7 Questions We Have After Playing the Fallout 76 Beta
The Fallout 76 Beta has concluded, and with the game’s full release coming in just a few weeks on November 14, there are a few major questions we have.
Bethesda’s Fallout 76 is just a few weeks away from its full release, and this last weekend saw the game’s beta come and go. There will probably be a lot of things that either weren’t available or people just didn’t have a chance to see/do, but overall it was essentially the full game, just offered for a very limited time. So what we saw was a very good indication of what we’ll get when the game is released on PC, PlayStation4, and Xbox One on November 14.
After playing the beta and putting in over a dozen hours exploring the wilds of West Virginia – aka Appalachia – we have some questions. Some are minor, some are major.
With the game coming out in less than two weeks, there’s probably not much Bethesda can or will change about Fallout 76, at least not in terms of major alterations. So if you tried it and hated it, well, you’re probably out of luck. There’s still a lot to see and unravel, but here are the things we will be looking for when we succumb to the lure of an online Fallout game that swallows dozens and dozens of hours of our lives.
How Big is West Virginia?
When Fallout 76 was first announced at E3 2018, Bethesda’s Todd Howard claimed the map for the new game was four times bigger than Fallout 4. After looking at it, that just doesn’t feel right. The map is big, very big, but it doesn’t feel all that much bigger than its predecessor and compared to other recent open world games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2, it is smaller than some. And apparently, a lot of people felt the same way.
There have been breakdowns that include timed comparison runs across the map, semi-scientific examinations of the size of the available area, a breakdown of the map that includes multiple arguments, a whole lot of various online threads that aren’t worth linking to because one day they may be used as evidence in a very sad trial for a few of the people that post a little too… enthusiastically. So either there’s more to the map or Howard was overstating things.
Of course, this was a beta. There’s an outside chance that some of the map wasn’t included, or Howard might have been including separate locations in the map (buildings, caves, factories, etc). He could also have been referring to an earlier build that either didn’t work from a technical sense or it could have been broken into parts for future DLC releases. At this point it’s hard to say, but eventually Howard is probably going to have to clarify what he meant.
But regardless, what we saw is huge. It isn’t the biggest open world map and it may get crowded when you include dozens of real characters, but it isn’t quite as big as promised. Whether or not that affects how people feel about it is probably up to the individual.
War May Never Change, but Will the Pip-Boy Menus?
Like so much of the game Fallout 76 feels like a reskin of Fallout 4, and that includes the Pip-Boy. And for an online game that doesn’t have any stops or in-game freezes, that isn’t really a good thing.
Sorting through menus was never exactly a highlight in the Fallout series (since 2008’s Fallout 3, at least). They’ve never been a problem, per se, but they can be cumbersome. When you take that exact menu scheme and don’t factor in the flow of an online game, it is a little awkward. This probably won’t change anytime soon though, and it’s not immediately evident what or how they could make things easier. At least adding a way to swap between favorite weapons without opening a menu would help.
A companion app that connects to your game and can make changes (similar to the app released for Fallout 4) could also help, but there hasn’t been any confirmation on that yet and it may not be technically feasible. It’s not vital, but it would be nice.
Who Do We Need to Radiate to Get More Music?
One of the more immersive parts of the previous Fallout games is the selection of songs that are presented as music from a local radio station. The 40s-60s tracks in Fallout 76 add a nice juxtaposition to the mix of apocalyptic and futuristic world, but they it is the exact same library from the previous game with only a few changes.
Maybe this is just a beta thing. Maybe there are still some licensing issues that are coming down to the wire. Maybe Bethesda has something really big planned for the launch. But hearing Danny Kaye and the Andrew Sisters’ “Civilization (Bongo, Bongo, Bongo)” for what feels like the thousandth time thanks to Fallout 4‘s relatively limited library, the music needs an influx of new/old material.
If Bethesda is going to continue to offer microtransactions (and so far they are pleasantly unobtrusive), why not add more musical mixes for a few dollars? It would also be nice to have several stations available through the Pip-Boy, each with their own genres. Obviously, it would be better if the tracks were added for free, but if there is a licensing issue that would be an easy way around it.
Balancing the Negative Effects
While the beta probably won’t be able to fix any of the major things, there is a good chance some of the smaller, balance-related issues will be resolved once the player feedback comes in. And when they are going over it all, hopefully the devs will make some tweaks to the negative effects like thirst, hunger, and radiation levels.
