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The Fallout franchise has been with me my entire life; Fallout 3 was one of the first-ever RPGs I lost and dedicated too much time to. For many of us avid fans, there really is nothing better than the world of Fallout in the gaming world today. The setting, the lore behind it all, and the dramatic yet whimsical feel of the world are unmatched.
However, in the eyes of Bethesda, the developers of the Fallout franchise, the avid and dedicated fan base that the original games had generated was not enough; they needed to take the IP mainstream. Looking back now at the release and style of Fallout 4, this was their main goal right from the beginning.
It is fair to say that with sales hitting 13.51 million units, the highest ever in the Fallout franchise, they certainly hit this goal. I saw so many of my friends get into the franchise at this point, experiencing and enjoying the world for the first time.
After this apparent success and the continued success of the DLC content that followed, it was clear that Bethesda did not intend to slow down anytime soon, that they were going to continue down this wide-appeal approach until they sold every man, woman, and child on the Fallout IP.
With this train of thought came the most hated game ever in the history of Bethesda, a game that, upon launch, was so unanimously vilified that within months, the game with on sale, marked down to a fraction of its original price point.
While I was one of these people who detested Fallout 76 at launch, seeing it as nothing more than a cash grab by Bethesda, I have become a fan playing the game over the last year.
Bethesda has worked on the game tirelessly since its launch, and the product we are left with today is completely different from the clunky mess we received at launch.
So, with all of this in mind, it is only fair to compare these two games and see which one is worth your time and money. After all, these two titles are going to have to tide us Fallout fanatics over for some time, with Bethesda seemingly putting all their focus into Starcraft and TES 6.
In this article, we are going to be looking at what these games are made of. Whether or not Bethesda managed to improve upon the work they did in Fallout 4 or whether Fallout 76 is as troubled as mass media would have you believe. Which is better, Fallout 4 or 76? Let’s find out!
Although these games were produced one after the other by the same company and within the same universe, the difference between these games is endless. Therefore, let’s save some time and take a look at some of the main differences:
Main Differences Between Fallout 4 vs Fallout 76
The main differences between Fallout 4 vs Fallout 76 are:
- Fallout 4 continues down the path laid out by Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, continuing the solo RPG adventure in a first/third person format, continuing the franchise’s departure from its isometric, turn-based roots, whereas Fallout 76, on the other hand, is the franchise’s first foray into the world of MMO gaming, introducing multiplayer into the franchise for the first time ever.
- While both titles have a decent amount of story and writing, Fallout 76 focuses much more on the action/adventure side of things, whereas Fallout 4 does take the time to give you some nuanced story and character interactions.
- The core gameplay mechanics of the two games are very similar; however, with the addition of multiplayer in Fallout 76, some tweaks to base animations and the game’s general flow had to be changed to accommodate other players.
- There are much fewer NPCs in Fallout 76 than in Fallout 4. At the time of launch, the world of Fallout 76 felt empty and lonely. To fix this, Bethesda did add in some fully voiced unique and common NPCs; however, not anywhere near the extent of Fallout 4.
- One of the significant drawbacks of Fallout 76 is that the game is entirely online. This means that players who either do not have internet or struggle with decent speeds many find it impossible to experience Fallout 76 properly, whereas in Fallout 4, on the other hand, can be run completely offline.
- Fast traveling, one of the main features of any open-world RPG, has been changed significantly in Fallout 76, whereas in Fallout 4, like all other Fallout titles, the player can fast-travel at will as long as you are not in combat, inside, etc. However, in Fallout 76, fast travel now costs money or caps, so players can find themselves stuck in far-flung locations without the caps to return home. Although, you can fast-travel allies in your squad for free, transporting them to your location.
- The SPECIAL system has been changed dramatically in Fallout 76. The player now earns one point per level. Perks also have changed; the player now receives perks in the form of trading cards that can be earned and exchanged with other players.
Writing and Narrative
When the player jumps into Fallout 4 for the first time, the developers have ensured to include a little opening scene to bring new players into the fold, showing you the pre-war American suburban life in full swing before rushing you and your family into a nearby vault, just in time to witness the dropping of a nuclear bomb at the beginning of the Great-War.
Once the player and their family make it inside the vault, they are lured by the horrid people over at Vault-Tec into a ‘decontamination chamber,’ which actually turns out to be a cryogenic freezing pod that freezes the player in status for more than one hundred years.
Just before your release from the pod, you witness your spouse getting murdered and your son being kidnapped. You are subsequently put back to sleep for some time before waking and proceeding into the Commonwealth wasteland to find your son.
The rest of the game deals with the player character making their way through the Commonwealth, interacting with the many factions that have made the greater Boston area their home, in the hopes of allying with one to help find Shuan.
