These days you don’t pick up a Bethesda game without expecting a modicum of jank and bugs. It’s par for the course at this point, but should it be? With Fallout 76, Bethesda is taking its first steps into online gaming, and as you’d expect there are a lot of growing pains during that time.
Open world games are a dime a dozen these days, and bugs are something you expect, but for years now Bethesda’s games have taken that to an absurd new level. A save file bug for Skyrim on PS3 would crash the game or cause it to run at a snail’s pace for framerate. Fallout 4 was rife with bugs at launch, with everything from missing characters faces to players getting stuck in geometry.
Fallout 76 had an advantage over your usual Bethesda game considering it had a beta, giving players plenty of chances to break the game, and break it they did. From a bug that could completely delete your Pip-Boy to one that made you redownload the whopping 50GB file for the beta, as well as the usual framerate issues and minor bugs.
Any multiplayer game expects its own fair share of bugs, but the big problem is that Fallout 76 feels just like Fallout, warts and all, with multiplayer layered on. If you’re doubling down on multiplayer, connectivity and gameplay smoothness are your paramount concerns.
After all, Call of Duty isn’t as renowned a multiplayer shooter as it is because of rife framerate issues and horrendous bugs. It’s renowned for having some of the smoothest shooter gameplay you can find.
Now with Fallout 76’s launch, we’ve seen that while many bugs have been fixed, many more are popping up. Many players have had big issues even connecting to the game’s servers, and a handful of other bugs have cropped up. Enemies not spawning in certain quests, token dispensers for other quests not working, and a horrific albeit hilarious Power Armor glitch that turns characters into terrifying warped figures unable to unequip the armor.
Forums across the internet are packed to the brim with players reporting different issue and bugs, like this Reddit thread that has over 1,000 replies. Now we don’t mean to be all doom and gloom; the game is playable, and even has quite a few strengths, like the wide variety of things to craft or imaginative enemy designs based on West Virginian myths.
In 2018, though, Fallout 76 feels like a bit of a lackluster effort. Massive open world games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2 have released this year, and while they certainly have bugs, they’re not widespread and certainly don’t impact the experience too much.
The biggest problem with the game right now is that the framerate can be pretty atrocious, regardless of what system you’re playing on. Many combat encounters can slow the game down to varying degrees, and too much going on in combat can clearly overload the game and cause it to really chug.
It calls to mind when Fallout: New Vegas released and suffered horrible framerate issues in larger encounters, a problem that was made better but never fully rectified on consoles.
At this point, it doesn’t feel like Bethesda can simply get away with having tons of bugs and jank in their games anymore. During the times of Skyrim and Fallout 3, Bethesda was at the top of the open world game, and players were willing to overlook problems simply because there was nothing out there like Bethesda’s games. Nothing had the same level of scope, and nothing was nearly ambitious.
Things have changed now, though, with games like The Witcher 3, Horizon Zero Dawn, Spider-Man, Red Dead Redemption 2, and more. These are games that are absolutely massive, staggeringly so, but they still generally work very competently at launch. Any issues these games did have were quickly addressed and oftentimes fixed.
At this point, do we have confidence that Fallout 76 won’t always be a bit of a buggy game? Probably not. However, these things are most concerning when looking at Bethesda’s future.
Bethesda recently said they’d be keeping the same fundamental game engine for Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI. The same one they’ve been using for years on games like Fallout 3.
While this doesn’t absolutely mean future games will have the same problems as Fallout 76, it also seems like Bethesda is pushing the engine and their other software tools to their limits. Players are already getting sick of the bugginess with Fallout 76 and Fallout 4. In three, four years times when we see their next big game, will players still be forgiving?
At some point something needs to give, whether it involves Bethesda doubling down and crafting a new engine, or simply taking more time for development to iron things out. After a stellar year in gaming with quality titles, Fallout 76’s problems seem even more apparent.
Hopefully, Fallout 76 gets a wealth of follow-up support and patches. But even more importantly, hopefully, Bethesda is using it as a valuable learning experience.