Fallout 76 is a lot like Destiny when it was first released. People are playing it, but even the people who play it feel the need to justify doing so.
The long and short of it is that Fallout 76 isn’t a good game. At least it isn’t a good game a the moment. It’s buggy to the point where people simply aren’t able to complete certain objectives or even play the game regularly for an extended period of time. Its interface is absolutely atrocious. Key features are missing on PC and other platforms. The game’s inventory system is one of the worst I’ve ever seen, and it’s player vs. player options are confusing and nearly worthless.
But here’s the thing: all of those issues can be fixed. A few of them can be fixed by changing some numbers in the game’s code, and some of them are going to take a little more effort. However, most of Fallout 76‘s technical problems are fixable within a reasonable timeframe so long as developer Bethesda puts the work in.
However, the question worth asking isn’t whether Fallout 76 can be fixed. It’s whether Fallout 76 can be saved.
That’s a much more complicated question that can’t be answered quite so easily. The thing about Fallout 76 is that it is incredibly limited in the scope of its gameplay. The main appeal of the experience involves navigating the various corners of the game’s worlds and scrounging for supplies. These supplies will help you build better items, weapons, and even construct a fort/home to call your own. Once you have better equipment, you can take on bigger enemies and unlock even more resources.
And so it goes on. We’ve seen many other games employ a similar, grindy form of gameplay, but those games featured something that Fallout 76 does not: a point to all of your efforts.
What happens when you’ve got the best equipment and biggest house? Not much. You can launch a nuclear missile and change the game’s map slightly. You can go after other players, but there’s not much point to it. For the most part, you’re still going to be collecting items, completing simple missions (90% of which involve collecting or killing enough things), and wandering around the map.
This is where some people argue that the game is really about the experiences you and your friends make for yourselves, but even that already thin argument falls short when you realize that there’s not much you can actually do with your friends besides collect resources, build things, and take on bigger enemies.
On the surface, the problem with Fallout 76 seems to be a lack of things to do. That’s part of it, but the bigger issue is that the game is suffering from an identity crisis. It kind of wants to be an RPG, but it lacks story, compelling character building options, and a proper progression system. It kind of wants to be a multiplayer survival game, but it’s a bit scared of making the players desperate enough to feel like they have to work together to survive.
Fallout 76‘s repetitious gameplay and large world can turn it into a fairly effective time sink, but it’s not clear what exactly all of this is leading up to. It’s hard to imagine the significant number of content drops that would have to happen before this feels like a fully-fledged game. Even if such a thing is possible, the fact of the matter is that Fallout 76 is a game that needs to be saved in the long-term and nobody seems entirely sure how such a thing is possible.