Fallout 76 Wastelanders is a small step for developers but a big leap for the base game. At least if you refer to a fundamental playful quality that Fallout 76 actually has. Even the Wastelanders update could not solve all the small and big bugs. After all: Bethesda took the right path a year and a half after the release - even if the distance covered could have been longer. In the game test for Fallout 76 Wastelanders, we reveal whether the online Fallout is finally worth it.

A ton full of bugs, server problems and, to top it all off, a paid subscription service that offers gaming advantages: Fallout 76 is not doing particularly well as a video game. It was hard to believe that Bethesda would manage to bring such a strong brand to the wall. The release of Fallout 76 has impressively shown that a great development studio does not have to be a great game.

Now, around a year and a half after the initial release, the developers have released Wastelanders, a free DLC that extends the online Fallout to include human NPCs and a new main story line, among other things. In addition, Bethesda has revised the game world. Is that enough to turn a pretty bad fallout into a pretty good fallout? No. But at least the Wastelanders DLC is a small step in the right direction.

Nuka dilemma: you want to think it's good

Fallout 76 faces a dilemma. After the disastrous start you have to make up with those fans who are still playing the online fallout, but at the same time Bethesda would like to address new players and invite them to roam the post-apocalyptic world. While reconciliation works for active players thanks to Wastelanders, the title probably passes everyone else - Fallout 76 is accepted with a narrow shrug. Yes, there is a new Fallout game, but no, you don't have to play it.

This is not least due to the price structure. Fallout 76 cost too much for what it offers for a long time - even a year and a half after its release. For a "twentieth" one would rather grab it and give the game the chance it has earned since the release of the free DLC Wastelanders. Fortunately, quite a few dealers have understood this and are releasing Fallout 76 at a fair "trial price".

If you can't imagine anything under the free DLC - Bethesda has published a trailer for the release: 

Die-hard fans of the series are hardly interested in this anyway. You are doomed to love the game, no matter how. Bethesda is lucky to have such a committed - and suffering - community behind it. After all: With Wastelanders there is now a lot more variety and that is obviously good for the game.

Wastelanders finally turns Fallout 76 into Fallout

How was Bethesda able to bring a fallout to the market in the late autumn of 2018 that was not only technically but also playfully a failure and in the following months work to ensure that the game does not get away from this status quo? Finding an answer to this is difficult. The repetitive gameplay wasn't very motivating - why the hell would you buy a subscription for it? The answer to that can hardly be guessed either.

Fallout 76 felt like an unfinished mod for Fallout 4 that amateur developers listlessly penned up in their free time within a few weeks. With the DLC Wastelanders, Fallout 76 is finally a Fallout again - and that is not least due to quests typical of the series, which thanks to the new main story line find their way into the game. There is deliberately no spoiler at this point, just this much: the joke of some of the new quests is terrific. You can finally feel that black humor again. For whom the series is known.

At the start there are gifts, then it goes out into the wasteland. Image rights: Bethesda

At the start there are gifts, then it goes out into the wasteland. Image rights: Bethesda

Overall, of course, Fallout 76 still falls short of what fans might expect from a Fallout 5. But there is fun in the game and that has not been taken for granted for a long time.

Otherwise you shouldn't expect too much from the 12-hour campaign. A story relaxes between two new factions - raiders and settlers - and it is well written and localized and quite original. The names already indicate how the parliamentary group representatives spend their everyday lives in the post-apocalyptic world. Whoever collects reputation with them can unlock further quests and expand the sales range of the faction traders in order to be able to access new items.

Overall, both factions fit perfectly into the world, provide animation and new opportunities for interaction. And then there is the highlight of the quest line, which should be taken with you as well as all other faction missions - simply because they are really successful.

The story line is a clear step in the right direction and shows how entertaining Fallout 76 could be if the developers implemented the right content. Sure, the presentation still feels like a game with a release around the turn of the millennium - but Fallout 76 is still Fallout 76 despite the Wastelanders DLC.

