2020 has seen Fallout 76 make a remarkable comeback. First, in April, the game's Wastelanders update rolled out, and it patched thousands of bugs and saw human NPCs set up shop in the wasteland for the very first time. This was followed by the ground-breaking One Wasteland update, which allowed players to group up and play together regardless of their level. Now 76 has embarked on yet another chapter with its Steel Dawn story update. This new expansion focuses on the Brother of Steel - one of the series' most iconic factions and also brings a whole slew of changes. Just following its release, we were able to catch up and speak to Project Lead Jeff Gardiner and Senior Quest Designer Brianna Schneider.
The most recent Steel Dawn update may not have even come to fruition if Wastelanders hadn't helped to nudge the troubled MMO back on track. "The game wasn't in a good state, we invested a lot of time into that expansion, and if it didn't work we didn't know what would happen for the long term viability of Fallout 76," Jeff told us. Thankfully, Wasterlanders saw the team succeed with their vision, and the general consensus amongst fans was that it felt much more like a traditional Fallout RPG due to the richer storytelling and newfound inclusion of human characters. Members of the team working on Wastelanders then went on to work on Steel Dawn, but the size of the team was much smaller in scope overall.
As we touched upon earlier, Steel Dawn focuses squarely on the Brotherhood of Steel, and it is split up into two separate acts (the second act will arrive sometime in 2021). Regarding the second act of the story, Brianna stated:" The big choice that players make in Steel Dawn is the setup for conflicts that are going to continue into the second half of the storyline and the allegiances that players make and the things that their characters say about themselves and their ideals are going to matter for the future of the Brotherhood and the future of Appalachia." It seems then that your choices may come back to haunt you as the story unfolds, so you should tread carefully if you have yet to explore this part of the game.
New story content may have been the main selling point for Steel Dawn, but it also added new community requested features such as C.A.M.P. Shelters and fundamental tweaks to the survival mechanics. Players are no longer punished for not eating and drinking and this was a move made to empower the player and was inspired by Blizzard's World of Warcraft. With regards to C.A.M.P. Shelters, these allow avid builders to customise their own underground safe havens, and a whole catalogue of new items have been added here. Support for C.A.M.P. Shelters is, thankfully, also set to continue into the future. Jeff mentioned: "We are going to be adding more shelters, there's no doubt. Next year we are looking a lot at our building mechanics as a whole and trying to make that system better."
Looking to the future, the team is hoping to kick 2021 off with a major patch that includes many bug fixes and quality of life improvements. Jeff expressed his excitement for this update and also teased that it included: "a lot of stuff the community has requested." Something else that the team hopes to roll out within the future is modding support. If you recall, mods were a huge part of Fallout 4 on both PC and console and allowed the community freedom to tweak the experience in their own ways. Jeff said that mods will be "the big evolution" for Fallout 76 and that a "non-trivial" part of the team is working on them.
With Doom Eternal and The Elder Scrolls Online both revealed to be receiving next-gen upgrades in the near future, the question was, of course, raised whether Fallout 76 would be following suit. Jeff answered this by saying "We are actively investigating it right now, but we are not actively working on it." It seems like the attention instead is being focused on holding the quality of the game to a higher standard and bringing new features to the game. Jeff also added: "It wouldn't want to take away some of the fun and exciting features we have coming next year for this, but we are looking at ways to do it to not impact our current schedule."
Regarding what is coming next for the project, the pair offered insight into how far in advance they plan content for the game. Jeff mentioned: "there's always a bit of what we want to do and what the community wants us to do and where those things meet, so it's not like there's some grand vision five years from now. We look about a year, a year and a half out, generally." Brianna added to this and mentioned with regards to the story contents, "some of that is informed by reactions that players have towards content and suggestions they bring up themselves, ideas about what they are interested in and what they would like to explore within the world too." So yeah, it appears your voice matters in the development.
The future for Fallout 76 has never looked brighter and we are excited to see what might be around the corner after sitting down with the developers. The game has come leaps and bounds over the last year thanks to several substantial updates, and it still looks like it has plenty to offer fans with next-gen versions and modding support on the horizon.