The B.E.T.A. sessions are now firmly behind us, but some Fallout 76 basics still feel creaky and half-baked, and that's with a mere few days left before its multi-platform release. That doesn't mean that what we've seen so far lacks for entertainment or intriguing ideas, and there are numerous envelope-pushing concepts that Bethesda’s latest is bringing to the forefront, but quality-of-life issues, UI disasters, and the lack of some essential multiplayer expectations sets up Fallout 76 for one of the strangest big-budget game launches in recent memory.
Fallout 76 takes place in a region called Appalachia in 2076, and brings along many of the familiar gameplay tropes and mechanics from previous entries in the RPG franchise, but completely dispenses with human NPCs. Instead, instanced servers will allow up to 24 players to (sort of) hinder or hurt one another throughout a massive map, with a variety of quests and timed events in a kind of mutant amalgamation of MMORPG, battle royale, base-building, RPG, and open-world sandbox games.
Problems persist, though, and while the entire game can be considered highly experimental, the impending release of Fallout 76 isn’t of the Early Access variety. The concluded B.E.T.A. sessions were apparently meant to test server capacity, but excited beta testers have been treated to numerous design problems, glitches, and clunky systems in the live game. Beyond the bugs, fans are trying to figure out what Fallout 76’s central gameplay loop is, intentions which are impeded by a slate of issues that will invariably end up in the launch version.
- This Page: Fallout 76's Party XP and Interface Problems
- Page 2: Fallout 76's Chat Problems, PvP Limitations, and Our Final Thoughts
Hopefully, Bethesda will be quick to respond to some of these problems, and their continued community presence on the subreddit is solid proof that they’re listening closely. For now, let’s to take a look at some significant pain-points that should be addressed soon after Fallout 76 releases next week on November 14.
Fallout 76's XP Needs to be Shared Across Party for Kills
The “role-play” portion of RPGs is often ignored in other games, but the Fallout series has always singled out the idea of adapting whatever preferences and style a player chooses. Since there are no NPCs in Fallout 76, flesh-and-blood player personalities are brought to the forefront, up to and including combat preferences. Currently, four players can join as a team, sharing looted corpses and containers as well as quest rewards, but combat neglects a standardized XP share in favor of a strange “one-hit” or "ding" system.
Essentially, this means that for players to share combat XP, they need to inflict at least one point of damage on a target. This is actually the exact same way that non-team members share XP as well, and a dozen players can all damage a single boss mob and reap the XP pool, even when traveling solo. For teams, though, this is problematic for two main reasons: one, if a teammate is too under-leveled, they may find trouble risking death just to hit an enemy once, and higher-level teammates might mistakenly insta-kill enemy mobs before they even get their chance. Secondly, if a teammate wants to prioritize the Strength attribute and go all-in on melee combat, they’ll have even more trouble dinging enemies in long-range skirmishes.
There’s logical expectation that teams who work together frequently will want to fill out specific roles. Maybe a player wants to go the pacifist route, dropping helpful stimpaks during heated battles before escaping, or working on the sidelines repairing active turrets and building barriers. These teammates should garner the same XP share as their combat-oriented companions, and anything shy of that standard will transform most battles into clumsy affairs, with teammates yelling at each other to confirm that everyone has successfully hit as many enemies as possible before finishing a fight.
It’s a time-worn tradition in online games that XP should be shared among teammates across the board, and Bethesda needs to weigh this system in the game’s first patch, at the least.
Fallout 76's Clumsy Menus and Pip-Boy Interface Hinder Need A Re-Design
We’ve previously discussed Fallout 76’s inventory management woes, but the game’s enigmatic UI needs a serious update. During the last B.E.T.A. session, I was playing along with a newcomer teammate, and he could barely understand how to find certain options. “How do I change between base structures?” he asked. When I explained that, for some reason, you need to use the directional keys on the keyboard for that, he laughed.
Even on PC, Fallout 76’s UI is nebulous, with a dizzying range of options that all map to specific keys, seemingly at random. The A and D key often navigate left and right through menus, except when C and Z need to be used, or the aforementioned arrow keys. The mouse can helpfully select specific menu options, except those times when it can’t, and tussling with the menu during shouldn't be a factor during dangerous encounters.
It’s difficult to collect all the UI flubs to map out some sort of holistic ideal, but it needs significant attention. For example, it's surprisingly easy to scrap built objects or create duplicates from blueprints and resources instead of pulling out stored versions. Speaking of building, the bulk of Fallout 76’s UI problems originate in its ingrained base-building interface, seemingly designed from the ground up to better accommodate console players on controllers, but never seamlessly coming together in practice for either platform.
Whether a successful fix will result from offering different control schemes, creating individual presets for building and exploration modes, or just redesigning menu naviagtion from the ground up is unclear. With the current setup, however, it’s too easy to make destructive mistakes, and important information and items get lost in the fog.
- Fallout 76 (2018 Video Game) release date: Nov 14, 2018