Fallout 76, like Fallout 3 before it, dares to challenge our very definition of the series. Opting for an online and a more survival-focused styled in the vein of games such as Rust - it presents the largest change since the series blossomed into an open-world shooter over a decade ago. E3, QuakeCon, and the odd teaser trailer have presented us with more and more insight into the upcoming RPG, and we wanted to compile everything we have learned so far to keep prospective players up to speed on what may prove to be the series' most divisive entry to date.
The Story, Setting and Timeline
As alluded to by the reveal trailer's accompanying track, John Denver's Country Road, Fallout 76 is set to unfold in the state of West Virginia. In the series' timeline, 76 predates all other entries and takes place in the year 2102, 25 years after the nuclear blast that shaped the world. Fallout 4 was set in the year 2287, meaning that franchise's most recent outing takes place 185 years before its predecessor. Our hero is tasked by the vault's overseer to explore six distinct regions of the new world after spending the last quarter of a century deep underground, and while Bethesda has so far kept details of the story brief, from what we can gather from trailers there seems to be an emphasis on restoring the shatter ruins of America back to its former glory. To make America great again, or something like that?
As we mentioned, perhaps the major change within Fallout 76 is that it takes the post-apocalyptic action the series is known for completely online. It works to make the core experience of Fallout much more social as you can explore the wasteland with your friends and build expansive bases together within the nuclear dust storm. Each server will be limited to a few dozen players at a time, so there's no fear of being swarmed by others, and bumping into fellow survivors will seem like much more of a momentous occasion. We were also told that private servers and modding are two aspects that the developer are looking to implement following the title's launch.
PvP and Bounties
The wasteland is a dangerous place and things may not end well if you cross paths with the wrong groups of players. Luckily pacifists can opt out of the action as there's no attacking players under level 5, so don't expect to be gunned down right out of the vault's door. Firefights required both parties to engage, and while it's possible to kill non-responsive players, the damage is only ramped up once they react with violence too. Bethesda have also prevented PvP from being engaged when another player is battling with creatures in the environment, which means that you won't accidentally trigger a PvP encounter when saving a passer-by from the clutches of a mutant.
If a player chooses not to respond and is killed, then the perpetrator receives no rewards and XP and is singled out with a bounty for their own caps placed on their heads. All other players will see this player's location on their map and it then becomes a large-scale manhunt to find them and reap the reward. We felt that this was a pretty risky move on Bethesda's part, but we're pleased that they have delivered quite a hefty punishment and a fun mechanic around unfriendly players. Before heading into QuakeCon this was a concern of ours because we didn't know how others would threaten our progress, but this seems like one of the best solutions the developer could land on.
Mutations and Perk Card System
The Card Perk System has replaced perk points in Fallout 4, which you may remember were selectable from a pin-up poster that featured many comical images of Vault Boy. Every time you level up in 76, however, you select one SPECIAL (strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, agility and luck) attribute, and perk cards can then be equipped to one of these seven attributes. Depending on your level, only a certain amount may be equipped at a time though. If you hit your next level, for example, you could select the Intelligence attribute and then equip a 'Hacker card' to it to provide yourself with an additional hacking point.
Card packs are also present and are a great way to find cards that you wouldn't normally go for. Contained within each pack is a stick of gum, a cringe-inducing joke, and four randomised cards with the potential of a special higher ranking card to be included. Bethesda revealed on Twitter (perhaps to reassure concerned fans) that Perk Cards cannot be bought with real money and can only be brought through leveling up, and we couldn't help but think of Need for Speed: Payback's similar system upon hearing this, where microtransactions were use for vehicle upgrade cards, which wasn't met with the warmest of receptions from fans and critics.
Another trailer we were treated to at QuakeCon teased the addition of mutations as a way to enhance certain player capabilities. Within the trailer, Vault Boy is transformed into a kangaroo and is gifted with the species' acrobatic abilities, in exchange for a few brain cells of course. This seemed to hint that mutations will bring both disadvantages and advantages and we imagine that this will likely make for some tough choices when weighing up their worth. After the QuakeCon reveal we couldn't help but daydream about what other mutations could be featured within the game. Perhaps we could receive the flight of a bird? Or the agility of a cheetah?
C.A.M.P, Photo Mode, and Character Customisation
The new C.A.M.P system (Construction and Assemble Mobile Platform) allows players to set up shop anywhere they wish, providing they have the right materials. We imagine that this will allow players for the first time in the series to craft together with friends, which will, of course, come in handy when rounding up those last few screws. Within the trailer we saw player bases consisting of Vault Boy statues, pool tables, chairs, and newsstands, so it seems like there's plenty more for you and your friends to craft this time around. We also saw creatures smash bases to pieces, so building a home is no guarantee of a peaceful life.
Fallout 76 appears to be receiving a more in-depth character customisation system than Fallout 4 as well, not to mention a Photo Mode. The most refreshing addition to personalisation this time around is that it's not fixed and you can change your features at any given point. Note though that giving yourself a new identify won't clear the bounty off your head if you've been needlessly murdering other players. The Photo Mode is pretty much what it says on the tin though, allowing you to take pictures and then slap on different filters and tweak factors like the zoom and depth of field.
Break It Early Test Application
Fallout 76's BETA is set to take place this October, providing much-needed stress testing to the fully online RPG's servers. It allows players early access in the sense that everything from launch will be present and all progress will be carried over, and in order to access the BETA you must have pre-ordered the title, which can be done from both digital and real stores. This move can only be a good thing, and Xbox One players will also be the first to have access, although it's not clear at this point how much of a head start they will receive.
Fallout 76 will launch on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on November 14, and while we know a lot of information, with a change this drastic the proof will really be in the pudding. Can these features all work together for a fun Fallout experience, or will it drive it too far away from the things the fans know and love? We don't have long to find out.