Among the many video games that have caught my eye over the years, the Fallout series occupies a very special spot in my cold heart.
From 1998’s Fallout to 2015’s Fallout 4, the series has offered up a mature and unique take on a post-apocalyptic world while being hilariously meta, game systems that are deep and well-realised yet easy to learn, and told several stories that are completely bonkers yet thematically rich (generally speaking).
However, it upsets me to say the general consensus about latest game in the series, Fallout 76, is that it is simply awful.
In trying to shoehorn a rich multiplayer experience into what’s traditionally been a single-player game only resulted in the worst of both worlds since it feels like Fallout 76 isn’t sure what it wants to be. And then there’s the whole technical side of things, which range from outdated graphics to long wait times, frequent server issues and more crashes than a 1970s F1 race.
And I’m not the only one who thinks that the game is a big miss for Bethesda and the Fallout series.
At the time of writing, Fallout 76 is sitting on a dismal score of around 50 on Metacritic (depending on the console), which is a far cry from the 87 of Fallout 4 and the 91 of 2008’s Fallout 3.
But rather than looking at this as a flop for Bethesda, I think we should look at Fallout 76 as the Stimpack shot in the arm that the studio needed in order to reinvigorate the series going forward.
Having successfully transitioned the Fallout series into the 3D era back in 2008 with Fallout 3, Bethesda decided to play the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” card for all subsequent entries to diminishing returns.
Yes there were graphical updates and minor gameplay tweaks (like the revamped VATS system for Fallout 4), but nothing on the scale that we saw from Fallout 2 to Fallout 3. Things started to get stale, fundamental problems were bandaided over with cheap solutions like customisation and building options, and the gameplay experience was virtually unchanged from entry to entry.
With the mixed reception to Fallout 76, perhaps it is time for Bethesda to throw out the established playbook and write a new one for the next Fallout game.
Had 76 been a success, we would be talking about something else. But the simple matter of fact is that the next game can’t just be “Fallout 5” or another cut of the same cloth without risking more damage to the brand.
It needs to be a triumphant comeback in order recapture people’s attention in the same way Bethesda did when it reinvented the wheel with 2008’s Fallout 3.
Given how Bethesda’s next projects are the mysterious Starfield followed by The Elder Scrolls VI, 76 is going to be the studio’s last Fallout game for quite some time and that’s almost certainly a good thing.
Give the series a bit of a break, recharge the creative batteries, and hopefully the next game will revamp the series once again.
War may never change but here’s hoping that the future of Fallout will.