First impressions of Fallout 76’s Wastelanders expansion

    
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Everyone thought it was impossible, but somehow, Fallout 76 actually got good. And all it took was for Bethesda to not be Bethesda. That’s a taller order than you might think.

Going into last week, Fallout 76 was the poster child for how to badly screw up a franchise and an MMO. Copious words have been written and said about Bethesda’s monumental and ongoing failures to develop and operate this game in a way that wasn’t an embarrassing failure. It was a poor solo experience and a bizarrely awful social experience, all bundled together with a bad business model and horrible bugs. There should’ve been no coming back from this but for the studio’s grim determination to make something out of its failure.

That brings us to Wastelanders: Fallout 76’s huge “do-over” that isn’t quite a relaunch, but it’s close enough for government work.

Caveats are on the house

I have a few piles of caveats that I want to unload on you before I go into my first impressions of Wastelanders because all needs to be said to establish proper context for what’s to follow.

Firstly, this isn’t a Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn-level revamp, and any attempt to draw that comparison is probably coming from hype more than reality. The reality is that Wastelanders is essentially an expansion that’s serving as an overlay to wedge in content and systems that were grossly missing from the previous version of the game. It’s a huge, widespread fix, but it is a fix and not a bottom-to-top reworking of Fallout 76. The game still plays as it did, for the most part, and if you hated some parts about it, chances are that those parts are still going to be there.

Second, for all Wastelanders does for the game, it doesn’t address many of the glaring issues that still persist. These include the ham-handed Atom store, no proper VATS feature from other Fallout titles, the monument to stupidity that is Fallout 1st, and the lack of truly useful social features (guilds and chat channels, chief among them).

Thirdly, I continue to maintain that at its core, Fallout 76 has an enjoyable gameplay loop. I’ve always thought there was something here very much worth salvaging because it’s not all crap. It’s an exciting world to explore, and I am really happy that it’s getting this second chance to make a first impression. So let’s get into those impressions, shall we?

Social undistancing

The omission of NPCs and designed roleplaying from the launch version of Fallout 76 will go down as one of the dumbest decisions Bethsoft ever made. I can’t imagine the amount of crow the studio had to eat to admit this, but happily for us players, it did. Wastelanders is an expensive mea culpa, with a response that attempts to correct the error rather than merely acknowledge it.

The addition of NPCs — whether they be human, ghoul, or talkative robot — is a balm that soothes a very sore wound this game has had for the past year-and-a-half. Some people may like survival games with a minimum of dev-written narrative attached, but certainly not anyone who loves the Fallout series. It’s simply wonderful to have characters to finally talk with after feeling so lonely for so long in the game.

And not just talk with but interact in a variety of ways! There’s a great dialogue system that goes back to New Vegas and Fallout 3’s style and includes some really funny choices, skill checks, engaging writing, and (so far) above-board voice acting. Did I mention that there are personal instances, branching choices, and optional objectives as well? Yes, all of this should’ve been in the game to begin with, but at least it’s here now, and it helps make Fallout 76 feel whole in a way that it hadn’t to date.

A new pace

I found that the NPCs and their associated quests to be a welcome change to the mostly aimless wandering of the original Fallout 76. Sure, that had quests too, but I didn’t care as much when they were assigned by pieces of paper or personality-free bots. Wastelanders adds a full new campaign in addition to the old one, giving both veteran and greenhorn players a fresh journey.

What I also appreciated was that the game gives you a base right out of the gate. With the addition of the Wayward Inn, new players have a free bed, storage, crafting stations, vendor, and a giant robot that thinks it’s a cow. What more could you ask for?

This means that if you don’t want to build a C.A.M.P. — or you want to put it off until later — you have that option. I really enjoyed having this populated mini-hub as a place to begin and end my play sessions, all the more so when I contributed to the success of the Wayward and its small group of settlers. I found myself following the quest lines more than I did before, veering off to explore nearby locations as I traveled to my destination. The whole package feels more satisfying than it did before, and I was downright eager to log back in every day.

Tune in to the apocalypse

Again, it’s hard to explain just far significant having other computer-controlled humans goes in bringing this world to life. When I went into familiar locations that used to be barren, only to find some new “settler” with which to speak, I was quietly delighted. Having enemy mobs include human raiders that trash talk is a great change of pace from the growling Scorched. And maybe it was just the first week and my imagination, but I was bumping into so many other players of all levels during my journeys.

