It's been revealed that Fallout 76 will be an always online multiplayer game, which means you're not able to play offline or alone. To reinforce this, there are no human NPC's that will be present because every other human you meet in the game will be another Player Character. Whether those players are role playing as Raiders, Traders or Scavengers, every interaction you have with another human will be an interaction with a real human.
Now, Fallout 4 copped some grief over it's voiced protagonists. A lot of people didn't like the scaled down response ques that had them saying something wildly different from what they expected. But it seems that in order to correct this, Bethesda have gone and taken out all the NPC's that you can interact with. How many dialogue choices can you have with a human player character? Wouldn't they just let you talk to them via a microphone? With all the human NPC's gone, who are we going to be talking to? I guess we could chat with a Robot or a Super Mutant, but neither are going to be giving us any kind of decent conversation. For a series that revolved around fantastically deep dialogue to convey it's characters, story and themes, this is certainly a strange move for Bethesda.
Being forced to interact with other people is another "interesting" move. I know a lot of people play video games for the competition and the team work, but a lot of us play games specifically to get away from people. I am an introvert, I will happily say that I play games to escape and recharge. While I will no doubt try out Fallout 76, I am unsure how I will be interacting with it's always online, forced multiplayer elements.
The developers are saying that there's going to be safeguards in place that stop people from griefing other players. This is good, on one hand, but on the other it raises the question - why even put forced multiplayer in then? I can see myself running around Fallout 76 and either avoiding other players or just outright ignoring them. I don't care if that other player wants to kill me, trade with me or if they want to team up and go questing together - I just want them to fuck off.
I play games to get away from people, and if Fallout 76 refuses to provide me with a way of doing that then I'm probably not going to be spending much time with it. I get enough grief dealing with people in the real world, I don't need to be getting shot in the head by some 12 year old twitch gamer from Liverpool while I'm trying to relax at home. I don't care if there's a whole crew of player controlled Raiders that're approaching me, if I've got an option to avoid interacting with them then I'm going to take it. Which brings us back to the question of why they even bothered to include multiplayer?
If other people are in my game, then they're an annoyance. At worst they're going to be forcefully initiating some form of interaction, violent or otherwise, while at best they're going to be buzzing around trying to coerce me into interact with them. Even if they have to get through some anti-harassment safeguard to initiate combat, they'll likely be trying to get me to bring down that safeguard so they can get the experience they want - PVP. Again, as much as I want the option to opt out of interacting with other players, having that option there makes the multiplayer aspect of Fallout 76 pointless.
If I don't want to interact with this other player but they're buzzing around because they *do* want to interact with me, nobody is going to be having a good time. Nobody is getting what they want from the game because we're being forced together when we've got woefully different play styles and reasons for being there. I don't understand why they couldn't just let the multiplayers play online while letting the solo players play offline. Well, actually... now that I've written it out I'm betting it's for financial reasons. They'll probably provide solo-servers down the line, for a fee.
Dying doesn't do anything anymore because you just respawn, so how exactly is it dying? If previous Fallout games, your protagonist never died because if you were killed you reverted back to your last save and tried again. But in Fallout 76, because it's always online you can't do that. Instead of dying and reverting to a point where you hadn't died yet, you die and just keep on going. How is death dealt with in the game? Other series have lore reasons for why characters can respawn, but Fallout is going to have to come up with something original to justify this game mechanic. Which raises the question of continuity, if respawn technology is present in Fallout 76, why isn't it present in all subsequent Fallout games? This all seems like minor points to niggle over, but death is a pretty important component in terms of game play. Apparently you don't even lose your gear when you die, so again - what exactly is the point of multiplayer? That was half the point of killing enemies in previous Fallout games, so you could get their stuff.
Settlement building is back, but it looks like they can be destroyed by random mobs and other players. Part of the appeal of Fallout 4, at least for me, was being able to run around on Survival Mode and set up little supply caches. Survival Mode was hard, and it made sense to set up outposts that you could travel between, they gave you a safe haven to rest and recuperate before setting out once again. But if bases can be destroyed by other players, who can now literally nuke the game world, then what's the point? Why bother wasting time and effort to build something that can be torn down or outright destroyed in a mushroom cloud?
I could understand it if Fallout 76 was a hardcore Roguelike game, where you get one life and if you die you lose your character. I would hate it, but at least it would be better than this half/half game they've got going at the moment, where I can opt out of interacting with other players but I'm still forced to see them impotently scamper around my world. Not only are there people in my game that I don't want to interact with, but they've replaced the human NPC's that I actually enjoyed interacting with. It's almost like Bethesda replaced all the human NPC's with other Player Characters so that they didn't have to waste time and effort on creating compelling NPC's for your character to interact with.
I guess you could say that I should just change my expectations, appreciate the game for what it is and play it the way it's meant to be played. But, how about no? Fallout has always been a solid single player experience, but Bethesda are attempting to make it a multiplayer experience now as well. In their misguided attempts to get the best of both worlds, it seems like they've created a misbegotten bastard mule of a game that will likely suck at both. But I guess I'll just have to wait and see.
However it turns out, the fact is that I'm skeptical and not at all excited. I was at the midnight launches for Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas and Fallout 4 and I'd pre-ordered each and every one of them. I won't be pre-ordering Fallout 76, I won't be buying it as soon as I'm able and I certainly won't be at the midnight launch. That is a terrible state of affairs for someone who has been a fan of the Fallout series for two decades.