The “Fallout” series of video games has become known for its post-apocalyptic immersion, open-ended mechanics and challenging gameplay. While wildly popular, fan resistance to changes are par for the course for the series.
Fans of a series tend to form strong attachments and develop a sense of ownership. As its harshest critics, fans can often resist creative changes to a series, even if the changes make it better.
It’s fine to disagree with Bethesda Games’ decisions or hold them accountable to fixing bugs, but they didn’t do anything to deserve all the fan vitriol. Bethesda took bold, and necessary steps to keep the series relevant through the years.
The series has been through two major transformations. The first two “Fallout” games were turn-based RPGs that came out for PC in the ‘90s.
“Fallout 3” and “Fallout: New Vegas,” came out during the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 generation and were dramatically different. The games were first-person shooters with heavy doses of RPG mechanics.
“Fallout 4” shared a lot in common with “Fallout 3” and “Fallout: New Vegas,” but players noticed it felt like they had less agency. Interactions with non-playable characters seemed less nuanced and the different endings felt like they were the same story just involving different people.
The fans of the series tended to focus on these criticisms. The newest installment, “Fallout 76,” moves the series even further away from its roots.
Most of this response is just a knee-jerk reaction to change rather than genuine critique of the game.
Critics tend to overlook the things “Fallout 4” and “Fallout 76” do better than their predecessors. “Fallout 4” had been groundbreaking for the series in terms of its action, scale and added features like base building.
With “Fallout 76,” Bethesda simply plays to the strengths in “Fallout 4” by finding ways to make the game more cohesive. Fans are just having problems with the fact that Bethesda had to make compromises.
Sure there are no story non-player characters, but there’s still a story to be told in West Virginia. Dungeons are filled with environmental storytelling and lore, and combat encounters themselves tell stories that are authentic, original and exciting. The map is also approximately four times bigger than “Fallout 4.”
“Fallout 76” is entirely online. “Like many of you, we’ve always wanted to see what our style of game could be with multiplayer,” said Todd Howard, director of Bethesda Games, at E3 2018. Connecting with other players is easy, and playing together is rewarding.
One of the things Bethesda did to make online gameplay more fun is to make the game a lot easier than “Fallout 4.” While this is a bit of a disappointment, it was the right thing for Bethesda to do. The combat is more forgiving and survival mechanics feel like less of a chore and more like a natural part of exploring the huge world.
If there’s something to be upset about regarding “Fallout 76,” it’s the stability issues that reflect poorly on the quality of the game. Bethesda released an unusually large patch, but only addressed a few specific issues in the patch notes, which is disappointing.
Bugs aside, there are plenty of fans who think Bethesda’s choices with “Fallout 76” ultimately resulted in a more cohesive and enjoyable experience. Developers need to continue to make strategic improvements even if they aren’t in line with fan expectations because it keeps gaming the most creative and innovative medium.
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