Despite its stormy red skies, Skyline Valley marks a bright new era for Fallout 76

Fallout 76: Skyline Valley
(Image credit: Bethesda)

When I first started playing Fallout 76 in November 2018, I would never have believed I'd be here 6 years later, with the game about to embark on its 17th season of content. Fallout 76 has really risen from the ashes, or should that be the Ash Heap? become one of the best Xbox Game Pass games, and it's about to get even better with its first ever map expansion, Skyline Valley.

Skyline Valley, which will expand the map just at the Southern end of the Savage Divide, brings a bunch of new content to Fallout 76. From story quests, new enemies, events and more secrets to uncover about the residents of Appalachia. Last month, Zenimax and Bethesda were kind enough to invite me and some other outlets out to a preview event for the expansion. There was even a Jello cake!

We each had about an hour with the expansion, so this is a very rough first impression, but an impression nonetheless that's got me excited to jump back into the world of Fallout 76, which will never be the same. 

Red sky at night, Lost Dwellers delight

(Image credit: Bethesda)

From the jump, the story of Skyline Valley grabs you by the jugular and makes you want to know more about what the heck is going down in Shenandoah National Park. The initial quest actually starts a little further out from the new area, over at Vault 63 in the Ash Heap. Previously inaccessible, its entrance is now entirely destroyed, and you'll be investigating why.

At this early point I was also introduced to the first new enemy type in Skyline Valley, the Lost Dwellers. These poor souls, wearing Vault 63 jumpsuits are Ghoulified and explode in a burst of electricity upon death. You're going to want to keep your distance. The Lost are rather similar to the Scorched, if anything just a tad more insane with their ramblings from the shadows. Skyline Valley as a whole is a lot darker in tone than anything else I've played in Fallout 76, from the characters to the area itself.

When the story quest points you in the direction of Skyline Valley, you'll travel down south of the map, to be greeted with a foreboding red sky, with clouds streaked with lightning and a feeling of "I shouldn't be here." Honestly, in my notes, I scribbled, "Am I playing Fallout or Dead Space?" The eerie lack of life and atmosphere of something gone terribly wrong is overwhelming, at least until you run into more Lost Dwellers and start fighting for your life again.

At the center of the mysterious storm is what appears to be the source of all this destruction. Dark Hollow Manor. An imposing mansion on the landscape your eye will immediately be drawn to, and you'll want to explore despite all common sense telling you to turn back and return to brighter skies. 

Dark Hollow Manor will beckon you towards it's darkened doors (Image credit: Bethesda)

Without spoiling the story, there's more to discover behind Dark Hollow Manor, and a bunch of fascinating characters to meet as you solve the mystery of Vault 63 and it's dwellers involvement in this new area. The main quest giver being the enigmatic and ghoulified Hugo Stolz. Born blind, Stolz is the founder of CEO Stolz Enterprises and Overseer of Vault 63, and also electrified but has his wits about him. 

The Curious Case of Hugo Stolz (Image credit: Bethesda)

My main takeaway from the small part of the story I played through, was that the voice acting was impeccable. Of course with Fallout 76 being of a certain age, the engine doesn't allow for the depth of facial expression we're used to in more modern titles, but the voice acting for these characters does all the heavy lifting here. 

"If we were to change piece by piece, at what point do we become something brand new?"

Hugo Stolz

I looked forward to each conversation with Hugo Stolz, as he mused on his ghouled appearance during a conversation on the Ship of Theseus. An old tale that debates if a ship has each of its components replaced, is it the same ship? "If we were to change piece by piece, at what point do we become something brand new?" Stolz muses. Something players will get to experience in more detail when the ability to become a Ghoul becomes available in early 2025. The story is intriguing, and as told in our presentation, you'll be tasked with defending or betraying these new characters.

More quests, new enemies and public events

In addition to the new Skyline Valley area expansion, we can expect more side quest content, more rewards and terrifying creatures such as these demonic radioactive turkeys pictured above, the Thrasher as they are officially named. The first time I fought one of these, I didn't know whether to run or laugh; they are certainly different.

There's also a new public event, Dangerous Pastimes, in which you'll kill a bunch of Lost to charge up a Lightning Harvester and come up against 'Thunder' versions of creatures. One can only imagine what would happen if someone were to drop a nuke on the already storm-riddled Skyline Valley, something none of our group had the chance to test out, but I do know from others that have tried, that a new event appears 'Neurological Warfare.' Expect some giant Storm Goliath robots developed by the 'great minds of Vault 63' and lots of great loot.

The quest content we can expect from Skyline Valley is said to be equivalent to the size of Steel Dawn and Steel Reign combined, with 12 full quests in total. This includes new factions, new rewards, creatures, and the public event, as mentioned above. 

That's not all, there's more to come...

Graphic showing the sheer volume of content added to Fallout 76 over the years (Image credit: Bethesda)

Skyline Valley isn't all we expect from Fallout 76 for this year, as we also got a sneak peek at a Milepost Zero event coming to the game in the Fall.

The Blue Ridge Caravan Company has been running routes around Skyline Drive and needs your help. You'll need to team up and protect the caravan of travelers and Brahmin from ambushes as they make their way to their destination. Successfully running missions for The Blue Ridge Caravan Company will unlock a caravan outpost. Besides Wasteland infamy, continued success allows you to expand your home, upgrade the decor, and even populate the space with special vendors from far away places. The developers likened this to how Skyrim houses work. You'll even get your own Brahmin, though it wasn't confirmed if you can milk them...

We'll also see the return of the Halloween event, Mischief Night, revamped and starting at the Rapidan Camp in the new Skyline Valley region.

Later in the day, I got to chat with Bill Lacoste (lead producer) and Jon Rush (creative director) and asked if they planned more expansions of this nature in the future:

"Maybe. We've definitely talked about it. The map for the region is kind of surrounded by a big skirt that could facilitate that. If there were room for updates similar to this that supported telling and continuing the story of Appalachia, right to our players, and at the same time allowing them to continue telling their own stories, then then yeah, it's certainly considered."

A bright future for Fallout 76 

I found the inclusion of the Ship of Theseus paradox amusing in more ways than one, not only in reference to the Ghoulification of humans in this tale, but perhaps an unintentional nod to Fallout 76 itself, as the game is certainly a different beast today than it was at launch.

While I only saw glimpses of Skyline Valley, it left me with a distinct impression of a bright future for Fallout 76. The game may be experiencing a resurgence in players right now due to the success of the show, but this expansion will be integral to keeping that momentum going, and I got a distinct impression from my time at Zenimax that there is SO much more to come — least of all the teaser we got at the Xbox Games Showcase of the new Ghoul player type coming in 2025.

I can't wait to jump back into Skyline Valley as it drops today, continue the story, and see where it takes me. 

Jennifer Young

Jen is a News Writer for Windows Central, focused on all things gaming and Microsoft. Anything slaying monsters with magical weapons will get a thumbs up such as Dark Souls, Dragon Age, Diablo, and Monster Hunter. When not playing games, she'll be watching a horror or trash reality TV show, she hasn't decided which of those categories the Kardashians fit into. You can follow Jen on Twitter @Jenbox360 for more Diablo fangirling and general moaning about British weather.