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Fallout 76's new plant-infested Vault 94 is a bolthole for masochists

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Fallout 76 is a weird beast. It’s mired in bugs and poor decisions, but somehow manages to birth funny player stories, like the people role-playing as NPCs, or the tale of those who have invented a lethal game show. This is why I’ve found myself dedicating over 100 hours to the multiplayer shooter and why I leapt at the chance to explore the new Vault 94 raid added as part of the latest patch.

But having spent some time with the first of these raids, called Dead in the Water, I can’t help but feel disappointed. From servers that disconnect if you so much as look at them the wrong way, to dismal loot drops, the raid was frustrating to say the least, soaking up tons of ammunition and resources with little reward or return for my efforts.

The raid works like this. Upon entering Vault 94, you step into your own private instance, meaning you won’t be able to encounter anyone who isn’t already on your team. Inside, you’ll be able to examine some terminals to find out more about the vault and then choose between three different levels of difficulty: a novice mode with no timers, a standard mode with timers and stronger enemies, or an expert mode that will have even the most experienced players crying out for Todd. Once you’ve selected the difficulty that’s right for you or your team, a bulkhead door will open and you’ll be tasked with draining the inside of the vault and killing the legions of ghouls and Mirelurks within.

I enjoyed the overall theme of the vault. Reading the logs reveals that pacifists once lived here, tending to a seed stockpile that was going to repopulate the world’s flora after the nukes dropped. Inevitably something went wrong, resulting in the monstrous vines and other radioactive flora enveloping and suffocating your surroundings. This dense and overgrown jungle vault gives off a mysterious and unsettling vibe, entirely befitting of the vault’s location at the northern tip of the swampy Mire.

As a moderately high-level player, I entered the vault fairly confident, but it wasn’t long before I ran into problems. A horde of ghouls quickly surrounded me and I found myself struggling to heal, with little time to breathe. Eventually, I managed to clear them out with my Ghoulslayer’s Grognak Axe and reached another room where the objective was to start repairing pipes (much like in the Powering Up Monongah event where players need to get a power plant up and running again). I ran around the open area, fixing what I could while attempting to avoid the Mirelurks. Everything was going well, but then I fell into the centre of the room and got caught between two Mirelurk Queens. They killed me and I respawned back at the very start of the event.

I tried a couple more times, gradually getting past the Mirelurk Queens, but the run always ended the same way. I would respawn outside the event, with less ammo and fewer stimpaks than when I started. A major problem is that the loot earned from the event is so slight and the cost of running the raid so great that you’ll quickly find yourself running short on supplies, if you haven’t already built up a stockpile. A fact that has led to some entrepreneurial players setting up shop outside the vault to restock those who want to jump straight back in.

On top of this, I constantly found myself battling waves of level 60+ enemies and receiving the same amount of experience that I’d get from clearing out a low-level area like Morgantown. This is due to Bethesda nerfing the amount of experience that you get for killing enemies inside the vault. Combined, it’s not an event that would entice players to keep coming back to try their luck.

It’s a shame when you consider just how useful a decent raid event could be inside of Fallout 76. At the moment, if you want to discover high-level gear your best bet is to hop between servers and repeatedly farm out the same areas, killing legendary creatures and looting their remains. Vault 94 would have been a great alternative to this, keeping players on the same server and giving them a fast and repeatable method of acquiring legendary items and levelling up.

Another issue I struggled with was the absence of decent matchmaking tools or text chat to help solo players find groups and communicate efficiently. Vault 94 is a labyrinth, meaning that teamwork is essential to running the raid successfully at higher levels. At present, the best method for locating other players is to simply hang around the entrance of Vault 94 and invite randoms until someone accepts or you bump into another player who has the same plan. Even then, you’re still in a constant battle with the game to try to make everything work as intended.

After half an hour of searching, for instance, I finally managed to find a decent group of high-level players ready to take on the vault. Then the server disconnected and forced me back to the main menu. This happened on a few occasions, with no shortcut available to let me quickly jump back in and join my teammates.

That’s not to say I didn’t find anything to enjoy about the raid. It injects some much-needed difficulty back into Fallout 76 for higher-level players. For a while now, Appalachia hasn’t really posed much of a threat, with most enemies going down within 2-3 hits. The sheer volume of enemies and threats in the planthole, coupled with the tasks you’ll have to carry out, present a very real challenge and shows the promise of what the raid can become given greater rewards and a bit more love.

For now, the spoils don’t seem worth it, unless you’ve got the resources to burn through and a faithful squad at your side. But even then, you’ll still have to contend with the biggest threat of all: the ropey servers and assortment of other glitches.

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Jack Yarwood

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