Speaking of the human touch, I also want to give a shout-out to the new radio announcer they got for this patch. Her name’s Julie, and she’s this upbeat 23-year-old survivor who took over the previously DJ-free station. See, I always liked listening to the radio in other Fallout games because having that DJ and those golden oldies playing made me feel like I had a companion of sorts. Now, I have that in Fallout 76. The community seems a bit divided on Julie, but I think she’s the bee’s knees and I’m glad she’s chirping in my ear.

Those who don’t like the radio will be glad to hear that composer Inon Zur returned to craft 15 additional pieces for the soundtrack.

Many miles to go before I sleep

Going into Wastelanders, I was cautiously optimistic. After having played over the last several days, that optimism has graduated to glowing praise. Bethesda still has a lot of real work to do on Fallout 76, but guys? This is an actually fun game now.

Having started from scratch for these impressions, I wasn’t able to blitz my way through the quests as the higher-level people have, which means I haven’t yet gotten to the two main factional hubs or dug much into the vaunted ally system. I’m looking forward to it, but there is a long way to go before I get a full picture of how effective Wastelanders is as a whole.

But for now, it’s the game that’s consuming my time, attention, and passion, which is a better sign than “dragging myself through enough hours to justify an article on it.” And as the outside world has the aura of an apocalypse these days, at least I’m free to run around this virtual wasteland without any concerns about catching a bug.

I’m still going to wear a mask, though. Can’t be too safe, you know.

Massively Overpowered skips scored reviews; they’re outdated in a genre whose games evolve daily. Instead, our veteran reporters immerse themselves in MMOs to present their experiences as hands-on articles, impressions pieces, and previews of games yet to come. First impressions matter, but MMOs change, so why shouldn’t our opinions?
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Tobasco da Gama

I still really don’t like Fallout 1st. But considering the thing I don’t like about it is also a key feature of ESO Plus, and that’s been around forever with no signs of going away, I have to assume that 1st isn’t going anywhere either. Sigh.

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xpsync

It’s so whacked, pay to play online “alone” WTF??? lmao Back in my day we paid subs to play online with other people.

Problem is i love the option, just want to chill, build, explore “Private World” feel like lots of crazy group action “Adventure”

The perks with 1st sub are not a requirement like they are with eso, they are so nice i’m pretty sure i’d miss them if not subbed.

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roar_mimi

I absolutely love your article. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and furthermore I couldn’t agree more with your points! It made me chuckle a few times as well – the comment at the end about wearing a mask was a great note to end on. I too am spending a lot of my quarantined hours playing Fallout and this article is what I needed. Thank you again, all the best to you.

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Sorenthaz

no proper VATS feature from other Fallout titles

VATS is in the game, it’s set to Q by default on keyboard controls iirc but you have to perk into it to single-out body parts and draw out its full potential. It obviously cannot stop time since this isn’t a singleplayer game, but beyond that one aspect it’s functionally identical to past VATS and regardless if you perk into it or not you can still get some use out of it (even with melee/unarmed). So it’s close enough to VATS from past titles without the one aspect that it can’t have.

Anyway, I’m still of the mindset that pre-Wastelanders was good fun, but it was obviously aimed at being much more of a depressing/dark experience since every story you followed ended with “and then they died too”. It was definitely missing a key component of past Fallout games, and putting the focus on exploration/piecing stories together off of notes/etc. only went so far for most folks. Me, I love that stuff, and it’s still in the game of course with the NPCs in addition.

Overall this is a great start in a much more positive direction for the game, and hopefully Bethesda can keep it up without doing anything stupid.

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NecroFox4

I’m in the “enjoyed it thoroughly pre-Wastelanders” club, too. Hell, I was lvl 108 when Wastelanders dropped.

But even having enjoyed the game quite a lot since launch, I can confidently say that Wastelanders has made it so much better in every way.

I am thrilled that many are enjoying it again, or for the first time. Happy hunting, folks!!

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roar_mimi

Happy gaming to you too n_n

rafael12104
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rafael12104

I’m not a fan of VATS in 76 and don’t use it enough. But it is absolutely true that if you perk into it, is invaluable.

The really nasty mobs can absorb many rounds of bullets into their body. Many have pretty hard heads too. But you focus on a limb, especially a walking limb, and they go down fast. And that is where VATS kicks in. By using VATS to hone in on limbs and weak points even the toughest Death Claw becomes routine.

