Here at PCWorld I try to stick to a simple standard when reviewing games. I either finish the game or the game finishes me—a.k.a. after long hours spent frustrated I deem it unplayable. Fallout 76 is not strictly unplayable, but after 30-odd hours wasted in this West Virginia wasteland I’m calling it. Time of death, around 2 a.m. on November 19 when I logged in to find half my quest log mysteriously wiped away, as if I’d never started any of a half-dozen different missions.

It was the latest motivation-sapping bug in a long, long cavalcade, and so I’m tapping out. Fallout 76 wouldn’t be a great game even if it functioned properly. And in its release state? It’s worse.

I do want to set this world on fire

Let’s just recount the bugs, shall we? It started with the Bureau of Tourism, a mission you pick up mere hours into the game—and, if you were one of the many unlucky players, a mission you could never finish. An item you needed to interact with wouldn’t allow interaction, causing the quest to break entirely. Bethesda fixed that quest with this week’s patch, so it feels unfair to harp on it too much. On the other hand it was a quest people noticed was broken in the beta, because as I said it pops up maybe four or five hours into the game. When I finally encountered it, there were multiple Reddit threads discussing the problem. It took Bethesda nearly a month to fix.

And it’s not even the only busted quest! Another early one, “Personal Matters,” concludes with you having to kill a specific enemy inside a specific basement. I entered the basement—and the enemy was already dead. Yes, we’ve traveled back to the days of EverQuest and early World of Warcraft, queueing up to complete quest steps.

Fallout 76 IDG / Hayden Dingman

I logged out, then logged back in to a new server. Dead. I came back the next day. Dead. I came back the next day. Dead. Finally, after logging out to eat dinner and then returning, I was lucky enough to find a server where this damn ghoul was alive, pop a .308 round into his head through a window, and finish the quest. It took me three real-world days to finish a quest that should’ve taken three minutes.

Playing the beta a few weeks ago, I already complained about Bethesda’s slavish adherence to real-world logic over video game logic. If someone is using a crafting station, you can’t use it until they’re done. Why? I guess because you need to watch your character sit down and stir a pot, or smack a hammer into a bench over and over while you peruse menus. Same goes for merchants. Someone else is trading with the only robot merchant in town? You’d better hope they don’t take too long, because you’re stuck waiting in line.

The lack of instancing in quests is beyond the pale though. Hell, even The Division—a game that somehow launched in a state where players could stand in doorways and block others from getting out—understood that the campaign should be unaffected by other people’s shenanigans. Safely sandboxed in your own unique instance, you could take in the story (or what passed for a story in The Division) in peace. Not here!

Fallout 76 IDG / Hayden Dingman

Since there’s little-to-no instancing, Bethesda also treats every environment as a live-fire range at all times. What if some other player enters the building? There needs to be enemies for them to fight, right? And so what happens is you’ll be deep in some desolate ruin, trawling for trash, when suddenly all 20 or 30 enemies you meticulously killed will just respawn and start attacking you again. I’ve had it happen as soon as five minutes after ceasing combat, digging through a desk drawer and then plunged back into a prolonged battle for my life.

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