Nothing says fall to me like a good fair. Something about fried foods and prized hogs just makes me want to roll in a pile of falling leaves and, best of all, wander in a corn maze. We’re not quite up to fall fair season in real life, but if you have Fallout 76, one player has made sure that fall has officially arrived in Appalachia by creating this corn maze in the game.
“The maze really is a maze with dead ends and little things to see along the way,” Jcoffill, the player who built the maze, said on Reddit. “Last night a few ghouls had wandered in and surprised a few trick or treaters. Open to visitors on PS4 just about every evening. My vendor in the maze is stocked with seasonal fun things.” Jcoffill also said that they’ve had a few “backwards trick or treaters” visiting the maze in costume, who then left gifts in the maze instead of taking them.
It may still be too early for hayrides and hot apple cider, but it’s always fall in Fallout 76—at least if you can survive the ghouls in the corn maze.
In gaming parlance, the phrase “raid” implies some grand story, an epic boss fight, and the promise of great rewards at the end. Bethesda has called Fallout 76’s latest addition to the game a raid, but it lacks those things. Instead, it takes the base game’s worst quests and repackages them the most grindy, punishing ways possible.
Fallout 76’s raid consists of three missions that rotate weekly. The first one, Dead in the Water, came out last week. It revolves around continuously fighting giant enemy crabs called Mirelurks while trying to repair vault pipes and retrieve key cards to open new doors. There are distinct sections in-between where players can catch their breath, and the mission has a final boss that guarantees a three-star legendary item. Dead in the Water won’t be winning any prizes of its own at the annual Raid Awards, but as far as Fallout 76 content goes, it’s fine. The latest, called Meltdown, simply isn’t fun.
Meltdown ditches anything that made Dead in the Water at all appealing, trading its hectic, light puzzle solving for rote fetch quests. This time players have been tasked with shutting down a nuclear event that’s been triggered in the vault’s reactor. Doing so requires, once again, collecting key cards, but this time a bunch more. The vault is undergoing five levels of lockdown. Reducing that by one level requires retrieving 10 key cards randomly placed throughout each section of the vault, meaning there are 50 in all.
This rendition of 52 pickup is supplemented by section-specific tasks like repairing mainframe cores or retrieving plant samples in the greenhouse section to unlock rooms housing additional key cards. Enemies occasionally attack, but overall there are fewer mobs to deal with, leaving your team to face the drudgery mostly undistracted. And rather than a boss fight at the end, once you finally make it into the reactor room, you simply fight waves of ghouls.
What might seem boring on paper is made even more soul-crushing by the shortcomings of the Fallout 76 interface. Picking something up requires lining up your reticle just right until an option to grab it appears. Crating mainframe cores requires getting out of your power armor and subjecting yourself to the radiation before you can continue. Bugs and lag are still present, meaning it’s not uncommon to walk into a newly opened section of the vault and have things momentary hiccup while the game works itself out, or for mission objectives to not always immediately update. If you’re especially unlucky, the game’s server might crash, booting you out and killing any progress you made.
These things are less of an issue in sections of the game where you can explore at your own pace. On the standard and expert difficulties, though, the raid missions are timed, and because they are separated from the rest of the game, you can’t leave and come back if you’re short on supplies. In games like Destiny 2 or The Division 2 where healing and inventory management are more streamlined, finishing raids is more a matter of patience, perseverance, and teamwork. In Fallout 76, raids feel more like exercises in brute forcing your way through mobs and puzzles by chugging stimpacks and RadAways and unloading as much ammunition as you have into anything that moves.
The Burrows, Fallout 76‘s first new mission added after the game launched, was roundly criticized at the time for being too short and not being challenging enough, but it still felt like a dungeon with a beginning, middle, and end stitched together by interesting lore. So far, the game’s raid missions are more like glorified versions of the game’s public events, timed quests where you respond to button prompts and shoot stuff, only without matchmaking or rewards that suit the work they demand.
