Fallout 76 is easily the most disappointing game of 2018. In an industry that sees hundreds of interesting games released every year, some accolades aren't worth winning. It's easy for a good or even great game to get lost in the shuffle nowadays; for indie titles, that goes double for a release that simply missed the mark. The developer can buckle down, learn from it, and come back later with a new offering that aims to improve or change the deficiencies of the past.
Triple-A developers aren't so lucky, though. There's a certain amount of expectation created by the release of a company that has proven, often multiple times, that it can create some of the best gaming experiences in a calendar year. When that company fails to meet those expectations (or even completely miss the mark), then things can turn nasty quickly, and an entire franchise can see its reputation go up in smoke over one misguided entry. It's happened before, and it will certainly happen again.
In 2018, that disaster occurred for Bethesda Softworks, a studio many people would have considered immune to such difficulties. Bethesda's Fallout 76 released into a nightmarish month of poor reviews, community vitriol, and a public relations fiasco that tarnished Bethesda's good will with its fans. Here's our breakdown of how Fallout 76 became the most disappointing game of 2018.
- This Page: Fallout 76's Wasteland Is Too Empty
- Next Page: Fallout 76's PR Nightmare & Microtransactions
Fallout 76's Wasteland is Too Accurate
Let's start with the actual environment that colors the interactions players have with the world of Fallout 76. Simply put, Fallout 76's wasteland is way too accurate. There's something to be said for capturing the realism of the post-apocalypse in a single-player setting, which Fallout has successfully done in the past. Long expanses of deserted rubble that is only sparsely populated with things attempting to kill the protagonist is a staple of the genre, after all. The problem emerges in the fact that Fallout 76 attempts to move past the single player narrative and into a game that is shared with other people at the same time.
For that to work, the world needs to be vibrant. At the very least, it needs to be attractive enough to sustain not just one players' experience, but the handful of players who populate each server of Fallout 76. That would, in theory, require more content than the average Fallout entry, because players may not experience the narrative at the same pace or places and will need to be able to share a certain number of "new" adventures together to remain engaged. If fans have to start retracing what they've already done, it's a failure - someone is going to be bored sooner rather than later.
Fallout 76 is empty. There's no real way around that statement. The environment features too few NPCs, and they're all pretty inconsequential outside of shoehorning some story beats into the game. Somehow, a multiplayer Fallout designed to create adventures for multiple people fell well short of even the barest expectations regarding content. The end-game in particular is noteworthy in how repetitive and dull it becomes after just a few sessions with it.
Combat is similarly simplified. The VATS combat mechanics have been reduced to spray-and-pray battle planning, and enemies hardly vary in the way they'll approach battles. The wasteland of Fallout 76 lives up to its name far too well, and the game marks one of the first times we've ever experienced a Bethesda title run out of content well before we were satisfied with it. We're not alone, either, as Fallout 76 lawsuits have begun to pile up regarding the game's quality and Bethesda's handling of criticism and feedback.