Well aren’t we a sight, vault dweller? Judging by the bed-head you’ve just woken up in Vault 76, all hung over but ready for the grim, life-on-a-knife-edge realities of the apocalypse in Fallout 76. Oddly, our security cameras also show that you’re wearing nothing but underpants and a party hat. Not your Vault-Tec issued jumpsuit, nor a chink of armor. No weapon beyond your fists and harsh language, either. A party hat. Wonderful.
We like hi-jinks, too, but you’ve got a legion of hard life lessons waiting outside that 20-ton door. Fortunately, we’ve already done a few laps of Appalachia and are here to help you with what really ought to happen next. Which is…
Step 1: Get Hard
Fallout 76 is like playing the previous Fallout games on the Hardcore difficulty setting. A lack of food, water, and rad medicine will kill you, plus everything you carry — even ammo — has weight that’ll slow you down. What you really ought to do in the early game, then, is focus on your Strength — the stat that governs how much you can lug about and how hard you can belt things with other things.
Because the simple fact of the matter is you’re not much good at anything right now. That said, the melee approach to combat is the perfect fit for your Cro-Magnon-like abilities. During hour one of Fallout 76 you’re too inept to mend firearms, too weak to carry around the junk needed to make ammunition and you probably smell funny, too. A diet of irradiated dog food and dirty water can do this to a person. Just own it.
Bottom line: you’ll want a decent melee weapon with which to stove heads in. That’s why you need to open your map and…
Step 2: Get Comfy
There’s a more or less perfect starter location called “Isolated Cabin” that’s hidden off the beaten track, south-east(ish) from Vault 76. Open your map and find the red icon that looks like a lumber mill to your south. Place a marker due east of that mill, then cross the road to find it. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you involuntarily mutter to yourself “bluuurgh this crap heap can’t be what they mean, surely.” Trust us, it’s actually awesome.
Sure, Fallout 76 offers you the ability to build your own house, but you currently lack the know-how and raw materials to fashion such a casa. Fortunately, the Isolated Cabin has all the post-American Dream essentials: a pickup truck with ammo and a free hatchet for turning mutated freaks into kindling. Oh, and a water pump, a cooking station, a tent, and a weapons workbench.
Once you’ve “axed” the mutant dog residents to leave, focus on the workbench as it’s the most important fixture here. Make a habit to return to this (or any other) bench to hit X to select “scrap items” and then press Y to “scrap all junk”. This process will quickly streamline your inventory space by shredding otherwise useless detritus into raw, craft-friendly materials. This then frees you up to engage in yet more rampant kleptomania and the cycle repeats from here.
Step 3: Get Sociable
Don’t let the prospect of PvP frighten you into hiding away from your fellow vaulties. Fact one: from level 1 to 4 you are utterly impervious to trolls. Fact two: even when you do get off your Learner’s Permit at level 5, it’s incredibly difficult for some malevolent tool to end you, no matter their level in the game. All non-dueling player damage is scaled down to mere mosquito bites. You have to give the aggressor The Business back in order to kick off a brawl (so go to your settings and turn on ‘Pacifist’ to remove any chance of that, Ghandi).
With all that info in mind, go be around people. This isn’t a community of CoD kids. We’ve found other vaulties to be genuinely excited to tell us when they’ve found cool items, or to muck in on a shoot-out with large mobs of…uh, mobs. Buddying up can also be an incredibly lucrative experience – as in actual XP and money – so go join public events. Check your map every five minutes or so to spot them and fast travel to any that look like they have three or four players hanging around. Strength and sweet rewards in numbers.
Step 4: Get Camp
No. We don’t mean: increase your Flamboyancy stat. (Though that is actually a lot of fun to do – the Atomic Shop has some truly outrageous fashions to model.) Before walking out the door of Vault 76 you should have scooped up a C.A.M.P. device. Basically, this thing will let you convert your junk materials into a highly defendable cubby house. Better yet, you can insta-redistribute your structure anywhere else in the world, thanks to a small bottlecap fee and some sort of magic that requires a shedload of suspension of disbelief.
Even if you’re a stabby-and-shooty-only type, you really need to look into knocking together a crib. Construct an elevated position that’s bristling with machine gun turrets and save on stimpacks by making a bed in which to recoup lost HP. Slap in a workbench to shred stuff into junk and an item storage box to take the weight off your shoulders. Better yet, fast-traveling to your camp carries no fee. Plonk it somewhere safe and central, then fan out into Appalachia in a series of short scouting missions.
Step 5: Get Overseer-ing
Understand that Fallout 76 is a weaponized time-waster. Walk five minutes into an empty field and the secondary objectives tab on your Pip-Boy will look like War and Peace in no time flat. Compounding this “problem” is the fact that Bethesda’s level designers are some of the best environmental storytellers in the industry – you’ll constantly spot objects that tell sordid, structureless little tales. Things you’ll probably want to forget.
This is great news if you tend to sip at your games, but anybody who likes to chug ought to know that it’s in their best interests to smash out the main quest early. The hefty XP gains the main thread offers are insanely better than any other activity.
By the end of that chain you’ll also have a damn good array of gear at your disposal — more than enough attitude-adjusters to solve the millions of side-quests or unruly players out there. We know it’s tough to stay focused, but keep your head down until you emerge (for a second time) on the other end of The Overseer’s story arc.