In this week’s Inside the Vault blog post, Bethesda said it’s looking to address many of these complaints. The studio is “currently evaluating our Vault Mission rewards” and “investigating reports from the community about experiencing reduced performance and more frequent disconnects,” as well as “narrowing in on a fix for a bug that can cause the game controls to become unresponsive after you exit Power Armor.” There’s also still one more raid mission for players to try out next week. Hopefully it doesn’t include more key cards.
The first time Jaret Burkett played Fallout 76, he fully expected that everyone in the game would want him dead. The moment he exited the safety of Vault 76, where every player of the online survival game begins their journey with little to defend themselves, he was attacked by robots. Barely able to take them on, he could’ve been doomed—until he was saved by a random high-level player who killed the robots, dropped some gear for him, and waved goodbye. That act of goodwill, along with many others, would keep Burkett playing a game he might have otherwise abandoned—and eventually, he’d end up making a tool that would pay it forward.
“I was sure he was going to try to kill me, but he didn’t,” Burkett told Kotaku in a Discord chat. “I played all day long for a week and was constantly on my guard worried people would attack me, but it never happened. Every person I ran into was extremely friendly and would craft some armor for me, give me tips, and even help me level up. I have made a lot of really good friends in the game. They are what really keep me playing.”
Burkett is the intrepid player behind a tool for Fallout 76 players called Map 76, an exhaustive and still-growing map of Fallout 76’s rendition of West Virginia that details where you can find just about anything in the game’s post-apocalypse. It’s an exceedingly useful tool, because Fallout 76 players have increasingly taken to the game as a crafter’s paradise, a place to build communities and hunt for unusual items. Trouble is, it’s way too hard to do.
“There are quests that you could search for hours looking for things that are required and never stumble upon them organically,” Burkett said. “ A lot of things you need to find and do are simply not ‘stumble-uponable.’ For instance, in many challenges you need to take pictures of things. Yet the only way to get a camera is through an extremely rare spawn at only a few points on a huge map.”
This frustrated Burkett. A 34-year-old software developer from Austin, Texas, Burkett doesn’t really consider himself a gamer; he’ll go years without touching a game. But he is a Fallout fan, and Fallout 76, despite its reputation for being a frustrating, buggy game, made an impression on him, largely due to the kindness of the game’s community.
After one particularly involved search for some extremely rare crafting plans that sent Burkett hopping from server to server in order to up the odds that it might spawn, he began making a personal database of where crafting plans would spawn on the map, incorporating tips he’d found from other players who had formed trading groups. Since this manual process was extremely time-consuming, he began thinking of less labor-intensive ways to make a resource more comprehensive than his own de facto database. Having seen some maps built on datamined location data, Burkett decided to try his hand at making his own.
Map 76 is the product of Burkett’s last several months of work, and on theFallout 76 subreddit, it’s been very well-received, with 2,000 upvotes over the last 24 hours. Much like his initial experience playing the game, Burkett was pleasantly surprised to see his first foray in making a community tool was warmly welcomed.
“I am not sure what I was expecting. I mean, I always expect the hateful responses, I did post it on the internet after all,” he said. “I just know that I am obsessed with this game. I know a lot of others are as well. I built this map for myself because I needed it. It was something that I needed to exist for me to continue enjoying the game. I assumed there would be people out there just as happy to have it as I am.”
Burkett’s not the only person making Fallout 76 maps; he was also inspired by a project called Mappalachia. But he isn’t sure whether the proliferation of player-made tools like his are how the developers at Bethesda Game Studios want players engaging with the game. He is growing increasingly certain that there may be a widening gulf between how the developers want the game to be played and how the game is actually played.
“I feel they think everyone wants to go around killing each other all the time, which is why they spend so much time on the different PVP modes they keep coming out with,” Burkett says. “But in my experience, the people who keep playing this game are people like me. I am a treasure hunter. I like the hunt for rare items, I like trading, and I like the community. The people I meet in the game are always friendly and always searching for something. The community is friendly and has no desire to kill you. I don’t think Bethesda understands this. Their recent updates seem to point that they are trying to move away from those aspects. More and more content cannot be traded. More PVP modes.”
