Fallout 76 is the next major entry in Bethesda's post-apocalyptic role-playing franchise and set to be one of this year's biggest releases. Although its surprise reveal raised countless questions, its full E3 unveiling has broken down what makes it such an ambitious title. Here we wrap up everything about Fallout 76, ahead of its release scheduled for this November.

Getting started: What is Fallout 76?

While Fallout 76 embraces existing lore of the wider franchise, there's one big difference – a focus on multiplayer. Despite retaining the role-playing elements that defined earlier titles, Fallout 76's formula is reworked as a shared-world online experience. Within the world, players will embark on quests, build settlements, and survive in the wasteland, with mechanics comparable to Rust, DayZ, and other online survival games. Embracing the recent "games-as-a-service" trend, the game will see regular free content updates supported by microtransactions.

Under the hood, Fallout 76 inherits mechanics from Fallout 4, originally prototyped as its multiplayer mode before becoming a standalone project. Bethesda Game Studios' Austin team was tasked with integrating Quake netcode into the Fallout engine and rebuilding a the single-player franchise around multiple heroes. The project also saw new rendering, lighting, and landscape technologies introduced, reportedly allowing for 16 times the detail of previous games.

Fallout 76's multiplayer focus makes it an entirely online experience, requiring a constant connection to game servers. The game can be played solo despite online ties, though Bethesda claims its best experienced with up to four other players.

Bethesda's "softcore" approach to survival gameplay encourages player exploration and flexibility, without loss of their character upon death. Players can jump between sessions without the worry of punishments through seamless migration of progress between game instances. And despite its vast world, sessions will only house dozens of players to maintain the barren feeling of the wasteland. While cross-platform multiplayer was considered for Fallout 76, Bethesda claims Sony's stance against cross-play makes this unachievable.

Fallout 76 setting: Take me home, country roads

Fallout 76 takes place in post-war West Virginia, with players assuming the roles of "Vault 76" members. Although vaults were pitched as shelters to American citizens, Vault-Tec and the U.S. government mostly used them to perform immoral experiments on select groups of the population. Among the tests was exposure to viruses, drugs, and cloning, with data gathered under the "Societal Preservation Program."

Vault 76 was one of seventeen control vaults which didn't house experiments, instead used as a baseline for comparing other data. Opened in honor of America's 300th anniversary, the preselected inhabitants were patriotic and among the best for rebuilding the country. These survivors will explore, build settlements, craft upgrades, and fend of hostiles through their journey.

Vault 76 was designed to open 20 years after the "Great War" began, which falls 200 years prior to the events of Fallout 4. The earliest existing Fallout game was set in 2161, so we'll receive our freshest look at the world over half a century prior to previous installments. The consequences of recent nuclear fallout will be more prominent, making for vastly different geometry and world contents.

The world of Fallout 76 is supposedly four times the size of Fallout 4, packing varied terrain across six distinct regions. These house wetlands, mountains, toxic wastelands, and other biomes, each with their own atmospheres. Settlements and cities are spread across this landscape, alongside crazier landmarks like missile silos and crashed space stations. A dynamic weather system also spans the map which seamlessly changes conditions on the fly.

Similar variety can be seen in West Virginia's inhabitants, with strong radiation causing crazier creatures than before. The Grafton Monster, Flatwoods Monster, Mothman, and other legends of local folklore have been reimagined as creations of the remaining fallout.

Fallout 76 also abandons human non-player characters (NPCs) for its barren wasteland, instead populating its world with unpredictable human players. New factions like the intelligent, gun-wielding "Scorched" ghouls fill the gap in combat that raiders once occupied, though allies and foes will much less defined.

Fallout 76 gameplay: What goes up must come down

With Vault 76's focus on rebuilding the world together, this plays a major role in core gameplay. Capitalizing on base building mechanics first introduced with Fallout 4, crafting and design have an even larger presence in the sequel.

