Well, we knew it was going to happen one day. Fallout has become another frame on the wall of "games as service" IPs, where not only will you not fully own what you purchase, what you create or uncover within said game will never fully be yours, and the game itself will be at the mercy of an external server set-up, thus when that part gets shut down, the game becomes worthless. In the meantime, let's dig into the product that Bethesda sold us. I say sold instead of 'is going to sell' because, as Bethesda has so openly told us recently, the BETA version of Fallout 76 is a 'starting point, not the finished game'. In essence, it's an Early Access game and those who pre-ordered are playing the game just as much as those who buy the game come Nov. 14th will be. (I'll be playing HITMAN 2 by then.) https://images.ctfassets.net/rporu9...06b95da9e87f4b444/Fallout76_BGS_full-size.jpg For starters, let's talk about the connection issues. Since I do not have the numbers to work from, let us assume the number of people wanting to play the BETA of Fallout 76 is around 100,000. When I first logged in at one minute past the starting time for one of the BETA sessions, there was no issue getting in. However, an hour and change later, when I went back to the main menu to start a new character and spend a bit more time looking for details I missed, I was unable to connect. In all, I was booted seven times, as though the servers were completely full by the time that hour was past, or I had been extremely lucky the first time. Not a good start, and it'll continue to be an issue as more and more players come in across the PS4 and PC platforms. As for the game itself, as we've come to expect, it is built around the framework of Fallout 4, the most regressive game in the history of Fallout, sans PoS. With that in mind, when the game begins, we get an introduction that is nothing more than a trailer that has already come out for the game. The talk of rebuilding after the nuclear war, 'our future begins', etc, etc. The actual game begins in what amounts to a showcase Vault. There's very little to interact with outside of the computer terminal in the room where your character wakes up, and you cannot leave this room until you have the PipBoy on. As a side note, this being a 2018 game, expect to hear some variation of a pro-diversity speech from the Overseer as you gather your things and leave the Vault. We knew this was coming thanks to the trailers showing what amounts to a graduation party of people who look like they didn't change or age a bit after entering the Vault, but ever since Howard said 'Yes, you can play as a woman' on the stage of E3 in 2015 in relation to Fallout 4, I've had the creeping suspicion that not only does he not know what this IP is like, but that over time, Bethesda has fallen in line with the companies who simply don't have a spine in terms of standing up to the politically correct thought police. Or worse, have started catering to them. While being directed out of the Vault, you'll walk by stands that have some stuff to get you started. Water, medkits, the CAMP tool, PERK cards and so forth. As you head for the Vault door, you'll be instantly bumped to Level 2 and asked to pick a PERK card to apply to your character. And yes, PERK cards now determine your character's SPECIAL stats, which all start at 1. Meaning you had better figure out what you want to specialize in before placing that first card, but at the same time, you don't want to lose the benefits of other cards, even if you see no use in applying points to the respective SPECIAL stat. It's a counter-intuitive system and just goes to prove how well-designed SPECIAL+Skills+Perks was in Fallout 1, 2 and New Vegas. Some will say this is because Fallout 76 is a multiplayer game, but unlike some other MMOs I've played, like Black Desert and Guild Wars 2, this system does not work well with players who want to go solo, which is what I usually do in games like these. Keep in mind also that in Guild Wars 2 and Black Desert, you don't have to literally join a group to get the benefits of working as one. Fallout 76, however, requires that you do this in order to maximize power between players, loot drops, XP gain, and also fill in the stat gaps that a lack of certain stats no doubt has on all players involved. So, despite what Howard said about playing solo in 76, it seems he and Hines and the early press releases related to the game weren't keen on mentioning any of this. This may be Bethesda's first dive into a game like this, but Battlecry Studios is a multiplayer studio and should know better than this. In terms of graphics and aesthetics, the former is quite ugly in terms of textures. So much so that I get the impression Battlecry Studios and Bethesda put more emphasis on the lighting for the purposes of trailers, even though very little of that has changed since Fallout 4. Considering the hiccups I noticed while playing, sometimes while walking down empty roads, it seems keeping the textures as they were in 2015 isn't helping much. As for aesthetics, nothing much has changed since Fallout 4, so if you liked that game's looks, there's nothing new here. Back to connection issues for a minute, and we'll touch on gameplay some. When you leave the Vault, the first enemies you'll run into are Chinese spider drones that fire lasers at you. There are a pipe pistol and machete to find nearby before you engage them, but here's where this game being always-online starts to hurt the gameplay. When I fired at these drones for the first time, I noticed a half-second delay between the shot being fired and the game registering a hit. I was in no real danger of dying because of how long it took these drones to fire a shot, but that long of a delay to register a hit is a major issue and got me to resort to whacking them with whatever melee option I had. Enemies also seem to have been deafened in the switch to the always-online system. Firing a shot while hidden at molerats who are less than a few yards away from you won't get them to pay attention to you. This might not be true of Super Mutants or other enemies, but thus far, I've neither seen any beyond the basic stuff or found anything that could reasonably qualify as a precision rifle to test this. In the past few games, when things got hairy, the usual response was to flip to VATS and take shots at certain enemies. In Fallout 76, with VATS being tied into the always-online structure of the game, this means there's a more than one second delay in registering hit chance, so while you're trying to stay on the move, the ratio will wildly change and throw your camera, as well as your direction of