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NecroFox4

Very true. My main set of perks has no room for VATS cards, though. So I just find a perch to climb up on to and tag ’em with the ‘ol Gauss rifle. ;)

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Ashfyn Ninegold

So, looking at the calendar, they released FO76 approximately 18 months early.

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Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

The dialog and character of NPCs is mostly what I like about Bethesda games. That and the worlds they build. I like these games in spite of their many shortcomings because of those things. Their omission was laughable. It’s great they figured that out.

Too bad they can’t figure out how to monetize well. All this does is make me realize how far behind other studios they are in terms of animations, storytelling, game play elements, UI. The single player TES games are only good AFTER modders make them into something resembling a game from the modern era. Without mod support for this, I have ZERO desire to try it out.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

All this does is make me realize how far behind other studios they are in terms of animations, storytelling, game play elements, UI. The single player TES games are only good AFTER modders make them into something resembling a game from the modern era. Without mod support for this, I have ZERO desire to try it out.

Yes they are and sadly many people continue enabling such behavior by paying for their games. If those selfish people would not do that, we would ALL have a much better games from Bethesda, with better visual quality, better animations, better UI and better performance. Maybe even a much larger multiplayer areas for people who enjoy that. Too bad such people fail to realize that and instead do such thing as brigading Steam reviews with “hey guys lets upvote it to counteract every negative review since all negative reviews are invalid and the game is already perfect”.

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Fisty

Even when they’re buggy, quirky and need the mod support, I still have, probably thousand of hours in all of their RPG’s. It’s not perfect, or close, and they never are, but damn it they’re pretty fun.

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Random MMO fan

Since I cannot edit my previous post – Bethesda could’ve monetized the game much more easily even by putting mods into their own cash shop which would not look like a disgusting mess of gray and brown low-res textures and would look more like these, where people put a little bit of effort when creating them (these are taken from Nexus mod site for Fallout 76 where they are available for free):

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Covynant001
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Covynant001

Err, yeah, if one actually cares about such things…

I don’t.

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Random MMO fan

It doesn’t really matter what you personally care about, plenty of people spend a lot of money in game’s cash shops on cosmetic items in many online games (in CS:GO people pay $100’s just for weapon skins), and if Bethesda put a little bit more effort – they could sell much more stuff to people who do not mind doing that. More money for Bethesda would mean more effort put into game which is good for everyone, even for people who just like to do repetitive stuff like collect desk fans and turn them into screws for several hours each day or stand in a place for for several minutes while watching the decreasing healthbar of boring monsters like Scorchbeast Queeen or grinding Raider reputation or whatever else different people do after finishing the story quests.

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xpsync

People just didn’t know what they were missing.

Covynant001
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Covynant001

Maybe, just maybe some of us actually enjoy playing and paying for it?

YMMV.

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NeoWolf

In terms of “IF” it is improved, it depends largely what your issues with it previously were.

The addition of Quest giving NPC’s hasn’t fixed the issues the game had, sure it has given it more content and life but it hasn’t addressed anything really.

Storage is now locked behind a subscription in the form of the unlimited junk storage. encumbrance is still in and a monumental p.i.t.a (works for a single player when you have unlimited storage via workshop but not in a multiplayer where you have VERY limited storage).

Private servers likewise locked behind a subscription.

The game still has a questionable flagging system that is very exploitable.

The increased build limit is a huge positive, thats nice.

The means to earn caps is still very limited and vendors still have small amounts of caps to get from them anyway.

It still has exploits and dupes, and hacks.

The inclusion of Vendors is also a nice thing but largely meaningless as apparently vendors are switched off atm…according to the notification messages it gives.

It is still sadly VERY far from what it should be, it has made some positive steps granted but it is still WAAAAAAAAAY short of what it should be.

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Covynant001

Junk storage…buy a 2nd account, got mine for 15 bucks, have three mules with about 2400 pounds of stuff in each.

Encumbrance is a core mechanic which the player is expected to manage around or… perish the thought, pay a little extra for.

Means to earn caps is limited? I make 1400 caps a day selling water to vendors from my single camp, and am sitting on about 100K caps.

If I spent more time on my alts I could easily double or triple that amount, but there’s nothing much really to buy.

Game definitely has exploits and dupes, but I’ve always been one to lay the lions share of the blame for that on the asshat players who do it, and not so much on the developers.

rafael12104
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rafael12104

True. It is easy to make caps. And in general, I don’t spend caps. So… easy pickings.

