E3 press conferences are underway (with the event starting soon). Bethesda showed up in true form and announced Fallout 76. It is a title that is divisive, to say the least.
Among the largest bombshells was that Fallout 76 was not only four times larger than Fallout 4 (whatever that may mean), but is an online multiplayer game at its core. This is a massive departure for the series, one that hasn’t sit well with the longtime fans. Many are offering the comfort that the game can be played solo, but I believe the core experience will suffer at multiplayer’s expense.
Here’s what we know:
Fallout 76 is the earliest game in the timeline. It’s set in West Virginia, and is centered around one of the first vaults to open after the bombs dropped. The beginning focuses around “Reclamation Day”, the day the vaults open and the inhabitants venture out and reclaim their territories.
The game will have dedicated multiplayer servers. Players act on servers with dozens (not hundreds) of other players and have the option of playing alone, with friends, or with random people. Base building mechanics are back in force, and players can build their settlements wherever they like and move them whenever they like.
The setup sounds in line with other modern multiplayer systems in open world games such as Far Cry 5 or Grand Theft Auto V. Progress is retained between solo and multiplayer sessions, so unlike GTA V it’s not a separate mode.
The Fallout formula went through one pretty major iteration already with the release of Fallout 3 and the transition to full 3D over a top-down turn-based system. While Fallout 4 VR might also be considered a major shift, it was just a rework of an existing entry, and could easily be considered an offshoot. Fallout 76 marks a departure that isn’t motivated by hardware. Instead it feels like a disconnection from the fan base.
I must be sure to mention: I in no way am saying that Bethesda must do what I want them to. They’re free to make the game they want to make. This is an opinion, after all.
I can’t help but feel like this is an example of a company moving toward a multiplayer direction because demographic reports say that gamers like multiplayer games. Fallout 4 enjoyed wild success without it at a time when multiplayer was still a giant force in the landscape. The biggest Fallout fans I know are not the sort to have ever wanted this feature in the first place—and I think this is the real root of the problem.
Inclusion of these multiplayer components draws away from the core experience. Multiplayer means no V.A.T.S., less dialogue, a gutted story, and a world that is only alive if there is a population of players alive in it. I don’t mean to say that a post-apocalyptic multiplayer game with a huge map, a focus on survival, base building, and the like would be bad, but it could also easily not be Fallout-related.
Maybe Bethesda could have given the game a subtitle instead of making it sound like a numbered entry (though one could argue that because it’s 76 and not 5, they did just that), but calling it Fallout: Reclamation might have actually reduced the anxiety related to it. While all the elements that made Fallout what it is are not gone, I cannot help but feel that they will only be implemented half-heartedly. They’ll exist only in so much as to help push more and more players into a multiplayer game they don’t necessarily want, but bought because it has the Fallout name on it, and they simply can’t resist. Maybe this is more a commentary on the current state of AAA game development and the power publishers use to influence and normalize games to maximize profits with minimum risk (which, I know, any business should technically do).
But hey, it’s not Fallout: Battle Royale, so it could be worse.