Okay, so, mostly I'm going to be ranting, here. Thus, in the spirit of fairness, I'll take this first paragraph to highlight the sunnier bits: "Fallout 76" is not, all in all, a BAD game, in the sense of being unplayable (except for certain bugged parts which, okay, ARE unplayable). What's there is a very nicely-designed, open world and a compelling game loop. Also good music.
That's the good stuff. Let's move on to everything else.
I'm not using this space to review the game -- if you're interested in the Fallout series, you've undoubtedly already seen the reviews; they're none too kind, and they're all pretty much correct. "Fallout 76" was a mess from conception, and it's frankly kind of astounding that it made it this far essentially unchanged.
So, yeah, I'm not going to itemize the problems with "Fallout 76," mostly because I don't have the space for it, but I do want to go over a bit of my INTERNAL struggle in whether or not I'm being fair to the game in assigning it a negative evaluation.
Don't misunderstand, I absolutely don't like the game as it currently exists; that really hasn't been in question. There's way too much about it that rubs me the wrong way to just overlook it in the spirit of whatever good will Bethesda has built up over time (and after this game, we can consider THAT nickel already well and truly spent). The real question I wrestled with was whether I, personally, was justified in evaluating this multiplayer game negatively when I'm really only a singleplayer fan. I knew it was multiplayer going in, right?
But what I've ultimately decided, based on the presented evidence, is that, yeah, I'm pretty much justified. The game was marketed specifically to existing "Fallout" fans; from the graphics to the gunplay, the game is effectively a big, multiplayer expansion to "Fallout 4." You don't get a pass for calling it 'something completely new' when 80 percent of the assets were in the public's hands four years ago.
I have a strong distaste for "The Elder Scrolls Online," but that at least had the decency to disassociate itself both aesthetically and mechanically from the ACTUAL Elder Scrolls games. This one looks like Fallout, plays like Fallout, and comes from the actual Fallout developers. It may be listed as a multiplayer game, but what it really is is a singleplayer game that other people wander into occasionally.
And it is not a good singleplayer game.
And perhaps the worst part of it is that this wasn't a surprise; Everything wrong with "Fallout 76" was pretty much trotted out in front of the audience at the E3 reveal, and in several cases, actually touted as a feature.
"Every human you meet is a real person." When I first heard those words, trepidation had already started clawing its way in, but the hopeless-optimist side of my brain was running away on insane tangents like, "Does this mean they're going to hire live actors to role-play on the servers?" Oh, you knucklehead.
"You'll be the ones writing your own stories."
You know who's good at writing stories? Approximately 15-to-20 percent of professional storytellers. You know who's NOT good at writing stories? The guy who just got off a nine-hour shift at the factory, trying to blow off a little steam before bed. His story, in its entirety, is "I walked for half an hour and shot a cat, then died of radioactive gonorrhea and respawned."
And lest you think I'm being too hard on this point, there really are no mechanics in the game to let you tell stories any more elaborate than that. The purpose of the game, we're told, is to REBUILD AMERICA. In practice, what you'll be doing is REBUILDING A SINGLE-ROOM, TAR-PAPER SHACK. And you'll be rebuilding it frequently, because it disappears from the server every time another player breathes too heavily within a half-mile of it.
There is, in fact, no way to leave a lasting mark on the game at all. Your shack leaves with you. Your quests reset as soon as you walk away from them. You wipe your entire existence from the game world every time you sign out.
In short, the bill of goods used to sell this mess were largely fluffernutter, pardon my language. The only REAL satisfaction I've gotten from the game so far is the certainty that somewhere up the Bethesda line, some guy in management (I honestly have a hard time believing the idea came from the devs themselves, though anything's possible) who had been banking on an easy paycheck from a barebones multiplayer cash-in is now pooping himself as he scrambles to come up with a plan to salvage this monstrosity.
And the heck of it is, I don't actually want "Fallout 76" to fail. The game world could house a perfectly good Fallout game. But I sure as heckfire don't want THIS version of "Fallout 76" to succeed.
And there, finally, is the real question: is Bethesda going to put in the effort to actually fix the game, or are they going to look at the numbers and cut bait? So far, they've been pretty quiet as their new machine rattles to pieces in front of the world, and I can only imagine what's going on in the meetings right now. Because you're not going to get a simple fix for this title; the problems are baked into the core of the game. It's going to take almost as much effort to breathe life into this thing as it would be to make a sequel outright.