Fallout 76 is Bethesda’s first proper foray into a multiplayer version of their trademark open world exploration RPGs. While The Elder Scrolls Online is set in one of their worlds, it wasn’t any of Bethesda’s core studios who developed it, so it doesn’t really count.
A multiplayer Fallout is something that gamers have fantasised about for years, because it’s always seemed such a rich world to explore with a couple of friends by your side. Fallout 4 sort of did this, by giving you a dog friend as well as a bunch of companions you could choose to adventure with, but it’s not the same as having your real mates at your side, shooting up the place instead of that sneaky infiltration you had planned.
But what if you don’t got no mates? Is Fallout 76 something you can enjoy on your lonesome?
Surprisingly, yes! At least to begin with. It’s possible there may be some high end content you just can’t manage by yourself, like launching the nukes and exploring the irradiated zones they leave behind, but before you get anywhere near that far there’s an amazing amount of fun to be had. And maybe on the way, you’ll make some friends while exploring the vast landscape of West Virginia.
On first leaving the vault you’re tasked with following the Overseer, who is on her own mission, separate from the general vault dweller mission of rebuilding America. By following in her footsteps you’ll be introduced to concepts like the CAMP system, which lets you build your own mini-outposts in the wild, as well as the stash, crafting and more. But if you’re confident you don’t need this intro you’re free to break away from the main storyline any time you want.
Even if you carry on following the story you’ll still start stumbling across some of the other activities available in the world. The first one you’ll likely find is a public event in Flatwoods, the first abandoned city you visit in the game. Here you’ll need to destroy a few malfunctioning robots before heading indoors to a terminal where their targeting parameters can be reset. This is easily completed solo, as are many others, though you’ll often be completing them with strangers around regardless.
Exploring the wastes on your own can be somewhat perilous. The game world is much larger than that of Fallout 4, and the difference in difficulty is markedly higher as well. While Fallout 4 had its highly irradiated Glowing Sea area, that required additional radiation protection, Fallout 76 adds gas masks to the mix. Enter certain zones without one and your chance of contracting a disease will rise dramatically.
Alongside your CAMP, where you can set up crafting stations, a place to sleep or a small farm, there are public workshops players can claim for themselves or their team. Here you can construct resource extractors, digging up junk, copper or other resources out of the ground, or restore old factories to begin churning out food or ammunition. These can easily be cleared of enemies and claimed by soloists, though obviously defending them from other players or the regular AI assaults can be more challenging. Make sure you lock your doors and machinery to prevent others from simply stealing your stuff!
Perhaps the best bit of playing on your own is not having to raise your Charisma score any higher than absolutely needed for your own perks, because you won’t need to share any of your perk cards with your team. For most, raising your Charisma in blocks of 3 (or not at all) is almost required, as you need 3 points in Charisma per point of the perk card you want to share. A base level Rifleman card, which costs 1 Perception to equip, will require 3 Charisma to share with your team. Field Surgeon, which makes Stimpaks and Radaway work more quickly, requires 2 points in Charisma to equip for yourself, but 6 (3×2) to share with your team.
The highest known cost for a card is 5, for perks like Gunsmith, which allows crafting of Tier 5 guns. That would require 15 in Charisma to share, which is also the maximum amount for any SPECIAL stat, conveniently enough!
Of course playing the game by yourself does mean missing out on some things. You won’t have backup if another player comes to kill you, nor will you have anyone providing a diversion for you during tough gunfights. Enemies can come in much bigger numbers than you might be used to from Fallout 4, and VATS no longer slows time to make many fights a cake walk.
But if you just want a great big new world to explore, full of all kinds of new things to see and do, Fallout 76 is a perfectly wonderful experience, even if you’re jumping in alone.