In the end, the player will have to choose between their own son and the greater good, with each possible game-ending faction in the game having its own strengths and weaknesses.
The main story of Fallout 4 was underwhelming, with the majority of my focus and energy going toward some of the brilliant and interesting secondary quests the game offers.
I found that there were no real moral questions being asked in the main story, something I was used to, having played Fallout New Vegas for years at the point of my first playthrough. Fallout 4 clearly demonstrates, with no sense of nuance, who are the good guys and who are bad; you simply have to pick sides depending on how you’re feeling that day.
Nuance is the word I point to most strongly when discussing the flaws in the writing and narrative of Fallout 4. There simply is none. Of course, I am sure the writers and developers over at Bethesda had considered this.
I believe that they decided to spend much more time on action spectacles and grand events, such as the opening Deathclaw battle, to lure in new players who don’t have the time or interest in exploring the lore of Fallout.
If you want to see a great breakdown of the issues regarding spectacle versus writing in Fallout 4, take a look at this video by the great Fallout content creator, ItsJabo.
Of course, I completely understand and respect their decision to do this. However, it is not what I look for in a good Fallout title.
When this game first launched, I was one of the many who believed that it would be just like every other MMO, with quests being handed out at a central location by some random NPC that every player and their mother online at the time would be queuing up to for the same conversation.
However, Fallout 76 decided to deliver their quests in a slightly different way. Yes, of course, you still get your typical MMO quest delivery systems, but you also get a majority of the best quests in this game via found-world items such as notes and holotapes.
These quests can range from the typical fetch and kill quests to the more nuanced and consistent main quest line.
While I would not slate the main questline of Fallout 76 as anything like that of previous Fallout games, it is only right to say that 76 does have a main questline, one that you begin right at the start of your playthrough.
In this quest, you are billed with following in the footsteps and investigating the actions of Vault 76’s Overseer, who had apparently left the vault sometime shortly before your own departure, leaving notes and holotapes in their wake.
There are also many faction-based side quests that the player can spend their time completing. Much like other Fallout games, these quests can be picked up as you explore the greater game area and usually involve the player learning more and more about the world as they explore, often stumbling upon the best quests as they go.
You should not buy or invest time into Fallout 76 if you are coming for the same experience you may have gotten in Fallout 1,2 or New Vegas. While Fallout 4 may be lacking in nuance, there is, at least, a detailed and well-thought-out central plot there that all other aspects of the title hang off.
In Fallout 76, I would argue that you could almost call any of the longer quests the ‘main quest,’ this is how little it actually affects the world around you.
Also, by using notes or holotapes as quest delivery systems, you lose a lot of the great voice acting in Fallout 4, which helps set the tone and make you care about the missions you are being sent on.
The main problem with every story element in Fallout 76 is that there is no real drive or reason for the player to do these quests. Curiosity is the only thing driving you. In this sense, Fallout 76 is like a bad rom-com where you sit and ask yourself why these people are even interested in each other.
There are not a lot of differences when it comes to Fallout 4 and 76, considering that both titles were built on the same engine. However, both games do manage to give off a different feel- almost as though the atmosphere surrounding the player character is different somehow.
In Fallout 4, the game kicks off with brand new, updated graphics, leaving the tired look of Fallout 3 and New Vegas behind, embracing an entirely new engine and graphic system. This update moved the game away from the traditional open-world RPG feel into more of an action/shooter-style game.
While the world of Fallout 4 is a lot more colorful and vibrant compared to previous games in the franchise, it does lack some of the whimsical charms that other titles in the series have managed to shoehorn in.
It seems that with the advent of this new and improved engine, the developers were so focused on making the game look as good as possible during the massive and sometimes sprawling gun fights that they momentarily forgot that Fallout is a world filled with wacky and whimsical stuff.
While many players were happy with the look of Fallout 4 at the time of release, I believed that what we ended up with was still behind the times in terms of graphical ability.
This is a trend for Bethesda; they always produce titles that are wonderful looking in stills and screenshots. However, when you look a little deeper and actually run through their worlds, the little cracks begin to show.
Things like water/particle physics, player hair, and rampant collision mech issues really serve to bring this game down a couple of notches.
There is not much else to say when it comes to the presentation of Fallout 76. However, I will say that the developers did manage to catch themselves a little by injecting a little bit of the whimsy fans had been crying out for.
The introduction of perk cards and other niche articles really do help to make the game feel more like a Fallout title, reminding the player that you are in a different world, filled with interesting and questionable things.
Fallout 76 does feature pretty much the same graphics as Fallout 4. However, the developers clearly spent a great deal of time working on the things that they got wrong or didn’t spend enough time on in Fallout 4, with everything getting slight graphical upgrades.
