The first Fallout game dropped in 1997, long after the Berlin Wall was reduced to rubble. The heavy shadow of possible nuclear war cleared like mist touched by the sun. We played Fallout and its subsequent games, and we regarded the series' grim alternate future as a dark fairy tale. Even Fallout 4's trek across the radiation-blasted Commonwealth dredged up memories of a black, unspeakable event that buzzed over our heads, but had seemingly disappeared over the horizon ages ago.
A lot can change in a year or two. I attended a Fallout 76 preview event in West Virginia last week, and part of the event included a roundtable interview with project leader Jeff Gardiner, development director Chris Meyer, and design director Emil Pagliarulo. When asked what it's like to work on a game about nuclear strife in this current era of heightened nuclear tensions, the trio admitted the political climate was much calmer when they started work on Fallout 76.
"Three years ago, we were in a different place," Gardiner laughed. "It's definitely awkward to be joking [about nuclear war]; I'm not going to lie. At the same time, the Fallout universe is one of dark humor."
"We couldn't escape [Fallout's themes of nuclear war]," added Pagliarulo. "But we have to be aware of it. We were very cognizant of how far to take it in the environment we're in now."
Being cognizant, as Pagliarulo puts it, means being a little more careful about "background" content, like the lyrics in the esoteric old songs you can pull up on Fallout 76' radio stations. "You sort of listen to [the songs], but there's so many of them," said Gardiner. "Then we're all playing the game, and one of us is like, 'Have you listened to the lyrics of this song?' And then we're like, 'Oh my God,' and that song goes away."
Fallout 76 arrives on November 14. With any luck, the world situation will remain stable long enough for us to thoroughly enjoy it. Make sure you're properly prepared by going over our Fallout 76 guides.