Why is Fallout 76’s multiplayer still so poor?

After six years you’d think you could actually play this multiplayer game with your friends. I’ve been diagnosed with Fallout fever, and according to my doctor, the only cure is more Fallout.

The Amazon series gave the Fallout franchise, which hasn’t had a new entry in six years, a massive sales boost this month. Every game in the series is seeing a spike in players – some as much as ten times their five-year average.

The show did such a great job at leaving us wanting more, now everyone’s flocking back to the games to satisfy that craving. I’ve put around a dozen hours into Fallout 76 in the last six years, and it’s never managed to grab me.

I tried it at launch and found it to be a lonely, empty experience. I came back for the Wastelander’s update to see if the new NPCs could add some life to the game, but it still felt like a weak imitation of Fallout to me.

Fallout creator Tim Cain reminds fans that they can critique the show without attacking the writers. I’m sure Bethesda has added all kinds of new, exciting content over the 18 major updates that have come to Fallout 76 since launch, but there’s a problem at the core of the game that was an instant turn off when I played it in 2020, and is still a huge miss today.

This is painfully obvious almost right from the start. They direct you to a nearby saloon where you’ll meet Duchess and Mort and begin one of the game’s main questlines.

You’re able to party up with your friends from the moment you exit the vault, but when it comes to questing, you’ll have to do it alone. The way Duchess and Mort’s introduction is implemented is a pretty poor first impression for co-op players.

When you enter their bar, you go through a loading screen and, if you’re the party leader, the rest of your team can follow you in. A scene plays out with a hostile treasure hunter and there are some dialogue options to choose, but unless you’re the party leader, all you can do is stand and watch.

You don’t get to see the dialogue options the party leader has, so you can’t come to a consensus about how to handle the situation. At the end of the scene, the quest chain will progress and there will be new objectives… but only for the party leader.

Each individual party member will have to enter the bar and watch their own version of the scene. This is how co-op has always worked in 76, and after all these years I’m shocked this is still how it works.

You have to split up your party and experience the story alone at every single beat, including some boss fights, and you don’t share any quest progress. You’re not really playing Fallout 76 co-op, you’re playing parallel.

You can see your friends and trade with them, but you’re all playing your own game and your own story separately. I’m sure the multiplayer aspect of Fallout 76 is better realized in the endgame when you’re just focusing on public events, daily missions, and vault raids.

Considering the stories, characters, quests, and everything else you love about Fallout is done better in Fallout 3, Fallout 4, and Fallout: New Vegas, it’s hard to justify playing Fallout 76 for the co-op. I think all my friends could jump in a Discord call and start playing New Vegas at the same time, and we’d end up having a much better experience.

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