Bethesda’s Fallout 76 post-apocalyptic MMORPG has drawn positive and negative comments since its release a year ago, November 14, 2018. It basically follows the same backstory as the other Fallout series games.
Fallout 76 is a narrative prequel to previous Fallout games. It is set in an alternate history, and takes place in 2102, twenty-five years after a nuclear war that devastated the Earth. The player character is a resident of Vault 76, a fallout shelter that was built in West Virginia to house America’s best and brightest minds. The player character exits the Vault on “Reclamation Day” as part of a plan to re-colonize the Wasteland. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallout_76
Essentially, on October 23, 2077 the United States, China, and others engaged in a brief but devastating nuclear exchange that lasted about two hours and left the US a wasteland and China non-existent. No one knows who fired the first shot – or if no one did – a tragic accident of technology where a pocket of hot air or a flock of birds appeared to be an incoming missile strike. Whatever the cause, the world was reduced to rocks, pools of radiation, and mutated lifeforms. You and your former vault dwellers are exiting Vault 76 at the start of the game a mere 25 years after the bombs dropped. You are to rebuild a broken and mutated world.
The Nuts and Bolts of how you play the game
When you purchase the game you will receive (only) a card with a code number and instructions on how to download. I bought mine from Amazon for $25.00. If you go to Amazon, please help Adult Life Training, Inc. by using the smile.amazon.com link and designating Adult Life Training, Inc. in Fort Wayne, Indiana US as your public charity. It won’t cost you any more, but a tiny fraction of what you spend will be donated by Amazon. Or you can buy yours from Bethesda for $60 if you wish. It’s a free world. There are PC, XBOX, and PS/4 versions.
I had decided early on to follow my tradition with personal entertainment (such as games) and not buy at $60 but to wait until I was paying out $30 or less. I followed the directions on the card to install the Bethesda Launcher. After the launcher was installed it began the five (5) hour download of the game. My home FiOS runs at 30MB download. I am using Microsoft Windows 10 Home to play Fallout (most of my work is done via Linux, I dual-boot to get Windoze, mostly for gaming).
There are the usual YouTube videos but so far as I have noticed no actual on-line Bethesda published User’s Guide or Quickstart FAQ – you learn by making bad choices and getting stuck living with the consequences.
After the game downloads then you go through the familiar character creation drivel with one very notable exception: your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. is 1-1-1-1-1-1-1.
I kid you not.
All S.P.E.C.I.A.L. points are gained as you level via the FO76 Perks mechanism – TAB to open Pip Boy then T for Perks, one point each time you level. I might have gotten an extra point or two to start (I don’t remember) but basically it is a grind all the way: no 10 or 15 points to allocate across all the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skills. From Level 1 to 50 you get one point to put into one S.P.E.C.I.A.L. each time you level.
Each time that you level you get multiple Perk cards from which you must choose one. You choose which S.P.E.C.I.A.L. to increase by which Perk card you choose – each Perk card fits only one S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skill. You get an additional stack of Perk cards every other level. The available cards sometimes stack and the highest that you can get any S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skill is 15. If you choose a Perk card that does stack it will ask you if you want to combine cards, for example to combine two Cannibal level 1’s to make one Cannibal level 2.
This is really not bad, just different, once you figure out what is happening.
You don’t get to pick from all possible Perks – you get a set of Perk cards and you must choose one from what you are offered. The Perk card that you choose only fits one S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skill, so that will be the skill that increases. No Mulligans. Once you pick a Perk card you are stuck with it, even if you can’t use it – such as if you already had that card and it doesn’t stack.
If you are already maxed out on a S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skill then you can remove one Perk card that is already on that skill and add the new Perk card instead. The SPACE BAR and TAB are used a lot in this. You can re-jostle your Perk Cards anytime, but you cannot change the total of any S.P.E.C.I.A.L. this way.
After level 50 you get the chance to choose between either selecting another Perk card, or moving one of your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. points to a different S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skill.
Picking up junk
As you exit the vault, you meet the Chinese robots who shoot you. You will have found a walking cane in the vault on the way out. You’ll want that. Smack ’em good. They get killer lasers, you get a stick.
