As the developer responsible for the critically-acclaimed "Fallout" and "The Elder Scrolls" video game franchise, Bethesda Game Studios have long since established themselves as a dominant force in the singleplayer video game market. Large, open worlds, customizable characters, environmental storytelling, and free choice have become core staples of their games as players are let loose in a massive game world and are given free reign to make their own choices and impacts. As the "Fallout" series didactically reminds players in every installment, "war never changes" and neither will the Bethesda formula. At least, that is what many gamers believed. Then came along the announcement of the latest entry in the series, "Fallout 76."
"Fallout 76" holds the distinction of being Bethesda Game Studio's first online multiplayer game. For the first time in the developer's history, they are developing an open-world experience that players will explore in real-time with others in a dynamic online experience. Whether to team up in a party-of-four and explore together or to pick fights with each other in hostile shootouts. "Fallout 76" will be a very experimental foray by the developer, combining their tried-and-true open-world formula with the unpredictable and chaotic nature of online player interaction.
In terms of setting, the game will follow the prior entries in the series by taking place in an alternate version of the United States where a large-scale nuclear war has devastated the Earth, and humanity is struggling to rise from its ashes. Set in the year 2102, 25 years after the fateful nuclear war, "Fallout 76" will see players take the role of a resident of Vault 76, a fallout shelter where America's best and brightest waited out the apocalypse before venturing out on their "Reclamation Day" to re-colonize the new wasteland.
Vault 76 and the eponymous game take place in a game world dubbed "Appalachia" based on the U.S. state of West Virginia, featuring recreations of real-life locations such as West Virginia's State Capitol, the Greenbrier resort, Woodburn Circle in West Virginia University, New River Gorge Bridge, and Camden Park. In addition, West Virginian folklore inspires many of the mutated monsters in the game, including the mythical Mothman and the Flatwoods Monster.
In terms of gameplay, the always-online status of the game represents the largest shift from prior entries and presents a whole new set of opportunities and challenges. Players will now not only have to contend with the game world's various mutated and hostile threats, but also other players. To continue to preserve that core solo experience, "Fallout 76" features a robust anti-griefing system to give players defense systems against being killed immediately by other hostile players upon starting the game. Level caps on hostile encounters, reciprocity requirements for initiating conflict with other players, and the ability to enter a "pacifist mode" where you cannot deal or receive damage are just some examples of these countermeasures.
In addition, while "Fallout" games have traditionally been very story-driven and based around encounters with non-playable characters (NPCs), "Fallout 76" features no other surviving human characters besides other players. Instead, much of the game's storytelling will be accomplished through indirect means, robots, audio recordings, and other environmental narrative cues. Game Director Todd Howard has stated that this decision was made to give players the opportunity to create their own narratives through interactions with other players, as opposed to being told a single, main storyline.
Finally, "Fallout 76" will heavily build upon the settlement building and crafting systems of the prior game in the series, "Fallout 4." Players will now be able to build their own settlements anywhere on the game map, with the ability to save their settlement and move it at will.
Many in the gaming industry are watching with bated breath to see Bethesda Game Studios' first attempt at an online multiplayer game. The diminished (but not removed) singleplayer experience has put many off of the game's overall premise, but it still represents a wildly different and experimental direction for the studio. "Fallout 76" is scheduled for a release date of November 14, 2018, with an open beta scheduled to go live on October 23 for Xbox One users and on October 30 for Playstation 4 and PC users.
Image courtesy of Bethesda Game Studios