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Fallout 76: everything we know

All that is known about Bethesda’s latest take on post-apocalyptic survival

Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Fallout 76, like the last time Bethesda Softworks launched a Fallout title, is coming just months after it was formally announced. A lot of information has been packed into a very short time over the past few weeks.

It looks like it will be an expansive open-world game, as Fallout adventures usually are, and also one quite different from the others Bethesda has made since 2008. Here is everything we know about Fallout 76 when the nuclear apocalypse visits the hills of West Virginia in November.

Last updated Oct. 8, 2018, following a three-hour hands-on preview.

When does Fallout 76 launch?

Fallout 76 launches Nov. 14, 2018, on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. At Bethesda’s E3 2018 showcase, Bethesda Game Studios’ Todd Howard said Fallout 76 would have a beta but did not give a particular day or window for that. Those who preorder the game (any edition) will get access to the beta.

The beta will roll out in October. Testers will be randomly selected from a pool of preorders.

Upon launch, Fallout 76 will not be available via the Steam store and will instead be available on Bethesda’s launcher.

When exactly is the beta?

The Fallout 76 beta begins on Xbox One on Oct. 23. It starts Oct. 30 for PlayStation 4 and Windows PC. Bethesda did not give a specific end date for the beta. In fact, the beta will not be running around the clock. “On any given day the game might be up for anywhere between four to eight hours,” Bethesda said, in order to bring as many players as possible into the game so developers can stress test it.

The “Break-It Early Test Application,” as the beta is known, is available only to those who pre-order Fallout 76, and PS4 and Xbox One users will need an active PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold subscription. Bethesda says plans, as of now, are to let players carry over progress they earned in the beta when the full game launches.

The full version of the game will be 45 GB and Bethesda has no plans yet to offer preloading option for pre-purchasers.

What is Fallout 76?

The 21-year-old Fallout canon draws on survival in a land desiccated by a devastating nuclear war, set in an alternate reality that heavily incorporates Atomic Age visual themes of 1950s Americana. In Fallout 76, players will emerge from a “Vault” in underground West Virginia 25 years after a nuclear strike, making Fallout 76 the earliest the game has been set in that universe.

While the story is, ostensibly, that the players are tasked with restoring civilization, Fallout 76 will be a multiplayer game with survival elements, though it is playable entirely on one’s own. Players will be able to outfit, customize and improve a base, for example (called the C.A.M.P.) and finding food and water will be a concern — not as harsh as hardcore survival modes for Fallout 4 or Fallout: New Vegas but more of a concern than in the standard difficulty of those games settings. Bethesda developers said the game’s map will be four times larger than Fallout 4’s, making this the largest Fallout game ever. This is primarily because a larger area was needed to support a very large online player population.

What will the gameplay be like?

Fallout 76 will be “entirely online,” Howard said at E3 2018.

Fallout fans are familiar with a combat system called V.A.T.S., which slows down time and allows the user to pick their targets with precision. In a single-player only game, this is easy enough to design for. In multiplayer Fallout 76, time will not be slowed but players will be able to target body parts using a real-time V.A.T.S. system.

While multiplayer is the focus, there will be a story and missions to support it. But players will also be able to pursue their own individual goals as opposed to going through missions and side missions. Crafting, which played a big role in Fallout 4 is back. Making weapons, armor, consumables and other items will require parts recipes just like the last game; like other items, those recipes will be tradable among live players.

To construct a base, players will have something called the Construction and Assembly Mobile Platform, or C.A.M.P. When players load into a game, the C.A.M.P. loads with them at their last location (in the rare case someone’s base is already there, the player is given a blueprint so they can move it to another spot).

In terms of player progression, players will still level up through XP and earn “perk cards” which are similar to the perk system of past games. Perk card use will be gated by a player’s attributes through the familiar S.P.E.C.I.A.L. character-creation process. Players will only be able to equip a certain number of perk cards, but will be able to re-spec their character at any time by swapping them. And perk cards are sharable with other players.

At QuakeCon 2018, Howard and others on the Bethesda Game Studios team elaborated on how S.P.E.C.I.A.L. and perk cards would work in Fallout 76. More or less, players will still choose (and be able to increase) their S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attributes but the higher the number, the more perks (or stronger combinations) may be applied. This post from QuakeCon 2018 has more.

Fallout 76 - three players walking past a government building Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks

If this is an online-only multiplayer game, will there be PvP and PvE?

Players will be able to opt into (or out of) player-versus-player and player-versus-environment gameplay as they choose, much like MMOs do. There’s still more to learn about how PvP will work, but Bethesda Softworks has signaled that if players don’t want to take on human-vs-human combat, they won’t have to.

Some of the details to emerge so far include a “bounty system” which levies a price on the head of players who behave aggressively. PvP’s balancing is still being tuned with the ideal of curbing grief behavior while still leaving room for dramatic struggles.

Being killed in PvP (or PvE) for that matter, will never result in progression loss for a character. In PvE, once downed they’ll take a knee, which they can then be revived or knocked out for good (again, like some MMOs). Players killed in action can pick a respawn point and rejoin the game. A player killed by another human player only loses the scrap they were carrying — that is, parts that haven’t been broken down into ingredients useful for crafting. A player will not lose their weapons if they are killed in combat, but their guns will take a noticeable hit in their condition, requiring maintenance at a workbench.

