One mysterious gif and a Twitch stream later, and we now know that Bethesda’s next gargantuan, open-world RPG will be Fallout 76. Or will it? A combination of rumours and subtle clues spread throughout the teaser trailer suggest that Fallout 76 is not the traditional Bethesda roleplaying experience. Fans have been busy theorising every possibility from the trailer, from a Fallout MMO to a survival game along the lines of Rust or even Ark: Survival Evolved.
Here at PCGamesN we have a few ideas of our own when it comes to Fallout 76. Some sensible suggestions that are grounded in the series’s lore and informed by tidbits spotted in the trailer; some speculative ideas based on rumoured gameplay features and recent gaming trends; and some that are just downright ridiculous.
Related: here are the top RPGs on PC.
The Fallout 76 trailer shows off Vault 76, a Vault-Tec shelter that has been referenced in a number of Fallout games and is located somewhere in Virginia. Vault 76 is a “control” vault, which means its inhabitants are not subject to the same devious human experiments Overseers performed in the majority of Vaults cross the United States. The trailer also reveals the year that Fallout 76 will likely be set in: 2102. If this is the case then Fallout 76 will explore a wasteland that has only existed for 25 years.
So, armed with all of that knowledge - not to mention plenty of irrelevant information - here are our best and weirdest guesses at what the game could be while we wait for the Fallout 76 release date.
Working with the Enclave
Having a Fallout game set so soon after the Great War means we likely won’t see most of the creatures and factions we associate with the series. The Brotherhood of Steel don’t send a mission to the East Coast until 2254 so there’s no chance of seeing them in Fallout 76. Likewise, we can expect Virginia to be free of the Super Mutant scourge as 2102 is before Richard Grey is knocked into a vat of Forced Evolutionary Virus - he doesn’t go on to use the agent on other humans until 2155, which is when he assembles the first Super Mutant army.
So with two of the series biggest and most well-known players totally out of the equation, what factions can we expect to find in Fallout 76? My guess is that we will play a pivotal role in the growth and expansion of the Enclave, the secretive militaristic government organisation with significant links to Vault-Tec - basically, I think we’ll be working with the bad guys on this one.
Not much is known about the Enclave’s activity in the immediate aftermath of the Great War, but we do know that they are the only group tech, hardware, and manpower to survive in the Wasteland. Additionally, the Enclave is the only group outside of Vault-Tec who knows about the various physical and social experiments conducted in vaults, not to mention the whereabouts of each one. If the Enclave do venture out into the wasteland by 2102 then they would almost certainly seek out “control” vaults like Vault 76.
All through the Fallout 76 teaser trailer I was hoping the camera would pull out to reveal that the Vault was at the heart of a Fallout-style city builder. After Fallout Shelter and Frostpunk, I'm convinced the series would be perfect as a colony management sim.
Each game would begin with the vault opening its doors to the wide world after being locked down for a century as the nuclear dust settled. Your puny, naive Vault dwellers would need to explore the dangerous wastes to find resources, ally with survivors, and forge trade links. Lifting from Fallout Shelter, each colonist could have their own needs to satisfy - on top of the more basic functions, like food, water, and security.
From what we’ve heard, Fallout 76 isn’t going to be a straight RPG, like the previous Bethesda entries, but I’m hoping it will be even more of a genre jump than the rumours suggest.
Fallout Battle Royale
I mean, it's obvious, isn't it? I hear tell that this will be some kind of online, large-scale multiplayer effort - though absolutely not an MMO - and what other genre better fits that barely-researched rumour? Bethesda clearly plans to differentiate the game from its competitors by pitting just 76 players against each other, rather than the usual, yawnsome 100 (though this may yet prove to be down to ‘tech issues’).
It all makes sense. This is a “control” Vault, which means its occupants will be the most ‘well-adjusted’ and, therefore, most susceptible to bursts of acute, unwarranted violence. And the game appears to kick off with Reclamation Day, whereupon the doors will be opened to a wasteland barely a quarter-of-a-century old. When that heavy hatch is cracked open, players will quickly discover that all the yucky, apocalyptic radiation hasn’t yet had time to dissipate. In fact, it’s encroaching on their location as a perfect circle around Vault 76.
Now that the door is open, the circle rapidly begins to close in. This forces the Hapless 76 (as they will become known) back into the vault, scrambling for the first heavy object they can find in order to brain anyone in the immediate vicinity. The first two dozen players are picked off early, bludgeoned by Pip-Boys, strangled with the tape from Holodisks, or peppered with .44 rounds.
A lucky few battle their way to the Power Armour stores and chalk up a handful of kills en route, only to be wiped out (along with their killer and anybody within 500 metres) by an ill-considered Fat Man shot.