Pick up the scrap steel from the robots – point at them and press E to activate. AFTER you kill them. Eventually you will exceed your carry weight, but that doesn’t actually stop you. Even when you are “overburdened” the only capability you loose is to quick travel, and your action points drop faster, so don’t sweat it worrying too much about carrying too much. At this point you don’t even have places to fast travel to because you haven’t been anywhere yet.
GO down all those stairs. Kill all those robots. Your first stop will be your former Vault Overseer’s first camp site where you’ll do the tutorials on using your C.A.M.P., and you’ll need that. Then you will set up your C.A.M.P. somewhere, which is also a bit frustrating until you figure out what this thing is supposed to do. Basically you open your Pip Boy and press Z, then begin building stuff. Pick up your C.A.M.P. along with your stim packs and other stuff when you are exiting Vault 76 (or you will need to go back to get it).
For a person such as myself, whose main enjoyment comes from building not scavenging, FO76 is a serious frustration. I want to show off my creativity to other players, show off the stuff I have earned in quests, play together as we shoot hoops in the gym. It ain’t gonna happen in FO76.
C.A.M.P. works mostly like Settlements did in FO4: to start building press and hold V; to exit building press ESC.
If you played the mod for Fallout 4 that adds the C.A.M.P. then you have the basic idea – you can set up your shack where-evah instead of just at yet another “settlement that needs your help”, and you have a “stash” in the shack (a Vault-Tek trunk) where you keep all your junk. Very importantly, these stashes are also found in all Red Rocket stations and all Rail Road stations along with one shop in the White Springs resort. The crafting stations DO NOT have a right-click hookup to your stash as they did in prior Fallout games.
You can move your C.A.M.P. where-evah, when-evah, for a small number of caps each time.
HOW you do this is non-intuitive. One would think that if one was going to move one’s C.A.M.P. one would tell the C.A.M.P. to pack up and then one would carry it with one. Nope. To move your C.A.M.P. you just go where-evah and then open your Pip Boy and press Z for “Move C.A.M.P.”. A few caps later hopefully wherever you are standing has enough flat land and your house and such is now sitting in front of you. If your C.A.M.P. house won’t fit where you are standing it will give you options.
Your C.A.M.P. is very limited on how much you can build (called the C.A.M.P. budget), and also in some bizarre ways such as how many turrets you may have (eight). Seriously, you can only have eight turrets and you can’t build any but the lamest one until you find “plans” and level with the right Perk cards. Hint, the Home Defense and Science cards are important.
When you have been picking up junk you really, really, want to find a crafting workstation of any kind (except cooking) because you need to convert the junk you picked up (which weighs wayyyyy too much) to “scrap” which weighs a fraction of what it did as junk. You point at the station and press R for SCRAP and then T for “Scrap all junk”. The weight of what you are carrying will then drop noticeably. If you run out of carrying capacity, you can quaf a bottle of booze to increase your Strength for a few minutes – it will give you another 10 pounds. You can also don power armor to get like 20 pounds more carrying capacity.
Also, you need to know what to grab. At first, pick up mostly everything. A bit later you will learn that you need steel, screws, springs, gears, and fiber optics, and some lead. Rubber, wood, copper, crystal, cloth, and other less rare things are also useful but much more plentiful. Whenever you see a log on the ground you can point at it and press E to collect the wood. When you see water you can point at it and press E to drink (you’ll get irradiated and maybe sick). You only need so much wood and glass fragments!!!!
In prior Fallouts you were limited in how much you could carry, and you still are, and it still comes from your Strength S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skill. However, in prior Fallouts you were not forced to carry food and water and you were not forced to scavenger hunt constantly. In prior Fallouts you could make massive scavenger runs and dump everything into your stash then sort it out later. FO76 is more demanding in these respects. Also, when you die all junk you are carrying is dropped in a paper bag right where you died – you must go back to retrieve your junk before someone else gets it or it vanishes. If you die because you were mobbed by super mutants twice your level in an area far above your own level then you may not be getting back those microscopes with the very rare fiber optics that you lost.
