After a twitter tease yesterday that left tens of thousands of people staring at a livestream of absolutely nothing for hours, Bethesda (eventually) announced Fallout 76, an upcoming game we probably won't hear more about (officially) until E3. In the meantime, we can speculate on what it might be, bolstered by some info anonymously given to Kotaku. Fallout 76, according to Kotaku's report, is an online survival RPG, the online part being the most interesting feature considering the single-player nature of Bethesda's past Fallout games.
The teaser trailer shows the aftermath of a celebration inside Vault 76, after which the inhabitants have apparently gone back outside. According to the Fallout wiki, Vault 76 was a 'control' vault scheduled to open just 20 years after the war, making this a bit of a prequel. That's about all we know, so let's get into some guesswork.
Chris: Settlements, The Game
With so much focus on the settlement system in Fallout 4, building and managing outposts basically felt like its own game within the game. My guess is that this is an expansion of Fallout 4's settlements system, to the point of not just building towns but entire working cities. I'm also hoping it's a major refining of the building tools, because I always thought the interface was seriously awkward to use. The system itself was also much better modded with the excellent and imaginative Sim Settlements mod, which gave you the choice to build things yourself or let your citizens handle it (or a little of both). I'm really hoping that the modder who created it, Kinggath, is now secretly on Bethesda's payroll and helping them design a great settlement building system, because his mod is so good it should really be a part of the game.
If Fallout 76 really is an online survival RPG, presumably you'll be able to team up with other players to build your settlements, establish borders and communities (hopefully with NPCs to populate them, too), tame the local mutated wildlife, and of course compete with, battle with, or raid other players' outposts. Ark: Survival Evolved, in other words, but with Deathclaws and Pip-boys.
Of course, Ark has no human NPCs, but Conan Exiles has both NPC enemies and allies (I mean, once you enslave them), so it would be great to be able to clash with raiders and other NPC factions, recruit homesteaders and citizens, and establish communities that aren't just made up of other players.
Rachel: Fallout Shelter gets an upgrade
According to Fallout lore, Vault 76 has 500 occupants, wasn't used for any kinky experimental shit, and if we go by the date on the Pip Boy in the trailer (October 27, 2102) the game is set 185 years before Fallout 4. I think Chris has nailed it with the settlements system, but I think Fallout 76 will add a Fallout Shelter element.
As well as building a new world, you'll have to manage the people within it, Sims style. Make laws, keep morale high, set up vegetable plots, make tough choices about chem addicts. The trailer doesn't show us any weaponry, instead it's all party aftermath (it's all fun and games until someone has to clean the confetti off the soccer pitch) and the comforts of an underground home, so it makes sense that's what Bethesda is focusing on.
Austin: Vault-Tec Workshop, but hopefully better
Bethesda has made a big, time-wasting tease of announcing it, but Fallout 76 feels kind of obvious. The rumors sound exactly like the game Bethesda has been quietly threatening to make for years. Maybe it'll wow us and defy all expectations at E3 (it won't), but I reckon Chris and Rachel are both right: it's gonna have some building stuff ripped from Fallout 4, and it's gonna have some citizen management stuff a la Fallout Shelter.
Personally I hope to see it double down on the idea of role-playing as a vault overseer (or, if it is multiplayer, a council of overseers), which Fallout 4's Vault-Tec Workshop DLC clumsily introduced. It may well be possible if Fallout 76 can Frankenstein together the best parts of Fallout Shelter and the few redeeming qualities of Fallout 4's settlements. My biggest question is whether the alleged multiplayer will feel like ARK, where there's at least some semblance of cooperation, or Rust, where absolutely everyone is a dick trying to kill you.
James: Fort-building is nigh
I think we've all agreed that we’ll probably see an expansion of the settlement system, but considering the multiplayer rumors, I’m going to bet you’ll be able to build on the fly. Imagine a competitive multiplayer game featuring, I don’t know, 100 or so players on a single irradiated island. Players can harvest trees, rocks, and rusty metal with an specialized Pip-Boy and use a simple, grid-based building system consisting of wall pieces, floor and ceiling pieces, and angled ramp pieces that appear the moment they’re placed. Imagine running up a ramp as you build it, or slamming together four walls and a ramp into a small 1x1 recon encampment on the fly.
Throw in some wacky skins and era-appropriate emotes, and we’ve got a winner. For tonight only, I'll pretend such an epic game can exist.