Videogaming: Beginners Guide to Fallout 76
Fallout 76 is Bethesda’s latest entry in the Fallout post-nuclear RPG franchise — but unlike the previous games, Fallout 76 is multiplayer. When it came out it wasn’t really as polished as it could have been, and got some pretty savage reviews. However since then Bethesda have continued to do a lot of work on this game, and it’s now one of the most fun and interesting multiplayer environments around. You can also pick it up pretty cheap in Steam sales etc. so even if you only want to play it as a solo game, it’s still tremendous value for money. But it’s in multiplayer where this game really shines — there are tons of group events to do together, and it has the friendliest and most helpful community I have ever encountered in any game.
Note that Fallout 76 isn’t really an MMO in the vein of Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Online or other similar traditional MMOs like WoW. The game is more like a light version of an MMO crossed with a Survival game. And after getting seriously burnt out on traditional MMOs I actually prefer the way Fallout 76 handles things. Your character’s progression, stats, gear etc. are persistant and always saved online, but you don’t have huge servers with hundreds of people running around. Each Fallout 76 public World can hold a maximum of 24 players at any one time, and you are randomly assigned to one of these server worlds each time you log in. This makes the game’s server tech similar to a game like GTA Online; and allows the game to have a huge map with no transitions needed between areas — it’s 4 times bigger than the map in Fallout 4. When you climb a mountain in Fallout 76 you can see the landscape go on for literally miles.
For a hi-res map of post-nuclear Appalachia, with all features marked, see this link.
The game also features some survival features, such as finding and consuming food and drink. It’s not a full survival sim though, so you can’t die of thirst or disease, though not eating will weaken you enough that other things can kill you easier.
Beginning the game
You start the game waking up in a deserted Vault 76, and have to find your way out. This section acts as a tutorial to what can be some realatively complex game mechanics, especially if you have never played a Fallout game before, so it’s a good idea to take your time going through it and make sure you understand it all fully.
Keyboard or Controller?
Fallout 76 was designed from the ground up for console play as well as keyboard play, so if you are on a PC simply use what you feel most comfortable with. You can set your default control scheme by going to the Settings menu in-game. I play it on PC with a Steam Controller and it works great, especially with gyro aiming turned on in the controller settings. If you have a Steam Controller or PlayStation 4/5 controller this is definitely the way to go.
The S.P.E.C.I.A.L. System
This is Fallout’s stat system, derived originally from the pen & paper RPG GURPS. It’s a well-proven system that enables you to build a really unique interesting character. You get S.P.E.C.I.A.L. points as you level up — and you can reallocate them any time for free, so you don’t have to worry about choosing the wrong build and being stuck with it.
- Strength: Useful for melee combat, shotguns, and heavy weapons like gatling guns and miniguns. If you like getting up close and personal, you definitely need points in this. Also enables you to carry more stuff, and this game has a lot of stuff to carry!
- Perception: Useful for medium weight long-range weapons, like rifles and bows. If you like to snipe from a distance, put points in this. Also enables you to pick locks better.
- Endurance: Everything to do with keeping you healthy. More Endurance gives your character more health — each player starts with a base of 250 Hit Points and you get another 5 HP for every point of Endurance you have, which can make a significant difference. Also enables you to sprint for longer, which can be handy for getting out of trouble, or quickly getting to a team mate who needs assistance.
- Charisma: All sorts of advantages for playing in a team, and gives you a bonus for buying and selling with NPC vendors. Also gives you extra rewards for doing Group Public Events. For every 3 points you have in Charisma you can share one Perk with your teammates; so this stat not only gives you extra bonuses personally, it strengthens your whole team. If you mainly play solo, you probably don’t need to bother putting too many points in this. But if you mainly play in a team, you should have at least 3 points in this, preferably significantly more.
- Intelligence: used for crafting and hacking computer terminals. Also has some useful Perks for Power Armor use. Important note: putting more points in Intelligence means you gain XP faster (because when you are smart you can learn more quickly). So if levelling rapidly is important to you, make sure to have some points in this,
- Agility: Useful if you like to use pistols or be stealthy, and also gives you a bonus to your Action Points. If you want to play a stealthy character or like using the V.A.T.S. system (see below), then you will definitely want points in this.
- Luck: points in this will enable you to find better loot. It also improves your Critical Hit chance, which can be great for extra damage.
This is a unique innovation to Fallout 76 — cards that each give special bonuses and abilities. You get new cards as you level up, and you can also earn bonus random booster packs. They allow you to customise your character exactly the way you want it, in a very easy and convenient form. Like S.P.E.C.I.A.L. points, you can reallocate them any time. Many perk cards can also be ranked up by combining two of the same type — but if you are just starting out I advise you not to do this until you really understand the system fully. It’s often better to have a large variety of perks rather than use up a lot of points for just one thing.
Pretty much any perk card can be useful for something, but there are several that you should definitely aim to slot when you can. Here are some suggestions:
- Traveling Pharmacy (Str): lowers weight of all chems. Weight is always an issue in this game, and chems usually weigh more than everything else, so you 100% want to slot this card.
