When I started playing Fallout 76 earlier this year, I didn’t have any real plans with it. I knew that I’d never reach the grandiose levels of some players, but that didn’t matter as much as simply enjoying the wacky, post-apocalyptic world of West Virginia. Truly, Bethesda did create a beautiful gamescape, one that’s really inviting, as well as really dangerous. If Fallout 76 does one thing well, it’s that it keeps you on your toes.
Unfortunately, though, I can count on one hand the number of purely enjoyable sessions I’ve had with the game since starting it up. As I’ve said before, I’ve had absolutely no bad encounters with the very few players I’ve seen; they aren’t the problem. The problems I’m having are with (1) glitches – and my goodness, there are so many; and (2) enemy scaling. I don’t know what anyone expects me to do with my level 30ish character when she stumbles upon a pack of level-70 enemies or is constantly hounded from the air by a level-50 Scorchbeast. Although I’ve no proof to back it up because I hardly ever see other players around, it feels like the servers are pretty much populated by extremely high-level players, because I can’t think of why the scaling would be off so ridiculously. Oh, you can cram all your “git gud” and “filthy casual” nonsense right now, because I know exactly where I stand in a game like this and exactly what I wanted to get out of playing! Feeling like I can’t get anywhere ever isn’t the way it should be! And while I certainly appreciate helpful handouts from others, it’s no good if I can’t even get to the level I need to be to use what’s given!
Sorry. Sorry. Didn’t mean to get so huffy about this. Whew.
But, y’know, there’s no way I could convince anyone new to play Fallout 76, because I’d have to honestly advertise that things will really stink until you get to at least level 50 (or, maybe even 100, so I’m guessing), and even then, pack your patience!
So, the last time I played Fallout 76 was a couple months ago. The session started out great – we somehow managed to take out a couple legendary enemies, but then a darned Scorchbeast once again ruined the party. And that was that. I was done. I was tired of having the rug pulled out from under me every time it felt like I was making progress. And I had other, better games to play.
Only then, Bethesda releases Fallout 1st, a subscription service – surely you’ve seen the news – whereby players can play on private servers, have unlimited storage for crafting items, get a survival tent (good for, among other things, fast travel), and obtain a monthly allotment of Atoms to use in the game’s shop.
Huh. I can’t lie that I was intrigued by what Bethesda was offering, particularly the part of the private servers. Within the first hour of me hearing about this, my mind formed a grand scheme: I’d pony up enough money to subscribe for three months, and in that time, I’d work on reasonably leveling up my character, and could spend some time enjoying Fallout 76 as I would any other Fallout game, as a lone wanderer, traveling the countryside, discovering its story after the bombs fell (which I’ve yet to actually follow-through with), junking and scraping and crafting as much as I wanted. It all sounded rather…glorious.
My dreams of playing Fallout: Appalachia were quickly vanquished once I started seeing all the backlash against the service. Those who had been with the game since the beginning, and followed Bethesda news more than I did, railed against the fact that Fallout 1st subscribers could acquire things that the company had once promised would be free for all players, like private servers. They criticized the changing of the shop from a place that was only ever supposed to hold cosmetic items to one that now had utility items, as well. In short, lots of anger was directed at the service for giving new players a leg up on what existing players had worked so hard to achieve, and with less at their immediate disposal. And now, a rift has developed between the existing player base and the new Fallout 1st subscribers, resulting in the bizarre development of some kind of “class warfare” going on between the haves and the have-nots (however you wish to define each in this case). And all this comes on top of the fact that Fallout 76 is still very buggy and problematic at its core.
If you’re wondering, I didn’t give Bethesda my money, and I’m sure not going to. I want nothing to do with the debacle that Fallout 76 has become. I want to say that Bethesda is being awful shady about the whole thing, too, but, while that may be true in some part, I gather it’s all just business. Bad business, maybe, but I don’t pretend to know the minds of game developers, any game developers, even those who might very well be suspect.
It’s one thing to put a game back on the shelf because your done with it or don’t like it; it’s another when simply playing the game feels wrong. And that’s why I put Fallout 76 back on the shelf, for now. Maybe this mess will blow over and everything will be great again in West Virginia whenever its Wastelanders (with NPCs) expansion is released. Or maybe it’s all downhill from here. I really did have some good times with the game, and it holds a lot of promise, but until the game is less caustic and more congenial (if ever), I’ll just have to get my Fallout fix from The Outer Worlds.
Lede image taken by author during PS4 gameplay of Fallout 76 © Bethesda Game Studios, Bethesda Game Studios Austin (2018).