Fallout 76 PC BETA - my impressions and findings

The Hunt for Red October have begun... or at least PC B.E.T.A. of Fallout 76. As it's a BETA, and Bethesda BETA at the same time there were issues but even against such odds I managed to play and test the game a bit. Here are my findings and impressions.

Before the storm

When the Bethesda Launcher countdown reached zero the BETA did not start as the login servers were having an issue. What's more - preinstalled game just vanished and a lot of people had to re-download it. That's like 44GB with not very high download speeds.

So when everything downloaded and installed - the game managed to start and log-in. By default the game started as a frame-less window which for resolutions above 1080p meant that the game was occupying only part of the screen. Change settings, restart the game, done... but still no ultrawide support. I couldn't pick 3440x1440 and I didn't managed to check if it's doable in the ini files just like for Fallout 4 and Skyrim - come on, add widescreen support, it works wonders for WoW.

Now it's time to customize my character - or rather not - as after customization the game crashed - two times in a row and so I had to use a default looking character.

This doesn't look nice

This doesn't look nice

Power armor at the start of the game will be handy

Power armor at the start of the game will be handy

What's that noise?

After starting the game I was welcomed by loud player voices - voice chat was active and I couldn't find option to mute it completely. Every player in the vicinity was heared - many languages, completely breaking focus and annoying as hell. This should be muted on start and there should be an option to mute/unmute it globally or for party member only etc.

Start of the game spoiled by loud voice comm system

Although that voice chat did have one good option - bragging with power armor in the Overseer camp (oh ... he has a power armor). And yes you can get a power armor after leaving the vault but you won't be able to wear any pieces due to level requirement - only the frame will be usable, which even on its own is a big upgrade over normal armor plus carry weight and other bonuses. It needs fusion cores like in Fallout 4 but the usage on the core seems nice and slow. I wouldn't recommend going for the power armor at level 2 as it may spawn without a fusion core - so limited value. At level 2 I got one with two T45 pieces and no core, while on level 5 it had 2 T60 pieces and a fusion core.

Emoticons are quite handy but I'm quite used to text chat in World of Warcraft. I got a thumbs up after shooting off Mirelurks chasing a player but that's about all what you can do. If we both don't have voice comm on we can't communicate. WoW chat systems works quite well, especially in Vanilla/Classic version where you actually have to talk to people.

War never changes

Ok, so lets dive into the combat system of Fallout 76. As first testers already reported, melee fight will be quite common in Fallout 76 - at least at early/mid level until you get a semi-automatic strong weapon efficient at close quarter combat. At start you have little ammo and revolvers or single shot guns have a very very slow fire rate, while high fire rate pistols use a lot of ammo to deal little damage - so a melee weapon is way more efficient. Plus some mobs even below your level resemble bullet sponges from Fallout 4 on highest difficulty settings.

Slow fire rate guns you can get early on that have good range will be your first sniper riffles - they do a lot of damage and with the range you can snipe-out a lot of enemies before they even notice what's going on. So it's very beneficial to sneak and watch for enemies, especially when many buildings or areas have so many of them that you would be overrun in close quarter combat easily.

I wouldn't be also surprised if best close quarter weapons will be even cheapest self made guns with a powerful damaging or crowd-controlling legendary ability (exploding, leg cutting or whatever similar). For long range combat it will be various sniper riffles. So in general Fallout 76 plays into that cookie-cutter tactics of Fallout 4. At least in Skyrim for long range archery you had to compensate for arrow ballistic track and that was supper fun and rewarding to pull off. Also at low levels there isn't much of power gain from perk cards and there is lack of weapon modifications - on later stages of the game those factors should improve combat efficiency and fluidity, at least to some extent, I hope.

As for melee combat - it's somewhat lacks Skyrim as well as more advanced mechanics. A slow moving protectron can instantly rotate around his axis to always be facing me. I can't move to his dead zone to attack more efficiently (there is bit of VATS, but that doesn't cut it). In Witcher 3 you can flank an opponent or even launch a whirlwind-type of an attack which can't be parry if done within opponent dead zone. Plus rolls, dodges and in general highly dynamic combat - while in Fallout 76 you are static and do a hack & slash mechanic.

Yes, he will move into line of fire...

Yes, he will move into line of fire...

Supply drop is always welcomed

Supply drop is always welcomed

Post-apocalyptic wilderness

Call me Mister Handyman

Fallout 76 is a subset of Fallout 4 (and Skyrim) focusing on gathering everything that can be gathered to turn it into resources or new technology. As everything has a weight to it - weight management gets very apparent in Fallout 76. It's advised to stash junk, surplus weapons, armor, food in special storage boxes (in CAMPs, gas stations etc.) that work like settlement storage from Fallout 4 - it's not in your bag but you can use it within your crafting stations and so forth.