- Fire in the Hole (Per): grenades can be tremendously useful, and you’ll pick up quite a few of them on your travels. Unfortunately they can be difficult to aim well unless you have this Perk, which not only enables you to throw them further, but also shows you exactly where they are going to land. Slotting this card will seriously improve your AoE damage capability.
- Ironclad (End): the best Endurance perk if you aren’t wearing Power Armor. Helps boost your damage resistance considerably. Essential.
- Team Medic (Cha): if you are on a team, take this. Every time you use a Stimpack you will not only heal yourself, you will heal everyone else on your team as well. They will thank you for it.
- First Aid (Int): boosts effectiveness of healing Stimpacks. Will save your life many times over.
- Scrapper (Int): if you want to craft, you will need plenty of raw materials. This will help with that.
- Born Survivor (Agi): heals you automatically when you are about to die. What’s not to like?
- Thru Hiker (Agi): lowers weight of all food items. You’ll be carrying a lot of food, so this will really come in handy.
- Good with Salt (Lck): preserves your food for longer. That’s really useful, trust me on this.
- Serendipity (Lck): gives you a chance to avoid damage if you are wounded. Has saved my life more times than I can count.
Armor and Oufits
Clothing comes in multiple layers:
- Power Armor
You will start with a Vault 76 jumpsuit which is basic underarmor with no added bonuses. However you can later find or craft other underarmor that gives damage resistance and stat bonuses or you can add linings to your Vault 76 jumpsuit that gives it extra abilities — so if you decide to stop wearing it, don’t trash it, store it in your Stash box for later.
Armor comes in various different types and weights, and can be modified at an armor crafting bench once you learn how. To begin with, just pick up the best armor you find on your adventures and scrap the rest.
Outfits are generally purely cosmetic, and considering that most basic armor is super ugly, you will probably end up wearing an outfit most of the time. There are many, many outfits to choose from and you can find them all over the world of Applachia, or buy plans to craft them in the Atom Shop.
Power Armor comes in a base chassis which you can then add extra armor pieces to. It requires Fusion Cores to power it. Don’t worry about getting Power Armor in the lower levels, it’s often more trouble than it’s worth; but it can be a lot of fun once you get up closer to level 50 and beyond. You can sometimes find discarded Power Armor in military bases which you can take and use, that’s the cheapest way to get started with it.
The V.A.T.S. system
V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) is an automated aim assist that makes it a lot easier to target enemies and gain critical hits. It’s activated by pressing Q on your keyboard or LB on a controller.
V.A.T.S. depends on your character’s Action Points for maximum effect. You start the game with 60 AP and increase this by 10 for every point in Agility. Every time you take a shot using V.A.T.S. it depletes your pool of AP.
Action Points are also used to jump and sprint. The rate at which they deplete while sprinting depends on your Endurance stat and if you are overencumbered.
Action Point cost per shot
Weapon and Armor mods can affect AP cost:
- Lower cost: anything with the prefix Light, Quick, Hair Trigger, Advanced, Reflex, Marksman, Sharpshooter reduces AP cost in V.A.T.S.
- Higher cost: anything with the prefix Heavy, Long, Rapid, Piercing, Automatic, Large, Drum, Full, Scope, Sniper increases AP cost in V.A.T.S.
Building your C.A.M.P.
Fallout 76 has a very creative base building system called the C.A.M.P. You’ll be given a quest quite early in the game to start building your C.A.M.P., and if you are like most players you will get pretty addicted to it after a while. If you aren’t sure where to build your first C.A.M.P. look for a reasonably flat and open area somewhere near The Wayward or Flatwood, it’s relatively safe around there and there are lots of starter quests available. Note that you can move your C.A.M.P. any time so don’t worry about getting the exact right place first time.
You can also visit other players’ homes and interact with their stuff — it can be really entertaining to see the amazing constructions some people come up with. Players can also set up vending machines in their C.A.M.P.s to sell stuff to other players, and if you shop around this can be a great way to pick up some cheap things that you need. Look for other C.A.M.P.s on the map, and if their home icon has a tiny green circle with a V in it, that means they have a vending machine available.
When building a C.A.M.P. for the first time, if you aren’t sure what things you should build, this is a good suggested order:
- Foundations — build a few basic wooden floor squares to place things on. Don’t worry about building walls etc. just yet.
- Stash box for holding all your stuff.
- Weapon, Armor, or Tinker crafting bench — it doesn’t matter which one to begin with, as long you can use it to scrap stuff you pick up. Ultimately you will need all three of these crafting benches, but one will do for now.
- Cooking Station — food and drink are vital in this game, so use this often to cook whatever mystery meat you find on your travels.
- Water Pump — if you aren’t close to a source of water you will need this to provide dirty water that you can boil and use in cooking.
