I've played every fallout. All of them (fallout 2 is my favorit). In each of the fallouts you're an outsider, a chosen one or some vault dweller who is getting introduced to a specific wasteland for the first time. (The only acception is the courier but they're still not from the mojave). What made each game special was the interaction with the NPC's and factions of their world. But that's just it, it was always the NPC's wasteland the NPC's world. You as the player were always the chosen one who would set the wasteland on a certain path and that would be that. Even if you continued to play the game after finishing the final mission the wasteland would still belong to whatever faction that you sided with. The only thing left to do after that was to either grind away at the same old radiant quests or play the game over again. But in fallout 76, Appalachia belongs to us the gamers and offers what I believe to be the closest experience to what living in a fallout wasteland would be like.
Lets smack the elephant in the room first. So like a lot of you I hated the fact that there were no 3 dogs, or Boones, or even god darn Garys. NPCs make the fallout universe unique. But stop for one second and just think of where we're at in the timeline, we're only 25 years after the bombs dropped. While our 76 avatars are roaming Apalachia, Richard Grey (AKA The master) only fell into the FEV vats just a couple of months prior to our vault opening. During this time the wasteland is in its colonizing stage. Humans all over America are just now starting to emerge from bunkers, vaults, and isolated or remote areas to finally start rebuilding civilization. There couldn't have been a diamond city, Megaton, or Shady sands because humanity was just now starting to recover. Shoot just look at the conditions the responders and free states were in. Even without the scorched plague they were still struggling to keep enough supplies to keep even their own people alive. I mean I hardly ever heard diamond city guards complain about no medicine or food, or water. The BoS were such a small niche group that they may not of had to worry about food as much as the others but their numbers were small too small to do anything really meaningful. The enclave were the only ones who may have had a chance buuut you know Modus. Most NPC's in later games could have their problems solved with caps as most resources were readily available (just look at how many inhabited settlements there are in FO4). But in 76 you can get an Idea for where humanity was at by just looking at their major problems. Though factions were around before we emerged into the wasteland they wouldn't have made the established cities and trader hubs that we loved in games that take place later in the timeline as even if they didn't have to deal with the scorched plague the NPC's were still struggling with the basics i.e trying to figure out the new flora and fauna and how to cook it. So now my point. We're the ones evolving Appalachia not the NPC's and we've been making tangible changes. What do you do when you log on? Do you just start playing and roaming the map alone doing whatever interests you first? Guess what you're a lone wanderer. Do you search Appalachia for rare goods and trinkets? Guess what you're a scavver. Do you run a player vendor that has competitive prices and keep it well stocked? You are a trader. Do you roam survival mode with a group of friends in search of weaker, unsuspecting players? You my friend are a raider. I can go on and on, but my point is, is that we the players have knowingly or unknowingly filled in the roles that we're used to seeing NPC's in. We as a community have decided the value of items, figured out where the risky looting spots are, and what enemies are and aren't worth it to fight. Just like you wouldn't see a weak NPC roaming the glowing sea you won't see to many lvl 2's in the cranberry bog. Because OUR knowledge of Appalachia is growing just like other NPCs knowledge of their respective wasteland. I like to imagine that if someone like the currier stumbled into Appalachia they would ask one of our Avatars for directions or if they needed a quest done. Yeah you can't play around with a person the same way that you can with an NPC but that's the point. Speaking of which
MY NEXT POINT
Humans are not NPC's….and that is ok. The experience of 76 is interesting because every person you encounter is a real person. When you and your raider friends are on survival mode and you get into a hardcore firefight with equally armed survivors the feeling is intense. You can't just gank a game mechanic YOU have to outsmart and outplay THEM. Sometimes you'll even play against someone who will beg you to not kill them or will try to barter their way out of the fight. The depth of the interactions just goes way deeper than that of an NPC could. Now don't get wrong NPCs are great to make yourself feel like a god or even for just breathing life into the world with different dialogue interactions. However, how many times do you have to hear "can't wait for a nuclear winter" or "stick to the roads you'll have a better chance of surviving" before it gets old? Yes they breath life into the game and ill never argue against that. But when you interact with a real person everything changes. Yeah you can start bullying this low level player but be ready to deal with his triple digit level friends to follow you across servers. You may run into a player who bit off more than they can chew if you save them, you just helped a real person or if you screw them over you just screwed over a real person. Either way your decisions have real consequences that affect more than just you and no Karma system can get any more real than that.
The biggest enemy to a fallout game is honestly play time. Hear me out. You can only play the other fallout games sooo much before you've done and seen everything. While it is possible to have done everything there is to do in 76 it is impossible to see everything. That is thanks to CAMPs. I don't know how many times i've logged on to only walk around and experience other peoples CAMPs . One day you're walking through the Mire and you'll stumble across someones player made bar, the next day there will be another player with a hospital. I even once ran into a group of friends who had built up a small settlement with each other by building their camps close to each other. The opportunities for finding something new are endless.
Opportunities are ENDLESS!!
Because the game is always online that means the opportunities are endless for change. Although I have spent the majority of this post talking about why no NPCs isn't that bad I will say that it would be amazing to see it happen. Hear me out. We established that we're in the early colonizing faze of the wasteland and that it makes sense that there aren't any big settlements out. But fallout 76 is an online game which means that Bethesda could always push us forward in the timeline. It is not impossible to think of them pushing the story forward where the SBQ is no longer the main baddy and NPCs start to return to the wasteland. We've even seen that they've added in vaults as the time has gone on so who knows we may run into a vault where NPCs come out of. But it will have been the lack of NPCs that make their initial arrival feel big (at least for the people who've been playing for awhile) When the day comes that the wasteland starts to fill up with NPCs maybe even a proper settlement mode for CAMPs and other updates that breath life into the game. We the players will be able to look back to when Appalachia was just a terrible run down wasteland with little hope of being anything more to where (hopefully) it'll be a thriving wasteland with living factions (hopefully player run), settlements, stores and more. For those of us who have been with the game since the start you too probably feel a bit of pride in seeing how far 76 has come. I know I have. But that being said the game is still SUPER YOUNG I have high hopes for it to become even better. If you've read through all of this thank you. I know that this isn't the most popular set of opinions but I hope you can at least see my pov. To all my lone wanderers, traders, raiders, and ghouls stay safe, stay happy and ill see you in Appalachia.
TLDR: The choice to leave out NPCs has made 76 into what I believe to be the closest experience of what living in a fallout wasteland would be like.
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