E3 is a special time of year for the gaming community, and this year was no different. In an age of deep inter-connectivity and social media marketing, the lid on E3’s juiciest surprises rarely ever stays closed until the beginning of the famed video games expo.
Sometimes, hungry fans or retail employees leak information. Other times, retailers themselves are the culprits (I’m looking at you Walmart Canada). And then there are the moments when developers and publishers just simply can’t help themselves and stoke the coals of the hype train early. We found ourselves in the latter situation as Bethesda teased the next entry in the Fallout series, Fallout 76, in the days ahead of E3. Following Bethesda’s juicy conference, Daily Esports contributor Brad Ballanger covered the details. If you missed it, be sure to check that out here.
What’s the story?
For those who may have their fingers on the pulse of the video game industry but don’t know the inner workings of the Fallout series, you might be wondering: how did the franchise skip from Fallout 4 to Fallout 76? The more hardened fans knew that ’76’ had a more significant meaning. The number refers to Vault 76, which is already a part of the series’ established lore.
In Fallout 3, Vault 76 shows up on the Citadel computer listed under a section highlighting DC-area vaults. This already tipped fans off to the likely setting of the title. Additionally, it highlights information about the production of the vault, its operating systems, and its ultimate goal of keeping its residents sealed for 20 years. The computer detailed the vault as having 500 occupants; it’s part of 17 “control” vaults to be used in comparison to other vault experiments. The beginning of Fallout 4 name-drops the famed vault as a reporter discusses expansion plans for more vaults following the debut of Vault 76 (named in honor of America’s Tercentenary).
Where does Vault 76 fit in the Fallout series timeline
Eagle-eyed fans have pointed out that although the vault was scheduled to be open in 20 years from the entry of its occupants (2097 AD), the Pip-Boy in the teaser trailer is dated for the year 2102. This is five years after its scheduled release date. There currently is no indication as to why the game takes place five years after the vault is opened. Something must have occurred that caused the delay, but we do not know what that is at this time.
Whatever the case may be, this puts the game’s setting a mere 25 years following the Great War between the United States and China that resulted in the nuclear holocaust. Ergo, Fallout 76 marks the earliest period in the entirety of the Fallout franchise. The first title, Fallout, is the next game in the timeline and doesn’t take place until 2161.
From both the teaser trailer and the full trailer shown at E3, it’s apparent that Vault 76 was populated with the best society had to offer in order to forge a new world out of the ashes of the old one. In the teaser trailer, a celebratory aftermath can be seen in the vault for “Reclamation Day.” And, in the E3 trailer, a public official proclaimed the residents’ duty to rebuild humanity.
Setting: The world outside of Vault 76
Todd Howard revealed some surprising details regarding the structure and gameplay of Fallout 76 at Bethesda’s E3 press conference. So let’s delve into some of the items he highlighted.
For starters, the game’s map will be four times the size of Fallout 4 at launch. And, as the song in the teaser trailer alluded to, the game takes place in the countryside of West of Virginia. Vehicles will not be a part of the game. However, “fast travel” will be a feature that enables quick transportation between different points in the world. So, don’t fear. You don’t have to burn all of your digital calories by walking everywhere you can go. The magical video game trope of teleportation is here to save the day.
In addition to a larger map, the world also appears more vibrant and colorful than past games that were more drab and wasteland-y. In fact, it doesn’t appear near as desolate as one would expect from the post-apocalyptic nuclear holocaust that occurred. There might be a reason for that, and I’ll cover that in my “Base Building and Nuclear War Games” section below.
What, exactly, is the level of online play to expect from this title? For most fans of the franchise, it was quite a shock to the system when Howard unveiled at E3 that the game will be fully online in a first for the series. It seemed, however, that he anticipated any potential backlash from detractors when he quickly stated that the game could still be played as a single-player adventure. The caveat, however, is that players will still have to maintain an online connection even if single-player is the preferred method.