Eventually the final few find themselves holed up in a bathroom - the one room that remains radiation free - taking potshots at each other from the stalls. It’s a desperate, bitter fight, but one player emerges victorious. They sit back in their chair and enjoy the momentous achievement as a message flashes up on screen: “WINNER WINNER RADROACH DINNER!”
It was all worth it. Time for round two.
Ok, so Project: Rebirth may be the name of the project that turned weedy little Steve Rogers into Captain America, but in Fallout 76 it’s going to be very different. The trailer puts heavy emphasis on resurrection: on the TV screen a man in a suit can be seen talking to a crowd in front of Vault 76, saying, “When the fighting has stopped and the fallout has settled, you must rebuild.”
In the final moments of the trailer, that same voice says, “In Vault 76 our future begins.” There are also numerous references to Reclamation Day - the entire vault has dedicated a party to it, after all - and that day is surely all about reclaiming the planet after its nuclear obliteration. With that being front and centre in the trailer, it seems safe to presume that the main thrust of Fallout 76 will be the project to rebuild civilisation in the new radiation sponge that is the US of A.
With 76 being the one of the very first Vaults to open after the war, I believe we’ll be working alongside the remains of America’s pre-war government in an attempt to reboot the world. Of course, this isn’t going to go well. This is going to be the most depressing Fallout yet; every character will remember what the world was like before, and find it difficult to come to terms with the world they find outside that four-foot-thick metal door. As society attempts to rebuild, morale will collapse, leading to the government losing control and the formation of rival powers.
Yup, this is an origins story. With lots of building. I’m talking main quests that demand building. Although the building tools will be new and much improved, because they won’t bring back Fallout 4’s tools, surely?
Fallout: Play Your Cards Right
You wake up in a Vault suit deep underground. The party for Reclamation Day has long finished. The door to the new world is open.
You have a choice: go out and learn about the world around you by helping fellow Vault dwellers; or venture into the unknown, build your own community, and defend it against all odds.
Fallout 76 is all about playing your cards right. You can learn about the backstories of the people who were forced deep underground, and who - with a wartime-esque spirit - are working to reclaim the land and build a place that somewhat resembles a home. These decisions will have a bearing on how your community fares, and how much work you must do to maintain and protect it.
On the other hand, you can go it alone or in a small group in a dangerous PvP environment. Venture into the new world as an outcast and with nothing to your name. Build your home using salvaged items and materials around you and manoeuvre your way around other players and their communities. Make one wrong step and everything you owned could be taken away.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the reclaimed Wasteland. Play your cards right, or expect trouble.
Fallout 76 Vault Dwellers You Know By Name
In the hours and days since the reveal of an eternally youthful Todd Howard - and the new game his team’s been working on - I’ve been surprised by how dramatically different others’ interpretations of the trailer have been to mine.
The Vault won’t open. It’s too early, right? The bombs have dropped less than a generation before the year in which we believe Fallout 76 will take place. Roll back that iconic, cog-like door, and the radiation will skin you quicker than a Far Cry 4 player looking for a new wallet. Instead, this will be something closer to the One City Block RPG that Warren Spector once envisioned - an immersive sim so small in scope that it could go deeper than ever before.
Imagine the lives of dwellers simulated in extraordinary detail. Hell, even the radroaches could have their own daytime routines and complex AI. Bethesda has the pedigree - Emil Pagliarulo, Fallout’s lead designer, worked on Thief II’s much-loved rooftop level.
These people will be fascinating enough to want to study, too: pre-war dwellers, shut underground with their memories of the world just gone intact, shouldering the responsibility of carrying the human race forward. This could be a uniquely poignant take on Fallout; more diorama than wasteland drama.
Fallout: Johnny Vegas
There have been some rumours floating around that Fallout 76 will be an online game that might jump on the battle royale bandwagon, which is an interesting theory, but I’m thinking that perhaps a more likely scenario is that it will be spiritual sequel to Fallout: New Vegas.
While in Fallout: New Vegas you explored the desolation of Las Vegas, I believe this new title will have you playing as Vegas. Specifically, Johnny Vegas - yes, the British comedian. The setting will presumably be 1976. Johnny Vegas was born in 1971. Coincidence? Surely not.
The game will most likely have you step into the shoes of the portly comedian from the age of five (similar to the opening of Fallout 3) before following his illustrious career in show business from Sex Lives of the Potato Men and right through to Benidorm. How this will tie into the wider Fallout universe remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain, it is sure to be the most emotionally affecting adventure Bethesda has yet produced.