In prior Fallouts the size of your settlements was limited unless you loaded the mod that lets you build to any size, but your storage (‘stash’) was unlimited. You could use the command line to add materials you normally use to build. In FO76 you get 800 storage and That’s All Folks.
800. Only 800.
You don’t get other containers to put stuff in either, and so far not even display cases for your power armor, armor, magazines, bobble heads, or weapons! There is no command line so you have to actually spend game time running around on this scavenger hunt hoping to find a microscope to scrap for fiber optics or whatever – huge impediment to enjoying the game. It is not my favorite part of the game.
Additionally in prior Fallout versions there was a Survival Mode where you had to track food and water all the time to keep from dying. You don’t get a choice in FO76: you run low on food and water all the time and must use up part of your carry weight to pack it. The Cannibal Perk is very useful – when you kill someone eat them: less need to carry food and you can pay them back for shooting at you by eating their liver. You can grow and eat things such as mutfruit, corn, and a weird cross between tomatoes and potatoes, but anytime you eat uncooked stuff there is the possibility that you will get a disease from eating. And your food rots – you have a limited time in which to eat it before it becomes “spoiled”. Oddly, you don’t seem to get a disease from eating the people you kill, or canned Dog Food.
Crafting Stations, Plans, and the Atom Shop
Another limitation is that mostly you can’t build anything until you stumble across a “plan” describing it somewhere. You can’t build a stove until you find a plan to build a stove. It might seem reasonable to you that if you buy something from the Atom Store, for example the Red Stove, that you may then build it, but the reality is that you must first go find a plan for a normal stove somewhere and read that plan before you can actually build the Red Stove that you bought.
Some plans can be bought from other players, found while you are scrounging, or purchased from robot vendors at Rail Road stations and at The White Spring resort. Some plans are only available through completing quests – you get the power armor crafting station plan by completing the Excavator Power Armor quest, but you still can’t build a simple T-60 power armor arm or helmet or leg until you find a “plan” for each and every piece. When you pick up a “plan” you then browse to the NOTES tab in your Pip Boy and click the plan. It will disappear from your Pip Boy but you have then “learned” that plan and can build that item, assuming of course that first you collect all the requisite materials and find the right crafting station.
Things in the Atom Shop are purchased with Atom Points. You get “Atom Points” for completing quests and other things in-game. You can also buy atom points for real money, $10 buys 1,000 Atom Points. Once you buy a plan at the Atom Shop, for example the Red Stove, it becomes a variation that you can build, PROVIDED that you already have the “plan” for the basic “stove”. For example, after you find and read the “plan” for a stove, you can build a stove.
After you buy the Red Stove in the Atom Store you can build the Red Stove normally in your C.A.M.P., but as rare as materials are, you can use a trick to conserve. Hold down V to enter building mode, and then point at your old stove and press R to “Store or Scrap” it. DON’T scrap it (SPACE), STORE it (press R). Now browse down to the Stored Items (across the top to the far left side of your C.A.M.P. menu). You’ll see the old stove that you stored. Use the up / down arrows to move to the old stove, then use the left / right arrows to change versions of the stove to use your nice Atom Store Red Stove. You don’t have to pay out more resources that way. Press E to build.
Power armor is weird. You can wear the empty frame as soon as you find one. HOWEVER it most likely has pieces mounted that you are not yet authorized to wear. Not only can you not craft power armor pieces until you find a “plan” for each piece but you cannot even wear a frame that has pieces on it that are above your level. Just point at the power armor and press R to trade back and forth with it. Take the higher level pieces off the frame and either carry them around, stuff them into your stash until you have leveled enough to wear them on your frame, scrap them (OH HORRORS! You’ll find more.) or just drop them (press R while pointing at them under the Apparel tab in your Pip Boy).
Here is a hint – if you want that power armor but can’t (yet) wear it so you would like to just put it away in your stash.
- Point at the armor and press R to trade with hit. Move the too high level power armor pieces to your inventory. TAB to exit.
- Get into the power armor frame (point at the power armor frame and press E): it has no pieces now as those are in your inventory so now you can wear it.
