While the beta for Fallout 76 is still a little less than two weeks away, and the game’s full release won’t be for another month, there’s still a lot to know before you sit in front of your computer or pick up a controller and traverse the West Virginian wasteland.

What is Fallout 76?

First, Fallout 76 was announced by Bethesda back in May of this year. Bethesda then spent a good portion of their E3 conference in June discussing the game play and game mechanics of their new Fallout game. Here’s what we learned:

Unlike the previous Fallout games, this one is going to take place entirely online, meaning it is a multiplayer action role-playing game. Much of the concepts of the game will stay true to the previous games in the franchise. The bombs have dropped, selected citizens have been shuffled into vaults sealing them away from the fallout outside, and the world falls into a dark nuclear wasteland, as the franchise’s motto “war, war never changes” rings true. What does change is the location you’ll be exploring and the task you are given.

Where does it take place?

In this Fallout game, you are a member of Vault 76. Vaults, engineered by Vault-Tec, were designed under the guise of becoming shelters when, and if, the United States were to face total atomic annihilation. Fallout lore tells us, though, that the true motive of Vault-Tec was to use the vaults as “secret experiments orchestrated by the United States government”. Vault 76’s motives, however, don’t seem sinister.

As members of Vault 76, players are tasked by Vault-Tec with helping to rebuild West Virginia, entering into a post-nuclear fallout world. On “Reclamation Day”, about 25 years after the bombs dropped in Fallout’s historical timeline, players emerge into an area that becomes known as Appalachia. This makes 76 a precursor to all the other Fallout games, which take place hundred of years after 2077.

A portion of the fully-colorized map of Appalachia.

“You are the first to emerge to an untamed and very different wasteland.” explained Todd Howard, Game Director of Bethesda, during their E3 conference, “We have always wanted to tell that story of what it would be like for you and the other characters who were first to leave the vaults.”

Howard also explained that this world would be “four times the size” of Fallout 4’s The Commonwealth, with “six distinct regions”. You can either choose to explore it on your own, or you can take on Appalachia in teams.

Who will I meet in Appalachia?

Emerging from the vault only 25 years post-nuclear fallout means there aren’t a lot of people, in fact, the only people you’ll be interacting with are the ones playing the game along with you. That means there are no NPC’s, or non-playable characters, in Appalachia.

Fallout 76 will feature PvP, or player-versus-player combat, which raised questions among fans of how Bethesda was going to handle potential griefing, or players harassing and irritating others in the game.

“We turn the assholes into interesting content,” Howard said, addressing the concerns during a discussion of Fallout 76 at QuakeCon in August.

Players don’t have to engage in PvP, they can simply choose to run away, taking reduced damage as a result. A player who kills another player becomes a “wanted criminal” and are then marked on the map for other players to see. This makes it easier to take revenge, and get caps, the currency in Fallout games, in the process.

PvP isn’t unlocked until your character reaches Level 5. As always though, even with the multiplayer component, the decision to play solo remains an option as well.

What will I face in Appalachia?

Other players, of course, won’t be the only threat in the West Virginian wasteland. You’ll recognize some familiar foes from the previous game, like super mutants, feral ghouls, and radroaches. You’ll also team up with other vault dwellers to take down the newer, bigger, badder ones, as Howard explained during Bethesda’s E3 conference, like Scorched Beasts, Mothman, and other creatures based on the folklore of West Virginia.

A player faces Mothman, an urban legend of West Virginia come to life.

Apart from coming across a variety of creatures, survival is also going to be incredibly important, more so now, than in any previous Fallout game. As you traverse Appalachia, you will find your character becoming parched and even hungry. Clean water will become a lifeline, as radiation sickness and disease will be another threat in the wasteland. Too much radiation can lead to a mutation on your character.

The workshop mode from Fallout 4 will be implemented into 76, in the form of C.A.M.P., or Construction and Assembly Mobile Platform. You can choose almost any area on the map to set up a personal workshop, break it down, and build it back up again somewhere new. Everything you build will be blueprinted, in case your settlement gets nuked or raided by other players.

What is S.P.E.C.I.A.L?

S.P.E.C.I.A.L, or strength, perception, endurance, intelligence, agility, and luck, is the framework that Fallout uses in building your character. Fallout 76 uses a card-based system, adding different perk cards into each part of your “S.P.E.C.I.A.L”.

This video, titled, “Vault-Tec Presents: Being a Better You!”, by Bethesda explains that your success with your character is determined by which perk cards you put into each S.P.E.C.I.A.L. category. The higher level you are, the more cards you have, the better character you become.

What makes you S.P.E.C.I.A.L?

Sometimes, when you level up, you might find your character received a perk pack, which contains a variety of cards, a joke, and an in-game stick of gum. There seems to be no shortage of perk cards either.

“There are hundreds of cards,” Howard explained, during Bethesda’s QuakeCon panel; “they all rank up, and there are gold versions of each. Fallout 4 and Skyrim’s [skill systems] were really great, but when we got into the DLC, we said, ‘Let’s add skills or perks.’ We looked at them, and said, ‘Where? The rules are so strict.’ The cards allow us to be very flexible moving forward. We can release new perks with events we are doing, and also have themed perks.”

The perk packs will not, however be available to purchase as part of Fallout 76’s micro-transactions.  

So, where can I play Fallout 76?

Fallout 76 will be released on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, but the game won’t be in your Steam library. Bethesda explained why this is the case, and it has to do with having a “direct relationship” with the players.

“Because it’s an online, always-on game-as-a-service. Based on our experience based on other things that we’ve done, we felt like having a direct relationship with our customers was super important to us. And so doing it through, exclusively, allows us to have that one-to-one relationship with customers, that quite honestly you don’t always have when you go through another third-party where they might own the relationship with the customer in terms of being able to email them or to reach out directly and contact them,” said Pete Hines, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Bethesda, in an interview with GameSpot.

The beta for Fallout 76 will be available on October 23 for Xbox One. PC and PlayStation users will have to wait until October 30. Any progress made in-game throughout the beta will carry over when the game is officially released on November 14.