Last 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.
My first few days in the wasteland have been all about following orders. I’ve listened to everybody: the missing Vault 76 overseer, all kinds of malfunctioning robots, and a whole bunch of people who turned out to be dead. I’ve read their notes, listened to their holotapes, and pored over their journals and terminal logs.
It made sense at first. When I first left the vault, I had no idea what to do, where to go, or how to survive. Having some instructions to follow, especially from folks with a bit more experience out in this toxic wasteland, was helpful. But it also got boring really quick. What’s the point in rebuilding America if you’re not enjoying yourself?
I need to find somewhere to enjoy myself. I pull out my Appalachia map, and pick the first place that sticks out at me. Down in the southwest there’s a big sign for a Mothman Museum. That sounds cool. I decided to head straight there — and this time, it’s my decision.
It is, however, also a long walk to the museum. I take the road, which tends to be safer than the woods, and make my way past burned-out farms, houses, and the remains of small towns. Outside of a house that only has two walls left standing, I bump into Graham, my super mutant friend who, unlike the rest of his species, seems completely non-violent. He’s a trader, not a fighter.
I start browsing his wares, looking for something I can use to make tea, since I’m getting pretty sick of drinking boiled water all the time. But I don’t get to look for long: a swarm of mierlurks, mutated soft-shell sea creatures, starts attacking us. To my surprise, Graham defends himself aggressively, quickly taking out the creatures with his shotgun.
This gives me an idea. Wandering the wasteland gets pretty lonely, doubly so when you have to deal with all of the dangers lurking about. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when there are a dozen ghouls rushing toward you. So I decide to stick with Graham for a bit. He’s walking in the same direction anyway, and it makes me feel a lot less tense knowing he’s around.
Things go slowly. Graham moves at a measured pace, as does his pack animal, a two-headed bovine named Moo Moo. He also doesn’t say much. But even still, having him around is a small comfort. Those are hard to come by in the wasteland. And it’s not long before we get into another skirmish. Near the ruined husk of what looks like an old elementary school, we run into a gang of super mutants.
It turns out that not only is Graham unlike the rest of his species, but he also doesn’t seem to get a long with them much either. A half dozen mutants start attacking him with axes and bats, while one hangs back, firing some kind of machine gun. No one seems to even notice I’m there. While the mutants are a lot stronger than me, I’m able to sneak up on them and slowly take them out from behind, making quick work of it with my 10mm pistol. Being unnoticed has its benefits.
The one good thing about super mutants is that they love weapons. So defeating a whole crew means getting a lot of free ammo and guns. In fact, it takes me so long to loot the bodies that I lose track of Graham and Moo Moo. I follow the road in the same direction we were walking, but don’t see any sign of them. I spot more of those disturbing, statue-like human corpses, and even an old hot dog stand on the side of the road, but not my new friends. A robotic farmhand attacks me, and when I shoot it, it erupts in flames.
Then I hear Graham muttering to himself near a transmissions tower on the edge of a huge cliff. He’s just standing there, completely still, on a rocky outcrop. I sit down and wait for a few minutes but he stays the same. I’m not sure what’s wrong with him, but I decide to head off on my own.
The rest of the journey is mostly uneventful. It’s dark, so I switch on my Pip-Boy flashlight, but the hazy green light doesn’t offer much to see. There are old farmhouses made a touch less gloomy with Halloween decorations, and shops and restaurants that have all been boarded up. No one or no thing bothers me. Not even those pesky giant mole rats that love to jump out of the ground and bite me.
The Mothman Museum is in a small town along the water, with a large bridge that connects it to the western-most part of Appalachia. It’s also completely overrun by the scorched, a slightly more intelligent form of feral ghoul. There must be about two dozen of them, and they’re everywhere: hiding behind cars on the bridge, on rooftops firing guns at me, and resting inside buildings. I really wish Graham was here. It’s so dark that I can barely see their charred black bodies, and it’s particularly annoying having to deal with the rooftop snipers. They have shockingly good aim. They even manage to shoot at me through the windows of buildings I try to hide in.
Scouring the strip for scorched is mostly a tedious process, as they don’t pose all that much of a threat. But they’re quite the nuisance. It’s hard to do much of anything with bullets whizzing by. After about 20 minutes I’m confident the scorched are all gone, and I head toward the museum, at last. There’s a small apartment on the top floor, though it’s curiously empty. No furniture, just a few piles of empty boxes stuffed away in the corners.
Down a small flight of stairs is the actual museum and, well, there’s not much to see. There are display cases where things used to be, but right now they’re almost entirely empty, looted long ago. The only cool thing I find is a huge mothman statute, but it’s locked behind glass which seems to be indestructible. I was hoping for a souvenir to bring back to my wood cabin, but alas.
Despite this setback, I’m determined to have some fun. There has to be somewhere out here in the post-apocalypse that I’ll enjoy. I pull out my map again and have a look. A ways north, just before the charmingly named Toxic Valley, there’s an amusement park. I’m sure it’s in rough shape, but I’m hopeful it still retains some of its charm.
If even an amusement park is boring, I’m not so sure it’s worth surviving in this wasteland.