Alright folks, it's really happening. Fallout 76, the online Fallout game where the only people in town were other players, is getting more people. Fake people, that is, because it turns out that fleshy faces were quite missed in irradiated West Virginia despite the many amusing robot characters wandering around. As long promised, Bethesda are sending human characters into the mix to begin rebuilding, quest giving, and companion-ing with players. The big Wastelanders update is coming in April at last and Bethesda's now shown off nearly 20 minutes of gameplay (with some developer Q&A over top) at PAX East.
When the Wastelanders update launches, there will be a lot more evidence that humans have returned to the hills. Two new settlements have cropped up: Foundation and the Crater, owned by a faction of settlers and raiders respectively. Even right out of the vault, you'll be met with a newly-built bar called The Wayward. In Bethesda's preview below, they take you for a quick spin through the watering hole to meet its proprietor Duchess where you'll get to take a stab at some of the new speech checks tied to your traditional Fallout S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats.
I played Fallout 76 pretty heavily at launch and fell off after a few weeks. Updates would occasionally pull me back but I never managed to stick to it, despite how much I wanted to. One of the neat bits that Bethesda describe in Wastelanders—speaking as a returning off-and-on player—is that they aren't just pretending the last year and a half never happened. The date on your in game Pip-Boy (Fallout's retro-future smart watch) will be set forward by a year and the humans you talk to won't gloss over the time either. If you're just stepping out of Vault 76 for the first time, the game is aware that you overslept the cryo-clock. If you're a level 800+ power player (I've seen them, they're real), the new NPC folks will treat you as such, Bethesda say.
There's a fair bit more to see in the preview, if not so much in the gameplay itself as in what Bethesda's developers share on stage while it's being played. There are now instanced interiors for dungeons and quest locations so that your team of vault-dwellers aren't faced with a massacred cave on an important quest. There will be a reputation system to go with the new story line quests in which you'll eventually choose to align with the settler or raider town. There are a few new weapons, including an actual modern bow for us sneaky archers. Raiders will also come with better combat AI than the zombie-like Scorched ghouls that were all over West Virginia previously.
Near the end, Bethesda also mention future plans for a level-scaling system that will make the entire map more accessible to new players and to groups made up of folks with vastly different levels. They mention The Elder Scrolls Online's big One Tamriel update from a few years back that similarly united players as a goalpost.
Fallout 76's big Wastelanders update will launch as a free addition to the game on April 7th. On the same day, Fallout 76 will also become available on Steam, though it doesn't look like a store page has popped up for it just yet.