It's also important to pick up and scrap every piece of weapon and armor as this will unlock modifications - so those 20 pistols you got from Scorched are quite valuable to your progression. Also raw component weight is lower than the weight of items they came from - something to keep in mind when optimizing scavenging routes.

Aside of Fallout 4 crafting stations we also have a handyman crafting station that allow making for example ammo and fusion cores. Chem station allows smelting ore too.

Equipment you use now has a durability which means that you will have to repair it after some use. On the beginning of the game you don't have to as your generic item can be replaced by another exact generic weapon/armor copy you got from mobs. When you get some custom gear then repair will be a thing.

Cottage at the top of the hill

Bob the Builder

The CAMP system allows you to build a base in a secluded area (not near existing world objects or locations). You can build your home, defense systems as well as crafting stations and more. At first you won't have resources for it nor you won't be able to scrap trees and wreckage in the vicinity for nearly limitless amount of wood and steel. So your CAMP at start will be small - that special storage box, cooking station and a water pump will suffice. When placing your CAMP avoid areas where something spawns - like rats or bees as you rather want peace in your camp when you craft. Also pro tip of the day: swarm of bees may be killed with few bullets.

Fast travel to your CAMP and to Vault 76 is free so placing it in a strategic point near explored area will allow you to quickly go and stash junk or refill on water and food - which your character will need. Fast travel to other areas costs small amount of caps.

Some locations will also have workshops you can take over by killing every enemy in that location, spending some caps and then defending it when taking over. You can do that in a party for more fun and efficiency.

Fusion core for power armor can be crafted

Fusion core for power armor can be crafted

Scraping weapons for modifications unlocks

Scraping weapons for modifications unlocks

In the end death claims us all

When a character will be near death he will fall into a critical state and will die if other player won't help him in a short period of time or when taking any extra damage. When you die you can pick a spot to respawn. You leave all junk in the place where you died, but you keep everything else. You can go back to re-claim your junk if other player won't beat you to it (like in a PvP duel looser junk will likely be looted). So it's a good practice to stash your junk regularly to limit any potential looses.

It's also feasible to rush an enemy base at the start of the game, kill and loot some Scorched for weapons and armor before getting overwhelmed and dying. You pick Vault 76 and you can continue gameplay full of early weapons, armor and ammo.

At level 5 PvP unlocks so players can attack players - but until they fire back you will be dealing limited damage. When a player kills someone he gets a bounty on his head - which he pays on death from his own pocket. Looking at low player world limit PvP will be rather rare aside of special PvP modes.

Large amount of opponents can overwhelm you easily

Where is Shaun?

Fallout 76 doesn't start with any groundbreaking story line - you exit the vault, you know the game and the Overseer mentioning nuclear weapons and quest to follow here is all it gives. You follow quest to her camp, you get to know basics of the game and then you can follow through or start doing side quests and other events. Is it enough to make a popular Fallout game?

It's obvious this will be a more unique game that isn't targeted at existing Fallout or Elder Scrolls players. Rather is more aimed at it own mixed new/old playerbase that can accept such gameplay.

As I mentioned Fallout 76 gameplay is present in Fallout 4 as well as in Skyrim. The question is - how many Skyrim players picked every flower, mushroom or killed every animal to fill a soul gem and got leather to then max out alchemy, smithing and enchanting? Looking at what people wrote on Skyrim forums very few went so deep into game mechanics to craft high-end upgraded pieces and many even didn't understand what constitutes for their weapon attack or armor protection value. And that's what Fallout 76 is - gathering, killing and grinding to have resources to unlock new tech, to create or get better gear constantly playing resources game to progress.

Both Skyrim and and Fallout 4 allow you to skip deep game mechanics to finish the main and every other storylines. Fallout 76 is based on those mechanics and doesn't really have explicit storylines. This makes this game so controversial for existing Fallout fans.

Sneak attack level 76

Sneak attack level 76

Welcome to the Matrix

One of problems I've came across was very aggressive enemy respawn. I cleared a building, moved away slightly and came back - mobs respawned. I reloaded the game - mobs respawned. Containers will be empty but mobs respawn and drop loot. From one side you want to progress and clear the area while from the other you may abuse respawning to farm gear for crafting. This respawn rate and player progression, area ownership must be addressed. When I put my camp near railway station to run some benchmarks - at every game load I had to kill the same mobs.

Also one thing I didn't liked in Fallout 4 when compared to Skyrim was the location density. Fallout 4 was pretty much a city, while Fallout 76 is quite packed world map. Skryrim is also a world map but there is a bigger separation between locations and you aren't overwhelmed by quests notification overlapping or one location going to another and you can't finish given exploration as you are constantly chained into more and more building and enemies.