While it’s an interesting idea to include requirements to eat and drink water to survive, and the radiation levels are a long-running staple of the series, there’s a thin line between engaging and obtrusive. Finding and using water and food can easily dominate the gameplay. Within minutes you’ll be searching for food, and within a few hours, you will almost certainly be battling one of a variety of diseases related to consuming things. And given that eating and drinking – which you must do all the time – also lead to radiation poisoning, it kicks off an annoying cycle.
Taking radiation damage is a familiar feature for fans of the series, but in Fallout 76 it can be overwhelming, due in part to the constant needs to eat and drink. This would be an annoying, but minor issue if there were more ways to lower the radiation damage you’ve taken, but there aren’t, at least not in the early hours. The Rad Away medication is the best way to get rid of radiation damage, but you can play for hours and only find one or two Rad Away pills total.
The devs seem to realize this, and so they added the mutation feature that gives you a random power when you absorb a certain amount of radiation. That’s a nice safety net to help you survive fighting enemies since the more radiation you take the less health you can access. But that’s still a tough balance, and the radiation ends of limiting your exploration rather than adding another element to it. A few minor adjustments would help significantly.
Mods to the Consoles?
The beta has only been out for a week or so, but Fallout 76 already has some mods on PC. Given that the new game uses the same engine as Fallout 4, a game that modders already know extremely well, more will be released almost instantly. But will any of those come to the PS4 or Xbox One?
It took a while, but Bethesda eventually found a way to bring some of the biggest and best mods to the consoles. Hopefully, the same will be true for Fallout 76.
Will the Lack of Human Characters Hurt the Story?
Honestly, this isn’t something that even came up in our discussions leading up to the beta, but it proved to be kind of a big deal.
Bethesda has said repeatedly that there are no human NPCs in the game. There are plenty of super mutants, robots, and assorted non-human NPCs, but the only humans you see are piloted by real people. That seems like it shouldn’t be a big deal, but the lack of a human element makes the story feel a little less populated, and even a little hollow.
In the previous Fallout games, part of the fun was seeing what kind of weird communities developed in the post-apocalyptic future. Given that Fallout 76 is a prequel some of that would have needed to be toned down regardless, but some of the best moments of the last few games were related to the human factor. It was memorable to stumble across a settlement living in a repurposed aircraft carrier outside of Washington DC. Uncovering a secret city with advanced technology under Boston was a jaw-dropping moment. Exploring a fog-covered New England island where the locals are fighting for survival was compelling, and on and on. By comparison, Appalachia feels somewhat empty. It’s also slightly less fun to explore.
Going over the next hill to see what’s ahead is a little less thrilling when the odds are that it will be another abandoned factory or building. If you took the time to wander around in Fallout 76, you may have stumbled across a coal mine that was still on fire. It’s a good “wow” moment in the game, but when you start exploring and realize that there’s not really a deeper story waiting for you – no cult worshiping the fire or settlements braving the smoke. It’s less intriguing to go deeper into the mythology.
The beta wasn’t enough to really find all of the cool moments that await gamers, and it’s impossible to tell what an online-centric game will really be like until the online community settles in. From what there was in the beta though, there’s a hole in the story that will remain empty. So will the Appalachian region continue to feel empty, or will there be enough variety to make it feel like you aren’t missing anything? Time will tell.
Bugs, bugs, bugs, and more bugs
Bethesda’s games are no stranger to bugs and glitches, and the Fallout series is a big reason for that familiarity. Unfortunately, Fallout 76 is shaping up to be no different – it may actually be worse than most.
Putting out a beta less than two weeks before the game’s retail release feels more like a marketing ploy than a legitimate beta test. It’s essentially just a demo designed to build hype more than gather data. And that’s fine in principle, but Fallout 76 has so, so many bugs that it still needs to work out – and not just minor glitches here and there, but game-breaking bugs that end the game. Inventory disappears, quests don’t track properly, graphics fizz out, weapons don’t work properly, and on and on. There are a lot.
If this was a proper beta where the devs could actually go through the error reports and make fixes, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but there are so many issues – big and small – that there’s no way the game won’t launch with some significant problems. Most will be fixed by patches, but if you played Skyrim on Switch – a recent release for a game that originally came out seven years ago – you’ll know that not every bug gets fixed.
And that’s not counting the bug that deletes the entire damn game.
The small annoyances that cause issues with the graphics or a momentary slowdown are things that people can overlook. People will gripe about it, fairly, but they will still play. The game-breaking bugs, however, are a great way to lose fans for good.