All things very different from what got Jaret Burkett into Fallout 76—a kind stranger who helped him out in his earliest in-game moments, and the kinder people he’s met since.
Almost anyone who’s ever raided in a game before has a horror story about that time they worked really hard only to be rewarded with a piece of junk. At least one super unlucky Fallout 76 player recently joined their ranks.
“We beat the final boss, opened up the loot chest at the end,” wrote user Kaelynath on the game’s subreddit. His three teammates each got a three-star legendary item, the best in the game. Kaelynath got a drill, a simple, nearly worthless tool. “F*** you, Bethesda,” they wrote.
Fallout 76’s new Vault 94 raid is an endgame activity aimed at high-level players. Bethesda suggests that players be over level 50 and attempt it only in full groups of four. In addition to having their skills and loadouts tested, completing the raid is supposed to reward players for their time and trouble with rare and powerful gear.
Drills are neither rare nor powerful, and this isn’t the first time that they have been known to drop from legendary enemies, something players have long regarded as a bug but which hasn’t yet been changed by Bethesda. Now it appears they can drop in the raid that is supposed to guarantee players legendary drops. Of course, since drills don’t get legendary stat affixes, legendary drills are pointless.
“This was also after over an hour spent in Vault 94, which due to the fact that it zergs you with enemies throughout is in itself a gigantic resource sink that gives next to nothing for exp,” Kaelynath told Kotaku in an email.
The subreddit, which has been aware of the game’s issue around drills for months, decided to name the drill “Rod of Howard” in honor of Bethesda’s game director Todd Howard. One player even offered to purchase it. “10k, i‘m not kidding,” wrote Reddit user mepradayounada.
“The other user actually did buy it for 10,000 Caps,” Kaelynath told Kotaku. “Which definitely made my very disappointing patch day a bit better. He said that it was because he’s an ‘Art Collector’ and wanted to hang it on a display because it has a story. Which is a result I never could have expected.”
At QuakeCon 2019, Bethesda announced some new content coming to Fallout 76 later this year, including a new map for the Nuclear Winter mode and new raids. They also released a new updated roadmap for summer 2019.
Nuclear Winter, Fallout 76‘s 52-player battle royale mode, is getting a new map. It is based on the area of Fallout 76 called Morgantown and it will include more verticality and will be set in a more urban environment. The current map is more rural, filled with trees and barren hills. The new map is coming in September alongside some quality of life improvements for the mode.
Bethesda’s Fallout 76 panel.
Coming sooner is a new Vault raid. Set in Vault 94, the new raid will feature three missions that will rotate weekly and will support 4 player groups. Completing these missions will reward players with new armor and social rewards. Bethesda also confirmed they are working on another raid, but didn’t give any specific details on that raid.
Beyond these two bigger pieces of new, Bethesda shared a bit more information about the upcoming Wastelanders update. This is the update that will add NPCs into Fallout 76. It was confirmed at the panel today that players will talk to these NPCs using dialogue trees that are, according to Bethesda, more like Fallout 3 than Fallout 4. Bethesda is planning on releasing the Wastelanders update in November of this year.
Bethesda also teased private servers coming to the game “sooner than you think.” What does that mean? I have no idea. I didn’t expect them anytime soon, so that really doesn’t mean anything to me. But who knows, maybe next month private servers will be supported in Fallout 76? But probably not.
This week marks eight months since Fallout 76 released as a buggy mess. Since then, Bethesda’s online survival game has improved a lot. But while it has had a lot of good days, the arrival of patch number 11 yesterday was not one of them. Instead, it’s renewed players’ calls for Bethesda to try updates out on a public test server before dropping them into the main game.
