The Fallout 76 Beta Impresses So Far

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I had the privilege of playing the Fallout 76 beta for about 6 hours this past weekend and it left me with a generally positive view of the game, which releases on Wednesday, November 14, though there were also some experiences that left me with not the best taste in my mouth.

Something that most Bethesda games nail on the head is music and environment, and Fallout 76 is no exception. I was honestly quite impressed by just how immersive playing through my first few hours of the game was. Of note, I played through solo, and I often avoided other players. Playing in this manner, I enjoyed every minute. The depiction of West Virginia is stunningly gorgeous, and the thick forests feel alive with small irradiated creatures, various flora to pick, and quality weather conditions that I haven’t quite experienced before in a large open world multiplayer game. Complimenting these environmental conditions is a musical score that ranges from sweeping and inspiring to tense and urgent. There were a few times where I jumped in my seat because a ghoul popped up behind me and the music shifted to a frightening theme.

Since the atmosphere is presented in such a high quality manner, the spirit of exploration really takes over. I loved moving through areas, checking out every new nook and cranny, and looting everything I could. With this exploration encouraged, it’s nice that Bethesda has left stories for players to encounter everywhere in the world via audio tapes. One of the more moving audio tapes I came across, left by “Colonel,” was a teenage boy apologizing for every bad thing he had ever done, as he thought himself responsible for the wars occurring and for his dad leaving home. It was pretty depressing. I have to applaud the voice actors for making all of the audio tapes feel alive.

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Right now, the leveling system has left me unimpressed. Having to unlock cards and then choose those trait cards to activate, but doing all this on multiple menus where you can’t ever have a holistic view of everything available to you is honestly an insane design decision that makes little sense to me. Any user experience designer could tell you that the current layout of the leveling system is completely unfriendly to someone trying to track all of their potential level up options.

Another thorn were the events that pop up on the map that anyone can participate in. You can spend a small amount of caps to travel to the events on the map and then carry out whatever objective launches. These are very similar to the way Destiny 2 events work. However, the downside is that in the handful of events I participated in, there were slights bugs (like a messenger bot constantly going in the wrong direction or getting stuck on terrain in its path) that just made them tedious instead of fun.

That said, I am super excited to get more play time with the Fallout 76 beta, and hoping I can team up with friends and do some playing. I think at the moment the game has a lot of promise, as long as some of the kinks can be ironed out.