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NeoWolf

A second account is not a fix for storage space, this is a BUY to play game, to have a second account you have to buy another copy of the game, in which case it would have been cheaper to sub. And not even touching on that a game that REQUIRES you to collect junk to build, repair or mods your sh** and then LIMITS storage drastically is a problem.
And let us not forget they said quite categorically that they could not give us more space as it was technically impossible and then voila suddenly they were able to give UNLIMITED storage but only for subs…

Encumbrance is not a core mechanic, it is a mechanic that was part of the single player Fallouts and because they straight ported pretty much everything from FO4 to FO76 it came with it. But as I said it doesn’t work well in a multiplayer game with limited storage. You may find crawling at 2mph and taking hours to go short distances amusing and “immersive” I find it BS as do many many others. There is a reason Carry Cap is one of the first things modded out in almost everyone’s FO4 games lol If they wanted limits and what can be carried there are FAR FAR better ways to do it that do not affect movement speed and/or ability to fast travel.

Means to earn caps is limited, and I don’t think you followed my meaning here anyway, without the right perks sure vendor values are trash for selling anything but EVEN if you have a ton of stuff you can turn a profit on, vendors have limited amounts of caps (usually 4-800ish) So even if you had a mountain of valuable stuff, you still limited in your ability to sell it and therefore make money.

Blaming the players for hacking, duping or exploiting is all well and good but the ones who DO it are frequently not the victims OF it… so that is a strawman argument i’m afraid.

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Tanek

For all the Fallout 76 players who bought the game hoping for something more like this, I want the update to be good.

My fear, though, as someone who wants to be able to look forward to the next Elder Scrolls game, is that the message Bethesda will take away from this is now they can make TES VI an always-online, multiplayer, cash-shop heavy, unmoddable, live service subscription game as well.

So even if this is a good update for FO76, I can’t trust them just yet.

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Emiliano Lozada

always-online, multiplayer, cash-shop heavy, unmoddable, live service subscription game

ESO?

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Mewmew

No, because ESO is a true MMORPG, smart-aleck. It was made to be one by Zenimax, not Bethesda clunking together an old engine into a minimally multiplayer instanced game.

ESO is one of the best MMORPGs ever made and is a true MMORPG. The butchering of a single-player game and engine into a minimally multiplayer game that forces you to be online and loads the game with cash shop stuff is not the same as a game made to be an MMORPG.

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Chris Walker

I wish I could give a 100 more thumbs up to your reply.

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Emiliano Lozada

Except ESO fully fills in that label to the T which is being complained about. I don’t know why you have to spout ESO info to me when I’ve been playing it since 1.6 Justice Update.

Must I remind you about the legions of people that hated on ESO because they thought it was going to hold back TES6?

ESO is one of the best MMORPGs ever made and is a true MMORPG.

Funny because that wasn’t the tune that was being sung back then either. It was only after years of updates and changes did it get better, a rather similar tale that Fo76 is going down. Then again, Fo76 isn’t the game that sells $100 USD+ houses on the cash shop.

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Hurbster

I was singing it.

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Emiliano Lozada

As some have but gotta admit it was some rough times during then. I don’t miss it either though. ESO has come a long way.

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Sorenthaz

Yeah ESO’s first year or so was rough. It was a laughing stock for a good while and folks on both isles (MMORPG end and ES end) gave it a ton of flak. It really wasn’t until Thieves guild/Dark Brotherhood and the One Tamriel update + B2P conversion that things got on a better path. It took over two years for ESO to be brought to the state that truly made it great if using One Tamriel as that marker point, though Tamriel Unlimited or w/e (the B2P conversion) was the first real big step in a better direction.

Fallout 76 has definitely been in a similar state and it’s getting its own version of the One Tamriel update planned for some point in the future (guessing sooner rather than later but who honestly knows). So it’s very possible Fallout 76 could go in a same general positive direction with Wastelanders being the first major step in the right direction. Guess we’ll see, but Wastelanders definitely makes me hopeful.

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Sorenthaz

Yeah that’s the big difference with ESO and Fallout 76. ESO is an MMORPG that tried to mimic elements of the Elder Scrolls RPGs (to varying degrees of success). Fallout 76 meanwhile is, in some cases literally, Fallout 4 modified to try and be more like an MMO (to varying degrees of success).

