There’s never been a better time to get into Fallout 76


More players have been emerging from this vault lately than have in years.
Enlarge / More players have been emerging from this vault lately than have in years.

Samuel Axon

War never changes, but Fallout 76 sure has. The online game that launched to a negative reception with no NPCs but plenty of bugs has mutated in new directions since its 2018 debut. Now it’s finding new life thanks to the wildly popular Fallout TV series that debuted a couple of weeks ago.

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In truth, it never died, though it has stayed in decidedly niche territory for the past six years. Developer Bethesda Game Studios has released regular updates fixing (many of) the bugs, adding new ways to play, softening the game’s rough edges, and yes, introducing Fallout 3- or Fallout 4-like, character-driven quest lines with fully voiced NPCs—something many players felt was missing in the early days.

It’s still not for everybody, but for a select few of us who’ve stuck with it, there’s nothing else quite like it.

Like many older online games, it eventually settled into a situation where most of the players were high-level veterans on the PC and PlayStation platforms. (Microsoft’s Game Pass kept a steady trickle of new players coming in on the Xbox.) That’s all changed now, though; thanks to the TV series, the low-level newbies now outnumber the vets. There’s a wide range of players on every server, and the community’s reputation for being unusually welcoming has held strong amid the influx.

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If you’re looking to give it a shot, here’s what you need to know.

A weirdly welcoming wasteland

I generally find the communities in most online games off-putting and toxic. I enjoy the gameplay in Overwatch, for example, but a whole buffet of bad actors makes it a poor experience for me a lot of the time.

That’s not the case with Fallout 76. It’s a phenomenon I also observed with No Man’s Sky’s online community: Games that had disastrous launches that drove away the enthusiastic core gamer crowd early on end up having the best communities.

With Fallout 76, the first few weeks were a storm of negativity like no other. But once the folks who were unimpressed calmed down and moved on, the smaller cadre of people who actually liked the game formed a strong bond. The community was small enough that bad behavior could have social consequences, and it turned out that the kinds of people who stick with a game like Fallout 76 tend to be patient and gracious. Who knew?

These donation boxes give experienced players a chance to give back.
Enlarge / These donation boxes give experienced players a chance to give back.

Samuel Axon

For example, there has long been a tradition of experienced players dropping valuable healing items and ammunition by the game’s starting area for newbies to grab. Fallout 76 has strong survival elements, especially at the start, so those gifts make a big difference. This gifting became so common that Bethesda formalized it with a donation box in that starter area. In fact, there are donation boxes scattered all around the game’s map now, and they almost always have stuff in them.

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Players will generally be happy to jump on voice chat and talk through the game’s concepts with you or help you defeat difficult enemies. That extends to some communities that talk about the game outside the game, too. (Be sure to look up the subreddit r/fo76FilthyCasuals and its associated Discord; they’re great places to make friends and get advice.)

Time will tell how all that holds as a huge influx of new players shifts the makeup of the community, but so far so good.

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