Will NPCs save Fallout 76

Fallout 76: Bethesda hits the wall with a hit series

Since the first Fallout, the series' post-apocalyptic role-playing games have by and large been cheered by the audience - regardless of whether Interplay or, from Fallout 3, Bethesda was behind the development. With the latest offspring of the series, however, the game company from the town of the same name in the US state of Maryland has apparently lost its way. The always-online multiplayer game Fallout 76 has been torn apart by gamers as well as professional game critics since its release just over a week ago. The review aggregator Metacritic currently lists it at 55 out of 100 possible points; in player reviews it is even 2.9 out of 10 - so far an unthinkable fate for the Fallout series, which is much loved by gamers.

Even when playing the beta of the online role-playing game, it became clear to heise online that the concept of multiplayer fallout would not work in this way. The evaluations of colleagues in relevant game publications largely correspond to this. While some colleagues are still holding back with evaluations - perhaps in the hope of urgently needed patches from the manufacturer - others are already making devastating judgments. Fallout 76 gets the school grade "sufficient" and scores of almost 60, at best 70 points. An extreme rarity for a full-price multiplatform game with the big name of a renowned developer.

Is Fallout 76 Really That Bad?

After almost a dozen hours in post-apocalyptic West Virginia one is inclined to answer this question with a clear "yes". Fallout 76 offers a huge game world, which (as is usual with Fallout titles) is worked out down to the smallest detail and is surprisingly varied, but that's about it. Graphically and playfully, Fallout 76 is almost identical to the now outdated Fallout 4. And all the changes that Bethesda made were obviously not for the better. The courageous decision not to install human NPCs (Non Player Character) so that all living people you meet are real players does not work and leads to frustration and boredom. Especially when you're an old Fallout veteran trying to play through the story on your own.

The fact that the microphones of all players are permanently switched on until they are switched off manually does not lead to more communication, but to the fact that nobody speaks to other players. Who wants to hear a couple's relationship quarrel on the other side of the world live while they are still choosing the hairstyle of their own character? That can only mean that the first official act in this game is to cut off the voice communication. Since the developers do not allow any other type of exchange with other players, the world of Fallout 76 is populated with boring robots and mute vault inmates, apart from the usual monsters, who shoot you in the head if you spend too long at a computer -Terminal sits and reads story texts. It is actually clear that you cannot tell a gripping story like this. And story, rousing world and exploration were exactly what Fallout Games used to stand out from the monotony of full-price top games.

No chance against Assassin's Creed and RDR

It is particularly bitter for Bethesda because Fallout 76 has to go head-to-head against open-world giants such as Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2 due to its release date. Both games set new standards in the open world genre, each in their own way. With its radical changes to the Fallout principle, Fallout 76 aimed for similar successes, but fails miserably in a head-to-head comparison. The Bethesda RPG cannot keep up technically either. Despite the revamped depth-of-field effects, the engine delivers an overall picture that is very old. Rockstar's RAGE engine, EAs Frostbite, and AnvilNext at Ubisoft deliver better results across the board. There are also quite a few bugs. It is common for video games to have bugs from launch onwards, but if you cannot move your character for two minutes because the server is overloaded, this represents a whole new dimension of failure. It is understandable that players react angrily to such experiences.

Fallout fans are used to a lot of suffering in this regard and would probably get over many of the problems if the story of the game was correct, or at least the many changes resulted in a new, exciting gaming experience. The conclusion of many players on Metacritic (there are no Steam reviews because the game is not available on Steam) and many game journalists, however, is that the changes to the gameplay result in a lot of occupational therapy instead of interesting quests. Since multiplayer experiences such as player-versus-player (PvP) combat or survival elements are designed to be harmless or simply boring, for many players these do not replace the loss of the dialogues, NPC friends and puzzle quest lines typical of Fallout . What good is a huge world if it is populated only with dead or silent vandals?

The low point of a legend

One wonders whether the developers can still save the failed concept with patches in retrospect. Fallout 76 received a massive update before its actual release, which was even bigger on the consoles than the original installation files. However, everything indicates that the drop has been sucked. The developers will probably have to put up with the fact that they have produced the all-time low in a franchise in which every release has been a resounding success so far. In any case, the opinion of most players seems to be clear: Build a new engine and give us a fresh, exciting single-player adventure (perhaps with co-op mode) à la New Vegas 2 instead of always-online multiplayer without NPCs and with boring PvP. (fab)

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