Fallout 76’s Biggest Problem Is Its Players

Fallout 76 is an online multiplayer game marketed to a player base who wanted a single-player RPG. This is a problem. I’ve now shoveled a whole bunch of hours into the game, and my interactions with more-or-less everyone else in its open-world have been uneventful. Bethesda has turfed out the NPCs, but it turns out that the real players who replaced them have far less personality.

The vast majority of players I have encountered thus far are content with muddling along on their own private adventures. Considering Fallout 76 pitches everyone in a battle for survival, encountering another player in the wild isn’t as threatening as you’d expect. After reaching level 5, players unlock the ability to attack others anywhere in the world. However, attacking another player without them retaliating will reduce your damage output, meaning you’ll only remove a slither of their health. If they attack you in return, then all bets are off and you can go to town on one another. This happens infrequently.

When a player dies, they lose a few bits of junk that are stored in a paper bag. As a result, it’s not particularly advantageous to engage in a PvP battle with someone, as there’s not much of an incentive to take another player down. The player you’ve killed can respawn in a nearby location and choose to exact revenge if they so wish, but it’s not exactly a nail-biting showdown considering the stakes are so low.

fallout 76 broken

While this minimizes griefing to the point where it’s almost non-existent (at least, that’s the experience I’ve had thus far), it does mean that crossing paths with another player has all the intensity of tipping your hat to a neighbor before you head off to work. In one instance, I hunted down a player who’d had a bounty placed on their head. Far from being a thrilling shootout, I walked up to them and took them down with a few shotgun shells. I received a few caps for my troubles, though the items they left behind were assorted pieces of scrap. They respawned a few yards away, gave me a thumbs up, collected their scrap and left.

This interaction summarises the inherent issue with Fallout 76‘s PvP. Very few players want to fight with each other, meaning that the majority of those you run into will quickly eyeball you before scurrying off in another direction. Occasionally, someone would accept my team invite, though neither of us would wind up carrying out the same missions and instead wander around aimlessly before inevitably parting ways.

Unfortunately, these friendly interactions with strangers are always brought to a screeching halt by way of the sheer awkwardness of Fallout 76‘s design. Each populated world in the game is an instance, and unlike MMOs or Bungie’s Destiny series, venturing into a quest area won’t thrust you into a new instance with players who are trying to achieve the same goal. When you follow a mission, the point will be displayed on your map and it will exist permanently until you complete it. When you ask a player to join a team, their currently active missions will be displayed on your screen.

fallout 76 players

In a baffling decision, when a teammate completes a section of a quest or picks up a quest item, that won’t count for the rest of the team. Instead, each member of your team needs to carry out the exact same tasks in order to also complete the quest. As a result, I spent 10 minutes with two teammates each trying to get a keycard for an elevator, then having to line up in order to press the elevator button, then lining up to press the button that completed the quest. Even when you’re completing quests as part of a team, this system makes you feel as though you’re just along for the ride on someone else’s adventure.

But all of these frustrations could be somewhat overlooked if the game wasn’t so reliant on player interactions. By removing NPCs, Bethesda has placed a glaring spotlight on the issues with Fallout 76 as a multiplayer game, as trundling through its barren Wasteland swiftly becomes a laborious slog. The stuff that makes Fallout so appealing, such as its unique NPC settlements and oddball characters, are nowhere to be found. Instead, Fallout 76 gives you a few dozen player-characters who barely interact with one another, and a mostly empty world to explore before you stumble into those players.

If you’re going to introduce a multiplayer game to players who wanted a solo experience, there needs to be an incentive for them to join up with their friends or other players. Instead, Fallout 76 is a bizarre halfway point between allowing players to work through the game on their own, and half-baked attempts at trying to get them to join up with other players. This doesn’t feel like a multiplayer Fallout game; it feels like a stripped-back single-player experience in which you occasionally meet other human players. I feel that the majority of players would have had more enjoyment of a multiplayer Fallout 4 expansion, but we’re left with this weird stopgap entry that overlooks what players enjoy about this series in the first place.