Bethesda has now unveiled Fallout 76, bringing out Fallout 4 game director Todd Howard to introduce the game on-stage at E3 2018. Yet even after viewing Todd Howard’s well-practiced pitch and half a dozen high-quality trailers, many Fallout fans are left somewhat befuddled. Bethesda has made clear that the new title is a vast departure from past entries as an always-online game built around multiplayer interaction, but questions linger. Just how much far is Bethesda willing to change Fallout for multiplayer?
At the heart of understanding the differences between Fallout 76 and past Fallouts are questions regarding two core RPG concepts: NPCs and Quests. And just having to ask whether Fallout 76 features both NPCs and Quests says a lot about far the game has diverged from its predecessors. But the truth is, if asking whether Fallout 76 features both NPCs and Quests, that it has not exactly been made clear yet.
Regarding NPCs, a lot of speculation has been going around. Bethesda is quoted from various marketing material as saying, “Welcome to Fallout 76, the online prequel where every surviving human is a real person.” And confusion has sprung from arguments over whether non-human characters could still take on the role of NPCs, like for example robot merchants. After all, shop stalls have been shown in-game and someone or something will have to keep shop for them to work.
Todd Howard has since both made the answer very clear, however. In an interview with Geoff Keighley on the E3 Coliseum livestream, Todd confirmed that Fallout 76 features no NPCs, except for robots:
“There are no NPCs. So that’s one of the big differences that we really leaned on, which is every character you see is a real person. But there are still robots and terminals and holotapes.”
That answers that. Though there’s definitely a bit of room in Howard’s answer left for robots or AI like Vault 76’s Overseer to be a more traditional NPC.
Whether Fallout 76 features Quests is a more complicated question to answer. After all, with no actual NPCs within the world there’s very little framework for creating overt ways for Bethesda to direct players with intent. That’s not to say that there isn’t authored content within Fallout 76, only that finding it will be up to the player to find and piece together.
Todd Howard, in the same interview as where he discussed NPCs, also confirmed Quests — or at least a something akin to Quests. Howard says, “They’re kind of a found world … thing, ” and adds that they’re something like what can be found in Fallout 4. Whether these types of Quests are story-based, which some of Fallout‘s best storylines have been, or simply designed to push players into exploration and movement isn’t certain. But they’re likely not what Fallout fans would expect to hear about when asking about Fallout Quests.
So are there NPCs? Yes, but only perfunctory robots and terminals. Are there Quests? Yes, but only found world Quests like holotapes from Fallout 4. But perhaps the more appropriate answer is that no, Fallout 76 will not feature the kind of rich story-based quest structure and dynamic, animated settlements filled with NPCs that’s typical for a Fallout game. Bethesda likely hopes players will be able to recreate those kinds of experiences through multiplayer, but given past examples of online multiplayer survival titles like Rust, ARK, Conan Exiles and others, those hopes don’t seem realistic.
Fallout 76 releases November 14, 2018 for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One.