Fallout 76: The Biggest Mistake in Franchise History
As E3 nears, speculation builds on the biggest announcements for the most anticipated games of the year, from Gears of War 5 to the long-overdue Cyberpunk 2077. Bethesda went and took the wind out of every other studio's sails, however, with an early glimpse at the unexpected Fallout 76.
We finally found out the title after a patience-straining exercise of sitting through that agonizingly long Twitch "announcement" feed. More than 18 hours of staring at a blank screen with a bobblehead while nothing happened (apart from balloons or coffee sipping every few hours to avoid Twitch's rules on being AFK) resulted in a severely divided fan base.
Some were pretty ticked off at the whole stunt, while others were just glad to hear about new Fallout. Now that the dust has cleared and information is starting to come to light, there's a whole new element of this debacle for fans to argue about.
As it turns out, war eventually does change, and so does the Fallout franchise. Apparently, Fallout 76 is going to be an online survival RPG in the vein of Rust, DayZ, ARK, Conan Exiles, and Metal Gear Survive.
Wait ... what?
Editor's Note: This is all entirely based on preliminary information. While the voice-over segment from the teaser and leaked info from a reliable source all indicate this is the direction the game will go, we don't have official confirmation on that from Bethesda yet (and won't until E3).
According to a report from Kotaku, what was originally a planned multiplayer aspect for Fallout 4 eventually became the survival experience that will be presented in Fallout 76.
After the disappointing step backward that was Fallout 4, it's clear the series needed a change ... but it seems like this is the exact wrong change to make. Fans wanted a better story and more dialogue choices, not less of that and more of the settlement building.
Like the current field of battle royale games, the survival genre is already starting to feel a little crowded and overblown. Chasing trends worked out extremely well for Fortnite but seems like it's less likely to be a slam dunk here with Fallout.
All the current survival RPGs have their fair share of bugs and issues that make it feel like we haven't yet seen the pinnacle of this style of game. But since we're talking about Bethesda, the notion that Fallout 76 will arrive bug-free is laughable.
Clearly, nothing like this will ever be seen in Fallout 76.
A Cash Grab That's Destined to Fail
Expanding out the settlement-building element is not in itself a terrible notion, but making survival and building the focus of the game at the expense of the core Fallout gameplay is a resoundingly bad idea.
A huge opportunity for microtransactions and getting nickel-and-dimed on cosmetic DLC is obvious with a survival entry. Sadly, the scourge that is games-as-a-service is here, and it's here to stay until people stop buying those games and spending money on those loot boxes.
The only way to win this battle is to not play at all, forcing the publishers and developers to give gamers what they want by voting with their wallets.
Most bizarre of all is that we know ahead of time that this will be a flop without even having to look at the fan reaction. There was a case study just a few months back examining how this change in style can crash and burn for a big-name developer. Just ask Metal Gear Survive how well that transition went.
Yeah, me too.
History Repeats Itself
When you see where the comments from the fans are going, just how poorly Fallout 76 is going to perform becomes crystal clear.
Comments on the announcement video page and most every single post about this game are filled to the brim with "please be single player, please be single player, please be single player" comments or a hashtag like #saveplayer1.
The fans know what they want, and they know what hasn't worked in the past. When this series tries to leave its roots, the results are never as well received as the base games.
For all the hardcore fan fury over Fallout 3 basically being Elder Scrolls with guns, even the later Bethesda numbered entries are still a significant improvement over the spin-offs.
Personally, I was a fan of Fallout Tactics (with a few patches and mods to fix the bigger issues), but there's no question that it lagged in sales and had major flaws. That unfortunate Brotherhood of Steel console spin-off was easily the worst of the series and an experiment best forgotten entirely.
Fallout Shelter, meanwhile, is an amusing oddity to idle away your time in the bathroom, but not really anything to devote hundreds of hours in like Fallout 2 or New Vegas.
Why Won't Bethesda Listen to the Fans?
While it's certainly not out of the question for Fallout to be successful by branching out in new ways, that hasn't ever been the case in the past.
Exploring a wilder, less settled wasteland a mere 20 years after the bombs dropped is ripe for an excellent story and a killer game experience, but exploring that setting in a multiplayer survival mode is seriously dampening fan enthusiasm.
The consensus among online comments is clear: We want Obsidian to give us a New Vegas 2. Barring that -- and it is sadly clear that won't be happening -- we want a single-player Fallout game that gets rid of the issues from Fallout 4, with more dialogue options that actually change quest outcomes.
A return to isometric, old-school goodness would be cool (and we've seen that retro style work and sell with Pillars of Eternity, Tyranny, Torment: Tides of Numenera, and so on), but even something like Fallout 3 with none of the missteps of its erstwhile successor would be fabulous.
Sadly, we're going to get a trend-chasing spin-off that will inevitably fail to live up to the spirit of the series.
What do you think -- are you excited at the prospect of a Fallout survival game, or will you be saving your hard-earned caps for the next single-player iteration?