movement, around depending on the situation. This makes VATS worthless for times when a lot of movement is necessary, but just as pointless in moments when you know you can make shots yourself with a pistol, rifle or what have you. Now, let's cover two other things: The Main Quest, and the settlement building. We're all well aware of how much Bethesda and Howard were hyping up the idea of launching nukes into the Appalachia area and spawning high-level zones for players to fight in, which is a gross misunderstanding and perversion of the themes of Fallout, especially Lonesome Road from New Vegas. Spoiler: For what it's worth. What makes it even more so is the Overseer's quest. It truly starts when you find the first holotape left for you at their CAMP, and involves finding and shutting down the three silos in the area. I'm not going to break down every detail of what I just said, because it speaks for itself. Bethesda doesn't understand its own IP, Elder Scrolls. Many know this. So, why would they understand, much less respect, one they purchased instead of created? On that note, what's left at the end of the day is the gameplay loop from Fallout 4, which was laid out by Joseph Anderson years ago. The gameplay loop is Exploration>Combat>Gathering, and then rinse and repeat. You do this for many quests, and to improve your settlements and yourself. New Vegas had a similar gameplay loop, but what separates that from Fallout 4 and 76 by extension is New Vegas had quality story-writing, good quests with multiple outcomes, and fun companions and characters to ensure ECG was not all you were doing for the dozens of hours you played the game. While we already knew 76 would not have NPCs outside of the most basic of task dispensers, who are no different than the computers and holotapes you'll find in the game, this devolution of gameplay into the most basic of tasks should be seen as an insult to everyone who is even marginally a fan of this IP. This kind of 'gameplay' is everywhere in games these days, but outside of Minecraft and its prodigies, there is always something else to support the idea. Take for example Red Dead Redemption II. As soon as you make a new camp, you can begin hunting animals for parts, meat, and other things. These can be turned into new weapons and ammo, donated to the gang camp for provisions, which eventually lets you unlock better storage satchels, sold for a profit, or shipped off to a museum after finding a letter asking for quality animals for display. Factor in the story and voice-acting, Bounties, Thievery, Legendary Animals, Fencing, Gambling, Horse Care and other things, and it should be no surprise why RDR II rarely feels boring as a game. With some exceptions in terms of locations, it is a superior example of the "go anywhere, do anything" mantra Bethesda coined. Which leaves settlement building as the lone creative outlet of this game. Aside from new stuff to build and place, and the requirement that floating platforms now be supported by a foundation of some kind, there's very little difference between this iteration and Fallout 4's version. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Fallout 4 was a test run for this very game. To round this out, a few things. First, I would like to draw your attention to something said by Zaric on YouTube, which I happen to agree with after giving it some thought. He was of the impression that the people who are waiting for certain things, like private servers, which are actually instanced worlds, and mods are playing right into Bethesda's hands with Fallout 76. They're aware some will wait that long before making the dive, just as much as some won't wait and come in Day 1 or earlier, and come that time when mods/private servers arrive, they can do a 'relaunch' of the game with these features enabled. I would go one further and point out how the early adopters are more or less the playtesters. BETA players are technically this already. (Side note: Bethesda and Battlecry Studios update the ENTIRE client after a patch, so expect to download the 44-50 GIGs of data all over again every time this happens until their straighten their heads out about this.) Second, because the microtransactions are not enabled in the BETA, I can't speak much about them, but let's not forget that these have been popping up in many AAA games as of late, and taking Bethesda, Howard, and Hines, the kings of liars, at their word about how these can only be used for cosmetics when they have nothing to show to support this claim is foolish. They've already lied about what the BETA is. What makes you think they're telling the truth about this? Third, the lore issues. Unless, as some have suggested, Bethesda makes something akin to a Fallout Bible of their own, that lays out concrete details to things they want to have to happen, they're going to get fans who know better than them questioning what the reasoning is behind some decisions they make, and in turn, fans will get retcons instead of substantial answers, and Bethesda will be free to make what amounts to new-owner-fiction. (76 has hints of activity from the Brotherhood and Enclave, such as a note I found early on, even though the Brotherhood keeps plenty of records of their activities and no mention of East Coast chapters has ever come up in prior games, aside from retroactively in New Vegas, or in the original Bible.) However terrible Bethesda may be in terms of writing, this is something anyone can do, and in fact, many people do in basic ways. They have no excuse to not do likewise. Lastly, if you don't want this to be the future of Fallout, do not buy this game or support the changes made to the gameplay. Bethesda, Howard, Hines, and others keep bringing up the SavePlayer1 thing, among many other pleas that "No, single-player isn't going anywhere", but they are a business, not your friend, and a business with a track record of lying. The sole reason that exists is to placate, not be an answer, and by supporting games with multiplayer and microtransactions, you're giving them the green light to try their luck in other areas of pilfering cash. Sure, Paid Mods went over like gasoline and gunpowder next to a firepit, but what happened next? Creation Club, which is still going and getting support from certain modders, despite so much hatred and mockery for it from the community. Games as a service are what Bethesda wants, like Ubisoft, EA, Konami, and others. The only difference is they've convinced many that they're not malevolent, and they're slower with the moves they make. Pay attention to what they're doing, or pay the price, however many of them they demand of you to play their games.