‘Fallout 76’ Single Player Gameplay Details: Can You Play Solo?

The moment that sold me on the solo play potential of Fallout 76 is like most other great Fallout moments — unscripted. I stumbled upon a radio tower swarming with Super Mutants. A vicious gunfight ensued. After killing everything (barely), I ascend the tower, certain great loot awaits. A locked safe at the top requires a key. There’s a note nearby (of course). It’s a sarcastic farewell note to the Super Mutants from their victims that explains the key was tossed from the tower. It’s on an outhouse roof, the note says, but the Super Mutants won’t ever know because they “can’t read.” I scramble down, find the key, scramble up and get some loot. I take a few steps to admire the view, and trigger a survey mechanic that highlights several points of interest nearby. I pick my next one and go.

“As we were playing the games ourselves we thought it felt empty so we ended up just adding 4x the amount of content as well. So there's an incredible amount of the notes, the holotapes and there's an incredible amount of environmental storytelling that our artists and designers are kind of famous for,” said Jeff Gardiner, Project Leader for Fallout 76 . Once the team settled on a player count, Bethesda realized a map 4x the size of Fallout 4 needed 4x the stuff. “There's a ton of that all over, hidden pockets where all that exists.”

fallout 76 gameplay details beta hands on review single player 2 Bethesda Game Studios

Essentially, Fallout 76 will offer single players the chance to experience the kind of game they’d expect from Bethesda. There are several quest lines in addition to the found narratives in the world that don’t trigger any kind of waypoint. But don’t expect definitive numbers on playtime. Senior Vice President of Global Communications and Marketing Pete Hines told Newsweek that kind of math doesn’t apply to Bethesda games.

“That number, whatever that number is, it just doesn't matter,” he said. “Nobody plays Fallout 4 and only does the main quest and nothing else. Nobody played Skyrim just straight through the main quest. There's just too much other stuff to do. I have played a lot of Fallout 76 , almost entirely as a solo player, sort of by myself doing quests and exploring areas and finding stuff to do. And I found that really rewarding.”

Hines believes (and my hands-on beta experience confirms) that the sprawling, unchecked nature of the Fallout 76 wasteland will provide more than enough distraction for the curious lone wanderer. The main questline serves as a guidepost of sorts, but the intention is to put people in interesting places instead of chasing waypoint after waypoint.

“As you play through the main quest it takes you to, and past, a lot of other interesting locations where find a lot of other things that you could be doing. We don't do the fog of war anymore where you can't see the map,” Hines said. He explained that the map doesn’t name landmarks for you to encourage exploration and adventure. “That doesn't ‘count’ as part of the main quest content but what does it matter? You were having fun, you had a sense of accomplishment, you levelled up and found some cool stuff. That's all part of the game.”

fallout 76 gameplay details single player 1 Bethesda Game Studios

Bethesda’s biggest challenge for delivering single-player content in Fallout 76 was the lack of NPCs. As Design Director Emil Pagliarulo explains, NPCs are how players expect to find quest content. Without them, it becomes harder to find organic ways to introduce players to questlines.

“We really had a lot of debates about how to tell stories, and on what's the best way to get those quests and stories to the player. With no NPCs there's no dialogue trees so our quest designers have been used to making quests a specific way - talk to an NPC, get some dialogue, ask some questions - and now most of the really fiction-heavy lore stuff comes from Holotapes,” he said.

A Holotape tab on the in-game Pip Boy menu makes it easier to track these quests, but it doesn’t counteract the feeling of isolation Fallout 76 creates. Unlike previous franchise entries, Fallout 76 takes place in a world that hasn’t been repopulated. Other players can provide company, but you’ll spend a lot of time alone.

“We started off with the premise that the only other people that you see are people that came from the Vault. Everyone else is dead,” Pagliarulo said. “It's a much more lonely story than Fallout 4 . All these people are dead already it's almost like a ghost story in a way.”

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