Now the Fallout 76 beta is over (yes, that's us you can hear sobbing inconsolably), it's about time to go over the key things we learnt from our all-too brief time in Appalachia. Fallout 76 is considerably different from Fallout 4, so even if you're familiar with the Wasteland and barely bat an eyelid at a Deathclaw, there are still a few things you're going to want to bear in mind before heading into the softcore-MMO of West Virginia, like how fast travel works and why you should regularly take photos. Here's the biggest things we learnt from the Fallout 76 beta.
1. Don't be afraid to work with strangers
If this is your first time voyaging into an MMO we don't blame you for being wary about other players. It’s a very optional aspect of the game though, and for those asking ‘can you play Fallout 76 single player?’ the answer is an easy yes. But there will still be other people in your map and without a doubt some will want to start PvP. However, in our experience the majority of them will exchange the heart emote with you and be on their way. Don't let them go immediately, though - asking them to join your team can lead to a couple of hours of fun, especially if you buddy up with someone you've just done a public event with. So if you're not sure about an online apocalypse, just bear in mind that exploring the Wasteland with a stranger can be one of the best ways to experience Fallout 76.
2. Fast travelling needs some work
One of the major incentives to work in a team in Fallout 76 is that no matter where your buddy is, you're able to fast travel to them at all times. Even if you're off doing your own thing on one side of the map and your friend is building the perfect base miles away, the ability to teleport to each other is exceedingly useful. Or, it would be, if it dropped you at your teammate instead of at the nearest landmark. Yup, when you choose to fast travel to a friend you won't appear right next to them, annoyingly. Instead you'll find yourself at the nearest named location, even if you haven't discovered it yet. To be fair, that can be a nifty way to stumble upon a new area, but when we choose the option to fast travel to our buddy we want to be right beside them rather than having to jog for a couple of minutes to find them. It'd be swell if Bethesda tweaked this mechanic before the full release, but as it hasn't been officially mentioned yet we doubt it's going to change.
3. Trading with friends should be free by default
Look, Bethesda, I don't know about you but when I'm adventuring with my friends I don't feel quite dastardly enough to charge them caps for the odd Stimpak. Friendship is its own reward (although I'm not going to turn down a bundle of caps if anyone's offering). So when you trade with someone in your team, it would be great if the price of each item you exchange could be set to free by default. When we're in the midst of an onslaught of Super Mutants the last thing I want is to have to play with sliders when I'm just trying to throw my friend some Psycho. We are meant to be working together, after all...
4. Take time to enjoy the little things
In a world that’s 16 square miles big, it's easy to become obsessed with discovering every location and exploring every area as soon as possible. But just like previous Fallout games, in most buildings and out in the wild you'll find notes from survivors of the nuclear blast, letters from families going about their daily business before the bombs fell, pamphlets about local attractions, and many, many more little details that will be neatly filed into the ‘Notes’ section of your Pip-Boy. Pause a while and take the time to read them. Often they can make you see the abandoned building you're in through someone else's eyes, or give you insight into what people went through to survive after the war. There are also skeletons posed in… interesting positions (like finding skulls in someone's hot tub) that you'll want to show the world once you find them, trust us. Taking joy in the little things scattered throughout Fallout 76 is one of the aspects that’ll work their way into the stories you'll tell your friends and - corny as this may sound - they're one of the things you won't forget in a hurry about the game. It's the small details that make Appalachia what it is. Aww.
5. The lack of human NPCs is jarring at first, but you get used to it
It'll take some time to get used to the lack of human NPCs in Fallout 76 - there are Mr Handys, Protectrons and other robots, but they're not exactly the same as flesh and blood people or ghouls - but once you adjust it works. The whole premise of Fallout 76 is that you're the first Vault Dwellers to try and reclaim the Wasteland. Seeing the recently deceased bodies of those who tried to survive outside the Vaults - the well meaning Responders and more murdery Raiders - laying throughout the world, and the messages they left behind, gradually gets you into the mindset that you have to fend for yourself in West Virginia. Occasionally it can feel lonely, and sometimes even melancholy, as you get the sense that you *just* missed the Responders. The tragedy is that you're too late to help them, but their deaths gives you the motivation you need to continue their work to save the Wasteland from the Scorched plague...or get revenge on the Scorched for killing them all, if you're more of the avenging angel type.