Of course, to experience this, you will need to have a fairly powerful PC, as the game is currently very poorly optimized on all platforms. Hopefully, with Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Bethesda, the game will improve drastically on consoles in the coming months.
Now that I have mentioned the game’s optimization, I do have to spend some time discussing the game’s lag and connectivity issues. While a certain amount of bugs and glitches are expected with every Bethesda game, the developer tried to run before they could walk with this one.
I have long been a fan of poorly optimized games for the online multiplayer experience; I’m definitely not talking about the Civilization series here, but I have always found some sort of workaround or improvement that could be made to make the experience more enjoyable. However, with Fallout 76, this is seemingly impossible.
Certain times of the day or certain areas of the map can become almost unplayable due to lag or game stutter as the game tries to keep up with the mass transfer of data packets.
This would be okay if there weren’t any PvP, but when the rather basic combat system of Fallout 4 meets the lag of Fallout 76, we have a big issue on our hands.
World Building and Design
While the Commonwealth does feel like its own distinct area in the Fallout series, I do feel like it is lacking something. There is a certain absence of wacky or weird content that truly makes a Fallout map feel part of the overall franchise.
What exactly is missing in this context is hard to describe. The game is a tad over-polished at times and does not seem to place the character in the greater world of Fallout with the objects scattered around you in the rubble.
None of the settlements in this game feel particularly unique or out of the ordinary for the world; it all makes sense, which would be perfect for some gamers and new players of the franchise.
But I miss the weird stuff, how Fallout New Vegas would bring you into an environment only to slap you in the face with something entirely out of the box that years of post-Great War ingenuity would bring out in people.
Places such as Diamond City or Goodneighbour feel the same, no matter who you are aligned with in the main quest. Alternatively, whether you side with The Institute, The Railroad, or The Brotherhood of Steel, each of their bases feels amazingly similar for being set in such wildly different locations.
Your bedroom aboard the Prydwin may as well be in the bowels of the Institute; there are no tangible differences that could influence your choice in future playthroughs.
In this sense, world-building lacks quite a bit in Fallout 4. However, the developers did manage to get the world design fairly on point, ensuring that the map is structured in such a way that the player will naturally traverse into harder and harder areas as they naturally progress through the game, coming up against challenges when they are a suitable level to do so.
Of course, there are drastic differences in height throughout the map, which is a nice addition to the Fallout franchise, as it was definitely lacking throughout all other games.
The player can spend a great deal of time exploring one and two-storey homes in the north of the map, but as you head into downtown Boston, the skyscrapers there offer a unique challenge and visual change that is quite enjoyable, especially if you get your hands on the power armor jetpack.
The more recent release of the Fallout franchise faces many of the same problems that Fallout 4. Many areas within this map feel like any post-apocalyptic environment or franchise, with very little dotted around the player to root them in the wider world of Fallout and the lore surrounding it.
For example, one of the best things about Fallout 3 was the inclusion of many pre-war relics and pieces of technology, all of which served as a reminder that the world you are currently traipsing through is completely different from our world, that the society before and after the Great War is unlike our own.
This helps put you in the correct mind space to experience these games and consume the, at times, wacky content it throws your way.
Once again, I feel like the world-building in Fallout 76 is very lacking, as if the game is leaning on the banks of lore built up by the previous games in the franchise. In some ways, this game stands on the shoulders of giants whilst simultaneously rejecting even to be associated with said giants.
During a recent playthrough of this game, I sat for over 4 hours completing miscellaneous quest after miscellaneous quest, only to remember that, when I stumbled across a vault, I was indeed playing a Fallout game.
For some time, I would have easily believed that I had just clipped over to something like Metro or The Division. This speaks to a greater problem within this game. The fact that everything, at times, feels very generic, as if they just copied all other available MMOs and threw a Fallout skin over the whole thing.
Audio and Score
Now, this could all be down to personal preference regarding the rest of the audio and score throughout the Fallout franchise, but I honestly believe that Fallout 4 has one of the weakest audio profiles within the entire genre, not just the franchise.
While the music is still great, pulling tracks from some of the standard Fallout artists, such as The Ink Spots and Billie Holiday, creating that 1950s Americana feel, the rest of the music in the game seems to be lacking completely in terms of depth.
In other words, everything that the audio designers over at Bethesda had to construct from scratch on this game is rather shallow and forgetful.
Genuinely, when writing this section of the article, I had to boot up Fallout 4 again to hear a little bit of the ambient and situational score in this game; that’s how little impact it made on me. This is truly saying something as one of the main reasons most players love the Fallout franchise, and it is usually something I pay a great deal of attention to.
