The Fallout series might remind us war never changes, but the same cannot be said of the November 2018 installment of the beloved role-playing franchise. Each new Fallout game has brought upgrades and improvements designed to improve the player experience. With the release of Fallout 76 - the first multiplayer title in the series - Bethesda has made one of the most drastic modifications to the game's formula in its decades-long history.
While the presence of other players is among the most obvious new additions, there are a host of gameplay changes in Fallout 76 that distinguish it from previous Fallout titles. Even when comparing Fallout 76 and Fallout 4, the changes made by Bethesda stretch far beyond a new online mode and fresh location.
Thankfully, the franchise's longtime fans will still recognize many of the things they love about the Fallout games. Despite all of the new upgrades, 76 still sports the franchise's distinctive post-apocalyptic aesthetic, a plethora of creepy Fallout locations to find and explore, and upgradable RPG elements. If you're a veteran of the wastes, you'll feel right at home in West Virginia, even if you're not immediately used to defending yourself against other players.
For the first time in the Fallout franchise's history, Bethesda has created a 100% online multiplayer game that takes place in a huge, shared world four times the size of Boston in Fallout 4. In addition, Fallout 76 features both cooperative play and competitive player vs. player battles, meaning you can destroy anyone who's exploring on the same server as you. This is a huge departure, especially considering that solo exploration was a key component in previous titles.
Fortunately for those who don't enjoy multiplayer, the game can be played solo, though you'll probably still have to occasionally fend off enemy players
Earlier Fallout games generally avoided giving players access to weapons of mass destruction. While mini-nukes are a series staple, in practice they aren't much more destructive than a large hand grenade. If players wanted to cause real damage to a settlement, the best they could do was walk around and annihilate all its residents (unless bombing the city was part of a mission).
This changes in Fallout 76, as players can finally get their hands on nuclear launch codes. Bethesda director Todd Howard explained that players could use nuclear missiles to attack other players and devastate their settlements. Not only will launching a nuke wipe out anyone in its target area, doing so changes the face of the map and causes new irradiated creatures to appear.
Vault 76 is the first to open following the nuclear devastation, so when you venture out into the wasteland, there's no one waiting to meet you. There are other players in the same situation, but the wasteland is totally devoid of (non-playable) human life.
This means quests have changed, considering NPCs traditionally assigned them. In 76, items found in the environment drive missions rather than other characters. Live events that require the collaboration of multiple players also sometimes occur at random locations on the map.
Given the map sizes in the Fallout series, fast-travel remained an important fixture of gameplay. Typically, once you've found a location, you can warp back to it at any time, cutting down on needless backtracking. In Fallout 76, fast-travel works a little differently, mainly to account for the online multiplayer aspect of the game and to address some players' gameplay concerns.
A few fans worried fast-travel would break player vs. player mode, as players could theoretically warp away as soon as they started losing a fight; others wondered how a fast-travel system could work in a multiplayer game.
Bethesda considered these concerns when designing the player vs. player system. If another player starts shooting at you, you're free to fast-travel away to escape them, but if you shoot back, they become your enemy, disabling fast-travel until you slay them or flee on foot.
While the fast-travel system is similar to previous Fallout games, there are a few new tweaks to make it work in a multiplayer setting. If you're solo adventuring, fast-traveling to a location costs bottle caps. However, you can fast-travel to allies in your squad for free, making it possible to explore more of the map by using the fast-travel system to jump to each other as you find new locations.