DOWNLOADABLE Content (DLC), content updates and new “seasons” for games are such a commonplace affair now it’s possible not to realise just how fundamentally they can change a game.
While lots of games make incremental changes – a patch there, a hotfix there, a new hero/operator over yonder – sometimes you get a massive, literal game-changing addition that warrants more attention than a press release rewrite.
Fallout 76: Wastelanders is one of those additions.
Fallout: 76 is one of those games I desperately wanted to love. I adore the Fallout series, and have ever since I played the original game way and its sequel back in 1997 and 1998 as a teenager. When Bethesda got the rights to the series and said they were going to make a 3D first-person Fallout game, I was overjoyed. Detractors said Fallout 3 (released in 2008) would be “Oblivion with guns” – and it was, and it was fantastic – one of the best games I’d ever played. The DLC only added to the experience.
It was followed by Fallout: New Vegas in 2010 which, in its complete incarnation, may be one of the greatest games ever made. If you haven’t played it and have a spare 300 hours or so, you really must experience it.
While Fallout 4 (2015) was a controversial title amongst long-time fans, I loved it straight off the bat and it only got better with quality of life improvements to fix things like the conversation tree; lots of people are still playing today and with good reason.
Then Fallout 76 came out in 2018. The lift pitch was “Fallout but online!” and while I admit to being sceptical (I don’t love MMORPGs, mainly due to the whole “not having the time to get really invested in them), saying I was disappointed by Fallout 76 would be a huge understatement.
I won’t dwell on the litany of misfires and issues the launch game had, other than to say a Fallout game which had no human NPCs was not a good idea and I spent a lot of the game feeling like I was following along behind someone else’s adventure and hearing about what a great time they had.
Basically, I wanted The Elder Scrolls Online but in the Fallout setting, and instead I got “Follow The Quest Markers To Find The Robot, Or Maybe An Audio Recording And A Skeleton Just For Something Different Occasionally.”
When news reached me a major updated for Fallout 76 was planned which would add human NPCs to the game, my interest was piqued, and just as well.
Let me say now: Wastelanders is the version of Fallout 76 which Bethesda should have released in the first place.
While it’s not perfect, it is vastly closer to a proper Fallout game and is very much on the road to the “Post-Apocalyptic Elder Scrolls Online” most of us wanted to begin with. It’s also a free update for anyone who already owns the base game.
Essentially, the new arrivals are the Settlers and the Raiders – pretty obvious what they do there – and your first order of business is to convince them both to get vaccinated against the Scorch Disease. Naturally nothing in RPGs is ever simple, so this sets off a trail of quests which will take you all over Appalachia, giving you a reason to explore even more of the world (which contains some superb environmental storytelling, incidentally).
The best part is this new main quest updates the previous “Find the Overseer” quest, essentially giving players more significant storylines to follow – not to mention conversation options, faction reputations, and more stuff in general.
Large parts of the world are still devoid of human NPCs – you’ll find plenty of robots, ghouls and mutants wandering around, though – but overall the game world actually feels more like a real place and not a retro-futuristic movie set that’s had an atomic bomb dropped on it while the cast were having their lunch break.
The bad news is the graphics haven’t been updated and game still has a lot of glitches and bugs, ranging from enemies getting stuck in walls to telescopic sights not staying up and enemy health fully restoring for no reason in mid encounter.
There’s also still issues with enemy levelling – because it’s a shared world, there would be instances where a much higher level player nearby would spawn high-level enemies during an encounter and I, at a lower level, would wander through the area and find myself beset by radioactive or powerful enemies mocking my feeble attempts to neutralise them, shrugging off entire magazines of combat shotgun shells and treating my laser rifle as the mere annoyance it was.
In other words, the Wastelanders update hasn’t “fixed” the game, but what it has done is taken it from a disappointing mess to an imperfect but playable and (dare I say it?) enjoyable experience. Also, keep an eye out for Jason “Jay From Jay & Silent Bob” Mewes channeling Todd Chavez from Bojack Horseman as the contractor character Mort, too.
If, like me, you got Fallout 76 at launch, played it, were Le Sad over what you experienced and shelved the game, Wastelanders is an excellent reason to don your power armour again.