- Get out of the power armor frame. To exit hold E. There is a problem with this: should you inadvertently be pointing at any other object the game will just ignore you and do nothing. This is also true if you use Favorites (press F) to change weapons or use a Stimpack in combat – it will ignore you if you are pointed at the enemy, you must point away from everything before it will obey!). Be sure you are not pointing at anything and hold E. The important thing is now you have worn that power armor frame, so it will be automatically recalled to your inventory.
- Quickly. Trade with your power armor frame to put back all the pieces you just took off, then just WAIT. Yes, WAIT.
- About a minute later the game will say “60 seconds until the power armor is recalled to your inventory”. Just wait. CLUNK. “Power armor has been recalled to your inventory”.
- All those pieces that weighed like 15 -20 each, all six of them plus the power armor frame itself now weight only 10 and they are sitting in your inventory.
- Now, point at your stash, and trade with it. Under Apparel in your pip boy will be that new power armor frame with the pieces you are saving for later, and it will only occupy 10 (pounds? kilos? monte pythons?) of your stash space instead of like 100 that would be used up by the pieces separately.
There is one aspect of crafting that I did not recognize until far too late. That is that many special items, “Legendary items” have a STAR in their description when you look at them. You can sell these items for “script” at a rail road station Legendary machine and supposedly buy legendary items for that script.
However there is one really important thing that I did not recognize until I had sold some of my more important quest rewards since their stats were far below where I needed them to be. You can REMAKE many of your items – armor, guns, power armor pieces – for higher levels. You must possess the item and then at the appropriate crafting station you enter E for craft not SPACE for repair modify. Then you select what you want to make from the list on the right and after you click then it will ask what LEVEL to make that item.
This changes everything. The stats go up as the level goes up. If you picked up a level 10 gun that you really liked but it is just too low damage now, you probably can “build” it again for level 25 or 45 or more. I have done this with machined guns, some legacy stuff, and both regular and power armor pieces. Worth knowing.
Things to do, places to go
Follow the main quest lines and browse off to do the side quests as much as possible. There is no quest rating in FO76 as there is in FO4: “You are level 10 and the minimum recommended level for this area is 50”. Quests also come as Events and Daily quests. DO as many as you can. Many of these work better as a team or informal group.
You’ll start with Reclamation Day (leaving the vault) then follow the not so yellow brick road down to town and do the Responders’ Quests. Don’t be afraid of the White Springs Resort as the many high level robots there will protect you and the lower level is full of shops. All the Rail Road stations have a shop. Do the Mistress of Mystery quests — if you’re a guy still do them: you have to wear the mask thingie but you don’t have to wear the dress unless you really want the extra 15 armor. When you see a microscope, typewriter, alarm clock, or phone grab it.
And most of all, to enjoy this game, quit trying to see it as the next version of the old Fallout series – it is its own game in its own way. Enjoy what it is, not what the other games were. See you in game.
Need to add a Landing Pad to C.A.M.P. for your home base. It is already available for resource locations.
Upon server disconnects, which are far too common and usually expensive for us, the customers, in terms of rare resources we loose due to the disconnect – the resources we just spent to build up something that is lost now because the server disconnected – should be returned to our inventory or stash. Or at least we should get something useful as compensation.
For example, the power plant at the bottom left of the map. I never can find all the “cooling” things to “repair” before the clock runs out to start the plant producing electricity. I want to farm fusion cores. To bring up the fusion core machine I need 100 power. So I build the generator that produces 100 power.
To build that generator I need to waste time scavenging nuclear material, etc. But I do it because I need a stack of fusion cores for my power armors and Gatling laser. I don’t want to scavenge for cores every time I play – I want some in inventory so I can play the game, not scavenge for cores.
I was just barely getting a little payback in the form of a few Fusion Cores when the server disconnected. I got almost no payback instead of farming 50-75 cores, and lost my resources and a few hours that I had to invest in building the generator.
Upon an involuntary server disconnect, those who were so abruptly disconnected should be rewarded in some useful way, such as receiving 200 Ultracite or some other very rare crafting component. IF Atom Points could actually be used to buy useful in-game supplies instead of only cosmetic stuff, 500 Atom Points for a server disconnect would be fair. Rare materials come to mind immediately.