numbers or passwords, and that they would notify all affected customers.
In 2018, Bethesda partnered with the Silver Screen Bottling Company to create "Nuka Dark Rum", an alcoholic beverage based on the in-game "Nuka-Cola Dark" which was introduced in the Fallout 4 Nuka-World add-on. The rum was available to be pre-ordered in August 2018 for $80. While its release was expected to coincide with the launch of Fallout 76, the rum was delayed and was shipped instead in late December 2018. However, upon receiving it, fans criticized the fact that the rum bottle advertised, previously expected to be a bottle in the shape of the in-game Nuka-Cola item, had turned out to be a normal glass bottle encased in a large plastic cover. The rum's asking price of $80 was subsequently condemned as consumers had expected the design to be of high quality.
- Additional work by Bethesda Game Studios Austin
- The opening chapter of Fallout 4 takes place twenty-five years prior to Fallout 76, but the remainder of the game takes place two hundred years later.
- In 2006, Interplay Entertainment and Masthead Studios started development of Fallout Online, a massively multiplayer online game set in the Fallout world. The game was canceled in 2012 after a legal dispute between Interplay and Bethesda Softworks that saw Bethesda purchase the rights to the game in an out-of-court settlement.
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