This week saw the debut of Fallout 76, the first online-only, multiplayer-focused entry in the post-apocalyptic series. Given its massive size and ever-evolving world, instead of a traditional review, we’ll run a series of journal entries chronicling our adventures in Bethesda’s devastated version of West Virginia. Expect to see new entries every other day for the next few weeks.
It’s not much to look at, but I’ve finally carved out my own tiny slice of the wasteland.
After a day of getting accustomed to this post-nuclear disaster world, learning the basics of how to survive, I realized I didn’t have an actual home to go back to when I need a break. So for the past few hours, I’ve been hard at work. I chose a place near the water, just outside of a small strip of a town called Flatwoods. I figure it’s close enough to the town that I’m not completely removed from civilization, but it’s also surrounded by enough nature that I should be largely left alone. It’s also helpfully in the midst of trees, which is good since I need a lot of wood to build a cabin.
It’s a tedious process. There’s lots of wandering around, gathering up logs and sticks, and then heading back to camp to fashion them into walls and stairs. To pass the time, I listen to some of the holotapes I’ve found. Most of them are heartbreaking stories told by some of the people who somehow survived out here without the help of a vault, like I did. But I also find a tape I didn’t even know I had that’s, coincidentally, a guide for campers in this new world. It’s mostly obvious stuff — stay near a source of water, make sure to build defenses — but the narrator, a man named Miguel, also provides the location for his own camp. Once I finish up here, I’m going to head over.
Before I know it, I have a very simple structure. There are four walls and a roof and a front door that actually closes. Outside, there’s a fire pit with a cooking station, and inside, I have a big trunk to store all of the stuff I can’t carry. It’s mostly weapons but also a few things I’m not sure what to do with, like a huge brahmin skull and a murky jar labeled “specimen.” I built a bookshelf, though I’m not entirely sure why. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen a single book since I left the vault.
Miguel’s camp is a pretty fair trek from here, up near the airport in the northeast. I cook up some opossum, boil a bit of water, and make sure all of my weapons are loaded and in working condition. With my supplies ready in hand, I head off.
To get there, I have to cross the remains of a highway. Right before the bridge, I spot a surprisingly cheerful-looking building. It’s called Cow Spots Creamery, with a smiling cow mascot and huge ice cream cones decorating the patio. Of course, like seemingly all buildings out here in Appalachia, it’s also teeming with feral ghouls, zombie-like monsters that speed toward me as soon as they recognize I’m there. A strange feeling is starting to come over me. Just a day ago, these creatures terrified me. But the more time I spend fighting them, the more I realize they’re not actually all that dangerous, so long as you’re prepared.
I methodically clear out each building of the creamery, eliminating maybe a dozen ghouls altogether. Two of them are carrying gold pocket watches. I wonder who they used to be. At first, it looks like the place has been completely raided, as I don’t see any useful supplies at all. But then I find an unopened fridge behind the counter, and it’s miraculously full of unspoiled cream. I take as much as I can carry, thankful for a subsistence that isn’t grilled monster meat.
There are a few other notable events on my way to Miguel’s camp. I get into a tangle with some supermutants that are sitting on a huge cache of ammunition, and then I stumble across a giant teapot-shaped building that’s being attacked by a seemingly never-ending wave of radiated creatures, including rabid dogs and giant, bloated flies. When I scare them all off, a pleasant robot rewards me with a recipe for some really great honey tea. The machine might be the first nice being I’ve encountered so far.
Miguel’s camp is just a few minutes away from the teapot, though it’s not in the best state when I get there. Ghouls are attacking his helper robot, and Miguel... well, he didn’t make it. I clear out the ghouls fairly quickly and talk to the machine, which tells me that, while Miguel is dead, he took copious notes on pretty much everything. I find plans for how to build all sorts of useful items, and he apparently has more stored on a terminal computer at the airport. What I really want is to figure out how to make a generator so I can outfit my little cabin with lights and other niceties.
As I walk over the hills toward the airport, I realize I haven’t actually seen or heard from another living human in quite some time. Even if we don’t chat much, I often see other settlers running around, finding their own way to survive. But since I left my own camp, I haven’t spotted a soul. Luckily, I at least have a radio and Billie Holiday to keep me company. The airport is unsettling. Not only is it quiet, but there are bodies everywhere, black with glowing green spots, posing as if the moment of their death was frozen in time. When I get close to one, it dissolves into ash.
The quiet is interrupted by an alert on my Pip-Boy computer. It’s warning me of an incoming wave of scorched, an advanced form of ghoul smart enough to wield weapons and duck behind cover. Before I know it, I’m overwhelmed. I keep shooting and killing, but they just keep coming. As my bullets run out and I use my last stimpak, I resign myself to my fate. But then, four other settlers suddenly arrive. Working together, they start to clear away the scorched horde. After taking a second to breathe — and tend to my wounds — I join them. On my own, this was an impossible task, but in a group, the scorched aren’t all that threatening.
Unfortunately, I mistake one of my saviors for a scorched hiding behind a rusted-out fire truck, and I accidentally shoot him. I run over to say sorry and plead my case, but there’s no time: all four of them are immediately on me, firing shotguns and swinging pitchforks. I collapse to the ground and my vision goes black. When I come to, I’m back at my house, though much of my stash — including those gold pocket watches — is completely gone.
At least I have a house to go back to, I guess.