Last night was the opening of the Fallout 76 PC Beta and by Beta I mean… last minute stress test? I mean there are a bunch of periods between the letters of B.E.T.A. but it might as well have been “Beta”… but my frustrations over people misusing these terms can be a post for another day. The primary reason why I can tell these are Stress Tests and not necessarily bug squashing beta tests is the fact that all of the players have been funneled into a tight play window. So last night for example the test ran from 7 pm EDT to 11 pm EDT… and technically I managed to fire up the game a little bit before that because it seems like they went live a wee bit early. Thursday they are extending the window a bit given the issues that folks ran into last night allowing play from 2 pm EDT to 11 pm EDT… which honestly isn’t super useful to me given that is 1 pm my time and I will be very much at work. However I appreciate the effort and that seems like completely reasonable times for the EU players.
I am not really sure what all I can actually say about this game that hasn’t already been revealed. You need to set your expectations at “this is a Fallout 4 multiplayer mod without NPCs” and if you can sufficiently do that you will probably not be disappointed. The character creator is effectively the same one we are used to with Fallout 4 and I managed to cobble together a reasonable facsimile of Belghast fairly quickly before venturing forth into the world. There is a lot of weirdness going on with the game because at times… it feels like a much higher fidelity version of the Fallout 4 engine, then at other times the world feels like a nonsensical blurry mess even on “ultra” preset. I have a feeling there is some sort of a dynamic scaling functionality going on that I am hoping is something we can eventually disable completely. I would honestly rather have my frame rates dip below 60 occasionally than have the world freak out every so often.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is you are playing with a lot of other players… and this can be a bit of a rude awakening given some design choices they made. Namely when you first log into the game your microphone is completely open by default… and so is literally everyone else’s. At first I thought maybe I accidentally had a window open playing a video or something… because upon arriving at the character creator I had some dude keep saying “PRESS X FOR SEX!” and I could not figure out if this was some sort of edgy tutorial or what. Moments later I had a streamer ask the server to please not say anything racist because she was about to go live. It was around this time that I went to the menus and figured out how to turn off voice chat completely. Additionally I turned on the radio station… both of which are things that greatly improve your experience.
One of the things you have to realize about me and Fallout is just how much time I spent being a murder hobo roaming the countryside. So in truth the lack of NPCs really wasn’t that big of a thing for me personally… the game provides tons of feedback about what events happened before in an area in the form of found notes, journals, holo tapes that thankfully occasionally just start playing on their own without having to fiddle with the interface… and in the scattered computer terminals. Basically Fallout 76 is a game that wants you to read the story, and by doing so… gives us lore hounds something to chew on without getting in the way of the folks who just want to run amok in large packs. Occasionally you will encounter a robot that offers quests, but they largely serve as the only thing that would equate to the traditional fallout dialog options.
The game will put you through a sequence of tutorial steps that are designed to introduce you to how Fallout 4 worked… but if you are like me you will have probably already done those things the moment you find your first crafting machine. Sadly the game does not give you credit for already doing these things. So for example the Second Helpings quest… shows to Cook a Ribeye Steak and to optionally get a piece of Brahmin Meat. At this point I had killed a half dozen Brahmin and had at least ten cooked steaks sitting in my inventory. This is made more awkward in part because various folks will be doing various stages of the quest at the same time… and while it does not appear that you are actually competing with them for any resources… Bethesda made the poor choice to make it so that if another player is using a machine that they lock you out of also using that machine.
The long and short is… it was a fun game and I didn’t really have much in the way of actual interaction with other players. There were to the best of my knowledge no gankers roaming around, in part because the deck is stacked heavily against them in the game. That said I still probably will not get super serious about Fallout 76 until the custom server options are available and I can rent one for my friends to play on. If I had the option to play this single player… I probably would… which I realize completely defeats the point of the game. That said I do think it would be fun to run around with a group of friends and share resources in an environment where you can do things like dump stuff into a crate and not expect someone to come along behind you and take it all.
Death seems to largely be meaningless apart from the fact that you drop some crafting resources when you die. At first I thought you could simply go back to the place of your death and pick these up without issue… however it seems like ANY player can pick up your sack of loot because I got a note saying someone looted mine while I was running back to the corpse. It wasn’t a big deal because I didn’t really have any rare resources like circuit boards, but if I did… that would have been maddening. I’ve not really tried the crafting system out in part because I didn’t want to try building anything in a region where so many random players were roaming around. The positive is basically any town serves as a warp point, and all of them so far have had most of the crafting machines needed, so I didn’t necessarily find the need to build a base as of yet. I enjoyed myself and look forward to playing it legitimately, but like I said… probably won’t play super heavily until I can get my own server or join the server of someone else that I trust.