I just want to get this out of the way: I am extremely excited for this game. Fallout 4, in my opinion, wasn’t characterised by its flaws, or even it’s strengths. No, when I look at Fallout 4, I see potential. A year or two with development in a hundred ways could have left us with a powerhouse- some more effort pumped into the RPG mechanics could have given us one of the most entertaining combat systems in years, a few more on the story side and we’d have one of the most phenomenal narratives in gaming, and-crucially- exploring the crafting and building systems more could have given us one of the most unique interactive environments to come out of the AAA space in years.
And that’s exactly what ‘Fallout: 76’ seems to be. A new addition to the Fallout series which has taken the shell of ‘Fallout 4’ and spent three extra years looking at it and tinkering around. With rumours abound of online connectivity, an expanded building system, and a setting some one-hundred years prior to any other fallout game, there’s bags of potential for a game unlike any other in the series. Let’s explore how they can avoid fucking it up.
1: Don’t abandon the main series completely
There are a lot of accusations being made about Fallout: 76, but the one I seem to be seeing over and over is “Rust clone”.
So that’s something I think Bethesda should focus on. Don’t make the ‘Rust clone’ a bunch of shitposters have already assumed exists and decided they hate without knowing anything about it. Keep the core of fallout- those deeply engaging worlds full of stories to explore and characters to interact with- intact. Putting a Fallout-themed skin on something that very clearly isn’t Fallout just won’t fly.
Quests are going to be a part of the game, and the game will have a story if we’re to believe what we’re told. How that story is told may be new and different, given the lack of human NPCs, but there will still be a plot, and that plot is exploring a fairly limited, but still hugely exciting part of the timeline. A dead character who leaves clues is still a character. A pre-recorded message or a robot can easily provide a story. We need to give Bethesda credit- they’ve placed some strict disciplines on themselves, and that’s when true creativity shines through.
And while we’re at it, it’s important to respect the lore. Some unconfirmed reports are suggesting that this game is going to feature some very heavy retcons- which is fine by me. Half the established lore was written in the 1990s by a team that hasn’t touched the series since, save for some of them getting just over a year in 2011, after all- Bethesda are within their rights to re-write the lore to fit their own series. But I don’t want to end up in a situation where we still have some of Fallout 4’s unexplained plot breaks. Unless stated otherwise, Jet and X-01 power armour didn’t exist before the great war, whereas Deathclaws and Super Mutants did. Period. Come on guys, you know this.
2: Build on what we already have
It’s very clear that Fallout: 76 is running on Fallout 4’s engine. Good. Let’s keep it there and focus on making it better. There was a very real danger that Bethesda might gut the entire system and build the game from the ground up again, with a whole new shooting system and perk system and sandwich making system- but that’s a mistake, and one they’ve gladly avoided. The perk system seems to have been re-tooled somewhat, to make the game work better in a perpetual environment, b
What we have here is a perfect opportunity to do Fallout 4, but done properly this time- by taking the shell of Fallout 4 complete with the building system and combat and build something more with it. Far Harbour, Fallout 4’s first large DLC, was a step in the right direction- by making tentative steps towards using the engine in new and exciting ways. Skill checks, open-ended quests focused on dialogue and choice-making (yes, that’s possible).
We need to be able to role play in a group. Less ‘Minecraft’, more ‘DnD’. One character in your group may be a weapons engineer, another may be a brute with a giant axe, and another could be skilled with computers and robots, while the leader may have been a politician, and thus is in charge of building new settlements. Just because there’s several of us, doesn’t mean we can’t roleplay and build a character.
There’s really no need to reinvent the wheel here- let’s just take what we have here, and think of new and exciting ways to apply it. And if you take how Fallout: 76 started life as a simple experiment with a multiplayer Fallout 4, I think we can be very sure that this is going to be the case.
3: Stay away from the bullshit
Yeah, a bit of an obvious one, this. Bethesda needs to stay away from the microtransaction bullshittery that’s plaguing recent multiplayer titles. As much as I trust them to not totally mess with the audience, the previous entry did feature both a season pass and microtransactions. Whilst these were both implemented ethically (IE, the microtransactions were an experiment in monetizing mod content and the season pass didn’t withhold content, and in fact came with more content than advertised)
With the recent failure of Battlefront 2, this is one pie that Bethesda needs to keep their fingers out of. Period.
4: Make the co-op just as immersive as single player.
If co-op is going to make it to fallout, it should be done right. Fallout isn’t just an aesthetic, it’s a mood. It’s dark comedy, it’s bright and colourful music layered over depressing and desolate environments. That mood should be as prevalent as ever, not totally replaced with goofy multiplayer antics. As much as I’m looking forward to mowing down a pack of deathclaws while my friends and I shriek “Bongo Bongo Bongo, I don’t wanna leave the Congo, oh no no no no!”, We still need to make sure the game has plenty of moments that make you slow down, listen closely to an audio log, and think “Oh dear god.”
One of my favourite discoveries in ‘Fallout 4’ was a pair of skeletons, one in a fancy suit with a walking stick, the other in a nice dress, sat in chairs by a lake apparently having a picnic. Bethesda know their environmental storytelling, and this is their ‘challenge mode’. This is where it counts.
So, we need to make sure that even when you’re travelling in large groups, we still enjoy that perfect balance of dark humour and thoughtful tragedy. Because without that, it’s no Fallout.