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Rant: Fallout 76 wasn’t worth my Redbox free rental code

This isn’t a review. This is a warning to consumers that may get baited into a game that makes launch No Man’s Sky look like Fallout: New Vegas.

Fallout 76 light house
Image: Josiah Motley / KnowTechie

Online survival games were pretty popular five years ago. Games like Rust and Ark were top tier offerings, while games like DayZ looked like they were going to revolutionize the market. Fast forward to November 2018 and Rust is pretty much a relic, Ark is still offering up content to its player base, and DayZ just left alpha and is now beta.

Oh, Bethesda also just launched their own online survival game, Fallout 76, well after the ship sailed. I decided to Redbox it while I was on vacation.

I want my free code back.

Fallout 76 sounds great on paper. Getting to explore Appalachia with some friends in a new Fallout experience is intriguing. A lot of people enjoyed Fallout 4‘s base building mechanics, so the idea that you could not only do this with friends but also establish your own strongholds sounded fun. However, after playing the game for a bit, I can tell you that this one feels like nothing more than a cash grab from our pals at Bethesda.

Being that this was a rental experience, I rushed to get everything up and running on my Xbox One. Quickly throwing a character together and getting out into the open world with some randos. Immediately after getting control of my character, I could already feel the restrictions in place within the game’s world.

Looting feels off

Unlike other Fallout games where anything and everything not bolted down could be used for something, a lot of set pieces and items are there for looks and cannot be interacted with. I was surprised by this because looting everything is one of my favorite things to do in Fallout. Instead, most pickups in the world are hidden within chests and corpses, creating a more sterile environment from what I saw with less small moving pieces.

Fallout 76 city

Image: Josiah Motley / KnowTechie

As streamlined as the game feels, the best way I could explain it to someone who is a fan of the series is that the game is exactly what you would expect if you fired up Fallout 4 and all NPC characters, random events and cities hadn’t loaded into the game but you were able to play with other people.

Playing with people wasn’t terrible

The players I played with were nice, with one guy making sure I had found the first traces of the Overseer and had visited a few key places. I eventually parted ways with my helpful buddy because playing with him felt like I was just along for the ride while he rushed me through everything. While on my own, the game becomes far more recognizable for what it is.

One of Fallout’s greatest strengths was always that you basically shape your story. Dialogue through NPCs helps shape your character’s personality and your actions help realize who your character is throughout that story. Without these elements in the game, the game simply becomes a Fallout 4-flavored sandbox with some repetitive quests to do and some new locations to poke around in.

Fallout 76 pip

Image: Josiah Motley / KnowTechie

I never thought I’d say this, but companion dialogue in the other games really is a blessing. I’ve been conditioned to expect some input when I find an oddity or recover a message from the Overseer. All there really seems to be in Fallout 76 is a bunch of places to look at and build your base at and some enemies to shoot and loot.

Can Fallout 76 ultimately be a game worthy of its namesake? Sure, I think it could. It feels familiar enough that with a whole lot of work, it could be fun. Is it worth buying (or even renting at Redbox)? That’s a hard no, at this point, unless you are big into exploring, not interacting with anyone, and like being needlessly social in an antisocial environment.

Fallout 76 is Fallout without the personality that has made the series what it is. This is so weird because their online Elder Scrolls offering is very much a familiar experience with online elements but Fallout 76 is online Fallout without anything that made the series good to begin with.

Honestly, I think Bethesda just needed to make some cash for investors, but I really fear what I can expect from their future offerings after the experience I had here. I bet Josiah just loves this game though…

Fallout 76 is available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Have you played? What did you think? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Longtime games journalist and Florida resident. I'm a Guinness World Record holder, wordsmith extraordinaire, MOBA fan, devoted dad and husband. I'm here to spread the gospel of video games.

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