Fallout 76 marks a huge departure from the norm for both the Fallout franchise and developer Bethesda Softworks as a whole. Until recently, Bethesda has largely stuck to single player experiences, filled to the brim with intricate storytelling and hilarious glitches. Fallout 76 marks the first multiplayer Fallout game ever made. After months of hype and general confusion, the gaming public can finally dive head-first into the Wasteland. If you’re still on the fence due to Bethesda’s reputation for releasing buggy games, you can hardly be blamed.
Unfortunately, Fallout 76 might be one of the more unpolished Bethesda releases in recent years. Let’s check out why…
Yup, that’s it. You’ll notice that settings like Field of View, Supersampling, and even Anti-Aliasing are all missing. I’m a self-proclaimed Bethesda apologist, but even I’m having trouble defending them as time goes on. Bethesda has never been known for being pioneers on this front, but this feels like a step backward. Even Skyrim, which is over seven years old now, had a more robust graphical settings menu. The options that are there work as you expect them to, but the absence of something as basic as anti-aliasing does not bode well for the rest of Fallout 76.
Below are some screenshots to help visualize what each of the presets actually translates to. Due to the online nature of Fallout 76 and the fact that you must restart the game for graphical changes, variables like sun position and weather can change from server to server. This makes it incredibly hard to capture identical scenes to compare graphical changes, but I tried my best below.
The changes are pretty drastic on your journey from Low to Ultra. The most noticeable improvements are present in the shadows/lighting, weapon models, and environmental textures. For instance, check out the “Vault-Tec” text on the storage chest. The text is quite fuzzy and pixelated on Low settings but snaps into clarity on the higher settings. The lighting on the shotgun and cash register counter also improve dramatically.
Performance during the Fallout 76 B.E.T.A was, well, terrible. However, I am happy to report that the full release has made progress on this front. Unfortunately, it’s still a bit of a mixed bag. In the Appalachian wilderness, my rig (Overclocked i5 3570K, GTX 970, 16 GB RAM) maintained a fairly steady 60 FPS on the High preset. Larger cities would cause some pretty heinous dips, sometimes lower than 30 FPS.
It’s worth noting that while my graphics card does meet the recommended specs, my CPU does not on paper. Interestingly, I kept an eye on the usage of both and they generally stayed below 90% utilization. Even on Low settings, I would still get massive frame drops while both my CPU/GPU sat at 40% usage. With other players reporting similar issues, I think there is a deeper problem here than just hardware.
In addition to frame drops, I also experienced horrendous desync between myself and NPCs. This leads to seemingly well-placed shots resulting in a miss and also taking random damage. There have been several instances where I would take damage even though nobody was around me, only to look back and see an NPC swinging at the location I was at several seconds ago. This would still register as a hit, resulting in unavoidable damage.
It’s possible something on my end could be causing this, but I generally have a very stable connection in other games. This leads me to believe the issue lies somewhere in Bethesda’s networking scheme. Below is a clip of this desync happening against an ant, allowing him to damage me from about ten feet away.
The control scheme for Fallout 76 on PC is problematic, to say the least. Most of the actual player controls, such as movement and shooting, are fine. These are pretty much cut straight from Fallout 4, so there shouldn’t be much of an issue for fans of the franchise.
The real issue stems from operating the game’s various menus. For some unexplainable reason, the Escape and M keys both perform the exact same function by default. In most games, including Fallout 4, Escape is reserved for bringing up the in-game menu. However, in Fallout 76, the menu is obfuscated behind the in-game map. In order to reach the menu, you must pull up the map and then press Z. By default, M is labeled as the “Quick Map” key, while Escape is assigned the plain old “Map” duty. I have no idea why Bethesda deemed it necessary for PC players to have two keys to assigned to the map, yet no key to bring up the in-game menu.
So, Is It Worth It?
I’m not sure how I feel about Fallout 76 just yet. As a huge fan of the Fallout franchise so far, I immediately felt right at home in the Appalachian Wasteland. Exploring with a group of friends within the Fallout 4 framework is just as fun as it sounds, at least so far. However, everyone I talk to is running into issues like broken quests or just general performance issues. Furthermore, I’m not quite sure what awaits players in the end-game. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to return to West Virginia once you’ve seen all that Fallout 76 has to offer. It’s far too early for me to formulate a true opinion, but if you’re not already exploring the Appalachians, I wouldn’t fault you for holding off.