Three years after the release of Fallout 4, Bethesda has teased the latest entry in its bestselling, post-apocalyptic franchise and in contrast to the series' usual dour atmosphere, celebration seems to be in the air.
A flickering GIF of a Fallout-themed loading screen was first posted on Bethesda Game Studio's official Twitter account on May 29th, followed by an all-night live-stream of a largely inactive Vault Boy bobble head and occasional Bethesda staff cameos. We were rewarded for our patience the following day, when Bethesda released the first trailer for a game we're sure we'll be hearing a lot about in the next few months: Fallout 76.
[Update: We don't think a game reveal has ever left us more hungry for information than Fallout 76's. Fortunately, E3 2018 and Bethesda's showcase are just around the corner and that means we'll finally get to find out a little more information about what our next trip to the Wasteland will involve. TechRadar will be reporting live from the show so make sure you check back here for the latest news!]
Cut to the chase
- What is it? A new entry in the Fallout franchise
- When can I play it? We can't be sure but within the next year seems like a safe bet
- What can I play it on? Xbox One, PS4, and PC
Fallout 76 release date
While there's no official release date so far, previous Fallout games have followed a similar pattern of mid-year announcement and October/November release.
This is further supported by a number of subtle clues in the teaser trailer. The Pip-Boy that makes an appearance reads a date of October 27th, 2102. There are also references to the Halloween season, including a carved pumpkin and a prominent trophy citing an "Annual Vault Halloween Costume Contest" which suggest a release around the most haunted time of the year.
Amazon is already accepting pre-orders for the Xbox versions of the game, though we're not sure how many would commit at this stage, before Bethesda have confirmed either a launch window or even the genre of the upcoming game.
We imagine some kind of release date will be confirmed at E3 2018, when Bethesda has promised it'll talk about the game some more. It's worth noting that the majority of games Bethesda featured during its E3 2017 conference were released later that year. If that's a trend the developer follows then it's possible we could see Fallout 76 released later this year.
Fallout 76 trailers
We only have one trailer for Fallout 76 so far and it's the one that was used to announce the game. It shows a shiny Fallout world that hints a lot about what we might see in the final game. You can pore over it yourself below:
Fallout 76 news and rumors
So what is Vault 76?
There have been brief mentions of Vault 76 in a couple of previous Fallout games, including on a Vault-Tec terminal in Fallout 3, in that game’s Mothership Zeta expansion, and in a news broadcast played at the start of Fallout 4.
According to Fallout lore, Vault 76 was one of 17 'control vaults' with standardised living conditions - i.e. not subject to social or genetic experimentation - and its community kept safe underground while the Great War obliterated much of the American landscape and population.
The vault was intended to be the first to reopen in 2097, 20 years after the atomic dust had settled on the conflict, with the intention of working to rebuild human society.
We might know the time and place the game is set
The clearest indicator of when the game is set is at the start of the trailer on the iconic wristband computer, the Pip-Boy, which tells us the year is 2102. To start, this would make it the earliest period we’ve ever seen in the Fallout series, a full 60 years earlier than the very first game, and 175 years prior to the events of Fallout 3.
The vault we see in the trailer also seems to be decorated for a 'Reclamation Day' celebration, on the tercentenary of the United States and the date marked for the vault's inhabitants to return to the outside world. A poster in the trailer, however, sets this date in 2097, meaning five years appear to have passed since the Vault doors were meant to have opened.
No location has been confirmed, though the inclusion of John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Roads suggests a setting in the state of West Virginia. The terminal in Fallout 3 we mentioned also placed in the vault in the nearby DC area, though Bethesda may avoid overlapping with the territory used in Fallout 3.
It might be a different world from what we’re used to
Most Fallout games have seen a protagonist travel to other vaults and settlements long after disaster has struck, leaving you to piece together a narrative from the remaining corpses, monsters, tapes, and terminal logs.
Here, it looks like we’ll be in the world not long after the nuclear bombs devastated the nation. There could be a lot less to discover, or visit, as semi-stable hub-cities like Fallout 3’s Megaton or Fallout 4’s Diamond City are a long way off being built. Perhaps we'll be the ones building them.
This means there’s huge scope for variation in the game’s character and creature design as well as its gameplay. Could we encounter partial ghouls who have only been on the surface for a matter of years - or previous iterations of irradiated animals, who have yet to evolve into the fearsome creatures we’ve seen in later games? Maybe a tiny, chameleon-sized deathclaw?
There may be crafting
Given when the game is set, it’s likely there’ll be a large focus on rebuilding civilization, with the potential to create your own settlements and communities instead of playing the lone wanderer.
This seems to be supported by the television broadcast in the teaser trailer, saying: "When the fighting has stopped and the fallout has settled, you must rebuild.”
The ability to create and expand your own settlements in Fallout 4 was one of the standout features of the game, and showed a willingness to take the Fallout IP in new directions. It seems highly likely to us that these mechanics would be taken further in the next entry - though we’d hope to see an engaging narrative beyond the repetitive fetch quests that Fallout 4’s settlement-building was reliant on.
Could it be an online game?
Word on the grapevine is that Fallout 76 won’t be a single-player game.
Gaming site Kotaku claims to have heard on good authority that the upcoming entry will be an ‘online survival RPG’, built from a prototype multiplayer mode originally envisioned for Fallout 4 and utilizing the base-building mechanics that were introduced in the 2015 game - and which propelled the huge success of its tie-in mobile game, Fallout Shelter.
As far back as December 2017, an anonymous user on forum site 4chan cited Fallout 76 by name, saying it would bear similarities to Rust or DayZ, both online first-person survival games with RPG elements. This could be a natural fit for the Fallout IP, due to its traditional scavenging elements, the and Bethesda’s efforts to improve its combat system over the years.
Bethesda has certainly shown interest in the online space with its ongoing The Elder Scrolls Online MMO - and its acquisition of Battlecry Studios, who had their eponymous online arena shooter ‘Battlecry’ axed early last year.
The studio has now been re-branded as Bethesda Game Studios Austin and is reportedly assisting in the development of Fallout 76, which makes an online multiplayer experience look all the more likely. We’d be sad to see a Fallout game that didn’t use the strategic VATS shooting system, though we can’t imagine it working well for the fast-paced nature of an online shooter.
We think it unlikely that Bethesda would try to cannibalize its audience for TES Online with a new MMO, so we expect to see an online survival RPG centered around Fallout 4’s base-building mechanics, or a new take on the Battle Royale mode popularised by PUBG and Fortnite if that's a genre Bethesda is looking to capitalize on with everyone else.
We're sure we'll hear more soon
Bethesda have confirmed we'll hear more at their upcoming E3 showcase on June 10th, so we'll be keeping our eyes peeled until then.
- E3 is the world's largest exhibition for the games industry, stuffed full of the latest and greatest games and gaming hardware. TechRadar will be reporting live from Los Angeles all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated E3 2018 hub to see all the latest news from the show.