My Misadventures In Fallout 76's Buggy, Bizarre Beta

Fallout 76 is hosting its first beta this week, and I streamed my time with it on Kotaku’s Twitch channel. Four hours is a long time to watch someone bumble in a buggy beta, so I’ve assembled my escapes into a short video showing off just how absurd this multiplayer spin-off is.

I haven’t sorted out my thoughts enough on Fallout 76 except to decide that it is incredibly ridiculous. From the expansionist conceit of leaving a vault to populate the West Virginia wasteland to the clumsily-implemented jumping puzzles and outpost full of party hat-wearing players, it’s hard to take Fallout 76 seriously.

The series has always vacillated between political commentary and systems-driven emergent hijinks. Obsidian balanced the two in Fallout: New Vegas, while Bethesda mostly managed the latter with Fallout 4. As time goes on, the Fallout series has become less about making any sort of statement and more about the bloody ragdolling that might occur when you blast a deathclaw.

It’s to the point where nukes are a silly game mechanic in 76, a bright bit of Michael Bay eye candy for players who collect enough widgets to trigger the bombs.

Fallout 76 embraces chaos, populating the world with an endless supply of floppy ghouls, angry possums, and rampaging hordes of bees set on destroying the player. You can build makeshift settlements basically anywhere; you can claim factories and fight off any player who tries to take them.

You will find shrines to the Virginian Mothman, marvel at a wasted waterpark, mutate until you gain Bird Bones, and generally act like an entitled jackass. Embracing all this can be entertaining, but it means leaving behind any expectations for the series’ ability to convey a message or tell a story.

Fallout 76 is Rust with sloppy branding slapped on it; it is a digital clown car with spinning rims and a bitchin’ spoiler. It is an adult-only playground where you can eat paste, run around naked, and shoot giant mow-skeet-ohs.

In his assessment of the game, my colleague Ethan Gach notes that Fallout 76 seems like it is two different games.

It’s caught between being a Fallout game and a multiplayer survival game, and, although it’s hard to judge from a limited beta session, I’m not sure it’s doing either quite well.

But there is momentary fun and beauty to be found. Wild textures, mole rat swarms, verdant forests—exploring Fallout 76 was never boring, at least.


    Sounds like Fallout: Fortnite.

    Sometimes I wish companies would just stop chasing the money and just stick to their own identities.

      Usually you can blame shareholder pressure for companies doing this.

      Not so with ZeniMax/Bethesda. They just wanted all the monies.

        From Bethsoft blog posts, it seems like it developed similarly - organically, with an exploratory team tooling around on implementing co-op (like fucking everyone wanted, like we've had numerous mods struggling to do). They couldn't do it right, so they did what they could get to work: online only, PVP-focused, no mods, players as content, no VATS, etc. And the internal folks liked that and ran with it and now we have Falloutnite:Rust.

    Should we be trying to take a Fallout game so seriously though? I seem to remember the original games differently to a lot of people.

      I still hold a grudge against the Radscorpion that cheated and beat me at chess

    I still remember the reveal event where they talked about the players being the ones to tell the story. Except your average person makes your standard raider look like a stable good Samaritan

    waiting for the $5 sale, because that's when I'll care!

      Why? By that point the game will either be abandoned, or dominated by people that know every secret the game has to offer. There are no NPC's in this so your level of enjoyment is going to be based on the other players around you, and by the time it hits $5 bins theres every chance its only going to have the most toxic of players left.

      I can tell you from experience in other games that when theres nothing to do, the players turn on each other as the main source of entertainment to them. Griefing becomes the default option. If you're happy with all that, best of luck to you.

        I'm waiting too. Either for private servers, or for Bethesda to cave in and offer a PVE-only server option.

          Yeah thats fair enough, I'm more just pointing out that a massive chunk of its push is based on players creating the things to do, and that often leads to anarchy. With no NPC's to give any path at all, it just seems like asking for trouble to wait too long.

          I'll be waiting too, I'm just not sure how long.

            There's also the point that without the smoke and mirrors of human NPCs, even if you do play on a PVE-only server, or a private server with only a couple friends, it looks a lot like the wastes are going to feel pretty damn lonely.

              To be fair, a lot of other survival games do the same thing, with little to no NPC's to hold your hand. This at least has the benefit of being a relatively known quantity with content, and not really adding all that much on top to make it a proper survival game.

              We'll still be collecting junk like we have in all the other FO games of the last decade, and trashing them to get resources. In other games, that led to making settlements, here its a smaller scale, but essentially the same.

              I'll probably end up getting it fairly early on anyway (peer pressure), and if its not what I expect, just put it away for 6 months. It'll be in my Steam library regardless, so wont really matter if I ignore it or not.

        like most people, ill only be picking it up once private servers are added. many of us just want to beable to have a friend or two join us in a romp around the wasteland.

        One thing i will be interested to see and thats if bethesda will port some of the weapons like the 50cal and mg42 over to fallout 4 because as it is, base fallout 4 and its DLC is massivily lacking in the weapons deparment

    Lol that's a lot of assumptions you just made

    It was an excellent stream. When can we buy a copy of the amazing "Deathclaw Bones" song?

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