A couple months ago, when I opted into Fallout 1st, Fallout 76’s subscription service, its custom world-building mode call Fallout Worlds was on the verge of release. It was not why I subbed; I only wanted to try out the game privately with an actual “lone wanderer.” In this regard, my current replay is moving along nicely. My new blank slate, Darlene, has gone full-on raider. She’s super-sneaky and great with a rifle — two things I’ve never tried out much in this or previous Fallout games — and I’m having a blast. Once Fallout Worlds came out, I largely ignored it…until recently.
Upon subbing, I returned to regularly perusing various Fallout 76 forums for information and such, and to find out if there was a general consensus on Fallout Worlds. As with opinions on the Internet, there certainly was. The most prevalent complaints claimed it was a pointless mode and a waste of developer time; and that it was a mode for content creators and not the general Fallout 76 player base. The biggest thorn in everyone’s side, however, was that the mode offered no rewards and that progression made within it could not be carried over into a public world. Essentially: “what happens in Fallout Worlds, stays in Fallout Worlds.”
My thoughts turned to Fallout Worlds upon reaching a good stopping point with Darlene. Was Fallout Worlds as useless as the forums suggested? Could it offer a new experience in some way? Did it stain the game’s reputation in some irreparable way? Once my curiosity had gotten the better of me, I had to go and boot up the mode to find out for myself. TL;DR After creating and playing in my own world for five hours, my answers to those questions would be “somewhat,” “I guess so,” and “yes and no.”
As has made headlines, Fallout Worlds is a developer mode in which players can adjust various settings to make a world, or more than one, that’s as easy or as difficult or as murky or as crystal clear as they want it to be. Each custom world has three groups of settings that can be adjusted: general settings that range from weather conditions to jump height to visuals; combat settings, where you can become bulletproof or a bullet sponge; and workshop settings, allowing for fully restricted or fully unrestricted crafting and C.A.M.P. building.
After all the forum reading, the one thing about Fallout Worlds that remained unclear to me was the effect of importing a preexisting character into the mode. So, to be on the safe side, I created a fifth 76er – Marta.
If Marta looks grumpy, that’s because she knows she’s…well, she’s trial-and-error fodder. Sorry, but Fallout 76 only gives five character slots, and the wheels have already been turning about how I want to use my fifth and final slot. So, Marta was only ever meant to have a temporary life.
For my first world, (titled “World Zero” because I’m just that creative) I made the gameplay as open and unrestricted as possible. Marta could take some damage but is otherwise invincible. She had unlimited ammo and unbreakable gear. And she could craft and cook anything, everything, anywhere. For fun, I also turned on “easy” enemies; nuked flora and fauna, so all outside plants and enemies would be extra-irradiated; and turned on perceived bonuses, such as “nuclear” jump height and legendary effects.
With World Zero’s settings in place, Marta and I set off to tackle the game’s first, original quest involving an emergency aid group, the Responders, which had met an untimely end. As far as the quest itself went, nothing about the experience was different, and I didn’t expect it to be. Being invincible with easy enemies was nice, as it allowed for the quick clearing of them from quest to quest. Having infinite ammo for a measly pistol that couldn’t break was also great, though it took me a minute to get used to not having to reload unless Marta got hit, which triggered automatic reloading. As well, my swanky level -one leather armor that I crafted with a multitude of legendary effects couldn’t break either; and that brought to light the whole “what happens in Fallout Worlds, stays in Fallout Worlds” thing. With legendary effects turned on, I could roll one-, two-, and three-star effects on gear ad infinitum. Which I did, of course, and which made me see that, yes, it would be rather unfair for players to be able to import their god-like, custom status into a public world.
To make sure, I tried it with Marta. At that point in World Zero, she was level five with too many legendary items to boot, and she had been wandering around the town of Flatwoods as a Responder volunteer. Popping her back into a public world, she reverted to being a level two dweller who had just stepped out of Vault 76, bereft of all worldly possessions. Sending her back into World Zero put her back to being a level five superhero. I noticed that with Fallout Worlds, an option came up to “reimport character,” which I did not try. I imagine it would have allowed me to bring any of my characters over to World Zero in their current, public world states. (Maybe? If anyone’s tried it, I would love to know.)
Back to Marta’s adventures in World Zero, between questing and making outrageous, low-level legendary gear, we also spent time testing out unlimited C.A.M.P. building and workshop crafting, both highly-touted Fallout Worlds features. I can’t say much more than it all worked as hyped. Turning on all the free crafting and building options made it so that I didn’t need any resources to make anything. I could make unlimited basic items from the get-go and then anything else from plans I had found and learned or material gathered for the first time. The only exception I noticed to this was if I wanted to fix looted armor or weapons. For those I needed to have specific resources handy. Otherwise, the sky was pretty much the limit with crafting, and that included my C.A.M.P. Because it seemed like the right thing to do, I build a (very basic) C.A.M.P. high up in the air without any support. Additionally, I found that I could snap items together in ways I couldn’t in public play. The results were rather fun and admittedly silly. If anything seemed oddly restrictive, it was that I couldn’t relocate my floating C.A.M.P., as suddenly it needed support then.
I got Marta up to level ten before World Zero before sensing that her time was coming to an end. So, going back to those questions I asked earlier, here are my answers in full.
Is Fallout Worlds a useless mode? Somewhat, especially since there are no rewards or carry-over progression (and I understand why that is the case). I guess the notion is that you, and up to eight other people, can enjoy whatever strange world with strange effects you choose to create. Which leads to…
Could Fallout Worlds offer a new experience in some way? I guess so, but again, Fallout World’s options only affect the game’s façade. This make me agree with the Internet hivemind that Fallout Worlds is really for content creators, especially in terms of the ones who like to build. One of the reasons people like to make crazy C.A.M.P.s in the game is to show them off to other players. Showing them off to only eight other people in a private, custom world is probably okay for a very small majority of folks, but I imagine that the majority of builders want to show off their creations to the world, which is more than possible via social media and YouTube.
And finally, does Fallout Worlds stain the game in some irreparable way? Yes and no. While Fallout 76 is a better game than it was upon release three years ago, it’s still broken in many respects and still suffers from lack of content. I won’t pretend to know what going on at Bethesda, but I get that, from the outside, it does look a little dubious that the company opted to put time into giving subscribers game mods over giving a devoted playing populace a better gaming experience. Then again, the simple existence of Fallout Worlds does not change anything about game. It’s just there. Maybe it’s an eyesore in the menu options to the non-subbed player, but it’s meaningless beyond that. And I haven’t even talked the rotating, Bethesda-created Public Worlds – worlds in which they turned on and off certain modes, from unlimited public to extremely difficult enemies — which I’ve not tried. I’ve read that they have attracted some players but don’t have much staying power. The idea behind them seems to be try-and-buy (a subscription), which makes sense business-wise but is also off-putting considering the state of the game.
In the end, playing in Fallout Worlds only changed the look and feel of the game, neither of which are bad things. But neither of which are also necessary to enjoy the game itself. Fallout Worlds is like playing Fallout 76 while wearing rose-tinted glasses. All the game’s problems are still there, it’s just easier to pretend that they aren’t for a little while.
In-line images were captured by author during PS5 gameplay of Fallout 76. All images, including lede © Bethesda Games Studio.