Things have calmed down a bit with puppy ownership, so I’ve finally got a bit of time in Fallout 76. Giving it a few years seems to have been a good decision as there’s been plenty added since launch, not least NPCs; I’m not surprised that the game world felt a bit dead at launch, even the light smattering of other characters make things feel more alive, unlike (ironically) human players who (at best) add nothing to the experience. My only interactions have been getting rapidly killed by high level players after claiming workbenches, an action that flags you for PvP. The game makes it clear, and it’s worth doing at least once to get a bunch of plans, but it gives me absolutely no desire to participate in more general PvP. There are messages here and there about teams forming up, though usually at much higher levels again, but I’ve no interest in that faff either.
In fact, other than content updates, the online elements are pretty universally negative. Combat follows the pattern of the previous games – sneak around, carefully line up a high-damage sniper rifle, and hopefully one shot opponents with a critical hit, otherwise revert to Plan B (for Benny (Hill)), chasing around and blazing away randomly. Here it seems a bit jankier, with mobs sometimes stuttering around, and as VATS no longer pauses time Plan B is even more chaotically “Ruffle his hair up, hit him with a bucket, run, Charlie, run!” Not being able to pause is less than ideal when the pup needs a bio break (or indeed when I do), and with some instances not preserving progress until they’re completed it’s pretty annoying if you get called away and have to repeat everything next time around. The Atomic Shop is far from the worst item shop, but still a minor annoyance to have it pop up every time you start the game.
I guess the key question is why I’m even bothering with Fallout 76 rather than going back to one of the previous games, with added DLC or mods to freshen it up. I’m not entirely certain myself, to be honest. Cost is one issue – all the DLC for Fallout 4 would be about three times as much as I paid for Fallout 76 on sale. I’d also have to either start from scratch or pick up a long-forgotten save game, not the end of the world but still. If the DLC pops up on sale I might consider it; for the moment, though, Fallout 76 scratches that Robinsonade itch with plenty of world to explore, mutants to battle, and crockery to break down into useful components.