Lets talk about Fallout 76, the game that looks like a Fallout game and which Bethesda keeps saying is a Fallout game... except when they point out just how much it’s not really a Fallout game.
Of all the E3 hype stuff I found Bethesda’s both the best and the weirdest. Prey DLC and Rage 2 both look great but everything else that was shown was either something that’s almost certainly coming out in the next generation or come with some pretty big caveats.
We saw the announcements of Elder Scrolls 6 and Starfield both of which are apparently far enough along in development to already have...logos and not much else.
We saw a mobile platform Elder Scrolls game that leaves me pretty conflicted. On one hand mobile games are shit and why would I play a game on my phone when I can play a game on my PC or consoles? At work I’m usually working, my commute requires me to drive and I don’t wait on lines because I hate lines. But on the other hand it would certainly be a good thing if better games started to be made on mobile again. There are millions of people who play mostly mobile games and the quality of the average game in the app store is shit. So... yeah, cool.
There’s a new Wolfenstein game. And while both of the new Wolfenstein’s had really, really great stories they also had pretty average gameplay making them good games but certainly not great games.
There’s the new Doom game which is probably still a couple of years out considering they didn’t show anything of it meaning at the very best we’ll see gameplay at next years E3 and have a release sometime at the end of 2019 or early 2020.
And, of course, there’s’ a new fallout game! Yes!! Is it developed by Obsidian cause that would be fucking ama..... ohhh. Oh it’s an online multiplayer survival game? Sigh.
So when I first read the leaks about what this game was I became immediately skeptical. Then Tod Howard started talking about how it’s totally a Fallout game with a story and everything, then I heard there were no NPCs but then we heard there would be quests but then we heard there’d be very little dialogue and on and on.
So at the end of the day....I still don’t really know what this game is. And that leaves me pretty anxious that this isn’t going to be what I want out of a Bethesda Fallout game.
Lets do a little thought experiment here. When you think of a Bethesda Fallout game what are the important systems that make a Fallout game a Fallout game? If you’re anything like me you’ll have a short list in your head. A large open world, a heavy focus on exploration, hundreds of NPCs to talk to lots of side quests, lots of dialogue options and conversations, a story that requires you to pick a faction, You’ll probably think of the Vats system, great environmental story telling. RPG progression systems and companions. You probably aren’t thinking about FPS combat. You certainly aren’t thinking about online multiplayer.
Even in fallout 4 where the series had it’s best fps gun-play it still only rose to the level of decent.
From everything we’ve heard we this game will not have NPCS. It won’t have a central focus on story, it won’t have dozens of narrative side quests. It won’t have factions to ally with or oppose. It won’t have companions, it won’t have dialogue, it won’t have the VATS system. IS that even still a Fallout game?
What I’m getting at is when I think of a Fallout game, quests, story and conversation are foundational elements of the game. Hell you can create entire builds based around charisma and speech if you want. When I want to play Fallout THATS what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about the dozens and dozens of interesting little side quests and characters. The lack of a good dialogue system was one of the great disappointments of Fallout 4 but the solution to that was a better dialogue system, not a Fallout without it. Does anybody play Fallout mainly for the combat?
If the game was just Fallout 5 with the ability to play with other players I’d be fine but I’m not convinced this is going to provide anything like the experience I expect from a Bethesda fallout game.
Now it’s true that the moment to moment gameplay loop of Fallout 76 may be quite similar. A big part of Fallout’s appeal is wandering the wasteland exploring and finding interesting things.
And certainly the text and audio logs are always a big part of the games appeal. But meeting characters is at least as important as reading text logs. And completing interesting quests for interesting characters is half of what drives the player exploration. I’m just not sure how much I’d really be driven to explore a Fallout world without a compelling main quest to push me through it.
And a Fallout game without NPCs or dialogue, or companions or a focus on interesting stories sounds like a game with half of it’s appeal missing. There are an awful lot of multiplayer games on the market and almost all of them have rock solid combat as one of their main features. Fallout has never been more than a passable FPS game.
In fact I’ve recently gone back and played through some of Fallout 4 again. The combat has not aged well. At the time I think everyone was pleasantly surprised at how the fps mechanics were much improved. But that’s grading on a curve. Is the combat in Fallout 4 better than 3 and NV? OMG yes. It’s so much fucking better. But it’s still pretty shit. And the early game weapons are nearly unusable requiring constant usage of VATS to be successful. By the end of the game you’ve gotten enough good weapons that the fps combat is fine.
But this isn’t just a single player game. It’s apparently a multiplayer FPS game with no VATS at all. This sounds like a recipe for frustration to me. Much will, as always, depend on the matchmaking that Fallout 76 uses. But even there. Has Bethesda EVER had to make a matchmaking system?
I can’t imagine how the fps combat in Fallout 4 would be a fun multiplayer experience.
But my anxiety about this game goes beyond just the fact that I’m not sure I’m interested in what this game has to offer. You see it makes me kinda sad that instead of using the engine to get another real fallout game out, or to have someone like Obsidian or another developer make another Fallout game they decided to make this. For all of their faults like broken quests and bugs and ridiculous loading time and floaty combat and unsatisfying endings for their main quests Bethesda Fallout games are still some of the best games released. The care that the developer puts into creating their worlds makes the games a pleasure to explore. And the world is always filled with interesting characters and quests.
I worry that, much like how Elder Scrolls 6 probably was less of a priority because of the relative success of Elder scrolls online, if this game is a success there will be less incentive to get to work on a new real Fallout game. Bethesda’s fallout games are notorious for being played for years by players. There are tons of YouTube channels that still exist mainly to play and talk about Fallout 3, fallout 4 and Skyrim. So if Bethesda can put less effort into making a fallout game by having much less writing, animation and voice acting to do while simultaneously being able to monetize the game for years after release it seems like a real possibility that this game will mean Fallout 5 comes much later than it otherwise would have.
If people like this game, if they play it and dump money into it that sends a message to Bethesda. It says they can make the same amount of money off of a Fallout game with much less work and investment required. They don’t even have to start developing the next one until this one isn’t selling anymore power armor skins.
Bethesda takes a long time to make their big games. It looks like Elder Scrolls will skip an entire generation. And if this game succeeds it’s quite likely that Fallout 5 will be a long time coming.
I’m going to buy and play the game out of curiosity. And maybe I’ll like it. But, honestly, I’ve never understood the people who said a Fallout MMO was something they wanted. OR a multiplayer fallout game. Fallout is a big, messy single player RPG. It’s a game that revolves, in a great part, around talking to NPCs and completing interesting story missions. I’ve never turned on a Bethesda game because it was all that fun to shoot things in them. So a Fallout game that has no NPCS, no story and has the possibility of other players coming along and killing me while I’m enjoying exploring the world doesn’t sound all that fun.
And worst of all it has the possibility of changing the way Bethesda thinks about Fallout. IF this succeeds does that mean we get a multi player Elder Scrolls?
Bethesda is one of the last developers that’s fully committed to deep, large single player games. IT feels like this could be the start of Bethesda losing a little bit of what makes them special. And that makes me nervous. Hopefully they prove me wrong.