Fallout 76 is a mess. Developer Bethesda has long been known for putting out games that are famously buggy, but Fallout 76 presents a different set of problems since it's an online game where players compete with each other, and the competition is not exactly fair when players can easily exploit bugs to get a winning edge over other players.
We've previously reported on how players are breaking Fallout 76's weak protection around nuclear launch codes to unleash hell, but there are many more, less dramatic exploits that allow players to carry an infinite number of items or bypass the entire leveling system.
“ Fallout 76 had far more bugs at launch than Fallout 4 and Skyrim. Many of which have yet to be patched and they were in the beta,” RGD5IMPACT, a YouTuber who catalogues exploits and glitches on his channel, told me via email. “ Fallout 4 has more xp/cap glitches [exploits that reward players easy money and experience] at the moment, but Fallout 76 has been out for less than two weeks and I imagine the number is only going to rise.”
One of the biggest problems with Fallout 76 is the stash limit. Bethesda’s Fallout games are all about exploring, gathering resources, and using those resources to craft arms, armor, and buildings. Everything in Fallout 76 has a weight attached to it and a player can only carry so much. Once the weight limit is reached, the player becomes encumbered and can’t move as fast until they can offload their excess gear into at their base.
Since there are so many things to pick up in Bethesda games that are useful in one way or another, and since many players have a completionist mentality where they want to collect everything that's in a game, encumbrance is divisive concept among players. Some accept it as the rules of the game, while others turn to user-made modifications that remove the limitation on how much players can carry. Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3, and Fallout 4 all have mods that remove encumbrance.
In Fallout 76, the player’s stash is limited to a weight of 400. At level 20, I’m less than halfway through the game’s level progression and I spend an inordinate amount of my time managing that weight limit in a system that involves bundling steel and wood with plastic fibers before selling them. Bethesda said it will update the stash limit to a "conservative" 600 on December 4, but players have already found a workaround.
Fallout 76 generates random attributes for gear. One of those attributes makes armor “pocketed,” meaning its lined with pockets that allows a player to increase their carrying limit. If a player crafts or acquires a pocketed piece of armor and rapidly equips and unequips it, the game glitches out and begins to whittle away at the carrying limit. Push it too far, and it drops below zero into negative numbers. Once the stash limit crosses into the negative numbers, players can carry as much as they want without becoming encumbered. The glitch resets when you log out, but it takes seconds to replicate.
Players abusing the stash limit have an advantage over those who don’t. The cheaters can stay out in the wild longer, farm more objects, built better bases, and construct better power armor. Right now, the only competitive portion of Fallout 76 involves taking over comunal bases and using them to produce rare resources. If Bethesda doesn’t fix these bugs, players with infinite stashes carrying hundreds of missiles —a heavy ammo that takes up a lot of space—will control those resources as long as they’re logged in.
Another exploit lets players easily farm power armor, a late to mid-game resource, by quitting the game. Power armor allows players to traverse the more hazardous and irradiated portions of Fallout 76. They’re incredibly powerful and require a resource called a fusion core to run. There’s a shack south Fallout 76’s opening area where a set of power armor spawns, complete with a fusion core. Farming the fusion core is as easy as traveling to the shack, grabbing the core, and logging out of the game to reset the server and find a new one. Players can use this method to farm fusion cores and never worry about keeping their power armor powered.
The worst exploit—in terms of game balance—is an easy way to farm experience points (XP). After level 22, players can pick up a perk called Home Defense that allows them to disarm traps. The Appalachian wastes are filled with pressure plates, strings, and flame throwers primed to go off if a player trips their switch. The Home Defense perk allows them to remove those threats, get a little XP, and the materials used to build the trap. Currently, Fallout 76 doesn’t register a trap as disarmed. So a player armed with Home Defense can find any old trap, hover over it, and hit the button to disarm it repeatedly to fill their experience bar. Players can go from level 22 to level 50 and beyond quicker than Bethesda ever intended.
Bethesda games have long been filled with weird exploits and game breaking bugs, but Fallout 3, Fallout 4, and Skyrim were single player experiences. If you wanted to hit max level in Skyrim in an instant, then you weren’t cheating anyone but yourself. Fallout 76 is different. This is a game with a competitive bounty system. When one player kills another, the aggressor is marked with a bounty. If they die, they pay that bounty from their own pocket. The more they kill, the higher the bounty.
What if the killer has an unlimited carry capacity, the best power armor, and an unlimited supply of explosives? Bethesda has promised to introduce a faction system for competitive play and other new ways for players to interact. As the lone wanderers come in from the wastes and begin to rebuild civilization, those who’ve cheated will have a distinct advantage.
RGD5IMPACT doesn’t see it the same way. “It’s certainly not the most ethical thing to use glitches to your advantage in multiplayer games, but from my experience the majority of players in Fallout 76 have a more independent playing style,” he said. “Most times when I encounter another player we just wave and go about our business. I think that using glitches such as ones that give you XP and currency mostly benefit the player doing it. I have never felt that I have affected another players experience doing these glitches.”
Fallout 76 is, largely, a lonely and solitary experience. I avoid other players as I travel the wastes. I tested these glitches and saw how easy and useful they were. I won’t use them, though. Not because I’m worried about becoming a killing machine, but because using the glitches breaks my own sense of immersion. I’m not playing Fallout 76 to dominate anyone. I’m there to survive and explore. These glitches ruin the spirit of that.
Bethesda did not immediately respond to request for comment.