*This game’s score has been revised from 95% (originally scored on November 24) to 80% by the reviewer. It is of the reviewer’s opinion that since playing other titles, and having scored them as high as 95% also, by comparison Fallout 76 does not hold up as well.

SURVIVAL          |          CO-OP          |          ONLINE          |          RPG

Where the hell do I even begin?!

While I think this through…

I’m not kidding, this review has taken me a while to write because I just couldn’t figure out where to begin – this game is so big, with so many moving parts, that putting this together was a daunting (and rewarding) task!

So I guess I’ll just start from the beginning…

Before Fallout 76 I only have two memories about the other titles in Bethesda’s series. Playing Fallout 2 back in 1998, my tiny year 8 mind being blown away by the “siiiiiiiiiiiiiiick graphics” before jumping onto ICQ to tell everyone in the “woggy_Perth_nerds” channel (there were four of us), and putting Fallout 4 on the shelf having only put about 4 hours into it realising I just wasn’t going to get the most out of that game with a screaming new-born in the house.

I never picked Fallout 4 back up, always feeling like I wouldn’t have the time to enjoy it fully, so when Fallout 76 was announced and all of my parenting-gamer mates started talking about getting it, I was tentative at best, especially because the number of newborns in our house recently doubled.

I’m here to tell you that no matter your situation at home, this game is perfectly balanced for every player, and well worth picking up, and tell you friends to do the same.

Straight off the bat waking up in vault 76 you’re presented with an opportunity to create your character. I’ve never been the biggest fan of personalising my avatar, it’s often like the developers of games with character customisation take it too far with too many options to make your character unique (really who needs 50 different nose shapes?!). I did not feel this way moving through the options in Fallout 76 though. There’s enough character customisations to keep the avid fan happy, but not so many as to make the average player or newcomer feel like they have to sit there for an hour sorting through it all.

I recently saw “A Star is Born” and was really feeling the Bradley Cooper look.

The other cool thing is that if you want multiple characters with different looks you can just jump back into “character” at the main menu and create them.

From here, it’s into the vault. Waking up in my room I could hear the results of this being a fully online social experience – there were rando’s in my lobby screaming stupid things in the chat. The game’s default setting for social chat wasn’t for me, I quickly shut this down, the silence was golden.

I’d obviously upset whomever was in the vault with me by blocking them out because I found myself under attack from them soon after. It wasn’t worth engaging at the time but since having pumped a few hours into the game have really enjoyed the PvP options set up in Fallout 76. You’ll only take incredibly minor damage from another player if you don’t fire back or engage the duel, if you do then it’s the standard duking it out until one falls.

If you win you get a few caps, but when you lose you’ll only lose a few scrap materials. Higher level players are scaled down against lower level players, so there’s no one-shotting or bullying. It makes me feel that Bethesda has gotten a really good sense of PvP in this game being just for fun, and not making it a way of progressing through levels, which I felt perfectly fits in with the overall feel of this being a title about exploration and adventure.

For new players to the series, Bethesda has done a really nice job of introducing you to the game and the way it’s played by cleverly disguising the first few “training exercises” as quests, and as I moved through the game a little deeper, it never really felt like I’d been in training at all as new and more challenging quests were triggered.

The quests include all manner of opportunities to keep you coming back through daily events, side quests, and mainline quests, and they appear sporadically as you explore new areas, talk to NPC’s, or blow through terminals. It’s not long before the right side of your HUD fills up with them. Even doing things that you wouldn’t expect to spawn a quest or event spawn something, like capturing a base and setting up a camp, you’ll find you’ll get raided by other players or enemies.

The experience gets even better when you’re in the game with a group of mates, as you ‘ll automatically assume the quests they trigger aswell. You can choose to ignore them while they go about their business, or choose to help them, either way as long as you’re in a group together any quests that are completed give everyone in the party XP and caps, plus if you’re the quest owner you’ll get some neat rewards.

Just briefly while we’re on the subject of groups, I really enjoyed the fact that even whilst you’re in the same session the game treats each player in a group differently with regards to rewards received or items found in caches located around the area – this lends itself really well to the trade options between players, it would be pretty silly if everyone ended up with the same gear!

There are some bugs still needing to be ironed out with some of these quests, at the time of writing this there was a ground-swell of the community complaining about not being able to “kill Evan”, I was having the same issue. The only frustrating thing about this was not being able to get rid of it from my quest-list, but really – first world problems, I just moved onto something else until Bethesda fixed it. With a game as big as this there are bound to be some problems.

Speaking of which – the size of the map is really deceiving! One of the other GOA content guys, Inferno, has been playing with me since B.E.T.A and we both mentioned at the beginning that the map looked relatively small for what promised to be such a huge game. We were so bloody wrong! Once you start travelling and exploring you understand just how damn big the game is.

Aswell as the insane amount of quests available, the game is littered with puzzles that can really test your patience. Lock picking and terminals are back, though you have to be the appropriate level of skill to engage these opportunities. If you’re only level one in your cards for lock-picking or hacking, you’ll only be able to trigger level one terminals or locks.

This brings me to the cards I just mentioned – perks!

I know Fallout 76 is full of nostalgia, however it is this particular part of the game that really seasoned my soup, I was an avid trading card fan as a kid and still collect them to this very day.

As you level up through the game you’ll receive a set of trading cards to open, each opened pack comes with a heap of cards that buff your character, plus a piece of chewing gum with a timed consumable buff.

The trading card perk system looks fairly daunting at first, but as you level up and unlock and use it more it gets really easy really quickly! Each perk card has a star rating, and as you collect doubles of these cards you can combine them to increase the star rating, and the attributed buff.

On some occasions the game also allows you to attribute an extra card slot to one of the different buff options, aka S.P.E.C.I.A.L. It’s a bit of a trade-off through the early stages of levelling up your character, but I found that as you reach past level 20 the balance gets a lot better, by this stage you’ll have increased the stars on some perk cards.

Outside of the game there are the usual things we find from triple A titles these days. Fallout 76 does have a shop, and you can buy in game currency (atoms) with your own real dollarydoos, however it’s all cosmetic – and that’s absolutely fine by me. I was really pleased to also see the opportunity to earn atoms by grinding through quests and levels in the game.

For a bit of added fun, there’s also photomode, where you can snap pictures in the game by yourself or with your mates using poses and frames. We had a lot of fun with this, and a tiny but awesome feature included is that your photos become a slideshow while you’re loading into a session or fast-tracking to different locations.

Finally, I just wanted to mention what an incredible job the devs have done in just capturing the landscape of Appalachia. The sound team have done an awesome job of mixing nature with the soundtrack to bring about a real sense of calm when there is no danger, and absolute terror or dread when it’s appropriate.

You’re no doubt in a wasteland, but as you move through towns and find holotapes, recordings, papers, etc, you’re hit with a real feeling of the absolute calamity that happened after the nukes hit. My team and I have spoken often about the emotive feelings we’ve experienced playing through the story portions of Fallout 76, and for a game to drive us to equal parts engaging conversation, equal parts adventure, that is a hell of an achievement.

It’s almost hypocritical of me to run off and launch this nuke – but I’d be missing out on too much fun not to.

I’m sure I’ve missed parts of the game I’d love to talk about in this review, keep checking back for updates, but that’s the nature of reviewing a game like Fallout 76, I’ll be adventuring through this game for years, and with the promise of years of content ahead of us by Bethesda (we’ve already seen Thanksgiving), it’s only the occasional buggy moment in the game that has kept me from giving it a flawless rating – 95%.

Nice one Bethesda, real nice one.

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