ESO’s biggest early criticism was that it didn’t feel Elder Scrollsy enough and ZOS has done what they can to make it feel more like an ES game over time, but at the end of the day it’s clear it’s not going to capture the same feeling as Skyrim/Oblivion/etc. 76 was more ambitious in the sense that they’re trying to turn a singleplayer game engine into a multiplayer online one, but it’s had so many problems getting to a consistently playable state that isn’t riddled with a dozen new bugs or some game-breaking exploit every patch or few. The monetization antics hasn’t helped sweeten things either, since they’re basically trying to do ESO’s sub model for a game that’s nowhere close to being what ESO offers.

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Fisty

I’d say, at the very least, TES VI will have some sort of drop in and out coop options.

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Sorenthaz

Tbh I’d hope it does even though I’m sure diehard fans will ree at the thought of people having friends and wanting the option to play together with said friends.

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Mark Mealman

I think an elder scrolls version of 76 with grouping, map events that bring people together, good crafting, player vendors, and solid group roles for dungeon runs would be awesome.

The problem is that the lack of modding would be a major loss and we sort of already have that game with ESO. Also the fighting over resources(claiming workshops) adds a PvP element to FO 76 that wouldn’t make sense in elder scrolls.

But I can see them trying it. I think the failure to monetize the modding scene sort of pushes their business model towards ignoring that and going towards online services/cash shop.

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Alexus Yanova

It is vastly improved though still has many flaws. Most of them will only affect people who are done with story so people who are just interested in “Fallout story” might still find the game enjoyable.

Also, for people interested in seeing improvements, I recommend watching CohhCarnage on Twitch, he is replaying it with new character and he is pretty fair in the impressions about the game and not annoying to watch in general.

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Sorenthaz

Admiral Bahroo also gave it another go… but he died like five hours into it (due to a legendary robot self-destructing or something) and was running a permadeath character where he vowed to uninstall the game the moment he died. At least up to that point he said he was having a lot of fun with it, though he kind of treated the game as a guilty pleasure around launch as well where he knew it was bad but still had fun anyway.

rafael12104
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rafael12104

Right? It is improved. And maybe it is because I can play games these days as less of a guilty pleasure and more of civic duty, but I found the that old Fallout itch again.

Whatever it is, social distancing isn’t that bad with a few workbenches, a comfy chair and a radio.

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Raidervc

Pretty cool base. Thanks for sharing.

rafael12104
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rafael12104

Hey, thanks for noticing. It is a work in progress.

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NeoWolf

Those contemporary wall windows REALLY needed shutters that can be closed and locked like the wooden walls, real shame they didn’t include any. Even the drapes can’t be closed.

Makes it tactically unwise to have windows on a ground floor as they can be shot through, have grenades tossed through etc.. with impunity :(

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Fisty

But we like to have those nice views.

Covynant001
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Covynant001

It’s a house…. build with steel and stone if you want a fortress.

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NeoWolf

You do not need to build a fortress in order to have a house that has at least basic defensibility. Open windows you cannot close, or that people can stand next to and access your stuff is an issue.. lol

rafael12104
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rafael12104

Shutters would be nice. No doubt. But I like it the way it is. It’s a nice be one with nature feel while I’m inside crafting. Lol. It makes sense to me.

The short of it is my camp isn’t really a fortress. I don’t have regular shoot outs at home. I’m always out, as it were. And my new NPC buddy. She stays home playing the guitar and killing any red that moves.

So, it works for me. Now the real trick will be when I build some of the nicer improvements that attract all sorts. I’ll have to fence in everything and put turrets around the perimeter. Lol. And that will attract even more attention.

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Sorenthaz

Seeing bases like that really make me want to dig into the building system and do my own base… but then I have to think about location, details, etc. and I kind of just go back to settling with my junky basic functional CAMP.

rafael12104
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rafael12104

Yup. Make sure you have a good spot. And then once you put it down, you don’t want to pick it up. The type of thing where when you log in game, you keep choosing not to join a world where your camp needs to be moved.

On the other hand. Once you pick a spot. You can work on it slowly. Little by little it will start to take shape. It is fun, no doubt about it.

xpsync
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xpsync

Nice! my place is so sad compared to this lol.

xpsync
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xpsync

Functional.

Still wish this site had forums.

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rafael12104
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rafael12104

Hey, I like your place. Functional is way above par in F76. And you can just keep adding to it, so it works just the way you need it to work.