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Fallout 76’s good guys are my new enemies

I refuse to settle for the settlers

Fallout 76 - two player characters stand outside of the new NPC settlement of Foundation Image: Bethesda Game Studios / Bethesda Softworks via Polygon
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

Fallout 76’s new human NPCs are largely clustered into two groups: Up north, you can find the tough and violent raiders, who have settled in the ruins of a crashed space station. Down south, there are the peaceful and hard-working settlers, who want to restore civilization. In RPGs, I usually play a good guy. I always give NPC beggars my extra change, hand out medical supplies, and save a boss I inevitably find dangling from a cliff.

Polygon reached out to Bethesda, and found that fans have actually been fairly divided on which faction they prefer so far. Fifty-four percent of players are siding with the settlers in Foundation, while 46% chose the raiders in Crater. If you ask me, 54% of players made the wrong choice. This is one of the few RPGs where the bad guys have won me over, and I’m totally willing to forsake my usual morals and principles if it means I get to sit at the cool kids’ table with the raiders.

How I met the raiders

Raiders have been antagonist in the Fallout universe since the first game. They evolved over the course of Fallout 2 and Fallout: New Vegas, becoming more than just a random threat, and more of a set of distinct cultures. The Great Khans, for instance, can be an ally in New Vegas, and you can explore their relationship with the New California Republic.

Fallout 76 doesn’t benefit from any of that, because it takes place in an entirely different region and time frame. There are still raiders, seemingly because, well, it’s a Fallout game and you need raiders ... but these guys have their own rules and ethos. Surprisingly enough, they’re amenable to working with you.

Over time, you get to meet all of the raider lieutenants and big players, and it’s a fun ensemble cast. I meet Lou, a ghoul who wants to go out to keep everyone else safe, and his pal Weasel, a raider whose voice box was replaced, giving her a corny, 1950’s male showtime announcer voice. I hang out with Gail and Ra-ra, a super mutant and her precocious kid sidekick. I even go undercover with Johnny Gentleman, an ice-cold killer in a sharp suit.

Even all of the small-scale NPCs at the raider camp, like the bartender, are fun to talk to. I’d rather hang out with the nameless, one-line NPCs and bit players at their HQ of Crater than spend time at the settler city of Foundation.

Fallout 76 - a player stands behind the new NPC Paige, with a weapon in her hand.
As soon as the game lets me do so I’m gonna stab this guy
Image: Bethesda Game Studios / Bethesda Softworks via Polygon

The settlers (whomst I can’t stand)

Meanwhile, the settlers are kind of rude. They’re a group of civilians who traveled into Appalachia from outside the state, and they immediately inform me that this is their land now and they’re not planning to leave. Paige, the faction’s leader, is short with me throughout their quest chain; he’s entirely focused on efficiency. When I show up and tell him he needs to take the vaccine players spent the first year of the game developing, he’s skeptical and makes me prove it to him. That hits pretty differently in 2020, so I took an immediate dislike to Paige that never really went away. There’s one good NPC, Jen, but she has to do a lot of carrying to make up for everyone else’s boring-ass slack.

Half the time when I show up in the settler base, I get a lot of attitude from folks wandering around town. “Everyone can tell you’re on chems,” someone hisses. “Go lie it off.” I check my Pip-Boy, confused. I don’t take drugs; I give my valuable Buffout or Psycho to a pal. Then I realize she’s reacting to me having taken some RadAway, and it clicks. Oh, great, these are people who think taking medication to not die of radiation poisoning is bad. Next thing I know, I bet they’ll be telling me about how we don’t need vaccines in the apocalypse.

They also keep encouraging me to make friends with Samuel, who claims to be a Vault Dweller from a Vault that’s “very far away” that he “can’t even remember how to find.” This is the Fallout equivalent of a guy with a Canadian girlfriend and I will not hang out with this dork.

I expected a very black-and-white situation going into Wastelanders. I figured the raiders would ask if I want to kick a puppy, while the settlers would need help building a home for orphans. Instead I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Making choices is more fun when I can really roleplay a character, and I’m finding that my character of uptight, post-apocalyptic wine mom isn’t really interested in parlaying with a bunch of do-gooder nerds. I’ll be hanging out with the raiders, thank you very much.

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