The response since Fallout 76 has been announced has been… lukewarm to say the least. Lots of people are excited but lots have also lost a lot of interest due to some unorthodox choices in gameplay. From what I’ve gathered, however, many lie right in the middle, that “wait and see” space. And I don’t blame them, this is uncharted territory for Fallout: an online game. While many of my worries at the reveal (mainly involving other people being assholes) have been calmed a bit (for example nukes can only go off in certain areas and a warning is issued before one drops) the one thing I’ve been weary about is the lack of human NPCs. One only has to watch the E3 reveal to hear it mentioned: The only humans you’ll run into will be other players. Of course there will be robots (and Super Mutants and likely ghouls) but it is also mentioned that some quests and backstory will be given out in holotapes. But thinking back on past games and how big of a role the human NPCs played it’s still worrisome to me.
At least until about 5 minutes ago. Like most epiphanies it happened as I was sitting idly with my mind wandering: Portal 2 is an amazing game, an amazing game with only robot NPCs.
Think about it, Chell is a human, but also the playable character. Outside of her the only other humans that we even catch a whiff of are
- Doug Rattmann, who we neither see nor hear, and whose existence is only brought to our attention by finding his hideaways strewn about the test chambers. Which frankly is very Fallout in fashion anyway, one of the main praises of the Bethesda titles is their environmental storytelling.
- Cave Johnson & Caroline, both of which are seen but not heard (outside of a portrait), and from recordings at that. Not unlike what could be accomplished with holotapes.
That’s it, everyone else is a robot (Wheatley, GlaDos, the turrets, the cores, the announcer [maybe, but if not still fits in with Cave and Caroline above]).
Now take this with a grain of salt, obviously the difference in writing quality between Bethesda and Valve should be noted. For example This link from Gamesradar has both Portal 2 and Half-Life 2 on their list of the best videogame stories ever, but no Bethesda game makes the cut. Which I find fair, their stories aren’t awful, but definitely not the quality of some of the other games out there. But I still think it’s enough to calm my main fear, even if only slightly.
If you’re going in expecting a Fallout experience with Portal 2 levels of storytelling you’ll almost assuredly be disappointed, and that’s certainly not the point I’m trying to make. All I’m saying is there is precedence for a game to have a great story with no Human NPCs, and I stand by that. I’m still considering myself in wait and see mode, but with each passing day to digest everything I’m feeling slightly more optimistic.