Fallout 76: Year Three in Review

In typing up this review of my third year in Fallout 76, one question stalks my mind: is it my last? I know that I won’t be renewing my Fallout 1st sub after it expires next month. I also know that I don’t plan on dedicating a significant portion of my future gaming time to to it. Suffice to say, I’ve wrung as much enjoyment as I can from the game, and it’s I think it’s finally time to move on. Or, at least take another significant break from the game, so that if/when I do come back, it’ll feel a little more fresh than less. The game’s world is brilliant; it’s just too bad its content simply does not shine as brightly.

Or at least not as brightly as the magical weirdness inside a deadly sundew grove!

The past year for in me in Fallout 76 was defined by one word: raider. Just before opting into Fallout 1st, I had created Darlene, a vault dweller who wanted nothing more than to be a raider. And so, that’s what she became. Eh, sort of. I’m actually not very good with being a jerk in games that don’t offer extremely specific roads to jerk-dom, so, I guess Darlene turned out to be a cosmetic raider. After all, it’s not as if she went out shooting settlers at the drop of a hat or anything. She mainly kept to herself after followed all the stories available, and she wasn’t exactly the happiest camper in any given scenario. She reluctantly helped the fools at the Wayward, and she sarcastically assisted the Overseer inoculate Appalachia’s newest residents against the Scorched plague. When it came time to find Appalachia’s treasure, of course she sided with her pals over at the Crater. When the Brotherhood of Steel made it’s return to the region, she took down its self-righteous “leader,” Paladin Rahmani, and put Knight Daniel Shin in her place. It felt wrong but also right; heck she even though Shin was kind of cute…for a BoS dude.

Good times with Darlene as a “swashbuckling” raider.

After tackling the rest of the game’s original quests, Darlene was left with three things I had yet to follow through with – dropping a nuke, unleashing the Scorchbeast Queen, and saving Appalachia from the Scorched plague once and for all. Or, I guess that’s what’s supposed to happen. I’ve actually yet to see the game’s “original ending” myself, with Darlene or anyone of my other characters. Yes, I had made it one of Darlene’s goals to drop the doggone nuke, but that one main quest still remains. Not only is the compulsion to finish the quest just not there when I’m in the game generally, but I think that if I leave that option open, it’ll always give me a small reason to return to the game. That if I really do “complete” the game as the developers had intended, I’ll truly be done with it, and…well, some small part of me just isn’t ready to fully let go of Fallout 76 yet. Not sure how I feel about that, but there it is.

Looking out into the lonely wilderness.

Moving on from my own inabilities to complete “goals” in a game that has none, if the past year in Fallout 76 news taught me anything, it’s that the game is not ever going to become “Fallout 4.5.” It was always moronic of me to hope that maybe more story or exploration would come to Fallout 76 after the decent Wastelanders expansion and the middling return of the Brotherhood of Steel. But no, the past year was marked with only one big turnout – the release of Fallout Worlds – and the introduction of a rotation of developer-created custom worlds. I tried Fallout Worlds with a new character, Marta, and while it was somewhat nifty playing in a world of my own making for a little while, the novelty of being able to take down giant enemies with a pea shooter of a pipe gun and applying three-star legendary effect to level one armor and being able to build a house in the sky (but don’t you dare try to move it!) quickly wore thin.

Dear Marta, your time was so very short but also very educational.

The rest of the game’s past twelve months generally were dominated with events. There were new(ish) seasonal ones like Invaders from Beyond, which brought aliens to Appalachia, and Mothman Equinox, in which players partook in a Cult of the Mothman ritual. New public events were also introduced. Players could now take on waves of robots in Test Your Metal, defend a moonshiner’s still in Moonshine Jamboree, or defend settlers from Super Mutants in Eviction Notice. I was happy to participate once again in Fasnacht Day, my favorite seasonal event. Because there’s nothing quite like celebrating the joys of Springtime/Easter while defending an awesome robot parade from Appalachian beasts and Super Mutants alike. Plus, it always has some very catchy music!

A band of alien invaders convening about who-knows-what? Not sure they even know.

I suppose that though it has yet to be released, I should also count in all the hype surrounding Fallout 76’s newest bit of content – The Pitt. Due out this fall, The Pitt went up on the game’s test server in the not too distant past, and the reactions to it that I read on forums were very disheartening. Rather than being a true expansion to the game, one with story and exploration, testers described The Pitt as a glorified daily operation. Daily ops are random, repeatable, dungeon-clearing missions. They don’t offer exploration or story but exist as opportunities to get gear, XP, and other goodies. It does seem, however, that The Pitt will come with new characters in Appalachia; and it definitely would count as an “expedition” away from the region, which is what Bethesda promised all along. They never did say players would get to explore The Pitt, though, if it is set up as a daily op, then conceivably, players could explore the region once it’s done, but that would be about it. All in all, The Pitt sounds like the pits to me, but I suppose I’ll hold out judgement until I’ve actually experienced it for myself.

See, it’s a pit…of radioactive goo. And…never mind.

Although Darlene became a raider in name only, I still had loads of fun traipsing around the West Virginia wilds as a stealth rifleman. (I was originally to add the “junkie” qualifier, that that didn’t last long at all.) My time with her waned a few months back when I hit more than a few roadblocks trying to complete tasks for getting Pioneer Scout badges for backpack upgrades. Pursuing these trackable tasks was actually quite fun for a time and brought me to a number of spots I had never fully explored before.  Issues arose when I discovered that a number of tasks were tied to drops of different events, and not guaranteed drops, but random drops, from events that may or may not pop up during any given session with the game. Bleh. I eventually just grew bored with hoping the event I needed would show up when I played. I then started doing things like finding magazines, recipes, and bobbleheads, but my short attention span was having none of that RNG nonsense. In the end, however, Darlene holds the prestige of being the highest level of any character, 115. I may make some moves in the future to bump her up, as it sure would be nice to open up all my legendary perks slots, but it won’t happen any time soon.

All decked out and nowhere to raid.

Upon entering my last month of Fallout 1st, I figured I ought to try again to make the most of the sub by really sinking some time and energy into a custom world.  I ended up making a very lightly modified world that favored me not dying so much, and also created my fifth and final alt, Claire, a housewife with a shotgun. In my head, she’s a young version of Grannie from the Beverly Hillbillies and has family ties to the Ozarks. She was the first baby born in the vault shortly after it closed; and though vault life is all she knows, she’s ready to take on the wilderness with a wry vigor…and her trusty shotgun, of course. We’ve had a good time so far, and she’s sitting just shy of level 20. We might very well have a few more adventures before my sub runs out.

How she hasn’t yet broken an ankle in the heels she’s wearing, I’ll never know.

And that’s that. Now that I’ve written this post, I do think it will be my last comprehensive year-in-review of Fallout 76. I’m sure my random posts about it will continue, because, it seems that Fallout 76 will continue, too.  I don’t regret a single hour I’ve put into the game, and I will miss my unlimited scrapbox and quiet, “pretend,” single-player experience. (I’ll just have to play some more Fallout 4 for the latter!) Truly, the story paths that the game has now really do provide for some excellent gameplay, and the game is extremely fun with others, as well as alone. My Year Three with the game might have been less impressive than Year Two, when there was so much new content to play, but it was still a good year. Whatever comes of Fallout 76, it doesn’t appear that it will be losing steam any time soon.

No small part of me will always find a home in this game.

All images, including lede, taken by author during PS5 gameplay of Fallout 76 © Bethesda Game Studios, Bethesda Game Studios Austin (2018-2022).

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