Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Hands-on: Fallout 76 lets you bring some company to the Apocalypse

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica |

Nuclear fire-walk with me. —

A fun few hours wandering the wasteland with teammates.


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I’m glad I got to see this with you.

After Bethesda

revealed the “entirely online” Fallout 76 at E3 earlier this year

, some franchise fans worried the new game would feel uncomfortably different from the story-driven, single-player post-apocalyptic action they know and love. After playing the game for about three hours at a preview event last week, I came away feeling like I was playing an elaborate

Fallout 4

mod with some basic online features grafted on top.

Our preview experience started inside Vault 76 itself, an extremely messy space still reeling from a party celebrating the residents’ impending departure into the post-nuclear wasteland of West Virginia. In the vault itself I could only see and talk to my three fellow team members as we all got our gear and viewed some basic tutorial content.

Once we stepped out of the vault, though, there were dozens of other survivors, all on their own teams, milling about and throwing built-in gestures to each other before setting off. Those gestures turn out to be the only way to directly communicate with players that aren’t on my team, making the presence of so many other survivors feel like more of a nuisance than a meaningful addition off the bat (Bethesda developers on hand said voice chat with nearby non-team members was being worked on for post-launch).

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Teamwork makes the dream work

To start, our team mostly ignored our fellow survivors and hiked into the West Virginia wilderness on our own. While the entire world was wide open to us, we generally hewed to the breadcrumb trail of a main quest line, which focused on finding a mysterious “overseer” leaving cryptic clues to her location. On the way, there was a lot of the usual foraging for survival materials, battling with mutated animal and zombie-like human antagonists, and discovering distracting side-quests.

While the basic gameplay will feel extremely familiar to anyone who has played

Fallout 4

, working together as a team brings its own particular quirks. In battles, for instance, experience points are shared between all players who were able to get at least one shot in on the enemy. Every team member will be able to loot that dead enemy (and other item storage locations) individually, and each one gets their own semi-random set of items from that looting (based on their character level).

Having a full team of characters with different skills opened up the gameplay in some interesting ways at points. If one player had a strong lock-picking skill, for instance, they could unlock a safe and give everyone else access to what was inside. If another player buffed up their charisma, they were able to share perk cards with everyone on the team.

In one memorable dungeon, a mindless Super Mutant started firing at us from inside a locked cage, and we couldn’t fire back until we unlocked it. The entire team started scrambling to look for the hidden code to unlock the door. When one team member found it, he read it off to another near the door, who opened it to allow for a third teammate to get the immediate critical headshot. Go team!

  • Party time!

  • War… war has changed quite a bit.

  • Just stacking up some perks.

  • There were a few developers on our preview server decked out in suits like these, making our dinky starter characters feel very inadequate.

  • The in-game recreation of the Greenbrier Resort, where the preview event was held, was uncannily accurate.

  • DO YOU HAVE A MOMENT TO TALK ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL LORD AND SAVIOR?

  • It’s not all wandering around outside… there are server-wide instanced “dungeons” to explore too.

  • Customizing your character means a lot more when other real people are gonna be looking at that avatar.

  • No, this is not a shot from the new Call of Duty.

  • The West Virginia scenery sure is pretty.

  • Be true to your vauuuuuuuuult. Let your colors flyyyyyyyyy.

  • Looks like a good place to set up every valuable possession we have.

Working as a team has an effect on how you get around as well. Each team member can build their own Fallout 4-style camp, complete with places to rest, fires to cook food and purify water, and workbenches to convert foraged scrap items into useful items (not to mention fences and turrets to protect against antagonists). Team members can fast-travel to anyone else’s camp for free, encouraging teammates to spread out their bases around the massive map. You can fast-travel to the team leader for free as well, but warping to other discovered locations (or fellow teammates) requires spending in-game caps.

Playing live with other people also brings changes to the V.A.T.S. system, which now operates in real time. Tapping the V.A.T.S. button in combat still brings up the usual green-highlighted limb-targeting system (using the right stick to change your aim), but both you and the target continue to move at full speed as you try to maximize the displayed chance at a successful shot. In my short time trying, the whole thing felt pretty cumbersome, and it was a lot harder than usual to get those high-percentage shots off. In any case, players who want to slow down and consider their shots are out of luck here.

In general, though, wandering around the wasteland with three other people is a lot less lonely than the u

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