E3 2018: Bethesda Shares More Details on Fallout 76

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At E3 this week, Bethesda shared more details on Fallout 76. The upcoming game is, as rumored, an open-world survival game with a “soft” death system that won’t result in you losing critical character progression or other resources. The game’s total map is four times the size of the Fallout 4 world — which may or may not be a useful way to measure anything (more on this in a moment), but does give at least a ballpark idea of how much space is baked into the multiplayer map.

Bethesda also released a gameplay trailer for Fallout 76, which you can watch below. It includes some previously shown trailer footage alongside new gameplay details. The short trailer is below, a longer 20-minute discussion from Bethesda at E3 itself is embedded farther along.

We now know the game will have a story mode that can be played entirely solo, though it’s intended to be a group base-building and exploration experience you can also play with friends (or possible friends). Leveling up mechanics will also be present, but it’s not clear how well the two modes will mesh. Fallout 76 includes nuclear silos across the map that anyone can find codes for and eventually launch. Given that nuclear missiles in Fallout are represented as incredibly formidable weapons, it’s not hard to see how other teams are likely to use them — and how much of a hole that’s going to punch into anyone’s ideas of peaceful base-building and exploration.

There are six distinct map regions, Bethesda claims, each with its own distinct styles, maps, and rewards. New Fallout creatures will debut in the game, some based on West Virginia folklore. Characters aren’t tied to one server — in fact, Bethesda says “You’ll never see a server any time you play.” All of your progression apparently goes with you, which again, raises questions about the persistence of base-building and the impact of nuclear missiles on the overall game. It’s not clear which aspects of the game are temporary and which persist across realms, or whether you can create a private server or world with a persistent set of structures that you build — which seems as though it should be possible, if playing entirely solo is something you can do.

Speaking strictly for myself, I’m uncertain about this iteration of the Fallout universe. I’ve never been much for the open-world survival genre — I prefer more structured, story-driven plot — and while Bethesda games have a well-deserved reputation for single-player quests and storylines, I’m not sure how well those ideas can mesh with persistent online gameplay where you’ll interact with dozens of other players, some hostile, some not. The idea that others can get their hands on nuclear codes and launch missiles (presumably at players at other map locations) raises the question of how much base-building can actually matter. If getting nuked doesn’t destroy a base, there wouldn’t be much point to it. If it does, there’s not much point to building one in the first place.

Then again, I simply may not be the target audience for this game. My interest in Fallout 4’s base-building experiment died early, once I realized Bethesda hadn’t provided a single method for building housing that didn’t have complete walls. It may sound like a stupidly small nitpick, but in the Fallout 4 universe, apparently everyone is perfectly happy to live in homes with partial roofs and a few planks nailed sideways constitute a wall. You don’t even have the option to repair damage to the still-standing houses you find.

Settlers are faceless individuals without names or any kind of backstory and there’s not much actual meat to the entire settler system or mini-game. You can build supply lines (with minimal impact on gameplay), but you can’t really set up production centers or create raw materials from whole cloth. The system feels like it was grafted on to FO4 after someone at Bethesda played a New Vegas mod, and I can’t say I’m terribly thrilled at the idea of a game that looks like it takes the weakest part of FO4 and then makes it multiplayer in the futile hope that this adds enjoyment or fun.

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