Crawl Out Through the Fallout – Why Fallout 76 Doesn’t Work

I decided to start a new playthrough of Fallout 4 this week.  I am enjoying it so much, I really feel like 4 may have received an undeservedly bad rap.   Going back to 4 however made me realise where Fallout 76 fails.

Now please do not misunderstand me, I still have a lot of affection for 76.  It’s still super fun and a game I spend a lot of time in.  But it stripped away the one most important thing to a Fallout game –  choice, and conflict generated by your choices.

Within 4 I decided to go mostly Brotherhood this time with a sprinkling of Minutemen (I just really wanted to romance Danse ok).  That choice meant that the Railroad were aggressive to me.  Understandable really, the Brotherhood’s mission being eradication of synths.  My point is my character made a choice to favour one faction over the other, and took any perks and difficulties that came with it.

In Fallout 76 factions are not nearly as secular, if at all.  You can be a Responder, an Enclave General and a Brotherhood Paladin. Whereas this gives you the freedom to do whatever you want and have all the benefits, that’s not really what Fallout is about.

You see, War Never Changes.   People will always find some similarity to rally behind, and shun people who disagree with them.  There isn’t this friction in Fallout 76 and I’m confused as to why.

The change of format is not to blame, look at World of Warcraft.  From the moment you create a character you are aligned with either Horde or Alliance (unless you’re a panda but they are the exception that proves the rule).  Conflict is inherent, even down to the fact you cannot even communicate effectively with a player of the opposite faction – you speak a different language.  Even within a Bethesda MMO, Elder Scrolls Online has factions defined from character creation, with groups of allied races.   So why didn’t they implement such a system in Fallout 76?

This is one of these rare occasions where I can’t even speculate why they refused to implement a core mechanic – arguably THE core mechanic.  Conflict with repercussions is the soul of Fallout.  Without mistrust and suspicion of people whose opinions and ideals differ from our own the world of Fallout wouldn’t exist.

Perhaps the problem is the reliance on players to generate their own stories within the world. There are no human NPCs left due to the Scorched, but faction gatekeeping could be implemented by any one of the tin cans floating about the Enclave bunker, or defence systems within Fort Defiance.  Relying on players to police this themselves is perhaps expecting too much.

The strengthening of faction bonds would also help facilitate meaningful PVP.  At the moment it’s mostly survival based or out of sheer malice.  It’s just not a compelling enough reason to keep people interested in it.  If however you were staunchly Enclave and a Brotherhood player happens to pass you… Well then you would have a story driven reason to go after them.

I guess Bethesda are giving the player base a little too much credit. The idea of a player driven landscape is a nice ideal, but it doesn’t really work in practice, especially with such small servers and such large maps. The NukaShine speakeasy is a great location to get people together, but the act of getting people together is… challenging.

There is very little support for those who want to meet up with other players to take down a silo or fight the Scorchbeast queen.  You have to rely on sheer luck that a suitable group of players comes to achieve the objective with you.  A group finder option would vastly improve this.  Even for the sake of roleplaying, setting up a group could be useful to gather likeminded players.

It’s a shame really, Appalachia has the corpses of good stories littering its world but without conflict there is no Fallout.  For now I am comfortable shelving 76 until more Wild Appalachia content comes out.  War never changes, but sadly Fallout has.

This article has been written by Indy Goodwin from Polkadots & Video Games. You can read more of her articles here and visit her blog here.