Appalachia Come Alive

HIGH The addition of NPCs, many quality of life upgrades.

LOW Badly designed story missions.

WTF Why does this game not have a ping feature?


This review covers only the Fallout 76: Wastelanders add-on content. For more information on the base game, Fallout 76, please see Mike Suskie’s full review.


Wastelanders is the highly anticipated update to Bethesda’s MMO Fallout 76. This update aims to bring life to the wasteland — a place that’s been criticized by players for feeling too empty. The solution? Add human NPCs and a new main quest to replace the never-ending scavenger hunt that marred the original Fallout 76. Wastelanders provides a mix of new areas to explore, such as new buildings and camps, and revitalizes existing parts of the world by including story beats that encourage the player to visit far reaches of the map. What used to be abandoned facilities and camps are now filled with fellow survivors.

While the Wastelanders update changes the story and the way players interact with the world, the core features of Fallout 76 remain the same. The combat still feels like Fallout, walking across the wasteland still feels the same as it did at launch (albeit with less crashes), and the RPG elements are untouched.

At its essence, the Wastelanders update is great. The inclusion of NPCs does a solid job of making Appalachia come alive and the new storyline is so much more compelling than the original. Sadly, Wastelanders is only an update, so issues with the source material still diminish the overall experience.

Take one of the first opening missions for example. After finding the NPCs that highlight the Wastelanders update, I’m told about two warring factions: The Settlers and the Raiders. The obvious progression of the story leads me to learn more about these factions and ultimately decide who I will join. As I’m following the mission to learn more about this bustling world, my progress grinds to a halt as I’m tasked with running multiple fetch quests for a robot named Rose.

These missions are incredibly tedious, requiring me to leave her outpost, walk five minutes, kill some enemies, and return, which then includes another five minutes of loading screens. The worst part is that they take me away from the heart of the Wastelanders update — human NPCs.

Times like this are where Wastelanders fails. It withholds great interactions with human NPCs for too long by forcing players to trudge through a significant chunk of dull content in order to get to the highlights like building reputation with the factions and ultimately choosing one to side with, a feature that the Fallout series is well known for.

That said, there’s still a lot of enjoyment to be had in Fallout 76: Wastelanders, and the addition of NPCs has done wonders to the experience beyond what I expected. These aren’t simply skin-covered robots that roam the wasteland, these are real-feeling human NPCs that interact with each other, play instruments with one another, and make comments about the player’s armor and weaponry.

I was at a picnic table taking a load off during my first few hours of play when I saw the first bit of interaction between NPCs in Wastelanders. A farmhand named Jide walked over to a security bot and did some routine checkups on her. He narrated his actions, noting that a part needed to be repaired soon, and then went back to his work. This was the moment that I realized Bethesda wanted to bring life to the Wasteland, not just another way to deliver fetch quests.

The quality-of-life upgrades are superb as well. Players who haven’t returned to Fallout 76 in some time will be happy to hear that quests are much easier to track, with the ability to track specific quest locations while turning other off. Players can also find specific quest locations from the Pip-boy, which is incredibly helpful in a map as big as Appalachia.

Fallout 76: Wastelanders is a compelling reason for gamers to return to Appalachia and explore the wasteland, but with that said, I did play the majority of Wastelanders with friends. While I completed most of the story missions solo, I still had a team in-game that I frequently chatted with, which made the mundane bits of Fallout 76, such as walking long distances to the next objective or waiting through long load times, much more bearable.

Playing solo can still be entertaining, but the moments of loneliness hang over the player like a cloud while they’re traveling from point A to point B. In the end, it comes down to personal preference — some will enjoy the solemn journeys found in Appalachia, while others will only play when friends are online, but even without them, the Wastelanders update is a step in the right direction.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

— Seth Morris


***

Disclosures: This game is developed by Bethesda and published by Bethesda Softworks. It is currently available on Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. This copy of the game was obtained via Paid download via PlayStation Store and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 16 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed16 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is an open-world role-playing game in which players must survive/thrive in a post-apocalyptic world. From a first- or third-person perspective, players search for supplies/food while battling other survivors and mutant creatures. Players use machetes, machine guns, rocket launchers, and grenades to kill ghoul-like creatures and other enemies in frenetic combat. Some weapons allow players to blow ghouls apart, resulting in flying limbs and chunks of flesh; wounded characters can also be executed with gunshots to the head, resulting in decapitation. The game includes frequent references to drugs called Chems, which are sometimes used as plot points for characters; Chems can be found, manufactured, and used to enhance performance/skills of characters, though there is no actual depiction of use. A handful of story missions require players’ character to acquire ingredients to make alcoholic beverages; one alcoholic drink (Nukashine) can discolor and/or cause the screen to blur after being consumed. The words “f**k” and “sh*t” appear in the dialogue.

Colorblind Modes: (There are no colorblind modes) available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are subtitles in Fallout 76. The only audio cues that do not have a visual component are the noises that enemies make. These noises will occasionally show up through subtitles, but they are not reliable. 

Remappable Controls: The following functions are remappable — Attack, Aim/Block, Bash/Power Attack/Grenade, Activate, Ready/Reload, Map, Pip-Boy, Toggle POV/Workshop, Jump, Sprint, VATS, Sneak.

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