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Fallout 76’s Atlantic City update offers crime drama and cryptids

Mobsters, casinos, and the Jersey Devil, oh my!

Two members of the crime Family hang out in an Atlantic City bar set in the post-apocalyptic Fallout universe Image: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks
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 began in the humble hills of Appalachia, but as the game continues, Bethesda is taking players to new locales through Expeditions. The first Expedition took place in The Pitt, a post-apocalyptic take on Pittsburgh that first featured in Fallout 3. The second Expedition is heading to Atlantic City in a two-part update. There, players will be forced to contend with new factions and enemies... when they’re not enjoying some downtime in a high-class casino.

“Atlantic City is so different from the other locations that we’ve done in the past,” says Jonathan Rush, lead art director on Fallout 76, on a call with Polygon. “To me, the curb appeal of Atlantic City makes it very apparent what that could be coupled with in the post-apocalyptic Fallout universe.”

The Fallout series takes place in a post-apocalyptic, retro-futurist version of America, with early games largely taking place in California. When Bethesda acquired the franchise, the developer expanded the game’s settings into Washington DC, Boston, and West Virginia. Atlantic City, in New Jersey, is a whole new place — and it has a distinct vibe that sets it apart from those other destinations.

At first glance, Atlantic City looks pretty sweet. There’s power, running water, commerce, and a tenuous peace. Of course, this is a Fallout game, so there’s simmering resentment beneath the surface. The Municipal Government is keeping all of the infrastructure running, while the mobsters known as the Family handle business behind the scenes. The entertainment industry is run by the Showmen, and together the factions work as a trifecta to keep Atlantic City busy.

The casinos and crime bring Fallout: New Vegas and the battle over Nevada to mind. But Atlantic City has a different vibe for players to explore. “Las Vegas is in the middle of a desert; it’s like Mad Max when you’re driving up to this place. It’s a complete desert, with this little tiny city off in the distance. But Atlantic City is so different, because it’s surrounded by this huge pine forest. Atlantic City being coastal, there’s that whole element of being right on the edge of the water, looking out over infinity.”

The forests and water mean that Atlantic City is essentially pinned between two natural barriers and covered with a thick layer of fog. It’s all very creepy, and the setting pulls the bizarre parts of Atlantic City’s post-apocalyptic society into stark relief.

Fallout games often ask you to pick a faction, but Boardwalk Paradise — the first of the two parts of the Atlantic City Expedition — is a more nuanced take on conflict. There’s an outside threat lurking in the forests outside the city, and so the three factions have to work together — along with the newcomers from Appalachia — if they want to survive. Players will encounter a new cryptid that swarms in raptor-like packs, known as the Devil. Along with the little Devils that show up, there’s a big Jersey Devil ominously lurking out in the woods. Fallout 76’s cryptids are one of the most interesting and novel parts of the game, so it’s delightful to see them show up in the new Expedition.

“The first lesson we learned from the Pitt was that people want more content. Our players have an insatiable appetite for for more quests, more stories,” says Rush. Bethesda is removing the prelude quests to Expeditions that required fuelling up a handy Vertiberd, and Atlantic City is more open to explore than the first Expedition. Players can even pop into the casino, win games, and bring the machines home to prop up in their own CAMPs.

Players can wade into Atlantic City and fight off the lesser devils and overgrown beasts from the forests on Dec. 5. A second update, America’s Playground, will release in the future; Bethesda has not shared an official date.

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