‘Fallout 76’: Everything you need to know

Get caught up on all things 'Fallout 76,' including recent controversies

Leading up to E3, rumors flew in every direction about Fallout 76. Some thought it would be a base-building spinoff that refined the settlement features in Fallout 4 while others thought it would be a multiplayer survival game. The real answer turned out to be a little bit of both. Fallout 76 is a multiplayer survival game with settlement features, and according to Bethesda, the map is a whopping four times bigger than that of its predecessor. Let’s take a look at the nuts and bolts of our new apocalyptic wasteland.

Just getting started? Check out our tips and tricks for getting started in Fallout 76.

It takes place in West Virginia

Fallout 76 is a prequel to the entire franchise. The character you create is one of the first to be sealed in Vault 76 and emerge into daylight in 2102, roughly twenty years after nuclear warheads blasted the world in what is known in the game’s lore as the Great War. Vault 76 is a test vault by design and its inhabitants are scheduled to be studied when they re-enter the world. Meanwhile, many of the other vaults stay safely shut.

Combat like Fallout 4, but with a co-op emphasis

Fallout 76 is a first-person shooter like recent entries in the series, but Bethesda wants you to explore West Virginia with friends. While you can play solo, it can be hard to survive very long without a few comrades by your side. Still, if you’re familiar with Fallout’s shooting mechanics and controls, you’ll feel right at home with Fallout 76.

It allows you to directly cooperate with three other friends on your team, and all of the quests you pick up during your time together will sync up among the four of you. If you get separated, you’ll be able to fast-travel to your teammates at any time.

It’s Survival-light

Yes, Fallout 76 is being marketed as an online survival game, but it isn’t as tasking as traditional survival experiences like State of Decay 2, H1Z1, or Dying Light. If you think about it, the Fallout series has already been somewhat of a “light” survival experience anyway. Just as before, you will need to eat food, drink fluids, worry about weapon degradation, and keep your radiation levels down. Although, radiation isn’t always bad (in real life it very much is), as exposure to it can provide both positive and negative stat effects.

V.A.T.S. returns but with real-time aiming

Since Fallout 3, the series has had V.A.T.S. — Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System. The system has evolved with each subsequent entry. Fallout 4‘s V.A.T.S. slowed down time to a crawl so users could aim at specific weak points on enemies. In Fallout 76, however, V.A.T.S. is conjured up in real time.  Players can also level the system up and make up not-so-accurate aiming by helping you target a spot on an enemy. A major reason for this change would seem to be the multiplayer focus. Slowing down time in combat with another player wouldn’t make much sense.

You’ll build settlements called C.A.M.P.

Using the settlement features from Fallout 4, you and your fellow Vault 76 dwellers must rebuild a world that was recently ravaged by nuclear warfare.

The newly introduced C.A.M.P (Construction and Assembly Mobile Platform) allows for portable building, meaning that you can build structures wherever you please — a pleasant change from the designated areas in Fallout 4. This includes co-op building, so you and your friends can work on buildings together and share them for protection. To secure your buildings, you can erect defensive mechanisms such as turrets and traps, which will surely help to keep not-so-friendly players from breaching your camp. If you decide you want to move your C.A.M.P. somewhere else, it can be packed up and transported, as well.

The C.A.M.P. is also a great place to store anything you don’t want to carry around with you all the time, as you can become over-encumbered and suffer huge statistical penalties. Clearing out the area around the C.A.M.P. will unlock “public workshops,” which contain building resources and can be accessed by your teammates.

In a nod to other survival games, mutated animals and creatures from West Virginian folklore — such as the Wendigo and Mothman — will attack your base randomly, so keeping your buildings fortified and protected will be a necessity. And if you’re into this sort of thing, you can take “trophy” photos with slain monsters.

Like Fallout 4, each camp you set up has a workshop and cooking pot.

It’s not an MMO

Fallout 76 doesn’t human NPCs. Yes, you will encounter a variety of monsters but when you run into a human, it’s a real person playing at home.

Since the focus isn’t on NPC characters, you won’t be engaging in long conversations with them. According to Game Informer, there won’t be any sort of dialogue options like we’ve seen in Fallout 4. The emphasis will instead be on players creating their own story.

You also won’t encounter other online players as often as you’d think. Bethesda has stressed that Fallout 76 is not an MMO, nor is it a battle royale game. Project lead Jeff Gardiner has said that the game currently supports only 24 to 32 players on each server.

You will be able to see where other players are on the map, but considering the sheer breadth of the West Virginia terrain, don’t expect to run into them frequently.

If you’re playing with teammates, fast traveling to their location is free. Other locations accessible this way include the Vault 76 entrance and the C.A.M.P. you have built, and though you can also fast travel to other points throughout the map, doing so requires you to spend caps. The price will vary depending on how far you’re traveling as well as your current level.

To find other players quickly, you can pull up your Pip-Boy and look at the full-color map. Other players’ approximate locations will be visible on the map, which you can probably use to your advantage if you want to plan a surprise attack.

How PVP works

While Fallout 76 is a multiplayer experience, you don’t have to engage in player-versus-player combat if you don’t want to. You can choose if you want PvP on or off.

There is some incentive to taking down other players, particularly combative ones. At E3, Bethesda discussed a bounty system that would put a price on an aggressive players head so if you and your friends keep being targeted by another player.

If you choose to run rather than fight, Fallout 76 will reduce the damage you receive from other players temporarily. This should cut down on “ganking” against more powerful enemies.

