5 Improvements to Fallout 76 in 2020 (I’d like to see)
The biggest update yet to Fallout 76 launched this month: Fallout 76 Wastelanders. Wastelanders aims to fix issues from the base game by adding human NPCs, RPG mechanics and a brand new dialogue system. And to be honest, it’s fantastic. I love everything about Wastelanders, but as I said in my review, Fallout 76 is holding it back. Even now, there are issues with core gameplay that haven’t been addressed over the past 18 months. As a huge Fallout fan, my suggestions come from a place of kindness. I want Fallout 76 to succeed, to be proud of the next entry in one of my favourite franchises and I don’t want the masterful work in Wastelanders to go to (pardon the pun) waste. But at the moment, Fallout 76 needs major change. As such, here are 5 improvements to Fallout 76 in 2020 that I’d like to see.
1. Improvements to Fallout 76’s combat
The combat in Fallout 76 is frustrating at best and a reason to stop playing at worst. In every encounter you’re always outnumbered as multiple enemies with huge health bars bombard you at once. Ranged enemies are insanely accurate and can fire faster than the speed of light, whereas melee enemies rapidly charge towards you like they’re Olympic Athletes. Most of the time you simply stand there taking damage, scrambling to heal. It makes high level encounters infuriating as you die after a few hits, or drawn out as you slowly chip away at a never ending health bar.
At higher levels wearing Power Armour helps drastically, but when starting a quest the level of enemies you’ll encounter is unknown. As a result you’re forced to always carry power armour because it’s never clear. Not only does this take up valuable inventory weight, but it funnels you towards one style of play. Even if you enjoy using Power Armour, surely you agree it restricts any form of variety in combat?
I’m sure you can think of many shooters with excellent combat and enemy design, but I’d like to highlight a game from 2006, Gears of War. In Gears, a melee enemy like the Wretch moves slowly. As they barrell forwards, you have time to aim and shoot before they reach you. In later Gears of War games Tickers charge towards you and explode on impact dealing heavy damage. They’re faster than Wretches, but to give the player more of a chance, Tickers die with a few well placed shots. Compare this to the most powerful enemies in Fallout 76, most of which are melee types. Not only are these enemies fast and extremely powerful, but it takes an obscene amount of damage to put them down. It’s utterly baffling and goes against everything that shooters have developed over the past 20 years.
In defence of Bethesda, they are currently working on re-balancing the entire game with their ‘One Appalachia’ update. They’re aiming to improve Fallout 76s combat by making sure you’re always fighting enemies of a similar level. I agree One Appalachia will help, but it won’t change the core enemy design.
2. Re-balance Scavenging and Crafting
When designing Fallout 76, Bethesda wanted to ensure players never felt comfortable. Weapons degrade, ammo is scarce and armour breaks with everything tied to crafting. The problem is, the current system is far too punishing. Enemies take tens of bullets to topple, while ammo requires a hefty wad of resources, like lead.
Lead is key for most ammo types, but it’s presence in the open world is rare. Across Appalachia there are two locations perfect for farming lead; a gym in Flatwoods Motel and one in Charleston Fire Station. And with that sentence you may already see the problem. Having two locations for a server of 24 players is like Black Friday at an Electronics Store. Most times I’ve been to Flatwoods, the gym has been obliterated with its precious dumbells and bench presses already ransacked. (It’s the most apocalyptic thing I’ve ever seen in Fallout 76). To make it worse the caps you’ve spent to fast travel there were all for nothing.
Other junk items contain valuable resources (like lead in old paint cans), but the sheer amount of ammo you burn through means you’re always scraping the barrel just to survive. Certain perk cards help, like slower degradation, lower resource requirements or more ammo each time you craft, but their effects are so minimal they’re barely worth using. (Having 8 extra bullets for every 10 you craft isn’t exactly game changing). Something as simple as halving the amount of resources for crafting, doubling the amount of resources dropped from enemies or lowering enemy health bars, so ammo lasts longer, would be a simple and effective fix. I don’t understand why this hasn’t happened already. Oh yeah, because you can buy resources from the in-game microtransaction shop. Brilliant…
3. Improved S.P.E.C.I.A.L/Perk Card System
One of the best things in Fallout 76 is levelling up. It’s great adding a special point, unlocking a new perk card and every five levels opening a fresh card pack. But after you reach level 50, levelling up loses its enjoyment. You hit a brick wall and can’t earn any more points. I understand why, as earning more points would cause balance problems, but something should at least take its place. For example, something like the Paragon system in Diablo 3 would be perfect. In Diablo, you earn paragon points every time you level up past 70. Even though they provide minor stat boosts they make end game levelling always rewarding. Currently we have nothing to look forward to in Fallout 76 past level 50.