One of the biggest issues is related to Power Armor. “We’ve made behind-the-scenes improvements to the Power Armor system to help address lots of bugs,” Bethesda wrote in the game’s patch notes. “As a result, you may notice your Power Armor pieces have moved into your inventory or Stash.” However, some players have reported that the pieces have gone missing altogether. It’s not clear how many people were ultimately affected, but players with multiple sets of the rare and expensive armor appear to have been hit the hardest.
“I’ve lost an entire set of T-60 fully modded PA,” wrote one player on Reddit. “Furious as I spent ages getting the caps to buy plans (I’m not that market savvy so I never have too many caps as I have limited time to play). I know I’m never getting my PA back but its so demotivating to go and do it again.”
Others have had the opposite issue, with existing sets of armor inexplicably duplicating. “I logged in and spent 10 [minutes] putting all my frames back together,” wrote another player. “Then I put them back in my stash where they disassembled and I ended up with 812 pounds in my stash while I was still over encumbered with duplicates. Had to put everything back together a second time.”
The update has also made some controversial changes to how players earn Atoms, the game’s premium currency. Players used to be able to collect them by completing basic Challenges early in the game. In an effort to make the early game less harsh, Bethesda replaced those Atoms with useful items like Stimpaks and Disease Cures. But it didn’t add those Atoms back in elsewhere, effectively decreasing the amount players can initially earn just by playing the game.
This change comes alongside the addition of a new item called a Scrap Kit, which can only be purchased with 50 Atoms, the equivalent of 50 cents. This item automatically scraps a player’s junk and deposits it in their Stash. While not a game changer, the Scrap Kit is certainly a more convenient time saver than doing all of those things manually. It also means players who have one can adventure out into the Wasteland without worrying about dying and leaving all of the scrap they’ve collected behind when they respawn. What’s annoying players is that they have to pay for the privilege. Similar to Repair Kits, which Bethesda added to the game in the spring, this effort to monetize around the edges of gameplay while the game still has plenty of bugs has left a bad taste in many players’ mouths.
At a time when Fallout 76 has generally been on the upswing thanks to new content and clever new mechanics like player-owned vending machines, the latest update has proven to be a frustrating flat tire on the road to redemption. Anthem, another online game whose trajectory has had a lot in common with Fallout 76’s, added a public test server at the end of May. Since then, BioWare has spent weeks working with PC players to get its next big update right. It feels like Fallout 76 is long overdue for the same treatment.
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
You do not want me in your Nuclear Winter squad. I have a penchant for switching my drop location at the last second, landing on the map hundreds of meters away from my teammates. I’m never on mic. And I’m terrible at staying hidden. But none of this stopped another player, let’s call him Bill, from trying his hardest to save my goddamn life anyway.
I used to feel like there were too many battle royale games. Then Bethesda added one to Fallout 76, and I realized how the little details that differentiate each battle royale from one to another can make all the difference. For me, that meant returning to Fallout 76’s Forest region as it was being engulfed in flames. You can drop nukes in Fallout 76. You can drop nukes in Fallout 76’s battle royale mode. But no nukes have filled me with the same amount of dread and sadness as I felt while I watched a house burn to a crisp around me as I fumbled with a door knob to get back to the hallway and escape. Behind me, everything was destroyed. In front of me, my randomly assigned squadmate Bill.
I’m not sure if he was looking for me, because I sure as hell wasn’t looking for him, but having been reunited on the verge of another apocalypse, I decided to stick with him. We were only two, our other teammates already killed. My only strategy in Nuclear Winter consists of hiding as close to the storm as possible and then getting outnumbered in the final circle of fiery hell. Bill had a much higher Overseer Rank, as well as a gatling gun, so I decided to follow his lead. There were only about a dozen players left by this point. Maybe Bill would miraculously lead me to my first Nuclear Winter win. Instead, I led him to his death.
