by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Back to the Future
Being a game reviewer means that you often have to forego playing one game for another. When Fallout 76 first came out, I missed the boat, as I was busy travelling across ancient Egypt in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Based on some of the feedback at the time, I had made the right choice – even our reviewer Johnathan, who is somewhat of a Fallout fan, only gave the game a slightly mediocre rating due to some of the early issues with the game. When the Wastelanders expansion was announced, I figured it would be a good time to jump in – firstly to see if the initial problems had been sorted, and then to see what has been added.
After being greeted with the aftermath of a massive party, and picking up your supplies, you are virtually pushed out into the wide-open land that is Appalachia and tasked with surviving on your own. As a Vault Dweller, you have all the necessary skills needed to do so, and after being greeted near the entrance to Vault 76 by a couple of fellow dwellers who casually mention a treasure buried in the hills somewhere, it is up to you to put those skills to use.
Just going for a walk
The Great Outdoors look wonderful, despite the pot-holed roads, run-down towns, and mutated inhabitants. Mother nature is returning to her once thriving self, and although you get the ability to Fast Travel to locations you’ve been, I often found myself meandering across Appalachia admiring the scenery and wondering about backstory of each run-down farmhouse and those residing within. With a 1950’s style aesthetic to the homesteads, damaged vehicles and items, there is somewhat of a Bioshock feeling of a Utopia gone wrong. Of course, as you wander around looking at the visual splendour, it does pay to keep an eye on your surroundings, as you never know what creature – both natural and robotic – could be out to kill you.
And there are plenty of dangers that cross your path as you go about completing the multitude of quests open to you. Right from the time you walk down the steps from the entrance to Vault 76, the survival skills learned in the vault will come in handy. Unfortunately, to begin with, you do not have much gear to help take on those dangers, so scavenging for any worthwhile weapons and ammunition is a must.
Collect everything that is not nailed down
But it is not just weapons that you will need to search for, but food, water, and medication. These are vital in the polluted West Virginian setting, and you will spend a fair bit of time consuming the valuable nourishment, you’ll also be collecting a heap of junk which can be scrapped for parts used for crafting. Like many games of the genre, a limited backpack weight will mean that you will often have to determine which is more important as you wander across the wasteland. Pretty much anything that can be picked up will have some value attached to it, whether it can be used immediately or be scrapped for crafting parts.
Crafting is a simple process in Fallout 76 – it is just a matter having a recipe or plan and all the ingredients and then locating a crafting table. Different crafting tables are required to produce different items though. Ammunition is not crafted at the same table as armour, and food requires a stove. Once the requisite plans have been found though, you can build these crafting tables in your own CAMP, or at camps that you have gained control over.
Chatting with the locals
There is more of a human touch in the Wastelanders area, as you will meet a number of characters with a backstory that seems to evolve as you complete quests and become more familiar to them. This human interaction was lacking in the initial release of Fallout 76, and gives Appalachia a less lonesome, desperate feel. Chatting with the locals can be varied given that many of the dialogue choices will depend on your various traits. Having a strength in one particular trait will open up dialogue trees that can branch the game off in a different direction, often allowing more than one way to handle a situation.
Through the game, you will meet up with two factions who have inhabited Appalachia – the Settlers and the Raiders. The Settlers are a more amiable bunch, looking to grow their world peacefully through hard work and a bit of sweat and blood. The Raiders are somewhat of an opposite mindset, although blood is still part of their modus operandi, and gamers will form relationships with both through the course of the game. The fully voiced dialogue is well done, with each character having their own style. Indeed, it is often possible to just eavesdrop on characters as they go about their business.
As well as the voice acting, Wastelanders has some wonderful audio. Fallout 76 contains a marvellous soundtrack. It is generally calming as you journey from one location to the next, but as you enter a potentially dangerous combat phase, a dramatic tone takes over, getting the heart racing and placing you on edge for what is about to happen. Sound effects too, do a wonderful job of placing you in the wasteland that is the West Virginian landscape.
The initial release of Fallout 76 was plagued by issues, but with Wastelanders (and the fixes that have occurred in between), Fallout 76 seems to have improved, although I still had a couple of annoying issues during my playthrough. Early on, the game crashed, although thankfully once I reloaded, I discovered that had not lost anything. Then later, my CAMP, which I had recently transferred a ton of items to, disappeared and I had to re-build it. Again, thankfully, once I rebuilt it, I found that all my items were still stored there.
Better, but still with issues
So, the issues I had were just minor nuisances really. But the landscape is gorgeous despite the horrors that can be found within, the soundtrack is amazing, and the stories of those inhabitants that have survived, gives the wasteland and sense of hope. The main story quests are generally enjoyable and there was the feeling that they all had a purpose. There is still a grinding element to the side quests though, as you try and level up, but the goal of finding that treasure pushes you towards the end zone.
Wonderful soundtrack, interesting characters and main story quests
Still has a few bugs, still need to grind the quests