Related: Read why the Nintendo Switch is the perfect place to play Diablo 3 Seasons here.
Bethesda are currently working on a similar system called Legendary Perk Cards. Legendary Perk Cards unlock every 50 levels and give your character a powerful perk. However, that’s a lot of levels in between unlocking each legendary card, 50 to be exact. I worry it’s not rewarding enough.
The current system would be fine if you were given more special points to play with, like in Fallout 4. At the moment, you constantly juggle between perks that help in combat and those that help you survive, but it’s those tied to key skills which are the most egregious. For example, to hack master terminals and unlock high level locks takes up 7 of your 56 special points. That’s a lot of points that can’t be used to help ease the frustration in combat, especially when most slots are taken by essential crafting cards. Again, there is technically a way around this by swapping cards on the fly. But I, and likely most people, don’t do this. It adds unnecessary busy work to a game flooded with so much busy work it’s metaphorical banks are about to burst.
Bethesda, please improve this by adjusting the values on perk cards. Something as simple as quartering the number of SPECIAL points required for key skills would be great. A hacking card would cost 0.25 points with all four hacking cards taking up only one slot. At the moment the system punishes people who want to avoid the chore of constantly swapping cards. This will hopefully be improved soon as Bethesda are working on perk card load outs. When this update arrives, swapping between different builds will be much easier.
4. Make us feel Stronger
Sure, Fallout 76 is a survival game, but you never feel powerful unless you’re one of the highest level players. Quite frankly, damage against certain enemies without a heavy weapon is abysmal. It makes it worse that the buffs in combat are meaningless. When you’re fighting an enemy with a huge health bar, a 15% damage boost from chems or a perk for 20% extra shotgun damage (3 special points by the way) barely helps. I had these exact buffs active when going toe to toe with a Mirelurk King recently. He was five levels below me, yet defeating him was almost impossible. He wasn’t even the instance boss…
Bethesda could take a leaf out of other action-RPG games and give us more powerful legendary equipment. Again, in Diablo 3, I increase my grenade damage by 800% with a legendary belt. Yes, being stronger goes against the survival aspect of Fallout 76, but it wouldn’t matter given how insignificant the loot drops are. While I’m not saying we all need an 800% damage boost (which admittedly would be nice), more is needed to make us feel stronger. There’s a difference between never being comfortable and repeatedly banging your head against a wall like you’re playing Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. I enjoy overcoming challenges in a FromSoftware game, I don’t in Fallout.
5. Revamp Survival System (Food and Drink)
Certain aspects of Fallout 76s survival system are great. I like the mutations, diseases and the extensive crafting list. However, the food and drink meters are a complete waste of time. Throughout my 80 hours with Fallout 76, I have never once been low on food or drink. When you’re fully stocked, this survival mechanic involves scrolling through your inventory, or favourite wheel, and clicking a button. Why? Who thinks this is fun?
I would much rather see Fallout 76 adopt a Monster Hunter World style system. In Monster Hunter World, before a big hunt you chow down on a massive meal. Different meals have different effects where one boosts attack and defence, or another makes you fireproof. In Fallout 76, this translates to preparing a rare meal before a big quest to significantly boost your stats.
Simply adding powerful buffs to the rarest meals would make cooking worthwhile. Certain meals could even act like Fireteam Medallions from Destiny 2, which boost XP and increase rare loot drops. Certain meals already boost XP, so this can be easily built upon. Plus using this new system allows the most accomplished Appalachian Chefs to continue their reign of cooking. Everybody wants to be friends with the guy who cooks powerful stat boosting meals, right? At the moment there is not a single meal which is worth cooking.
Bethesda, scrap the survival meters and allow us to interact with food and drink in more interesting ways. Less busy work, more fun I say.
5 Improvements to Fallout 76 in 2020 – Final Thoughts
Of course, this list is based on my personal tastes where some of these changes go against the survival elements of Fallout 76. But using other successful looters and shooters as examples, I have highlighted just how far behind Fallout 76 is. I personally believe these changes would create a more fun, compelling and rewarding game.
Out of all five, I wish the combat would improve the most. I hope an experienced FPS developer comes in to help, like id Software (who are even underneath the same Bethesda Softworks umbrella). Currently, combat ranges from slightly frustrating to a reason to stop playing for good.
If you agree or disagree with my list then please let me know. I would love to hear what improvements you’d like to Fallout 76 in 2020.
Check out my full review of Fallout 76 Wastelanders here.