Whether you're on board or not, Bethesda's decision to turn the next entry in the Fallout franchise into an online game is brave. But just because it's an online business does not mean that you're forced to play with others. Amongst the questions I had about Fallout 76, the most important thing that came to my mind was: Can the game work as a single player experience? When the first beta hit the market, I played completely as a one-man party. After about four hours of exploration, looting and shooting, Fallout's foundation immediately appears, albeit diluted. Of course, you'll miss an important aspect of Fallout 76 by doing it alone, but its features, which require a bit more patience, make it clear. As a result, individual hikers are likely to be rewarded in a manner that can gloss over entire parties.
From my experience in other games and watching my colleagues play Fallout 76 as a group, I understand that there is a tacit understanding at a fast pace, from one area or quest to another in search of action and action high-level equipment. That's not exactly what the Fallout series has always been, but it's part of that style of play. This does not leave much room for listening to audio logs carefully, reading through left notes, let alone immersing in the environments surrounding these narrative pieces. Playing alone gives you the opportunity to do that.
Environmental storytelling has become a cliché in describing how games embed a narrative into the real scope. It's an indirect approach to the story that Fallout 76 has to rely on, lacking NPCs and dialogue trees. Audio logs are used to paint a picture of how townships tried and failed to survive the harsh wasteland while also being a guide to the world and the systems of the game. Audio logs are also the key to uncovering the mystery of the Vault 76 Overseer – the seemingly "main questline". It's your way to understand the past and present of West Virginia. Admittedly, these differ in their quality in terms of their importance, but they are crucial for the construction of the world.
The miracle of discovering and browsing a new location or enjoying the scenic vistas after stumbling through the vicious swathes of the Wastes has an intrinsically rewarding feel.
We have seen other games using these narrative techniques in the past. Much of the original Bioshock was built under the premise of hearing footage of Rapture's citizens as you navigate the desolate underwater society. Some of the most memorable moments in The Last Of Us came from a series of handwritten notes that conveyed despair and humanity in the face of a zombie outburst. Fallout has used these elements in previous posts, but they are now more important than ever.
What's missing is that the societies and factions that have made the RPGs of previous games so dynamic are thematically appropriate, as the setting precedes the lessons of previous games. And it's noticeably lonely out there, even though it's an online game – only 24 players roam West Virginia in the same instance. There is so much to cover that it is hard to see a collective of online gamblers coming out of it; very rarely have I met other parties. West Virginia is huge. It was in the headlines that Fallout 76 contains the largest card in the entire franchise; About four times the size of Fallout 4 in Boston. It sometimes feels too big for its own good because there is a noticeable lack of density. Of course, as with any other fallout game, the world is curious to see what's behind it in the next town.
The miracle of discovering and browsing a new place or enjoying the scenic vistas after being brutally punctured by swathes of the Wasteland, has an intrinsically rewarding feel. After tackling the game in the areas near Vault 76, I hiked to the northeast and stumbled across Grafton – a snow-covered city populated by Super Mutants, Protectrons, and the high-level blob-like Grafton Monster was. It was an absolute highlight to uncover the history of the city and to learn how it was led by Protectrons and got into suspenseful firefights with enemies above my level. Unfortunately I had to continue. Over the next northern area was an abandoned amusement park, in which I tried the photo mode to take selfies with the alligator mascot on a broken roller coaster. Meanwhile, my radio plays the indisputably catchy melodies of Old-Time Americana (many of which have been repeated from previous games). These moments are naturally available when playing in a group, but they make the single player approach more meaningful.
Fallout 76: Watch 50 Minutes of Gameplay before the Beta