Continuing my review-in-progress of Fallout 76, running into the first annoyances with the game.

This is Part II of an ongoing review of Fallout 76. Since this is a potentially very huge multiplayer world, I thought it best to review it while I was playing it.

Contents: Parts I, II, III and IV

I was trying to play Fallout 76 without interaction with other players. I know, not a very sensible way to play an MMO, but the way I prefer Fallout. Well, about three to four hours into the game, this approach has failed me. While exploring Morgantown Airport as part of the main quest, I was reading incidental messages at a terminal – I tend to do this for hours on end in any given Fallout game, I just enjoy the world so much – when I was rudely interrupted by another player shooting me in the head. Repeatedly.

As mentioned previously, you don’t take much PvP damage in Fallout 76 if you don’t engage in the fight – even from headshots. But it still is fucking annoying when you’re trying to read some sweet lore. They were certainly walking on the fightin’ side of me and my temper flared up a bit. I killed the guy and then promptly got killed by his mate who quickly rounded a corner.

Luckily the stakes for dying in this game aren’t very high, contrary to the survival game feel they are pushing with the constant hunger and thirst requirements. You only lose the junk items you are carrying and you respawn immediately, so there’s a chance to get your stuff back. Still, this whole experience was extremely unpleasant for someone who’s very used to – and comfortable with – single player Fallout.

I think the right thing to do here would have been to just ignore the guy. I also learned that you can apparently block players so they can’t see your icon and name on the map anymore. Still, it would’ve been pretty much as annoying if the guy had just killed me slowly while I tried to read that terminal. Small amounts of PvP damage are still enough to disrupt things if you don’t run away from the fight, I guess. And I don’t want to run away, that’s just not my style.

The more I play this game, the clearer it becomes that Bethesda has apparently decided to do away with all human NPCs. They’ve all died to the Scorched Plague, it seems. The only people you can talk to via text interactions are a few robots, and even then you don’t have any dialogue choices, they just talk at you. Human players and voice communication are apparently meant to make up for this. I am not sure that was a smart idea on Bethesda’s part. I’m not sure it is a good fit for Fallout. They certainly should have communicated this a lot more proactively before they launched the game – no wonder their user reviews are tanking on Metacritic as people are discovering the extend of exactly how different of a feel these new mechanics create when compared to Fallout 3, 4 and New Vegas.

Another difference that is proving to be somewhat annoying is the savegame system. Unlike previous Fallout games, there is no clear “save game” option in Fallout 76. The game saves automatically in certain intervals and when you complete mission objectives, but the only way to make sure you’ve saved your progress is to quit to the main menu or desktop. Which, incidentically, is also the only way to take a break since the game, unsurprisingly for an MMO, doesn’t have a pause function either.

This all makes for a lot less relaxed playing experience than I’m used to from Fallout. It makes the game more stressful and less good for winding down after a long workday or on the weekend. The careful exploration playstyle I usually prefer is also harder to realise within the given constraints. What is even worse is that the game, in true MMO fashion, doesn’t load you back into the exact position where you’ve saved. Rather, you get deposited in the general vicinity. This might not be a big thing to many people, but to me this kind of game behaviour is very immersion breaking. And breaking my immersion is one of the worst offences an RPG can commit in my eyes.

I should probably mention the bugs at this point. The game has crashed once or twice, but as far as I can tell, I haven’t lost any progress. And there are graphical glitches. But it wouldn’t be a real Fallout without such things. All the previous games since Fallout 3 had very similar issues at launch. If experience is anything to go by, these issues will soon be fixed.

I’m sticking with it for now. So far Fallout 76 is different, but it’s not a bad game, exactly.