Players have the ability to build wherever and whenever assuming they have the resources to do so. Using the Construction and Assembly Mobile Platform (C.A.M.P.) it's easy to craft structures, weapons, and gadgets, and establish a home in the wasteland. Walls, doors, stairs, turrets, traps, defenses and lights are all among the confirmed categories to furnish and protect your outpost. And with the return of weapon degradation, you'll need to maintain your arsenal throughout your journey.

Fallout 76 also features increased destructibility improving upon the mostly static world of previous Fallout titles. Structures are now much less permanent and can be destroyed by players and creatures. Structures can also be disassembled and moved to new locations as you progress across West Virginia.

For the first time in the series, nuclear warheads bring a new level of destruction to the world too. Previous Fallout titles explored what remained after the bombs fell, though Fallout 76 takes place in an era when active nuclear missile sites still remain. Launch codes can be found scattered across the world, which unleash widespread havoc if activated. Not only will this change the world and gameplay, the subsequent nuclear fallout unearths rare limited-time materials.

How to launch nukes in Fallout 76

Fallout 76 progression: You're still special

As with previous Fallout games, perks make their return under the iconic S.P.E.C.I.A.L. ruleset. S.P.E.C.I.A.L. is an acronym of the game's seven assignable skill attributes – Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck. Players can invest points into their chosen skill categories as they progress, building a unique skillset based around their playstyle.

"Perk cards" are a new addition for Fallout 76, which are earned and equipped to gain gameplay advantages. Cards fall under the seven perk categories, granting upgrades to specific actions. Only a limited number of perk cards can be equipped at a time, so you'll need to plan for the situation at hand.

A more dynamic approach is introduced with perk cards, now allowing players to tune skills as they play. Progression is offered within each card, with several ranks granting increased effectiveness. Finally, perks can also be shared among your squad to further encourage teamplay.

How to play Fallout 76: Preorders, pricing, beta

Fallout 76 is currently on track for an Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Bethesda.net-exclusive PC release on November 14, 2018. Both physical and digital versions of the game are now available to pre-order, with special editions containing additional content.

The Fallout 76 standard edition is most common and stocked by a majority of video game retailers. With this, you'll be getting the base game, alongside any pre-order benefits. Both physical and digital versions are up for grabs, priced at $59.99.

For those looking for a higher-tier package, the Fallout 76 Tricentennial Edition grants access to various in-game cosmetic items for a further $20. Among its contents is Tricentennial Power Armor customization for the T-51, T-45, T-60, and X-01 Power Armors, and skins for the 10MM Pistol, Hatchet, and Laser Rifle. Other bonuses include a Vault Boy head, Uncle Sam outfit, emote, poster, and photo frame. This version of the game is available from $79.99 both in physical and digital formats.

Finally, the Fallout 76: Power Armor Edition is the ultimate package for diehard franchise fans. Alongside the base game and Tricentennial Edition bonuses, this edition packs an assortment of exclusive collectible goodies. The centerpiece is a wearable T-51 Power Armor helmet, featuring a voice modulator speaker, LED headlamp, V.A.T.S. sounds and West Tek canvas bag. This version also includes a 21"x 21" glow-in-the-dark world map and 24 figurines. Although this edition is priced at $199.99, preorder allocations are currently depleted at all retailers.

Those who pre-order Fallout 76 can also gain exclusive access to the Break-it Early Test Application (B.E.T.A.), providing an opportunity to get hands-on with multiplayer before launch. Bethesda has confirmed this test will be a preview of the final product, granting access to the complete game. Furthermore, all progression will transfer to the full version.

While Bethesda is yet to commit to a firm date, we know the test currently scheduled for an October start. The publisher has also announced the Fallout 76 beta will be released first on Xbox One, with PlayStation 4 and PC tests commencing at a later date.

How to play the Fallout 76 beta

The fallout lies ahead

Although several months remain until Fallout 76's release, there's still a lot to come from Bethesda. Expect more details leading up to the B.E.T.A, where we expect gameplay, more details on specific features, and dates for the test. What are you looking forward to from Fallout 76? Drop into the comments section below with your thoughts.

Updated September 12, 2018: Updated with the latest details on Fallout 76 since E3 2018.

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