The obligatory board game (bottom right) should not be missing in the video game. Image rights: Bethesda

The obligatory board game (bottom right) should not be missing in the video game. Image rights: Bethesda

This also applies to some less understandable design decisions: Those who do the Wastelanders missions as a team can do that, but only the “main player” determines how NPCs interact with. The progress of a task is only counted for the player who is in command. No matter what all the other team members do to pass the time during the dialogue scenes: they cannot intervene. Playing Wastelanders with your buddies is extremely cumbersome for a game that was developed in the age of established online multiplayer systems.

As good as the new campaign thread is, it primarily appeals to experienced players. Not that as a beginner you couldn't deal with the online fallout in the same way - you just have to be prepared for a dry spell. Story is then up to level 10 and then again from level 20. The idea behind it? Probably none, at least not an understandable one. Although Fallout 76 is this "intermediate phase" is not boring per se, it is still highly repetitive and limited in terms of content, even if there is some exciting framework to discover.

Bethesda has plans to keep the story going. That is also necessary, however, because Wastelanders feels anything but closed - that is probably actually a conceptual decision this time around. So it means again: be patient.

Fallout 76 continues to be a major post-apocalyptic construction site

As revised as Fallout 76 feels in the mission area, the clunky combat system is still corrosive. The VATS transferred to the online world just feels wrong. Sure, the real-time factor is difficult to slow down in a multiplayer online concept, so the fight in Fallout 76 is still a mixture of old-fashioned shooters with a completely indifferent choice of weapons. You can't take the shootings really seriously, at least not in 2020.

In addition to this tactical low point, there is an artificial survival element: Driven by hunger and thirst - and due to the radioactive radiation, more dead than alive anyway - one has to satisfy one's basic needs through monotonous actions. Tension rarely arises, and you don't even feel strategic influence. On the other hand, the camps, some of which are gigantic in size, are great. It's impressive what players bring to the screens.

Be careful when smashing it: the remains are radioactive. Image rights: Bethesda

Be careful when smashing it: the remains are radioactive. Image rights: Bethesda

Fallout 76 remains buggy even with the Wastelanders update installed, but feels a lot better than the version without the free DLC. Less mod, more full price game - that's how you could describe the trend.

Bethesda has also done a lot of technical work on Fallout 76, and with great success. The game feels smoother, is technically cleaner, but it is still not there. There are still bugs, albeit less serious. Here and there NPCs float above the ground, textures mix there and lag is sometimes noticeable; there are also disconnections, but far fewer than before.

Fallout 76 media

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Number of players: online multiplayer
Age: USK from 18 years
Playing time: 50+ hours of play
Difficulty: medium
Long-term motivation: medium

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Year of publication: 2018 (base game); 2020 (Wastelanders)
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4
Language: German
Costs: from 22,99 euros


Fallout 76 can best be compared to a bad horror movie. You don't really want to see it, but you can't look away either. At least that was true for a long time - now, with the release of Wastelanders, Fallout 76 has managed to rise to a B-movie. That is still far from grandiose, but at least worth seeing and playing.

With the update, Fallout 76 has taken a big step in the right direction and now, after a year and a half, feels like other online games shortly after launch. Even beginners can watch the online fallout with the release of the Wastelanders DLC, because the game has made a leap not only conceptually, but above all technically, and is now much smoother, if not perfectly.

If you can hide the somewhat old-fashioned design or even gain something from it, do not find the bulky combat system disturbing and like the daily routines of an online game, you can even venture into the brand with Fallout 76. Fallout fans will celebrate Wastelanders - if only because of the cool quests.

Even if the title doesn't always feel like a multiplayer online game, it is the community in particular that contributes to a large extent to the “Fallout 76” experience. Bethesda is lucky to have such loyal fans behind them, who forgive the developers for many mistakes. You shouldn't be under any illusions: You can't make a masterpiece out of a game with a solid base.

As of now, however, Fallout 76 is an entertaining gap filler with weaknesses, with which you can bridge the waiting time for a Fallout 5.