Announced prior to E3 2018, Fallout 76 is the latest instalment in post-apocalyptic role-playing game (RPG) series Fallout. Unlike 2015's superlative Fallout 4, Fallout 76 is an always-online experience. With a Fallout 76 release date of November 14, creator Bethesda is hosting a Fallout 76 beta that runs from October 24 to November 4 to give you a taste of what to expect when the game is finally out. We spent some time with the Fallout 76 beta on Xbox One X that made us realise it has more in common with last few Fallout games than you think and not entirely in a good way.
Like past Fallout entries, the game starts with you creating your character from a host of preset and custom options allowing you to modify your look before throwing you into the game proper. Fallout 76 takes place 50 years after nuclear war has ravaged the US and you're tasked with rebuilding civilisation. Set in West Virginia, you can take on the harsh, post-nuclear environs with friends or choose to go solo.
This time around, it appears that Bethesda has finally discovered a colour palette that goes beyond brown and grey. From the titular vault 76 that you emerge from to assorted irradiated flora and fauna you encounter, every bit of Fallout 76 pops with colour, making it a drastically different looking title compared to the previous entries. Art direction aside, Fallout 76's visuals appear sharper too with neat effects for weather and lighting that make for a better-looking game.
The differences extend beyond a fresh coat of paint. Aside from other human players and robots, you'll notice the distinct lack of non-playable characters or NPCs as they're known. Quests are doled out via computer terminals and every time you're directed to find another character, they're already dead. All of this makes Fallout 76's world feel barren and desolate. At least until you run into AI-controlled enemies or find yourself squaring off against other human players which in our case, led to a quick death. Though its repercussions were few. Yes, we did lose our items, but we kept our gear like guns and armour. Respawning and collecting what we lost was easy and death as a whole felt painless because the penalty for being killed was negligible.
Combat sees some changes too. Past Fallout games had VATS, a system that let you pause combat and target enemy body parts such as legs and arms. Though VATS exists in Fallout 76 as well, it doesn't pause anything despite allowing you to target foes. There's no explanation with regards to how it works or if there are any other modifications to it, which made it feel pointless. We ended up ignoring VATS for most part, opting for running and gunning in real time, like most traditional online games.
Even in this regard, Fallout 76 comes up short versus other online titles as the sense of clunkiness that's become a series staple hasn't gone anywhere. Be it equipping gear, using items, or even shooting, every bit seems the same as it was in older Fallout games. Sure, one could argue that it's because Fallout 76 is more of an RPG than an FPS, but when you're taking down hordes of tiny enemy robots or an efficient squad of other online players, the deliberate nature of its traversal and aiming make the entire experience fall flat.
Right now however, we'd advise holding off pre-ordering unless you're a dyed-in-the-wool Fallout fan. A lot of what's present in Fallout 76 will definitely appeal to existing players of the series. However, newcomers curious about what to expect will likely find a title that doesn't explain itself well enough or play as smoothly as other contemporary online titles. Nonetheless, if Fallout 76's mechanics and design evolve over what we've seen in the beta, it could be worth a look at a later date.
Fallout 76 is out November 14 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC priced at Rs. 3,999 ($60 in the US).
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