War – war never changes.
Those are the famous words that gamers the world over have internalized as the beginning of Bethesda’s incredibly popular series, Fallout. Are they always true, though? With E3 pending, those same gamers were eagerly awaiting news regarding the next instalment, speculating that the announcement could be anything from a re-master of Fallout: New Vegas to Fallout 5 on 4’s engine.
When the news dropped about Fallout 76, it was met with some confusion. What was this exactly? Was it a re-branding? Was it a game focused more on the settlement building aspect introduced in Fallout 4? How, exactly, was war going to be changing?
At their press conference, Bethesda’s Todd Howard introduced the game’s first full trailer – set to the tune of John Denver’s 1971 hit ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ – to clear some things up.
All in all, it looks pretty fun – it certainly looks like what the series’ fans have come to know and love. Set in West Virginia (thanks again, John Denver), Fallout 76 narratively predates all other Fallout games, taking place just 100 years after the bombs fall and irrevocably change the world forever (for reference, 1997’s Fallout 1 takes place in 2161 – this game takes place in 2102).
The catch? It’s all online. Every moment of this game takes place while your console and/or PC is connected to the internet, and there are no human NPCs – every other human character the player meets will be another real player. Howard does mention it is possible to play through 76 on your own, but that doesn’t mean it becomes an offline, single-player experience – it’s more akin to playing ARK or Sea of Thieves by yourself, as the potential for running into others that will be lurking around every corner is the entire foundation of the experience. The amount of players per instance has yet to be disclosed – Howard mentioned during the press conference that it would be dozens of players running around the West Virginia Wasteland, not hundreds or thousands.
Understandably, some fans are worried. After all, the Fallout series has become a benchmark for immersive, single-player experiences amongst AAA titles, and we’ve seen this before: plans for a 3rd installment of BioWare’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series were eventually turned into the MMO The Old Republic, likely killing any chances of ever getting another single-player chapter ever again. Could this happen to Fallout? I sure hope not.
Perhaps in a move to assuage worries, Bethesda’s Senior Vice President, Pete Hines, clarified some things in an interview to Variety, saying “This is not an MMO and this is not a battle royale. It’s supposed to feel like they just left the vault.”
Ultimately, this is a huge departure for the series any way you slice it, and it’s certainly not going to be for everyone. Personally, while I’m a little disappointed to not be getting Fallout 5 – especially since the last main entry in the series was released back in 2015 – I think it’s important to judge the game on its own merits. There are some interesting quirks that we’ve not seen before: in the ‘end game’ players can gather code fragments and eventually launch fully-fledged nuclear missiles on other parts of the map, causing mutations and rare materials to emerge (these areas will clear up over time, though it is unclear how long it will take).
Players can build settlements, but if they feel they want to pack up and move, they can vacuum up their existing settlement, only to drop it down pre-built somewhere else. Even VATS – Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, the gameplay mechanic that allowed players to stop time to plan out assaults on would-be attackers – has been revamped, with attacks now coming in real-time.
That’s also not to say there is no Fallout 5 coming down the pipeline – after all, Bethesda (hopefully) knows where their bread is buttered. Even with The Elder Scrolls Online still releasing new DLC content on a regular basis, the studio nonetheless announced The Elder Scrolls 6, albeit with no details or release date beyond essentially what was a title card. It was a comforting show, as it would seem to imply they haven’t given up on their single-player base – although if/when Fallout 5 is announced, it will likely not arrive until the next generation of consoles launches.
Just remember, if this latest adventure isn’t for you, boot up Fallout 3, New Vegas, or Fallout 4 and take another tour of the Wasteland – because as long as those games are still around, war will truly never change.
Fallout 76 arrives for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on November 14, 2018.
You can find Shoaib on Twitter at @SNSAlli for a medley of takes on games, film, and television. Heck, the guy even has his own podcast as well if you’re not at all inclined to read actual words.