Last April I bought a PC copy of Fallout 76 for $17. It was such a cheap price that I finally couldn’t resist trying it out. After five or so hours of doing some quests and building a small shack I called home, I moved on. While I enjoyed exploring the world, the performance issues, lack of NPCs, and numerous other problems made it hard to enjoy 76 like a proper Fallout game.
Since then, a lot has changed in Fallout 76.
Earlier this year, Bethesda released a large update that added NPCs. These new characters function like NPCs in other Fallouts. You can talk, barter, befriend, and even kill them. Some were part of new and different factions, which brought about new questlines and areas to explore. Others are just random raiders or explorers. All these new people added more life to the wasteland of Fallout 76.
Then, just last month, Fallout 76 received the One Wasteland update, which rebalanced the entire game. Before, as you explored the world of 76, you could encounter extremely high-level enemies able to kill you in a few blows. Now, after the big update, the world scales with you, making it easier for new players to explore. It also made it easier for high-level players to team up with low-level friends, as the game scales enemies differently for each player.
After hearing about the One Wasteland update, I decided to give Fallout 76 one more shot. Since the last time I played I’ve upgraded my PC, so it ran better. But then as I left my little shack and tried to remember what the hell I was doing over a year ago, I ran into a random NPC. He was looking for some supplies out in the world. I could talk to him. I also tried shooting him to see if I could kill him. After looting his corpse, I remembered to turn on the radio, and found an actual human DJ now ran it. She’s wonderful, and instantly made Fallout 76 feel more like New Vegas or Fallout 3.
I then turned off all my active quests—there were a lot, because past-Zack apparently didn’t get much done—and did my favorite thing in any big Bethesda RPG: I picked a direction and started walking. And over the next hour or so I got distracted by NPC camps, off-the-beaten-path bunkers and homes, and random creatures, none of which one-shotted me like a miniature god. While all of this was happening a fun DJ joked about songs and giant ants. And that’s when I realized Fallout 76 was now, with all the updates and more stable gameplay, nothing less than a big new Fallout game that I had never played.
So now I find myself unable to escape the siren’s call of Fallout 76. Whenever I find some spare time, I log on and do some quests, explore the world, fix up my home (which is now a bigger, nicer-looking shack), or participate in the game’s public events.
Occasionally, while playing my new Fallout RPG, I run into other players. But this isn’t a problem, and actually, I enjoy running into people. Not once in the 30+ hours that I’ve played has anyone attacked or trolled me. People will wave, dance, or even lead me to their nearby camp, where I often found free supplies and water. Fallout 76’s multiplayer feels more optional than I expected, and many times I played for hours without encountering another camp or player. I know some of the harder, later-game activities require teamwork and other players to pull off, but for now, I’m happy exploring and looting (mostly) as a lone wolf.
When I reinstalled Fallout 76 I didn’t expect to play it for more than a few hours, and now it might end up being the game I play the most this month. I’m glad I gave the game another shot. It’s easy to write off games that it seems the internet has decided are terrible or not worth your time, especially when you’ve already given those games a chance before.
But nowadays games can evolve and improve over months and years. The game you played a year or two ago might not be the same thing today. The way games are always being updated and improved has made some parts of my job harder, but it’s also made it possible for bad or mediocre games to become good or even great, given enough time. Fallout 76 seems to be heading in the right direction, and I’m excited to see how future updates continue to improve and expand on what’s already here.