When this past August rolled around, I considered writing and update to my ESO/Fallout 76 from the same time last year. Only then, I remembered that I barely touched ESO over the past twelve months. I found far more comfort in Fallout 76, which sounds strange, because the game is far from comfortable. Looking back, it’s safe to say that I sunk about half my gaming time into Fallout 76 from August 2020 to August 2021. As the game and I didn’t get off to a good start back in 2019, I guess you could say that we, uh…made up? Well, maybe. Here’s my year-two “relationship” review with apocalyptic Appalachia.
When I started my “new year” with Fallout 76, I had two characters in progress: Amelya, my group-focused soldier with a two-handed melee/support build; and Bianca, my aggressive, solo, Enclave-loving wildcard, who could mow down mobs with any one-handed weapon. With each of them, I had vastly different experiences when the game’s “One Wasteland for All” patch was released last fall. For whatever reason, it turned out that I had far more fun traipsing around as Bianca. We sided with the Raiders in “Wastelanders,” begrudgingly assisted the Brotherhood of Steel in “Steel Dawn” (while learning a thing or two about the “new” Super Mutants along the way), and then we took to building up different C.A.M.P.s in different locales. We also attempted a S.C.O.R.E.board run, though I never got near completing the full season. I even managed to achieve Level 100 with her; small potatoes compared to some, but not too shabby for me.
After completing every “thing” in the game I wanted do with Bianca, I took a break to slay monsters Geralt of Rivia. (Good times they were!) Eventually though, Appalachia started calling me back. Say what you will, but despite the game’s many, many, many problems, Bethesda created a wonderful world in Fallout 76. Just being in it, exploring, making new discoveries, finding new locales (still not found ‘em all!), is what drives me towards the game, much more so than dropping nukes, or defeating colossal creatures, or completing a made-up “endgame.” New content helps too, what little there is and has been. It was with that in mind that upon returning to the game, I created a new character: Gwendolyn.
Earlier this year, the ability to switch one’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. loadouts was added to the game. It’s a nice feature if you choose to roll with just one character for which you like to try out or have different builds. When it came out, I had been learning about different S.P.E.C.I.A.L. builds, and I became especially interested in various “traditionally-Fallout” Heavy Gunner Power Armor builds. Disliking power armor generally, I had avoided using it with both Amelya and Bianca. But, I eventually came around to the notion of becoming an unstoppable force with a big gun or three in tow. The thought of making a power armor build for either for them just didn’t fit with my own headcanon, so that’s when Gwendolyn came into view.
An amiable engineer who helped build civilian bunkers and shelters before the bombs fell, Gwendolyn liked to feel protected. Once in Appalachia, she wasted no time scrapping together power armor just as soon as she could. Finding her first Gatling gun – a slow but massive damage-dealer – was truly a treat. Eventually obtaining a legendary plasma Gatling changed her world forever. She sided with the settlers, taking down all raiders with ease, while also fully supporting the “new” Brotherhood of Steel and its new leader, Paladin Rahmani in the “Steel Dawn” storyline. Gwendolyn didn’t care about playing a re-balanced game or any number of plentiful glitches she encountered. Once she was in her trusty power armor (of course she has several sets now) with her Gatling gun at her side, nothing could stop her.
Well…except for side quests. We worked through all the main quests and just couple side quests before the West Virginia wilderness started feeling a bit dull. Ah well, it was good while it lasted.
Plus, in reality, I was then steeling myself for the arrival of Mass Effect Legendary Edition, so my mind was definitely elsewhere near the end of Gwendolyn’s run. With the “new” Mass Effect in hand, along with a bulging backlog, another Fallout 76 break ensued.
The release of the “Steel Reign” expansion in July, the second half of the Brotherhood of Steel story that started with “Steel Dawn,” lured me back into the game. The bones of new content were solid; unfortunately, there wasn’t much meat on them. The expansion’s story, while interesting – it furthered the “reasoning” behind the creation of the Super Mutants and cemented the fate of the BoS in the region – was over in a flash. I was able to run through it with all three of my characters in a handful of hours (that was a case of diminishing returns, for sure), and I ended up with two unique endings – Amelya and Gwendolyn supported the BoS’s new ways, while Bianca supported the old ways. And that was that. Fort Atlas, the Brotherhood’s headquarters, now just remains another place on the Fallout 76 map that I likely won’t visit again until…I don’t know. The release of more BoS content? If the game survives long enough to see it, I guess.
What does that possible future-of-an-unknown-length hold? After two years of going through some of the highest highs and lowest lows I’ve ever experienced in a single game, I’ve decided to take a giant leap of faith and…*holds breath*…subscribe to Fallout 1st for a year. It’s not a decision made lightly. When I went back to the game for “Steel Reign,” I waded into these dubious waters by purchasing a month of the game’s subscription service. And you know what? I have to say that I liked it, like, really liked it. While some of the extra perks it offered were fine, the selling point for me was playing privately, away from the other 76er’s and the nukes. (And I wish I could say the bugs, glitches, and generally persistent nonsense that pervades EVERY. SINGLE. SESSION., but who am I kidding?) It’s not a perfect experience, but it’s a Fallout 76 experience that I want to dive into more while I can.
And speaking of doing something while it exists, making Fallout 76 headlines recently was the announcement that Bethesda will soon be removing Nuclear Winter, the game’s version of battle royale. Other than accidentally logging into it one time, I paid it no attention. I guess it’s too bad that Besthesda couldn’t make it work, because it seemed to be pretty popular with a core group of fans.
Meanwhile, there’s promise of a new expansion coming this winter that’s…alien-related? This rings some Fallout 3 bells, as does a new expedition (a long-awaited and long-promised addition itself) that players will be able to access early next year — The Pitt. Closer on the horizon is the introduction of customizable private servers via “Fallout Worlds.” While I’m curious about this feature, it didn’t factor heavily into my choice to subscribe to Fallout 1st. Really, I just want that true lone wanderer experience, just me trying to survive in the wilds of West Virginia. To mark the occasion, I decided to tackle Appalachia again with a new character. Her name’s Darlene. She wants to be a raider through and through, and she’s going to focus on two things that I’ve almost always ignored across all my time in the Fallout universe – non-automatic rifles and chems. With that, I don’t know what year three will hold for me and Fallout 76, but I’m looking forward to finding out.
All images, including lede, taken by author during PS4 gameplay of Fallout 76 © Bethesda Game Studios, Bethesda Game Studios Austin (2018-2021).