It's hard to name a more infamous launch in recent memory than the first month of Fallout 76. In a whirlwind of mediocre to bad reviews, security breaches at Bethesda, and other speedbumps along the way including the canvas bag incident, Fallout 76 was immediately discarded as a disaster.
In this day and age, however, any online game is going to gain a fan base of some size. At one point Fallout 76 had millions of players. The team behind the game has been adding quality of life improvements since launch and the game has gotten less janky and easier to approach. This is not without caveats. There have been multiple additions to the game this year that have caused players to get pretty upset.
Bethesda has done an admirable job keeping Fallout 76 up to date and are continually improving issues from launch. Minor quality of life improvements like increasing the amount of items players can store both on them and at CAMP, making it easier to get legendary weaponry, and basic weapon balancing. On top of evening out bugs and giving players the ability to respect, there have been a handful of big changes and updates that truly boost the game.
The addition of vending machines to CAMP lets players trade with each other, a minor change that makes the game feel more connected and immersive. This made the game more friendly, while the addition of a hardcore survival mode let players who wanted a no holds barred PvP experience live a little more dangerously.
The Nuclear Winter Battle Royale mode was surprisingly popular. So much so that Bethesda decide to extend the beta indefinitely after a positive response from the fan base. While this is positive for the growth of Fallout 76, it's not a full-on competitor in the space of Battle Royales like Fortnite and Apex Legends.
An update in April added a controversial item to the Atomic Shop. The game added Repair Kits. These items could repair any item to 100%, but could only be purchased with Atoms, Fallout 76's purchase-only in-game currency. They later added Scrap Kits allowing players to scrap junk items in their inventory and deliver them immediately to their Stash. This proved to be another entry in the discussion of Fallout 76 and microtransactions. A single Scrap Kit costs players 50 Atoms a pop, or approximately .50 cents, and can be bought in stacks of six and 15 for 10% and 50% off respectively.
To add to the more disappointing big additions to Fallout 76, the game recently launched a disappointing new raid called Vault 94. Some players who finished the raid were frustrated by the latest piece of high level content due to the lack of a good reward. The promise was rare, extremely powerful gear but what Reddit user Kaelynath ran into was not that at all. Upon opening the chest at the end of the raid, he received the reward of a drill. Just a common item from the game, not powerful loot. His teammates each received a three-star legendary item. This is just one example of the way the game's bugs can have breaking consequences.
Vault 94 is the latest piece of end-game content added to Fallout 76, following Project Paradise and The Burrows, but this is the first one that is directly evoking the raid language of MMOs. Vault 94 is plagued by bugs, minor and sometimes the game will break preventing the proper solution for a puzzle to be input. All of these issues on top of a mission that doesn't seem to be especially inventive in the way raids in Destiny get players to think outside the box.
Given the state of the game it only makes sense that Bethesda is doubling down on Nuclear Winter as a viable alternative to the base experience. On their DLC roadmap from earlier in the year, half of the planned updates were for the Nuclear Winter mode. A new map, new features, and most importantly a wide release is on par with the base game's new Vault Raid and new events. The game mode is still young, so with the upcoming addition of NPCs through the Wastelanders update it's clear Bethesda is not putting all its eggs in one basket.
Fallout 76 is a significantly better game than it was at launch last November. But at the end of the day, the answer is still probably no; it's not the right time to start playing Fallout 76. Overarching issues like a world lacking character and characters will not be solved until the Wastelanders update in the fall. And that could be a great place to start.
Just be warned, there are still persistent choices in the design of the game that may just not be for fans of the single-player Bethesda RPGs. Fallout 76 is leaning into it's MMO-influenced, loot-based aspects, with many of the quality of life improvements added to cater to that style of play.
Fallout 76 is out now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.