Fallout 76 is two weeks old today. That's two weeks of wandering the wasteland of West Virginia, looting bodies, listening to audio logs, and crafting bigger and better weapons. Since the beta period's progression carried over to launch, some players reached the endgame in a few days. Two weeks in, many others have joined them and they've all found that Fallout 76 doesn't have much in the way of endgame.
Online service titles like Fallout 76 are meant to be played in perpetuity. Yes, there's a main campaign to teach you the ropes and provide context for your actions, but the truth is that many online titles only live after the campaign is done. These games rely on a strong, consistent community of players, and that means you need reasons for folks to keep playing.
Massively multiplayer online titles like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, and The Division build with daily quests, reputation gains, high-level crafting, and extensive, difficult dungeons and raids. A game like Ark: Survival Evolved survives on player-vs-player (PvP) action and a huge crafting tree that takes a long time to fully unlock. Minecraft thrives mostly on players wanting to build huge creations, but even that title has high-level Nether and The End zones with difficult creatures and unique crafting materials.
Fallout 76 is an odd hybrid of some of these ideas. Currently, the endgame involves dropping nukes on various regions around the map. This causes new, harder monsters to spawn in the nuclear fallout; players in power armor then head into the haze to clean up and get cool loot. Some players have already tackled the strongest creature in Fallout 76, the Scorchbeast Queen, which is summoned when you drop a nuke of Fissure Site Prime.
Killing the Queen should be a very difficult experience in Fallout 76, offering a challenge to the most-skilled players. Taking one down should give the best loot in the game. Neither of these come true though. Queen takedowns just seem like an application of time and a sufficiently-geared group of players. Not every player gets loot from a boss kill, and not all of the loot is worthwhile, which are two major problems. Bethesda has promised to fix the former problem in the upcoming December 4 patch, and it remains to be seen if the latter is similarly addressed.
Outside of grinding nuke sites, there's also building high-level power armor, like the Ultracite or the X-01. For some high-level players, that journey has been completed as well, leading to a general malaise. Already players are tiring of the lack of endgame content in Fallout 76.
"After about 60 or 70 it becomes farming springs and multiple star legendary mobs. However there is not a max level area to funnel all the players to that has a constant legendary spawn rate and events that cater to the stronger players. Right now endgame is essentially server hopping to farm mobs. Non-fissure Nukes are boring and the mobs and difficulty of mobs is not rewarding," says Reddit user Ambiotic.
"I would be fine with scorchbeast loot if they would add some random good stuff to it. A chance for a plan, guaranteed max level drops, and a few additional weapon/gear drops. Right now getting a scorchbeast liver, a 10mm pistol and Scorchbeast leather is beyond unimpressive," adds Reddit user Dumpingtruck.
The truth of the matter is that players will always consume content faster than you make it. Most endgame activities in other titles are gates and speed bumps meant to keep a player wandering around until a developer can offer further content updates. World of Warcraft has reputation gains tied to daily world quests, which offer more more gear and Allied Races. Final Fantasy XIV has the Deep Dungeon, Primal encounters, and raids. And both games are on a relatively consistent content release schedule, so players always know something new is coming in a month or two.
Bethesda has started communicating with players, but the forthcoming updates for 2018 are all fixes to Fallout 76's design problems and bugs. There's currently nothing new on the horizon to keep a player logging in each day or each week.
So how can Bethesda patch up Fallout 76's endgame? In another article about potential fixes, I noted that Fallout 76 should build out the existing factions within the game: the Fire Breathers, Flatwoods Paramedics, and Morgantown Police Department. Bethesda could add another series of quests for each faction, perhaps tied to some daily events. The reward at the end of this progression could be faction-themed power armor or unique weapons.
This can also feed into some sort of incentivized PvP combat. There's no locations in the game that funnel folks towards PvP and the rewards for doing PvP at all aren't great. There's space on the Eastern side of the map for a dedicated PvP space, possibly built around the aforementioned Responder factions. And focused PvP also means unique PvP weapons and armor, which is catnip to those types of players.
Fallout 76 is at its strongest when a player is diving into a new decaying location to find weapons and armor. That should be played up, perhaps with new instanced underground fissures or fallout shelters. This means Bethesda doesn't have to add more to the existing West Virginia map, but can still offer dungeon delves for high-level players. Even better, these instanced encounters should include more unique monsters, or new variants on their overworld counterparts.
Fallout 76 is a game that's intended to live for a long time. Endgame needs to be a focus and it needs to keep players active with meaningful rewards for ongoing play. There's no reason to not take ideas of competitors to put a band-aid on this problem. Great artists steal, Bethesda.
Bethesda is correct in focusing on fixing various bugs and other problems before focusing on future ongoing content. That said, the company should also think about providing a rough roadmap for future updates to the endgame. Because when faced with nothing to do, many players will just bounce onto another game, and these days this means they likely won't come back until a huge update. And without a constant influx of players, the world of Fallout 76 will feel like a different kind of lifeless wasteland than the one Bethesda intended.