In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last year and a half, Fallout 76 hasn’t had the most smooth launch… Or post-launch… Or really the most smooth anything. But Bethesda’s been listening, and don’t you worry – Fallout 76 Wastelanders, the game’s colossal new update – is one hell of a response.
But first, how did we get here? Bethesda’s multiplayer Fallout experiment succumbed to the fate of almost every other shared-world shooter before (and after) it, and was riddled with technical problems and balance issues, and received plenty of criticism around the game’s economy (both with currency and crafting materials) and its handling of microtransactions to boot.
However, Bethesda was not about to let one of its flagship franchises go the way of Bioware’s Anthem, and set out to make things right. This commitment has resulted in the game’s largest update to date – a major overhaul in terms of quality of life and content. Welcome back to Appalachia, and welcome to Fallout 76: Wastelanders.
A Sight For Sore Eyes
As previously mentioned, the marquee addition to Fallout 76 in the Wastelanders update are NPCs. All of the Fallout NPC tropes you love are back. Sassy bartenders, Ghouls in no mood for your shit, up-jumped Raider bosses, and glorified snake-oil salesmen are all in attendance – and thats just in the first few hours of the update.
The NPCs are all fully voice acted, and Bethesda has clearly had a ton of time to write for these new characters. Each new storyline and named character feels real, tangible, and relatable – not just tacked on for the sake of allowing players to converse with something other than a terminal or a Mister Handy.
Fallout’s NPCs are one of the most charming parts of the franchise. Though some of the series’ iconic characters happen to be robots (looking at you, Mr. House), wandering around a wasteland alone (and even with friends) can be tiresome. The return of NPC wastelanders to Fallout 76 renews the players’ sense of purpose, and gives you either a reason to keep fighting the good fight to rebuild America – or give you new targets to swindle and extort (depending on which side of the karma spectrum you find yourself on).
Something Old, Something New
The new NPCs are great and all, but I’m sure some players (especially ones who bought Fallout 76 at launch) will still remain skeptical about just how impactful this update is.
The biggest thing Bethesda could’ve done (and my first question upon booting up the update) was to buff up the original Fallout 76 quests and content with new life. And they did exactly that. Fallout 76’s main quest is still present post-Wastelanders, but now features new NPCs woven into the story, and adds tons of new dialogue with existing NPCs (such as the Grafton Mayor, who I personally love to hate).
There are also two new factions (The Raiders and The Settlers) who add a distinct layer of personality to Appalachia. Even while I was cleaning up my quest log of any lingering one-off quests from Fallout 76’s original content, I ran into several new characters added by Wastelanders that were a welcome addition to the experience.
Though Wastelanders is a colossal update in terms of scope and improvements, there are still some textbook headaches that fans of the Fallout franchise will be all-too familiar with. The game’s hitboxes and gunplay are markedly better than any other game in the Fallout franchise, but are still an absolute pain in the ass at times, especially when engaging swarms of feral ghouls.
Fallout 76 isn’t perfect, but neither was Fallout 4, 3, or New Vegas. There’s still a slew of technical issues like getting stuck in objects, having enemies follow you way farther than they should, and weird spikes in difficulty when a higher-than-normal level enemy pops up out of nowhere, but that’s a necessary headache that one willingly accepts when they boot up a modern Fallout game. If you were looking for buttery-smooth gunplay and airtight combat mechanics, you wouldn’t be reading this, would you?
A Much Needed Fresh Start
All in all, Wastelanders provides a much-needed shot in the arm for Bethesda’s shared-world shooter. Like Destiny’s The Taken King, Destiny 2’s Forsaken, and The Division’s Underground, it takes into account the most seriously frustrating parts of the game’s launch, and addresses almost all of them in a very significant way.
Bethesda has absolutely listened to the feedback that’s come in from players and critics alike, and Wastelanders is a testament to the measures they’re willing to take to do right by Fallout fans old and new. If you’ve got Fallout 76 already, it’s time to reinstall it. And if you’ve never given it a chance before, and need yourself a Fallout fix – then Wastelanders makes it more than worth a second look.