Although we have a general overview of what Fallout 76 is going to be (an online action-RPG where players replace NPCs and become the vehicle for storytelling), it was hard to get a good idea of how we’d be interacting with our characters over the course of several hours. Earlier today at a Fallout 76 panel for Quakecon, Bethesda revealed how character progression, character creations, and mutations work in their new game.
The best way to think about progression in Fallout 76 is by visualizing your character as a deck of Magic: The Gathering-style trading cards that gets stronger as you level. Starting out, you’ll have one point invested into each of the seven attributes that make up Fallout’s S.P.E.C.I.AL. system. Every perk has a point cost associated with it. An early perk called Gladiator, for example, offers a 10-percent boost to melee damage and costs one point in the Strength attribute to equip.
You can equip as many perks (which take the form of cards) as you want, provided you have enough points in that attribute to accommodate them. You can also combine copies of the same card into stronger versions of that card, which increase the potency of the card but also its cost. Cards can drop or be fused into each other up to a point cost of five. Bethesda pointed out during the panel that there are “hundreds” of perk cards to experiment with.
Tying into the trading card idea are card packs. When you level up, you can add one additional point into any attribute to let you expand which perk cards you can equip, and you will be able to choose one new perk, but every few levels (every two levels early on, then every five levels), you’ll receive card packs, which will give you several cards to experiment with (as well as a joke and chewing gum that will temporarily reduce your hunger when you eat it). Because you start off with one point in every attribute, this allows you to experiment with perks you might otherwise ignore in favor of leveling one specific attribute. Some cool perk cards may drop that cost more points than you might have in a particular attribute, which incentive players to rethink their progression in order to equip a perk outside their expertise.
Once you reach level 50, you will no longer be able to invest additional points into any attribute, but you will still regularly receive perk cards, which will let you further customize your character.
As you explore the wasteland of West Virginia and level up, you’ll likely wind up in some irradiated areas. If you happen to accumulate too many RADs, you’ll become susceptible to mutations, which will alter your properties for both better and worse. One mutation Bethesda shared was one that turned the player into a marsupial, increase their jump height dramatically at the cost of reducing your carry potential and strength.
One important aspect of this new system is that, like trading cards you can swap them out any time depending on the situation. There’s no cost for swapping out perks, so if you see a combat situation on the horizon, you may want to respec if you’ve been running a lockpicking “deck” while breaking into people’s homes. Of course, with Fallout 76 being a live game, you’ll want to swap cards out in safe spot.
The online, multiplayer focus of Fallout 76 may not seem to jive with the Charsima attribute, which in past games was where you could invest points and become a smooth-talking negotiator with NPCs. In Fallout 76, Charisma has been retooled to work as the sort of co-op attribute, allowing players to equip perks that benefit their entire team. Some Charisma perks are oriented towards solo players, but most will emphasize teamwork.
Another social aspect players can expect in Fallout 76 lies in character creation. Character creation is mostly similar to Fallout 4’s with a close-up camera of your character within the world. However, this time you also create a snapshot of yourself, using different expressions and poses. You can also use these out in the world, where you can take a selfie at any time. As players take selfies in the world, it’ll become populated with curated photos from the community, giving the map a more populated feel.
For more on Fallout 76, check out some of the details on the upcoming beta, your progress in which will carry over to the full game.