6. Don't be afraid of mutations
If you get bored, spice up your playthrough by intentionally swimming in rad-infested water to give yourself some mutations. Sometimes they're an Extra Limb (yes, really), or Bird Bones, but regardless of which one you get they all affect your stats in some way or another and give you weird perks. You'll have a lot less health than usual as the majority of your HP bar will be red, but sometimes it's worth it if you want to randomly and temporarily change your playstyle without having to roll a new character. So, Bird Bones gives you hollow bones (ick) which means you take very little fall damage and fall slower. So if you're at the top of a mountain and want to get down as fast as possible but still want to have your knees intact by the end of it, drinking some radioactive water could give you the advantage you desire. Plus it's always cool to twist your body into weird monstrous shapes.
7. Building the perfect CAMP is a dangerously addictive game of its own
Consider this a warning: if you start noting down all the resources you need to build your perfect CAMP, complete with bed, walls, lights, patio chairs, maybe even a Vault Boy statue...you're going to want to wave goodbye to your free time. Building and collecting resources is a full-time, addictive job, and we're certain that within a couple of weeks of release there are going to be photos of some truly astonishing structures appearing on the internet. Around the world you'll also find plans for different structures (and dishes for you foodies reading this) which will unlock them in your building or cooking menu, meaning that just when you think you've done all you can you might find some new thing to build or make that’ll suck you right back in. You have been warned.
8. Crafting is actually quite tricky but hopefully a plucky band of Fallout 76 traders could make life easier
Trading is a core concept in Fallout 76 but it’s not always as easy as you might think. No matter how much junk you hoover up and scrap you’ll always be missing some key ingredient to craft, repair or modify something. You can tag what you need but you still have to physically find it in the world, and currently my C.A.M.P. is full of guns I can’t repair and armour I can’t make. There comes a point where you have to prioritise finding 3 of ‘a thing’ or you’re never going to get those reinforced leather shin pads finished. There is some hope you won’t have to do it alone at least, with a growing community of people who want to play as Fallout 76 traders. If that idea takes off then you’ll just have to find someone willing, and ask for the things you need.
9. Exploring is fun, but missions are vital for progression and gear
All Bethesda games from Elder Scrolls to Fallout are about getting lost in their worlds, and the Fallout 76 map is one of the biggest the studio’s ever made. But be wary of just heading off in a direction to see what’s out there. You’ll find places and collect missions but it’s only by completing those missions that you’ll only progress - both in the world and in terms of getting key items. For example Stimpaks and other things are actually rare in the world, but a common reward for completing missions. So by exploring too much you can actually make life harder for yourself as vital resources dwindle away. As well as giving you important supplies, a lot of missions are actually quite mobile - taking you around the map and guiding you to cool areas.
10. Don’t wait for quest markers to tell you to hunt down stuff you hear in holotapes - use your initiative
Every so often you'll be exploring the Wasteland and will stumble upon a holotape collecting dust. While the temptation is to let it play while your mind wanders, if you pay attention to what the narrator is saying you'll probably find a hint about something intriguing hiding in the Wasteland - but it’s wise to make a note of any interesting places mentioned, as not every holotape immediately gives you a mission to investigate it further. It could be where they hid their secret cap stash, or where two lovers used to meet for a date. Instead of waiting for a quest to trigger, try hunting down those locations yourself. It can be tricky without a map marker, but these little details can have you following someone's footsteps and uncovering another forgotten account of the Wasteland.
11. Have the radio on
Although the atmospheric music of West Virginia is beautiful, the main radio station has a range of high quality and even somewhat famous tunes on it that'll have you singing along to them in no time (and yes, nearby players will be able to hear your tuneful trilling). And no, you won't be hearing I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire every 10 minutes on repeat as the variety of songs is damn fine. Plus, if you tune into some frequencies you’ll occasionally get a mission or map marker for your trouble, so there’s plenty of reasons to have your Pip-Boy radio on 24/7.
12. Watch out for stories being told through your surroundings
Pay attention to your surroundings and you'll be rewarded for it. Just because the bombs have dropped doesn't mean that all the feuds and issues of the past have been forgotten. You'll find placards protesting about people being out of a job because of automation, the mayor trying to shmooze the public after a toxic spill, a missing child being mourned for by their parents - these stories won't be shoved in your face but they will tell you what was going on while you were safely bunkered down in Vault 76.
13. Take plenty of photos to create a loading screen diary of your time in Appalachia
Obviously Fallout 76 has a photo mode, it’s law now to add them in your game. However, Fallout 76 has a really neat touch where the pictures you take are added into your loading screens - the more you take the more you’ll see them pop up as you fast travel around or enter buildings. It might seem like just a nice touch right now but a few months, or years down the line and you’ll end up building a photo diary of your time in the wasteland. This time next year you could be playing and reminded of that first time you met a snallygaster thanks to that snap you took posing with the body.