Whether you’re squaring off against other players or against a Wendigo, you won’t lose character progress when you die. When fighting alongside friends, a teammate has a chance to revive you before you actually die. And even if you die, you can choose a respawn point and hop back in.

However, upon death, you will lose any Junk building material you had collected thus far. Your first quest after respawning will be to get your dropped gear back.

There are real-time events

New for Fallout 76 are “Events,” group missions that must be completed in a limited amount of time. They’re similar to something like the Public Events in Destiny 2, and player-versus-player combat is usually turned off for their duration, though there are events geared specifically toward that, as well.

Perk Cards and the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. System

Like previous Fallout games, you’ll level through XP. Perk cards also return, which allow you to tweak stats and allocate boosts, though you can only equip a finite number at a time. You’ll also be limited on which perk cards you can use based on the attributes you assigned while creating your avatar. And yes, you’ll have your very own power armor suit.

After reaching a new level, you’re awarded a point that you can assign to a trait in the “S.P.E.C.I.A.L” system — strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, agility, and luck. Using cards, you’re able to unlock a new perk based on the trait you’ve selected, with director Todd Howard saying there are “hundreds” of different cards to choose from, and that there will be special “gold” versions of the cards.

In addition to using the perk cards at your disposal, you can also combine them to create a more powerful perk card. This will require more points to use to make up for its increased power.

You can launch nukes, then loot the remains

The Fallout series has taken place in the aftermath of devastating nuclear warfare, but Fallout 76 will let players contribute to the ongoing destruction if they so choose.

You’ll have to scour the world to find codes snippets for a launch sequence. Some of these fragments may be hidden, while others will be doled out when defeating enemies. After acquiring a complete launch code, you can key up a launch sequence and fire away at any spot on the map. The nuke will make a portion of the map uninhabitable for a bit due to radiation and will obviously destroy any settlements in the vicinity.

That’s not the end of it. Nuking an area will spawn high-level mutant monsters in the level. Players can then enter the resulting wasteland, fight the baddies, and gain exclusive loot. Nukes are essentially an awesome spin on the idea of end-game dungeons or raids.

In order to gain access to nuclear weapons, you’ll have to complete the main questline. Nuclear weapons will factor into the main story near the very end, and players will have to be strong before they can complete it. This means you won’t have players all sending missiles at each other from the very beginning.

Cosmetic microtransactions only

Bethesda has said Fallout 76 will have microtransactions, though they will only be for cosmetic items — hence, no pay-to-win scheme going on here. In an interview with GameStar, Todd Howard said that players will also be able to earn currency to purchase cosmetic items in-game. The goal is to refrain from separating the player base.

DLC updates will be free

Fallout 76 will receive free updates for years. It seems like Bethesda wants Fallout 76 to be an ongoing game in the same vein as Destiny 2, The Division, and others. At this time, it’s unclear if paid expansions will be released down the line, but everything Bethesda has said so far suggests it wants to keep the player base on the same playing field.

There will be mods, but not at launch

At E3, director Todd Howard said the team is “100 percent committed” to delivering mods to Fallout 76. Don’t expect mod support any time soon, though. Howard stressed that it has its focus on making sure the online service runs well at launch. However, he did say that he’d like for players to be able to have their own maps to mod as they say fit. Fallout 4 supported mods on both consoles and PC, so Bethesda’s dedication to making mods available in Fallout 76 isn’t a huge surprise. We’ll just have to see if it comes to fruition.

To infinity and beyond

If Bethesda follows its current plan, the servers for Fallout 76 will never go offline. Speaking to GameSpot, communications chief Pete Hines said that the company was looking to keep the game online “forever,” and pointed to World of Warcraft as an example of the longevity it was trying to achieve. He did concede, however, that dropping player-counts could throw a wrench in this plan, but those who get particularly invested shouldn’t worry about the plug being pulled, at least not for several more years.

Not without controversy

Since its launch in November, Fallout 76 has been one of the most controversial video games on the market and one of the most negatively-received games Bethesda Game Studios has ever released. The PlayStation 4 version currently has a 52/100 on Metacritic, which is 35 points lower than Fallout 4. In our own review, we appreciated the series’ signature aesthetic but found solo play to be a drag and we were annoyed by the high number of bugs we encountered. The game has already seen deep sales at several retailers, and Twitch viewers aren’t tuning in to watch the game. A class-action lawsuit against Bethesda is even being considered, with players angry that refunds are being refused.

Most recently, those who purchased the game’s $200 Power Armor Edition found that they didn’t get the product they were promised, either. Advertisements and marketing material for the edition promised that it would come with a canvas duffel bag, but the final version of the edition instead came with a thinner bag made of nylon. In response, Bethesda promised to give those who purchased it 500 Atoms — the in-game currency — for free, though this amount is only worth a few dollars.

Just a few days later, however, Bethesda reversed course. Those who purchased the Power Armor Edition can now receive a replacement canvas bag for free, provided that they confirm their purchase of the game on Bethesda’s support site by January 31, 2019. For proof of purchase, you must be able to give the product’s name, date of purchase, and the total cost.

However, even this decision led to controversy. Shortly after providing those who bought the Power Armor Edition with a form to request a replacement bag on the Bethesda support site, it was discovered that users’ personal information had been exposed. Those who made a support ticket were able to view others’ tickets, as well, which include home addresses and email addresses. Bethesda quickly corrected the problem and issued an apology.

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