Fallout 76 has had an interesting life cycle to say the least. It started out being hated, then recovered slightly, then garnered new hatred before recovering again, and so on and so on. The thing with Fallout 76, is that it is kept alive by controversy.
Stumble, fumble, Fall-out
When the game first released, it was a buggy mess. Over time, Bethesda got to fixing the issues and with the game going on sale semi-often, the playerbase steadily grew.
Then came the deluxe edition bag catastrophe -- AKA Bag-gate. To summarize; the $200 Power Armor Edition of Fallout 76 comes with goodies, as all special editions do. The problem with this one however, is Bethesda skimping out of what they promised. The bag was meant to be canvas, but was instead plastic; the Power Armor helmet would somehow grow mold. Fans were justifiably up in arms. Bethesda infamously responded by offering disgruntled players $5 worth of in-game currency. Needless to say, that offer pleased nobody. Not long thereafter, Bethesda made good on their promise and sent out replacement canvas bags to those affected.
Bethesda steadily released content for the game after this. This involved micro-transactions out the arse, unsurprisingly. They would update the game regularly and fix what issues arose. As time went on, more and more content was added to the barren wasteland of West Virginia. Bethesda would face more controversies still -- Nuka Dark, Banhammer fun times, customer info leaks, you name it. But through all of that, Fallout 76 was still running. To what extent it had actually recovered is debatable.
Bethesda recently unveiled their newest idea: Fallout 1st, a subscription service for Fallout 76. Players immediately dubbed this a money-grab tactic. The service gives you inventory upgrades, in-game currency, cosmetics and private worlds. Nobody asked for this. What players really wanted was the private worlds, and Bethesda gave it to them. The problem is they also locked it behind a monthly paywall and added in other fluff, seemingly to pad the price. Needless to say, nobody was really that thrilled about Fallout 1st. Thankfully for Bethesda, this did not blow up as much as previous stumbles.
What did catch quite a bit of attention, however, was the recent inventory hack that players faced just before Dec. 25. With such an easily exploitable vulnerability out there, as well as the stories of other hackers and modders adding assets from other Fallout games, players can only wonder if there are more issues to come.
Where do they go from here?
When the question comes up of whether Fallout 76 is worth the (extremely low) sale price, the answer is usually yes. When people ask if the game has improved, some more positive observers also say yes. In small increments, the game is recovering. However, there are numerous players who still carry bad memories. Everywhere you look through Fallout 76‘s online communities, there are disgruntled ex-fans turning others away from what could be an enjoyable experience.
The game in its current stage is all about expectations. It is a unique MMORPG, but it does not reflect the quality of the previous games its developer is known for. Going in expecting it to be a great Fallout game will likely end up with asking for a refund. On the other hand, going in with optimism and manageable expectations -- as well as some friends -- means you have opportunities for fun.
From my limited and aggravating experience with Fallout 76 and its B.E.T.A, it definitely has potential. It may take a long time, but it can recover. The game is visually stunning, and it has some charm from previous Fallout entries which is a draw for fans. A marred launch and the bruises of past controversies dragged the game down, but the only way out is up.
I think the biggest improvement Bethesda can make is with their priorities. From where the players stand, it appears that the company has cut corners, released an unfinished product, and deployed micro transactions and subscriptions all in the name of making money. The fans are tired, and I am tired. I really had high expectations for 76, which was coincidentally released on my birthday. I was excited, but I wanted to wait. By the time I was done waiting I couldn’t be bothered to get the game, and it really saddened me. Even through having to reinstall the beta three times -- FUN times -- and having it be immensely laggy, I was hopeful. I still am hopeful.
Maybe Bethesda can fix this, especially if they reevaluate what they want. I hope they fix it, because like many out there, I want a multiplayer Fallout game I can enjoy with my friends. That’s what everyone wanted from this, and with dedication to a good product it can get there. The Wastelanders DLC is a great start, and really shows that Bethesda has it in them. I guess all that is left is to wait and see how Bethesda moves forward from here.