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Fallout 76: The Wasteland Like You've Never Played

Damien Gula Posted:
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Vault Dwellers, rejoice!  We have seen AND played Fallout 76. Now, we can actually tell you more about it than what we heard at E3! Within this article, we are going to break down what we know, share some concerns, and try to help you be ready when Reclamation Day hits.

Let’s dive it!

According to Bethesda Game Studios, Fallout 76 is meant to be the ultimate “Fallout with friends” experience… and it feels very much like that. What this means, however is that some game systems which have been more suited to a single player game have had to be adjusted to fit within a multiplayer environment.

Do not fear, your Pip-boy and V.A.T.S. still exist! However, the both work slightly different and in real time. V.A.T.S. no longer slows down time, but does give you a huge boost to accuracy for the cost of AP. Your Pip-boy still contains your menus, but it has a projection mode. Rather than pulling up your arm every time you want to fiddle with your inventory, you can toggle a translucent menu to pop up instead. It has all of the same functionality, but allows you to see what is going on in front of you in the event that you need to dip out of danger. It is worth noting that terminals are accessed in real time as well.

Another major adjustment for the Bethesda team is with story. The developers were very clear that just because this is a new format, it does not mean that Fallout 76 is without a story. The team has had to get more creative in how they are telling it.

The story as we know it is this: you among the first survivors to emerge from a Vault 76 after the bombs dropped in the Fallout universe. Some of the residents of Vault 76 (including the Vault’s Overseer) were young adults when they entered the Vault 25 years prior. This is a story as close to Fallout’s Great War as Bethesda has ever told.

You will follow the Overseer’s footsteps through holotapes as she revisits the places she once knew. These recordings follow the tone of the universe, but they are not the sole story. She also has a mission of discovery to find out what happened and to secure a series of nuclear silos within West Virginia. There are many environmental stories to be discovered, public events to participate in, and notes left by former residents which will lead to side quest experiences.

The environments are handled with incredible detail to the West Virginian setting. The team that I ran with found the in-game proxy of where Bethesda’s event was being held right at that moment. It was uncanny standing in a hallway in-game right outside of the room that we were play testing the game in. The attention to detail was impeccable.

If you find yourself wandering away from your party, which you likely will, getting around the map - specifically catching up to team members - is incredibly easy. When you are in a group, you can fast-travel to your team mates, to Vault 76, or to your C.A.M.P. without a fee. Other locations will cost caps. If your teammates have their C.A.M.P.s scattered throughout the map, you won’t have a problem getting to where you need to go.

Speaking of C.A.M.P., these individualized base camps can be built anywhere the terrain allows it and it can be moved at any time. Your camp is tied to your character, so when you log out, it logs our with you. No worrying if someone is messing with your things… and even if they do, C.A.M.P.s cannot be looted for your personal stash. If someone else builds in that area while you are logged out or something unfortunate happens to that area while you are logged out, the word on the street is that the buildings will be returned to you for rebuilding in a similar fashion to moving your C.A.M.P. from one location to another.

Speaking of PvP, Bethesda does allow players to play the rogue, but at a cost. Killing other players will put a bounty on your head and highlight you on the map for other players. To avoid manslaughter, they have a pacifist mode which can be toggled. You can still be attacked, but this will block any unintentional friendly-fire. If you kill someone who initiated combat with you, you do not get the bounty debuff.

In the event that you do die, you will lose is the junk from your inventory and some durability on your gear. It can be reclaimed if you get to it first, but it’s anyone’s brown paper bag o’goodies if they get there before you. This may not sound like a big deal, but if you were collecting resources to build out your camp, to upgrade equipment, or repair your gear, it could be a little annoying. It is better than losing your equipment altogether!

Speaking of equipment, each piece does have a durability meter much like previous titles. Unlike previous Fallout games, items do have level requirements and do not scale with your level. You may find some killer gear early in the game, but may have to wait to use it until later. On the other side of that same statement, you may have some incredibly modded out gear that won’t carry you all the way through until the end game.

On leveling, I did not get a chance to obverse whether or not things like crafting would increase your experience level like other Bethesda titles, but leveling seemed to happen at a moderate pace. In the three hours of gameplay I got to experience, I ended up just shy of level 7.

As you level, you will gain Perk Points and occasionally, Perk Cards. Points can be assigned to each of your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. traits and cards can be equipped for each on of those traits. You can gain Perk Cards through leveling and through completing portions of the main quest. Packs of perk cards are awarded to you every four levels. These cards are also stackable. For example, if you received two Lead Belly cards, they can be stacked together to make the bonus more powerful. You will need to have as many Perk Points in that S.P.E.C.I.A.L. categories to equip cards of that that numeric value. You can equip as many Perk Cards as you have points in a category.

From a technical standpoint, Fallout 76 will not have mod support out of the gates as this could be game breaking for many players out of the gate. Bethesda does have plans for private servers to be the home for mods in the far future, but no information on when we can expect to see anything on that. They do plan on dropping content updates over time post-release, but have no official roadmap or announcement at this point.

Initial Impressions

Fallout 76 takes a “-light” approach to some of the mechanics it implements as it takes the franchise into a whole new arena. It is survival-light in its usage of food and water meters, but these meters are not as punishing as many mainstream survival titles. Food items are perishable, too. It is also MMO-light in the way that it handles the world in a similar way to Guild Wars 2 or Destiny with its public events, world exploration, and grouping dynamics, but does not have instanced content or more than 24 people on a server at a given time. It is also shooter-light in that there is FPS gunplay, but it still has some of the stigma of Bethesda shooters - though V.A.T.S. does help significantly with this.

While some of these things present their own challenges, they are not entirely negative things. We did experience a build of the game that, while a fully functional world, is still being optimized and balanced for release.

With all of this in mind, Fallout 76 felt like a natural extension of the Fallout universe, but with the capability to play alongside your friends. The lush, rolling hills of West Virginia are rich with stories to discover and to create for yourself. Whether it is building out your camp, reclaiming the land, or hunting big baddies in the wastelands, Fallout 76 looks to be rife with opportunities for great cooperative gameplay moments.

For more coverage on Fallout 76, keep it locked in here at MMORPG.

All travel and accommodations for this preview event were provided by Bethesda Game Studios.


Damien Gula

Born in the heyday of mullets and the El Camino to a tech-foward family, Damien joined the MMORPG.com team back in 2017 to review hardware and games as well as provide coverage for press preview events. He has participated in a number of MMOs over the years, including World of Warcraft, RIFT, Guild Wars 2, and the Destiny series. When he isn't writing for MMORPG.com, Damien is a pastor by trade who loves talking with anyone interested about life, God, and video games (in no particular order). He also co-hosts a podcast dedicated to these conversation with fellow MMORPG writer Matt Keith called Roll The Level.