Fallout 76 is the first online multiplayer version of the post-nuclear apocalyptic role-playing game (RPG) franchise.
The game world is set in an alternate history in which the US and China were engulfed in a nuclear war that decimated the known world in 2077. You mostly play a character who leaves a Vault - they are long-term nuclear shelters built by US government - to explore a wasteland set in a certain US city.
Since playing the original Fallout in 1997, I have been totally hooked on the franchise and have played all four iterations of the main series with the last major release - Fallout 4 - in Nov 2015. But it has been a single player-only experience until now.
Set in Appalachia, or the game's interpretation of West Virgina, you play a character from Vault 76 (hence the game's title) who has set out to re-colonise the wasteland.
Launched last month, Fallout 76 has been in sixes and sevens until recently, plagued by server issues and bugs such as graphical glitches and un-finishable quests.
Thus, instead of writing the review immediately after its launch, I decided to slowly play the game while its developer irons out the kinks. Many of the initial bugs have now been quashed, though I soon found other issues to quibble at.
For a start, there are no non-player characters (NPCs) that you can talk to about quests and information. This is a major difference from the single-player experience. Instead, you have to listen to holotapes or read through text on computer terminals in order to get quests.
Also, while there are some time-sensitive events that you can take part in to gain experience, this game lacks the gripping storyline that the Fallout series is famed for.
And unlike previous games where your choices influence the outcome in the story, the actions here seem to only serve as a way to increase your experience and for levelling up.
Further exacerbating the problem is the game's wasteland being a much harsher world than those in the previous games. Apart from managing your health and radiation levels, you have to take care of your hunger and thirst status. Thus, you need to eat and drink water in order to survive.
However, like in a real wasteland, you find food and water in short supply. You have to constantly forage or kill for food, collect water (and boil it), find a food crafting station and cook your own meals.
PRICE: From $79.90 (PC, version tested; PS4, Xbox One)
GENRE: Online role-playing game
You also need to be a hoarder and collect all types of stuff so that they can be scrapped to become raw materials. You need the raw materials to repair or craft armour and weapons. All of this just becomes too tedious after a while.
Thankfully, Fallout 76 allows you to build your own camp at any place in the wasteland. It is the only place where you can fast travel without having it cost you in-game currency, which is also hard to come by.
In your own camp, you have access to the Stash where you can store all the items or junk collected. You can also construct a bed to rest and recuperate, set up various crafting stations to craft items and build defenses like turrents to defend your camp. You can save your camp as a blueprint, so you can move it to another place when you find a more suitable one.
In fact, I found "designing" my camp to be more interesting than some of the quests. Even then, camp building gets really boring after a while.
In terms of graphics, I found the game world to look similar to Fallout 4. But combat has been changed to suit the online world.
While previous Fallout games have the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, or Vats, that slows combat to a crawl to target specific body parts, the Vats in Fallout 76 is real-time and does not make targeting easier. In fact, it makes combat less enjoyable and harder.
Previous Fallout games made me want to continue to explore the wasteland to advance the storyline. But in Fallout 76, I often felt bored, lost and wanted to quit.
Verdict: Fallout 76 is a game that I really want to love like all previous Fallout games. Instead, it becomes a testament why some RPGs should continue to remain a single player experience.