Performance benchmarks

Due to the re-install problems I wasn't able to test all hardware configurations at hand but I managed to find some performance issues that will require fixing. It was handy that the power armor spawn location at the railway station also had a sort of lookout tower. When I went up the tower I noticed big performance issues when looking at the side of the world full of objects (and not just pure landscape and foliage). The problems are very likely related to VRAM limit on tested graphics cards:

  • R9 Fury 4GB HBM: ~3 FPS
  • GTX 1060 6GB GDDR5: 35-45FPS
  • RX VEGA 64 8GB HBM2: from 60 to limit cap of 75FPS
This view makes heavy use of VRAM

This view makes heavy use of VRAM

Performance differences between R9 Fury, GTX 1060 and RX Vega 64 with 4, 6 and 8 GB of VRAM respectively

PC tests made with AMD graphics cards used a 75Hz 3440x1440 Freesync panel and the game running at 1080p. Laptop tests with GTX 1060 used a 60Hz panel and the game capped at the screen refresh rate - on default ultra settings. In terms of performance R9 Fury is equal or bit above GTX 1060, especially when Fury is Sapphire custom card and GTX 1060 is in a 14" laptop.

The drastic FPS drop on Fury, small drop on GTX 1060 and flawless performance on Vega 64 can likely be attributed to VRAM requirements of the ultra preset used by default by the game in my case. Afterburner statistics you see report amount of RAM requested by the game (not necessarily how much was used) and for R9 Fury it was around 3,8GB, bit above 6GB for GTX 1060 and 7,5GB for Vega 64. It looks like Fallout 76 is requesting as much VRAM as possible and not downscalling assets when needed to render an asset rich area like in this case. R9 Fury offered a fluid gameplay in other areas of the game world so this sudden spike could likely be prevent by a smarter assets usage. This was run on a ultra preset with default settings. Knowing AMD or Nvidia optimal settings they would rather max out every detail and drop fade distances to very low - which breaks the game look and feel, so it's rather better that the game knows how to always fit within VRAM limit.

In terms of CPU (i5-6600 on PC and i7-7700HQ on the laptop) there was no problems - you can distinguish one or often two high load cores which is quite typical for late-DX11 style game that tries to offload some work from one core but still not being fully capable of using large amount of CPU cores.

It looks like those ex-mining Vega Frontier Edition cards with 16 GB of VRAM can now find a dedicated game to run, maybe even beating GTX 1080Ti with measly 11 GB of VRAM. ;)

ToDo during beta tests

  • Test fun and feel from longer gameplay - does Fallout 76 playstyle delivers that or is it burning out quickly
  • Test Threadripper 1920X
  • Test a Potato system consisting of a passively cooled Pentium J5005 and passively cooled GTX 1050Ti KalmX on below-ultra settings
  • Bigger CAMP base, moving camp, using higher tech items and modifications

In short it's not that bad, it's a Beta... a Bethesda game Beta, what did you expect? :] It's still very unclear if and how this game will manage on the open gaming world. As a WoW player I see Fallout 76 as a template on which true MMORPG could be created, but that would require a lot of money, lot of time, a lot of game design and all of that for a rather mediocre return on investment when compared to other game types.

Some content creators are quite pessimistic, some pretty much need or want private servers / forced single player from the get-go. Time will tell how it will turn out.

Mixed feelings after first beta

Mixed feelings after first beta

Bugs - summary

  • Initial login problems
  • Initial game self-deletion
  • Accepting customized character crashed game two times in a row
  • Random system crashes when turning on/off AMD ReLive recording
  • Ash from burned bodies sometimes after reload or fast travel showed Skyrim fall glitch - making random hectic movements
  • Random FPS drop when exploring new area and location name pops out
Accepting a customized character crashed the game for me

Accepting a customized character crashed the game for me

Issues - summary

  • Very high VRAM usage in some wide field views of multiple game world areas on default ultra preset
  • Voice comm breaking me out of the game feel and completely overwhelming game voice lines on game start
  • Very aggressive respawn of mobs, limited area or location ownership/completion feel

Random remarks - summary

  • Melee combat lacks dynamics and finesse
  • Fire arms favoring long distance single shot kills, snipe builds - bullet sponges, slow and clumsy fire rate of some weapons etc.
  • Somewhat limited ways of restoring health with other methods other than stimpacks (bandages, WoW first aid anyone?)
  • Carry weight limit is easy to exceed. Stashing junk in box doesn't point out that most of your weight usage may be in food, armor and weapon tabs
  • Farm, collect everything, scrap, get new tech, build new stuff, repeat. Oh, and everything respawned. GG.
We are not alone in Virginia

We are not alone in Virginia


Games, 31 October 2018

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