Fallout 76 Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks

For PvE, users can expect to deal with a slew of beasts, mutants, ghouls, deathclaws and the new monsters unique to this game. One is a “Scorchbeast,” an enormous, boss-level mutated bat-like monster that can fly. Scorchbeasts are tied to one of the more intriguing — and difficult — PvE goals, the Nukes.

Four different nuclear missile sites will be located on Fallout 76’s map, from which players can arm and launch a nuke. This is accomplished by obtaining all of the missile keys for a site, which are dropped by NPC enemies in the world. Nuking a site creates “rare and valuable resources” at that location, along with more powerful monsters.

Canonically, nuking a site involves sealing the nuclear fissures in the grown where they are spawned. As far as how this affects other players, there will be a warning before one comes in. Bethesda Game Studios does not intend nukes to be a kind of PvP ultimate strike on others’ bases. And by the way, there will be no offline base raids on other players. When they’re not in the game, neither is their base.

In an interview with the Italian publication Multiplayer, Howard said that Fallout 76 will feature fast travel — somewhat critical given the size of the map — and suggested that low-level players may not be killed in PvE play to prevent “spawn-camping” or other poaching behavior. “Maybe we will change this rule,” Howard said, so that’s not a confirmed boundary for PvE. But Bethesda Game Studios at least seems mindful that it has to take steps to protect newcomers or limit griefing behavior.

At QuakeCon 2018, Howard said that while human players can hunt down and kill other humans, there are consequences. Players who kill others will get a “wanted murderer” designation that exposes them on the mini-map to other human players, with a bounty paid out of the offending player’s cap total if they are killed. Further, players killed by another human player will be able to seek revenge for double the usual payoff. “We turn the assholes into interesting content,” Howard said.

vault 76 entry in Fallout 76 Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks

How hard will the survival be?

Though Fallout 76 has been given shorthand comparisons to H1Z1, it doesn’t sound like this will be a hardcore survival game. Players must deal with weapons that degrade and break with use. Hunger and thirst will be concerns, although it doesn’t sound like they will be as arduous as the survival mode put into Fallout 4 in 2016. Still, it will debuff players who are thirsty or hungry.

Radiation and RADs, always a part of Fallout, are ever present here as well, but now figure into a variation on the series’ trait system. As players take on more RADs, the more likely they are to develop a mutation, which can have both positive and negative effects. As players advance they’ll be able to make permanent mutations they prefer.

Why West Virginia?

Bethesda developers, in a making-of documentary by Noclip published June 12, said that West Virginia was an attractive option because, as a rural setting, it would not be assumed to be a target of a nuclear strike — although with the total breakdown of society it will still bear the scars of decay and environmental ruin.

Local landmarks and cities such as Charleston, the state capital, and Morgantown, home of West Virginia University, will figure prominently. The Greenbrier, the famous resort in southeastern West Virginia (once home to its own real life fallout bunker) and the New River Gorge Bridge will also help complete the scene.

This also means that local lore such as Mothman, a creature locals in Point Pleasant claimed to see in the mid-1960s, will be part of the game. The Flatwoods Monster, an even weirder creature spotted in Flatwoods, W.V. in the middle 1950s, is confirmed for the game as well.

Local flora and fauna will be a part of the game — mutated of course, including a two-headed possum and giant ticks. This is in addition to factions and species the series has introduced over the years. The Scorched, a variant on the feral ghouls, will be AI enemies that players encounter. The game will have more animals and monsters (upwards of 63) in order to differentiate between AI and human player contact.

How many editions are launching — and for how much?

The standard edition is, of course, $59.99. There are two premium-loaded special editions, the Tricentennial Edition and the Power Armor Edition. Both are available for all three platforms.

The Tricentennial Edition is $79.99, and comes with a slew of in-game content and customizations, including for the game’s iconic power armor and for three weapons.

Fallout 76 Power Helmet shown at Bethesda’s E3 2018 booth.
Fallout 76 Power Helmet shown at Bethesda’s E3 2018 booth
Photo: Ross Miller/Polygon

The Power Armor Edition is $199.99 and is headlined by a full-scale, wearable, T-51 Power Armor helmet (shown above). It comes with a carrying bag, too. There are also 24 collectible Fallout figurines, a steelbook case, and all of the Tricentennial edition in-game content.

There is also a $149.99 Fallout 76 Pip-Boy Construction Kit, which gives the user a variety of ways to construct the game’s famous handheld device, but it does not include the game. (It also is just for show; the device has no electronic capability).

Who is behind all this?

Fallout 76’s creative director is Todd Howard, and the development studio is Bethesda Game Studios, although some of the programmers hail from the former BattleCry Studios. In fact, it draws on the Quake multiplayer netcode in the Fallout 4 engine. In the Noclip documentary, Howard said that Fallout 76 was originally to be the multiplayer component of 2015’s Fallout 4. So this game’s development dates back at least that far.

What kind of ongoing or post-release support will Fallout 76 get?

In the Noclip documentary, Bethesda said it planned to support the game “for years” with new content and free updates. There will be microtransactions, Bethesda said, but purchasable items are limited to cosmetic items only, which allows them to support dedicated online servers. Any purchasable cosmetics can also be earned through gameplay, Bethesda said.