- Generator — a small one will do to start. Place this outside your house or on the roof. You will need to connect it to every item that requires power, which can mean spending some time stringing cables around your C.A.M.P. You can do this while in the Edit menu by selecting the generator’s electrical connection point and dragging a cable from it to the connection point of the other device. Note that if your generator is far from your other devices you might need to build other connection points in between and string cables from one to the other.
- Water Purifier — will supply you with constant Purified Water which you will absolutely need. Be sure to connect the Purifier to your generator / electrical system with a cable to get it working!
After that, it’s really up to you. Have fun learning to build a house :-)
Note that if you want to connect lights to your electrical system you need to place Power Connector objects somewhere on the walls outside your house and cable it to your generator. Each Power Connector will then radiate wireless power to any light within a few metres of it, even if it is on the other side of a wall inside the house.
If you have friends who also play Fallout 76, you can add their user names to your in-game Friends list in the Social menu (top right of the map screen). They will get a notification of your request, and once they accept it they will appear on your list. Chances are they will be randomly assigned to a different server World than you, so click on their name and choose Join to get taken directly to their World. Once there, click on their name again and choose Invite to Team.
If you don’t know anyone else already playing F76 but would like to team up, this is also quite easy. The game allows players to set up Public Teams to do various things, such as questing or group events, and you can just click on a Public Team to join it. Each Public Team also gets a special boost — more XP, rewards etc. depending on what kind of team it is.
Unusually for a PC multiplayer game, Fallout 76 does not have text chat. However it does have an excellent built-in voice chat system. It’s important that you open the Settings menu and check your voice chat settings. It’s set to Push to Talk by default, and to the Auto setting — this means that as soon as you get close to someone in game you can talk to them automatically, and you can always talk to your teammates no matter where they are.
If you don’t use voice chat, F76 also has lots of built-in Emotes, so you can still interact using basic arm gestures.
Fallout 76 has quests similar to traditional MMOs, and in general they are very well-written and absorbing — I find myself far more involved in them than I do with most other games. Most of them can easily be done in groups as well as single players, though in some special instance missions only the team leader will have their quest log advanced. Note that when a member of a team completes a quest, even if someone else on the team has already done it, everyone on the team will get a bonus reward, so it’s always worth helping out others.
You can get quests by talking to various quest givers, both human and machine, and you can also get them by simply being in the right place at the right time. One of my favourite things about the F76 world is that things just happen. Stuff is going on all the time, and you can frequently walk into a town and find yourself automatically added to whatever weird-ass quest event that happens to be occurring at the time. This makes for a highly entertaining and exciting game.
Every so often you will get a notification that a Public Event is starting. You can also find any current Public Events by looking on the world map for a small yellow hexagon symbol. Click on it to fast travel there and automatically join the event. Note that some of these events can be pretty difficult, but there will usually be some other players there too, so stand behind them and hope you survive :-)
- Every time you find a crafting bench, use it to scrap all the junk and unwanted weapons & armor in your inventory — it will considerably reduce the weight you are carrying.
- When you scrap weapons and armor you can sometimes learn how to make modifications that you can add to your other weapons and armor later. You can also buy Plans and Mods from vendors or other players’ C.A.M.P. vending machines.
- Get a backpack as soon as possible to help you carry more stuff. You can find the crafting plan for a Small Backpack in an Overseer’s Cache in Morgantown Airport — just follow the main story quest to find it.
The Atom Shop
This is Fallout 76’s microtransaction cash shop, which is pretty standard for most MMO-type games these days. This one is a lot better than most though — and most importantly you can earn Atoms just by playing the game, without spending a penny. If you do decide to buy some, 100 Atoms = $1 roughly. The store mainly contains cosmetic items and, unlike some games, these are actually fun and well-designed (and sometimes exceptionally silly, but in a good way). If you’re really on a budget, keep an eye out for the frequent sales in the store.
This is classic “premium subscription” model so beloved of all your favourite MMOs. Unfortunately Bethesda kind of dropped the ball on this one. It does give you 2 really incredibly useful things if you are a serious player: unlimited crafting material storage, and a placeable survival tent that you can carry around and use a temporary base while adventuring. It also gives you 1650 Atoms per month to spend in the cash shop.
Having Fallout 1st does enable you to do something very interesting: set up your own Private World that is only open to friends you invite. If you just want to adventure with your partner or guildmates without being bothered by others, this is a great solution. Note that Private Worlds are limited to a maximum of 8 players at any one time.
But for that they charge you $13 a month, or the equivalent in your local currency, which to my mind is a bit of a rip-off. If it was half that I’d pay it in a heartbeat for the added convenience, but that cost definitely makes me reluctant to pay — it’s more than I paid to buy the entire game!
I guess if you are a busy person who earns decent money and you need to maximise your play time it’s worth it if you really love the game. But compared to what Bethesda charge for an Elder Scrolls Online Plus subscription, which is both cheaper and gives you a lot more for your money, it’s not a great deal.
Enjoy beautiful Appalachia!
That’s it for this beginners guide — now go tame the post-nuclear wilderness Vault Dweller!