We were on the main road just south of the New River Gorge Resort when I spotted something moving up ahead. Unable to communicate with Bill (no mic, remember?), I took out my sniper rifle to try and pin the the stranger down. I was quick enough to snag his arm before he could dive back behind a tree, but not quick enough to stop Bill from getting riddled with bullets. As Bill fired back from the road, I tried to flank our mystery vault dweller. I don’t know which one of us killed him, but I do remember being giddy with excitement about it. This was going to work. With Bill’s help, anyway.
I had no armor, though, and little confidence in my own abilities. Bill was armed to the gills, so I dropped him my last stimpak so he could heal up. Small acts of kindness between strangers breed disproportionate amounts of goodwill, in my experience, and Bill, though he couldn’t communicate, seemed to be genuinely taken aback by the generosity, especially following my initial status as the selfish renegade on our team. He flipped me a thumbs up, or maybe a heart, or maybe I’ve invented that memory because of how I imagined her felt., Either way, he was my new best bud. At least for a few more seconds.
I was standing in a bush while Bill did whatever Bill does. But it’s hard to see things while you’re in bushes, and even more boring just to be stuck standing there. While Bill went to check on a Scorchbeast corpse, I ran ahead looking to see if I could find any loot caches beneath the nearby transmission tower. But I never found any. All I heard was the crack of laser gun. The next thing I knew my insides were fried. Eventually, as I lay bleeding out, Bill came running. I still haven’t been able to fathom why. I was in an open field overlooked by an embankment of trees. He didn’t have a chance. And yet his selfless act of bravery, futile as it was, is still with me weeks later. Next time, Bill, I promise to wait in the bushes.
Fallout 76’s world can be a brutal, especially for players just starting out. Hunger, thirst, disease, radiation—there’s no shortage of maladies in Appalachia. In the game’s next big update, Bethesda is determined to dial down the danger, at least early on, so new players can actually spend more time exploring Fallout 76 in peace.
“We’re looking to make a few adjustments to help new and low-level characters have more gradual introductions to some of the game’s mechanics and challenges,” Bethesda said in a blog post late last week announcing the major changes coming in Patch 11. The biggest of these changes include:
Reducing the cost to fast travel for players under level 25
Giving players under level 15 higher disease resistance
Making food take 50 percent longer to spoil
No longer wiping out stat bonuses from food and drink after fast traveling
Making encounters with higher level enemies outside of the Forest, the game’s starting area, more rare
The studio says it also plans to make rewards from Fallout 76’s checklist-driven Challenges completed earlier in the game more useful for low-level players. Right now, a lot of these activities grant ammunition for guns players don’t have, or crafting materials for things they can’t yet make. New players might racking up high-level ammo while they’re hurting for first-aid, fresh water, and food.
These basic necessities can be so scarce early on for players who don’t know where to look for them that it’s become common practice in Fallout 76 for higher level players to search out those who are still in the single digits and leave them little gift bags full of Stimpaks, Rad-Aways, and grilled meats, and boiled water.
While players have done a good job of papering over Fallout 76’s holes with creative role-playing, making the game’s onboarding process a much smoother experience will go a long way toward helping it find new players as Bethesda continues to add post-release content. Patch 11 is supposed to arrive later this month.
In November of last year, purchasers of the $200 Fallout 76 collector’s edition were disappointed to discover the fancy canvas bags advertised were replaced with cheap nylon sacks. It took half a year, but Bethesda has finally made things right, as incredibly wrinkled canvas Westtek bags make their way into fans’ eager hands.
In the image above, shared on Twitter by Jordan Stapleton, we see the end result of a long journey. The canvas bag, once considered impossible to deliver due to “unavailability of materials,” has arrived. To the left of the bag we see the tiny package the canvas bag arrived in. One can easily imagine someone at Bethesda angrily cramming this bag into the tiny plastic pouch, muttering, “Here’s your damn canvas. I hope you choke on it.”
For reference, here is the nylon bag that came with the collector’s edition originally.
And here is the canvas sack fans are now receiving.
Barring these canvas numbers bursting into flames, this is the fifth and hopefully final article in the Fallout 76 Collector’s Edition Bag Saga. We made it, everybody. We’re safe now.