I went into the Fallout 76 BETA with lowered expectations. Sure, it’s Fallout (yay). But it’s also a survival (ew) MMO (gross). How could Bethesda hope to marry a zany, deeply personal single-player RPG with a persistent MMO world devoid of NPCs and potentially filled with trolls? Early reports were not promising. And as I started my first session, I felt my fears coming true. My peaceful solitude was broken by mouth-breathers and trash-talking teenagers. Hell is other people. I made one change that greatly improved my experience. Since then I’m loving my journey through West Virginia.
What is Fallout 76?
First, some background. Fallout 76 was created out of Fallout 4’s discarded multiplayer. While Bethesda did not feel like multiplayer fit well with 2016’s Fallout 4, lead designer Todd Howard felt that it could work as a stand-alone game. Fallout 76 is set in West Virginia, in the year 2102 — 25 years after a nuclear armageddon has decimated the United States. The game pits the player as one of the first to emerge from Vault 76 to rebuild civilization. Players can work together (or against each other) to build bases, defeat mutated enemies, launch nuclear weapons, and complete quests. The Fallout 76 BETA (Break-it Early Test Application) is set to sporadically take place between now and the game’s release.
My first impression was not great. As my character woke up, I could hear other players through the game world. While I tried to create my character’s look using the character editor, I could hear loud typing. Techno music was coming from somewhere. Someone else was having a conversation, unaware that their microphone was still transmitting. Another person complained about how all the perks in the game were “gay” and “sucked dick.” I had to get these people out of my Fallout fast.
A quick look through the settings and I found what I was looking for — the voice chat setting. I turned it completely off. Silence. Finally. I could gleefully ignore the rest of the players in the game world.
Appalachia looked beautiful. The level of graphic detail is much higher than Fallout 4. Gone were the dreary greys, greens, and browns from Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, and Fallout 4. The colors were brighter and more vibrant. The whole of the world had a newer feel to it.
Gameplay is much the same as Fallout 4. The crafting system has been slightly tweaked to make building, modding, and repairing weapons and armor easier. VATS is now in real time, rather than a slowed-down bullet time.
Way Too Early Verdict
If you liked Fallout 4, this is more of the same but without the colorful NPCs. Turning off the voice chat allowed me to explore Appalachia in a way that felt like a true Fallout game — alone. So yes, Dear Reader, the Fallout 76 BETA can be played completely free from other players in a de facto single-player mode. I encountered other players in my playthrough but we passed like two ships in the night. Maybe they needed help. Maybe they were warning me about the Boy Scout troop full of Feral Ghouls up ahead. Or maybe they were challenging my manhood and/or sexual orientation. I’ll never know. No one shot at me, so I ignored all the other players. If Hell is other people, then ignorance is bliss.