This has presented a few concerns that Fallout fans are eagerly awaiting answers for in the upcoming beta. For starters, there are no human NPCs (non-player character) in the game. All of the humans seen in the game are other actual gamers playing online right along with you. This means that the story-driven dialogue will likely be minimal or, possibly, non-existent in order for actual players to converse with each other. In essence, the depth of the game is dependent upon players and how they choose to interact with one another.
According to Polygon, many players are already working on “fixing” this aspect of the game. Some players are volunteering to substitute in a role-playing venture for absent NPCs to converse with questing players. Others are suggesting a type of radar that could indicate a hostility rating. This would be based on a players’ actions/history as human players approach each other.
This leads to another concern. Fans of the franchise are afraid that a contingent of people within the online atmosphere will only be interested in griefing (killing other players for fun or sport). This type of interference would then hinder the fun of questing and going on adventures in the wasteland. Howard stated that the concerns regarding griefing are being addressed. One suggested solution is that players can’t combat one another until they reach level 5. There’s also the potential for servers that are dedicated to letting players have a world all to themselves. These solutions don’t seem ideal, so hopefully the development team has more up their sleeve.
The tragic state of cross-play
At one point, it seems the game could have entertained the notion of cross-play between different platforms. This means that your Xbox buddy could have stomped around the wastelands with you on your PS4. At least this was the original ambition of the Bethesda team. However, the lack of cross-play functionality rests squarely on Sony’s shoulders.
Sony has found itself at the end of pointing fingers from developers as the reason for hindering the emergence of cross-play functionality. Now, Bethesda just threw its weight in the “blame Sony” game. Brad Ballanger also covered this story in full on Daily Esports here.
Base building and nuclear war games
Fallout 76 gives players the opportunity to scavenge for resources and build bases out in the West Virginia wilderness. These bases can be outfitted with defense weaponry and fortifications. Furthermore, players can wage nuclear warfare on one another with the option of nuclear strikes. Inactive missile silos can be utilized as long as players can get their hands on the launch codes. Nuclear strikes can be carried out on other bases or even random NPC enemy colonies. This is, perhaps, the reason for the more radiated settings of future Fallout games. The population of Vault 76 didn’t exactly seem to fulfill their mandate of rebuilding as we saw in the trailers.
While the construction of bases and detonation of nuclear missiles would seem to drastically alter the landscape, Howard noted that these items will disappear in time or bases will leave servers as their hosts exit the game. This will prevent the game from being dotted with bases and destruction of all kinds.
Combat: Changes to VATS
The VATS (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) combat system is going to be changing. In previous entries, the system enabled players to target certain portions of an enemies bodies with hit percentages listed next to each. It helped players strategize and froze the action in place so that choices could be made. In an online atmosphere, time can’t simply freeze.
However, Howard has remarked that the VATS system will remain in Fallout 76. The only difference is that it will occur in real-time. It’s still unclear how this will work. But, it seems that players will simply have to be more quick-on-the-draw with their actions when strategizing attack options.
Free DLC for all
As I noted in my article regarding Rocket League‘s future in the games-as-service model, the industry as a whole is turning more toward this favored strategy among gamers. Instead of gouging players with high DLC costs or frequent sequels, developers are striving to keep players in their worlds for longer periods of time. Offering free future support to developed games is a huge step in this direction. With that in mind, further expansions to Fallout 76 will all be free.
Death ain’t no thing
In the E3 conference, Howard assured players that death doesn’t result in an end-game scenario. While Bethesda has described Fallout 76 as a “softcore” survival game, players can still have fun and take risks in the dangerous wilderness. Players’ progression and characters will remain intact. This is one element that Bethesda hopes will deter griefers from doing their thing as there are no heavy effects. Progression will also follow players as they join their friends’ games.
Keep in mind, if you want a spot in the beta, you will need to pre-order the game. As Bethesda’s first outing with this type of online structure, they’ve opted to ensure the game can be refined as best as possible prior to launch. Participation in the beta will help with that. And, for more news and updates on Fallout 76 as the game approaches release, be sure to check back in with Daily Esports for the latest!