Some of the tracks from the original soundtrack are so close to being good and yet lack the finishing touches that would have made them truly great.
The Main Theme, produced by Inon Zur, is wonderful for most of the track, slowly building to something great and powerful, but when it hits the crescendo, there isn’t enough payoff.
After this, the entire track seems completely disconnected from itself, as if trying to piece together two different trains of thought. Although, I do have a soft spot for the ‘Rebuild, Renew’ track.
With all this being said, Bethesda spent a great deal of time on some of the game’s sound effects and artifact audio recording sections. Holotapes that you find around the map are littered with amazing voice actor performances, gripping the player routinely throughout their playthrough.
This, combined with high-quality combat sound effects, makes the game stand out from previous entries in the franchise.
There really isn’t much difference between these two games when it comes to audio and score. To me, they are so similar that comparison seems a little pointless. Even the main title tracks of the two games sound alike as if they have borrowed some of the raw sections from 4 and inserted it into 76 to save a bit of money.
Once again, the game’s effects and recorded pieces of dialogue are outstanding and really do help to root the player in the world, but the ambient music is just not enthralling enough to keep me entertained for any prolonged period of time.
I listened to the entire soundtrack of both games for this article while typing it up, and, I can honestly say, I could not tell you which game each track came from, something I wouldn’t struggle with for any of the other Fallout titles.
Gameplay and Core Mechanics
The combat in Fallout 4 is a continuation of the decisions made in Fallout 3. The franchise continues to modernize and improve this section of the games, creating a better combat experience with each iteration of the franchise.
The V.A.T.S mechanic is as central as ever, yet it no longer pauses combat completely, allowing the player to take a break and think in the heat of battle. This time, the targeting system merely slows down time.
While the skill system in Fallout 4 has improved from Fallout 3, there is still a long way to go to ensure that each character actually feels like an individual, with your choices affecting how you must attack the game.
Fallout 4 is also the first title in the franchise that the player can run, something that has been modded into the games for well over a decade now.
There are tons of new and unique mechanics added to Fallout 76. Most of these were added to facilitate the addition of multiplayer and MMO-style gameplay. To this end, most of them are either incredibly annoying and fiddly to use properly with friends or completely sublimated to the game’s operation that you could easily miss them.
One of the most talked about mechanics at the time of launch was the C.A.M.P system, whereby a player could set up a makeshift camp-style base wherever he or she chose.
Outside of this wondering base setup, the player can now set up a home in various locations throughout the map, using the build tools to help make some random deserted building your new home.
Due to the game’s online nature, Fallout 76 also benefits from routine events that Bethesda places into the game, usually to do with IRL events such as the 4th of July.
These events are called ‘Public Events’ and are displayed as a hexagon-shaped icon on the map. Of course, these events come with their own quests and rewards, encouraging players to log in routinely and check for them.
Which is Better
Winner: Fallout 4
While both games have merit, I must give the win to the game that feels the most like a Fallout game. While it may be missing several elements that make it feel situated in the wider Fallout world, this game is still more akin to its predecessors than Fallout 76.
I think turning this IP into an MMO was a bad call all around by Bethesda as they managed to alienate their original fanbase whiles simultaneously bringing in very few or no new players to the series.
While I have discussed the many flaws of Fallout 4 throughout this article, I simply cannot give the win to 76. There is just a much better game and experience here with Fallout 4, one that I can continue to come back to years from now, not having to worry about servers or hackers. Also, the ability to freely mod Fallout 4, compared to 76, makes the game that much more appealing.
- Fallout New Vegas
- The Metro Franchise
- The Outer Worlds
- Elder Scrolls Online
- Ark: Survival Evolved
- Conan Exiles
- State of Decay 2
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is it worth playing Fallout 76 now?
Answer: While Fallout 76 was widely hated upon its release, Bethesda has made a lot of adjustments and updates over the years. These updates have changed the game quite a bit, leaving me to recommend you give the game another go.
Question: Is Fallout 4 as good as Skyrim?
Answer: While I enjoyed playing both, I think it comes down to your personal preference. If you love the Fallout world and enjoyed the RPG elements of Skyrim, you will enjoy Fallout 4.
Question: Is Fallout 76 friendly for solo players?
Answer: While the game has been built to facilitate groups and clans of players, you can definitely play the game by yourself; there are tons of things for you to get up to.
While all games are not created equal, I do think that you cannot really go wrong with either of these games. The world of Fallout is so vast and full of fun times that even the slightest hint of the magic that Fallout 1, 2, and New Vegas captured is worth your time.
I really hope you enjoyed this article and it helps you choose between the newest offerings in the Fallout franchise. After all, we probably aren’t getting another one anytime soon. I hope to see you again soon.