When my brother told me that a new Fallout game was announced this year, I became extremely excited – for a second. Because then he told me it would be an online multiplayer game.
Yes, I hate to be the latest to join the cacophony of crazed Fallout fanboys complaining about Bethesda’s latest venture, but here it is: I am not excited about Fallout 76. Depending on how it looks at release, there’s a good chance I will not be purchasing it.
It also seems I’m not alone in feeling this way. A recent trailer for the fan-made mod known as Fallout: Miami is receiving millions of views on YouTube because many fans are hungering for a traditional RPG experience. Many fans do not care about online multiplayer, at least not where Bethesda is concerned.
Now, let me say Fallout 3 was probably my favorite game of all time. From the gritty, dust-caked environs of the Capital Wasteland to the darkly humorous duster-clad characters, excellent loot and deep character customization, the game had me enchanted at once. That game sucked entire days out of my life as I made multiples characters and did multiple play-throughs. It was always a great time experimenting with different builds and roleplaying fresh, kooky new “wastelanders” who were either exemplars of morality or just plain evil, or somewhere in between.
I also spent just as much time in the Mojave Wasteland in Fallout: New Vegas. Though it was a different flavor of the post-apocalyptic franchise I’d come to know, it still left an indelible impression on me and my heart. When The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim came out, you can bet I spent just as much time in Bethesda’s fantasy world as I did their grim, post-apocalyptic ones, patiently awaiting the next installment in the Fallout franchise.
When Fallout 4 was finally announced, it was like being a kid again and waking up on Christmas morning. For years, Fallout 4 was the game that I had been waiting for – a game that me and my brother would spend hours speculating over. Playing Fallout 3 we would sit around and discuss all the new things Fallout 4 would bring to the table: improved gunplay, better graphics, enemies that actually reacted to your attacks, and on and on. For us, Fallout 4 would be a game that only improved upon an already established and near-perfect formula. No matter what, there was no way Bethesda could screw it up. As long as you were a Vault Dweller in a new post-apocalyptic playground with some slightly improved graphics, it would be perfect.
What we never expected was a voiced protagonist. Nor did we expect them to remove the weapon degradation system, or skill points, or to practically gut the amazingly complex speech system that Fallout 3 had and Fallout: New Vegas improved upon. But a voiced protagonist? Not in our wildest dreams could we have imagined that Bethesda would replace a player’s imagination: the feeling that you were the character and instead, force upon us some lame-brained soldier guy and his just-as-lame voice.
Don’t get me wrong, I still spent literal days-in-game exploring and conquering the Commonwealth of Boston, but it wasn’t nearly as magical or memorable as the titles that came before Fallout 4.
The thing is, I love Bethesda but ever since Fallout 4, it seems like they’ve been putting out a stream of games that I’m not interested in whatsoever. I know single-player RPGs are what they’re still about at their core, and they deserve to be able to try new things. But I just have to say that I’m tired off all the new-fangled gimmicks. Maybe I’m just getting old or being too critical, but I don’t care about online multiplayer, I don’t care about voiced protagonists and I definitely don’t care about base-building or rehashed mods that are sold back to players as “all-new content.”
Bethesda, I write this because you’re starting to alienate your core fans. Because if there’s a voiced protagonist in the next Elder Scrolls, I might just skip that game entirely.
With Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 it feels like the franchise has become your guinea pig for all your radical new ideas. Maybe I’m just being a dramatic little fanboy, but fans are nervous about where the series is headed. All I’m really asking, is that you don’t turn the Fallout franchise into something it’s not. You did superlative work with Fallout 3, and you did the right thing letting Obsidian take a crack at it with Fallout: New Vegas.
As for Fallout 76 I wish you all the best. I know there is a significant number of players who actually want an online Fallout RPG and I’m sure many will enjoy it. But to make this fan happy, all you really need to do is return to the core single-player RPG experience and kill the voiced protagonist. The speech options from the original Fallout games are half the reason the series is so memorable. It gave players the power of choice! The choice to take non-violent paths, engage in hilarious and often ridiculous conversations and create meaningful impacts on the narrative that would have ripple effects throughout the in-game world.
Please Bethesda, you’ve done amazing work and you have every right to experiment and try new things. But for the next Fallout game maybe consider getting rid of the voiced protagonist and returning to a more traditional RPG experience. If you do that, I promise you will have made this fan a Vault Dweller for life.